COMPARING METAPHYSICAL RESEARCH PROJECTS: Laruelle’s non-philosophy project and Latour’s AIME project

François Laruelle’s non-philosophy project does not perform very well in comparison with Bruno Latour’s AIME project. In particular, Laruelle’s practice of conceptual exclusivity is reflected in the dialogical exclusivity practiced by his disciples. Latour’s AIME is deliberately inclusive. This is a big asset of AIME, both conceptually and practically, it may have a party-line but it does not ban alternatives.

I have consistently argued, in relation to both the AIME project and the non-philosophy project, for the need to to take alternative accounts into consideration.The AIME project published some of my contributions, and included me as a valid dialogical partner. The non-philosophy project did not engage in dialogue, and I have now been banned from the “official” François Laruelle facebook page.

My own personal history in relation to the Big Thoughts that prevail on the internet is of no account. But there is a real problem with a thought that espouses “democracy” and “performativity”, and that performs the exact opposite of democratic exchange.

Many of us are searching for a thought that is “philosophical”, but not hidebound by academic sociology. The siren song of “non-philosophy” seems to respond to that desire, and to promise something new, but in the face of repeated disappointment we are obliged to ask: what exactly is its practice? and to remark that this comes down, once again, to asking: what is its “money trail”?

Philosophy is under attack today, and using the name “non-philosophy” is not an appropriate measure in the present conjuncture. It serves the enemy. Latour avoids this problem by calling his project an “empirical metaphysics”. Laruelle has also recognised this problem, and now calls his endeavour non-standard philosophy. But the epithet “non-standard” expresses no more than another instance of the same old tradition of the new. Its modernism is a structuralism.

Laruellean non-philosophy is structuralist in two regards:

(1) Laruelle’s vision of other philosophies is structuralist: he fixates on the structural aspects of the philosophies he examines, e.g. of Deleuze and Badiou. He ignores their vagueness, heterogeneity, ambiguity, and fluidity.

(2) Laruelle’s own vision is structuralist: we are immersed in separate closed incommensurable philosophical worlds, unbreachable except by trauma.

I criticise this structuralism in Laruelle’s thought, but he does so too: his “quantum thought” is an autocritique of his previous structuralist phases. Similarly, Latour’s AIME project comes close to providing a structuralism of modes of existence, but this threat is undercut by the primacy given to “being-as-other” over “being-as-being”.

It can easily be seen from an examination of my work that in discussing Laruelle’s non-philosophy I provide not just context, but also arguments, criteria, balanced perspective, rather than empty one-sided rhapsodising about “performance” or other romantic posturing. On my page I count ten papers directly referencing Laruelle in the title. I give a good idea of his philosophical evolution and of his later non-standard philosophy, much of which is still untranslated. Even more material can be found on my blog.

The bulk of these references to Laruelle’s thought are positive as regards his non-standard philosophy, but critical of his non-philosophy and of its Anglophone appropriations. Given the global positivity of my discussion of Laruelle’s non-standard philosophy, any criticisms that I make of it are to be situated in that context.

My englobing philosophical context is that of the contemporary search for a pluralist, diachronic, democratic, apophatic ontology. Such a pluralist ontology can be treated as a metaphysical research programme, and evaluated in terms of some very simple criteria, and also in comparison to rival or alternative programmes. I list some of the problems in evaluating Laruelle’s thought in those terms.

This sort of critical discussion is not “trolling”. This may be counter-intuitive to some, but informed, reasoned, balanced critique is not trolling. Such stigmatisation of real work is anti-democratic, to say the least.


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