SYNTAX IS NO GUARANTEE: towards a post-foundational reading of Laruelle

 The expression “syntax of the real” promises an anchoring in the real that is devoid both of structure and content. This anchoring embodies an implicit claim to foundations in the real, authority from the rule, and uniqueness. In brief, foundationalism, authoritarianism, and monism are the triple pitfalls of this type of non-philosophical syntagm.

Such an anchoring is excluded by the very principles of non-philosophy. One possible transcendentally weakened substitute for anchored could be “affected”. A syntax of the real would no longer be yet another case of the incoherent conflation of causality in the real and of its transcribed counterpart in a syntax of non-philosophical language. A syntax of the real would be a linguistic syntax “affected” by the real, or “affected” by immanence.

The problem is that this notion of “affected by immanence” is itself ambiguous and can be applied to whatever one wants.  Strictly speaking, the “syntax of the real” implies a syntax that is affected by the real or by immanence (Laruelle, Introduction to Non-Marxism), i.e. it is the real that is doing the affecting. Yet on a performative interpretation it is the syntax as itself real that is doing the affecting.

Sometimes “the syntax of the real” is treated as a category of language not of the real. At other times it is treated as belonging to the real, and radically hetereogeneous to language. Non-philosophy left to itself is unable to say coherently from one occurrence to another of the expression which is affecting which, as I have shown. All this is grist for my argument that “the syntax of the real” is an ill-formed concept, and should be dropped.

As we read Laruelle’s texts, and the pronouncements of his followers, the confusion only grows. We no longer have syntax of the real, syntax of language, syntax affected by the real, and syntax affecting thought, but also syntax permitted by the real, and “real syntax”. No analysis is proposed to distingish these various senses, not even a cursory one. The whole discussion proceeds as if there were no problem, that these expressions can be used transparently and unproblematically, as if they were equivalent. Yet there is no reason to think that we can simply identify any, or all, of these acceptions of syntax. Once again this confusion confirms my suggestion that the “idea” (if it is one) be simply dropped.

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