LARUELLE vs DERRIDA: sufficiency, scientism and performativity

A lot of emphasis has been given in discussions of Laruelle to the supposed “performance” character of his thought. However, performativity can only be seen as positive when its use is non-foundational. A foundational use of performativity is one that makes, or purports to make, something true by the mere fact of its being enounced.

Such is the scientism of Laruelle. His work claims to give us a “science of philosophy”, but the only proof offered is performative: the repeated enunciation of the non-philosophical character of the texts.

A problem arises when, after such a “breakthrough” into non-philosophy, Laruelle does not lapse into silence, but continues to write and to progress. If Laruelle comes to see his previous works as not fully non-philosophical, as sharing some aspects of philosophy that now he rejects, this is perfectly his right, and a promising sign that his thought has not hardened into dogma, at least in his own practice. But what then are we to think of those who called into question his exit from philosophy at a moment contemporaneous with one of his past phases? At that moment Laruelle rejected their remarks as obviously erroneous and unfounded, due to their philosophical blinkers. Yet at a later date Laruelle is willing to criticise his own previous use. Has he “forgotten” the critiques, or has he been influenced by them yet hoping that we have forgotten?

A concrete example can be found in Laruelle’s dialogue with Derrida. Laruelle responds to Derrida’s intervention:

your questions have a very particular style, which I found highly interesting, that of retortion: “Youre just like those you criticize”; “Youre doing just what you claim to abhor”. You taught me in your work that one should be wary of retortion. So I would like to suggest that to the extent that you are making a certain use of retortion, and this is a theme that recurred throughout, right up to the end via the accusation of socio-philosophical war, then it is necessarily the case that some of your objections in a certain way say precisely the opposite of what I said (La Décision Philosophique, No. 5, April, 1988).

This rejection of “retortion” is quite characteristic of Laruelle, as the charge of still doing the very thing that he claims to exit from, of propounding and practicing under the name of “non-philosophy” yet another philosophy, has haunted Laruelle for decades. He rejects this accusation as unfounded, yet disputants retort that Laruelle’s really practicing a new use of philosophy is founded on his performative say so:

What makes it difficult to go along with the movement I would like to accompany you in, is that it sometimes seems to me to consist in you carrying out a kind of violent shuffling of the cards in a game whose rules are known to you alone… Which is to say that the hand ends up being completely reshuffled. The only thing is that I seem to detect ─and this is probably a philosophical illusion on my part, one which I would like you to disabuse me of─ a real and philosophical programme which has already been tried and tested.

For Derrida, Laruelle’s performativity is élitist and idealist (“a game whose rules are known to you alone”), the opposite of the democracy and realism that both espouse as values. From Laruelle’s point of view (auto-situated performatively “outside” philosophy), Derrida is still arguing inside the principle of philosophical sufficiency, and so subject to the resistance of philosophy to non-philosophy:

I notice that all your questions are interrelated, obviously; they form a coherent whole, just as one might expect. These questions are indicative of the resistance of the Principle of sufficient philosophy.

But what if Laruelle himself made this criticism of his own work?

We are fortunate to have just such a text. In PRINCIPLES OF PHILOSOPHY (1996), published only 8 years after the preceding text, Laruelle reviews his philosophical path, dividing it into several phases. He describes his theoretical practice during the period of his “Philosophy II”, extending from 1981 to 1995, as still being under the dominion of the principle of philosophical sufficiency. In this period, by postulating a privileged relation between non-philosophy and science Laruelle admits that he was not veritably performing the exit from philosophy, but merely

reversing the epistemo-logical hierarchy, within the privileged element of science, thus by an ultimate ruse of philosophy that refused to “lays down arms” before the Real,

This auto-critique made with the advantage of hindsight, declaring his preceding work as partaking of the “ruse of philosophy” has the same logical form, of “retortion, as Derrida’s contemporaneous critique. In other words, Derrida was right. Yet no acknowledgement is offered in the later text that his critics were justified in their retortion. The past is simply evacuated.

This is yet another example of Laruelle’s “presumption” (suffisance): his presumption of his own uniqueness with regard to his contemporaries and his presumptuous denegation of criticism, dialogue, and influence. We must regret that contrary to his own principles of non-sufficience and of democracy Laruelle has thrown the sufficient veil of a philosophical illusion over the real dialogue, closing himself inside the appearance of an autarchic game when he is, despite himself, involved in the free play of democratic exchange.

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8 Responses to LARUELLE vs DERRIDA: sufficiency, scientism and performativity

  1. The notion of Larullean “sufficiency” is the obvious corollary of a Derridean “position”, or, more precisely, a thetic position, what Derrida would call a “philosopheme”. It is synonymous with the constitutive flows of logic that form the economy of any “position”.
    Laruelle is merely applying Derrida to Derrida, but even that possibility was already anticipated by Derrida, long ago, in the 60s, its contours described.
    This is why Derrida is surprised: Laruelle is doing the most obvious “retortion”, & doing it, essentially, through simple axiomatic assertion.
    It’s a rhetoric of non-engagement, lol, but that’s okay.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. terenceblake says:

    Laruelle accepts post hoc auto-retortion, but won’t accept it from another.


    • Yes, I imagine that at the time of their encounter, he was fresh from writing “Philosophy of Difference” & thought that he had a new beginning, “The One”, outside of any metaphysics of differentiation. But, my feeling is that he only achieved a type of ‘Uni-‘ or ‘Mono-‘ ‘centrism’, one which he could reinforce with all kinds of resonances: the existence of the sciences; various ‘givens’; even tinges of mysticism.
      My impression is that he took Derrida very seriously & was spellbound by difference & differance. To such an extent that he lost perspective. Their encounter was hilarious, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • terenceblake says:

        This is why I think that the “non-philosophy” phase is more posturing than really moving into something new. Only with his quantum phase does he start to get really interesting.


  3. landzek says:

    So clear. Would you say that this situation is similar to the resistance you have said that you have witnessed of OOO. Or SR. Or is that more mere cronyism?


    • terenceblake says:

      For Laruelle the resistance is structural, philosophy is regented by the principle of sufficiency and the blindness it implements. It can only see in his non-philosophy yet another form of philosophy. But as you say there is a sociological dimension to this resistance as well.


  4. Hi Terence. Would you also suggest that his quantum phase is an attempt to rethink philosophy on its blind side? Its particularly suggestive I think of safeguarding philosophy from descending into an event of shadows that only those who dwell in the cave know.It’s proscribing philosophy not to make that descent, or if one does there is a way to think the descent without being entrapped. The understanding of course is that philosophy has already escaped that space and yet it can only retain its integrity by rethinking that space. If this is non-philosophy then certainly it has not moved into something new.His interpretation of Nietzsche is therefore lacking in Philosophies of Difference in this respect, and to start off where Laruelle began his journey: The eclipse of Philosophy casts a long shadow.


  5. terenceblake says:

    Yes, I think Laruelle wants to think the descent of or into philosophy without the entrapment. For him, being entrapped in philosophical worlds is being stuck in the Hell of sufficiency, repeating forever in a superposition of vicious circles: “the human struggles inside these circles of hell and strives to get free of them” (PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD, 9).

    Despite the repeated explanations of the prefix “non-” as not negating philosophy but extending it, there is more negativity in non-philosophy than Laruelle has been willing to admit. So as you say it retains its integrity by thinking what it is not. But this “integrity” is problematic, in that it blinds him to other non-philosophies: everywhere he looks he can see only philosophy (except when he looks at himself in the mirror). So he gets Nietzsche, and also Deleuze wrong, He sees them as (erroneous) integrities, and misses the heterogenetic relation to the outside.

    The quantum turn is an attempt to be free of this entrapment in specularity.

    Liked by 1 person

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