My theoretical work embodied in diverse articles (see my page on academia edu) and on the blog AGENT SWARM proposes an outline, analysis, critical discussion and evaluation of the major recent tendencies in contemporary Continental philosophy (Zizek, Badiou, Laruelle, Lyotard, Bruno Latour, Bernard Stiegler). It argues for the overall guiding heuristic hypothesis:
all of these seemingly incommensurable philosophies can be grouped together, compared, and critically discussed under the general rubric of competing metaphysical research programmes.
These different, and rival, Continental philosophies can be examined as « metaphysical research programmes » in the sense of Karl Popper. Metaphysical research programmes, according to Popper, contain both testable scientific components and untestable (for the moment) metaphysical components. It is from this perspective that I wish to examine François Laruelle’s non-philosophy and non-standard philosophy as instances of metaphysical research programmes.
It is important to see how Laruelle’s philosophy fares when examined non-tautologically, i.e. not just in its own terms, but in terms of a different philosophical tradition. Laruelle talks a lot about science, but his small circle of Anglophone supporters have no idea of developments in Anglophone philosophy of science that would allow us to challenge both Laruelle’s claim to uniqueness and his pretention to the status of science.
A specific lexical problem arises for the vocabulary of Laruelle’s « non-philosophy »: the terms are so defined that if one uses Laruelle’s own definitions, non-philosophy comes out as vastly different from and superior to its rivals. Non-philosophy in this sense is a self-indulgent exercise in tautological lexical oneupmanship.
Yet we are constantly witness to Laruelle inspired texts replete with mealy-mouthed pronouncements about a so-called « democracy » of thought, claiming that there is no normative prescription obliging us to be « non-philosophers » or be consigned to the inferior status of those who forever hallucinate immanence without ever achieving it.
Philosophers like Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou are condemned for failing to attain the goal of immanence, whereas non-philosophy supposedly attains this goal. Sadly, there is much will-to-power, hypocrisy and double-talk among the « non-philosophers ».
From the beginning of my theoretical work I have defended the thesis that Feyerabend’s philosophy is a useful instrument for examining contemporary Continental Philosophy, as it embodies many of the same aspirations and anticipates many of the arguments that traverse Continental Philosophy today.
Feyerabend’s metaphysical research programme, as expressed for in his posthumously published book CONQUEST OF ABUNDANCE (1999), is far less known and discussed than his earlier epistemological anarchism. This research programme, sometimes described by Feyerabend as epistemological pluralism combined with ontolgical realism, proposes a pluralist, diachronic, realist, apophatic, democratic ontology.
This list of five criteria (pluralism, historicity, realism, apophaticism, democracy) gives us a useful set of reference points for orienting ourselves in the sometimes confusing mass of conflicting alternatives competing for our attention, and our adhesion, in the field of contemporary thought.
A second major thesis of my work is that philosophically we are currently traversing a period of the reconceptualisation of pluralism, attempting to articulate its relation to realism, and to distinguish it from relativism. This is what I have called the pluralisation and the immanentisation of Platonism.
Several philosophies partake of this general movement, but no one of them is satisfying enough to absorb all the advantages of all of its rivals. François Laruelle’s insistence on « quantum thought » and « non-standard philosophy » is a very important contribution to the discussion of this reconceptualised pluralism. However, despite belonging clearly to this general movement, non-philosophy suffers from major flaws arising from its denial, or ignorance, of kinship with other similar endeavours.
My two general theses are thus:
1) recent Continental Philosophies can be viewed as metaphysical research programmes
2) a reconceptualisation of pluralism subsuming its epistemological realism under anontological realism is taking place.
On the more specific question of the value of Laruellean non-philosophy, it is necessary to examine the obstacles to its diffusion in English.
1) Corpus Incompletum: Laruelle’s non-philosophy is insufficiently translated, and his master work PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD has yet to be translated.
2) Corpus Hermeticum: many of the existing translations are seriously flawed, containing very numerous errors. Some existing translators are not only not linguistically competent, but not competent in relevant epistemology and philosophy of science.
3) Dogmatic Presentation: there is insufficient critical discussion of Laruelle’s theses. The existing discussion is mostly hagiographical. Critical analysis is ignored, stigmatised, or actively erased from the sanctioned discussions. .
4) Lexical Obscurantism: Laruelle’s style is obscure, mostly for terminological reasons: many of key terms are undefined or very insufficiently explicated.
5) Solipsistic Promotion: Laruelle’s self-description is problematic in that he presents himself as attaining the immanence that other philosophers aimed at without attaining.
6) Tautological Validation: Laruelle’s vocabulary is designed to validate the superiority of his own philosophy compared to that of his contemporaries.
7) Ideological Protection: in reply to objections, ad hoc defences of Laruelle’s ideas have been advanced, notably the hagiographic syntactic defence of Laruelle’s difficult style as expressing the « syntax of the real », and the pragmatic defence of Laruelle’s dogmatic and solipsistic approach as embodying philosophy as performance.
Both of these notions (syntax of the real, performance philosophy) are attempts to elude the very real semantic obscurantism of Laruelle’s texts. Both try to grant infallibility to Laruelle’s pronouncements.
8) Epistemological Naiveté: ignorance of relevant developments in 20th Century philosophy of science which cast Laruelle’s scientism in a very unsatisfactory light.
9) Historical Misdescription: Laruelle’s biased depiction of the historical context (what I have called Laruelle’s « time machine »). Much of what Laruellle says belongs to a twenty or thirty year old context. Many of the critiques he proffers as his own were anticipated and replies were elaborated decades before he advanced them.
10) Sutural Reductionism: all of Laruelle’s Anglophone presenters write each under the dictation of a particular suture: religious, political, artistic, or scientific. Thus alongside duplicates of Laruelle’s own scientism we are confronted with religionism, aestheticism, and politicism. The full extent of Laruelle’s research programme, expounded outside the obedience to any particular suture, is as yet absent in English.