ON NOT EXPLAINING: Laruelle and prudence

I think the idea that one can not or should not explain Laruelle, or any other philosopher, is more authoritarian than one may want it to be. Explaining is impossible, but I am a teacher, so I do the impossible every day.

Some people, e.g. academics, get exposed to helpful elements (information, books and articles, encouragement, invitations, money and time to think and write) much more than others, they are privileged elements in the academic philosophical nexus. The principle of “no explanations” would leave the privileged in sole possession of paths to understanding. Others not so privileged may have to read and grow for a much longer time before attaining a comparable degree of understanding.

So explanation can be a democratic move. One must be careful not to link too closely explanation and reduction. In my comments on various philosophers I aim to explain without reducing. It would be rather harsh to forbid a democratic singularity’s pedagogical action on the basis of a universal rule. Any explanations I give are hypotheses to be tested by confrontation with the texts and the ideas involved.

I have no universal rule. “Never explain” is a bad rule, but its “badness” comes from its universal status. Sometimes, it is true, it is better not to explain and to allow people to discover for themselves or to grow into understanding. I would prefer “Explain, but don’t reduce”. But even this prescription is too general, as some reductions can be good in a given context, although there is a price to pay in other contexts.

For example, reducing people to bio-chemical systems can help us to find medical treatments for some diseases, but it can also make us miss out on more global aspects that would have quite positive impact on our health.

So I accept the “rule” of no explanations as a warning: Be prudent in your explanations. But I do not accept it as a general interdiction. Prudence is not the same as abstention, and is usually a question of adapted dosage. Even moderation is not the best policy, as some things need extensive and/or intensive responses.

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