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.