LARUELLE’S RELIGIOUS TURN: from Non-Marxism to Christo-Fiction

Many people would be willing to take the quantum leap into non-standard philosophy proposed by Laruelle if it were not for the religious turn taken in his most recent phase, what we may call the Christic obstacle. My duty here is merely to remind people that the author of non-marxism went on to write christo-fiction. Of course, it is the principle of sufficiency that gives philosophy its propensity for normative evaluations, so once this principle is suspended there is no “obligation” to go adopt Laruelle’s quantum thought.

I would merely emphasise that in order to attain the level of quantum thinking it is best to first get the relativity correct, which is something that I do not think Laruelle succeeds in doing. For me the most interesting thing in his Cerisy talk on this subject was his tiny allusion to his own “personal myth”, a Jungian concept. My thesis is as always that Jung is both the precursor and the often unavowed source of much of Deleuze’s and Laruelle’s work. Jung worked for many years with Pauli, a leading quantum physicist, in particular on the notion of synchronicity as an acausal principle and we are only now catching up.

(Prehistory: I read some early extracts of Laruelle’s book CHRISTO-FICTION translated into English. I found them intriguing but obscure, so I tried to clarify them by means of Bruno Latour’s ideas on religion. Laruelle himself says he has always made use of such a “collider” approach, working constantly with two philosophers and making them enter into collision to overcome their incompleteness and to attain genericity).

Laruelle published INTRODUCTION TO NON-MARXISM, which marks the end of his third phase (Philosophy III), in 2000 (English translation 2015). This phase could be qualified as principally ethico-political. It is dominated by a series of books elaborating the ethical and political aspects of non-philosophy. He begins a new religious phase of his thinking with the publication of FUTURE CHRIST in 2002 (English translation 2010), to be followed by NON-PHILOSOPHICAL MYSTICISM in 2007 (translation forthcoming) and CHRISTO-FICTION in 2014 (English 2015).

Whatever the strategic calculations presiding over the publication of translations, the translators of Laruelle are predominantly “religionist” in orientation and have their own ideological agenda. To stop short at a religion-oriented interpretation of Laruelle’s work would be a shame, given its non-standard potential, proposing a radical revision in our conceptual schemes. If the religionist interpretation were to prevail, this would amount to a drastic limitation of the revisionary potential of Laruelle’s thought. A thought’s being non-standard in religious circles is no guarantee of its being non-standard in the wider philosophical culture. In Laruelle’s own terms the religionist recuperation of his ideas is a sign that his thought is not yet sufficiently generic.

I wish to argue that Laruelle’s recent theme of a putative “science in Christ”, and more generally his “Christo-fiction” material, does not attain a generic background but rather foregrounds what one may call a “sub-generic” vocabulary. Genericity is a very important criterion in Laruelle’s philosophical lexicon (and also in Badiou’s), and failure to achieve it is a repeated reproach that Laruelle levels at rival metaphysical research programmes (Deleuze, Badiou). So it is a valid question to ask of Laruelle’s non-standard philosophy if its claims to genericity can sustain close examination.

First of all, no name is generic in and of itself, nor is any name intrinsically deprived of genericity. No name is so incrusted in the rigid sedimentations of pre-existent limitative significations that any attempt at extracting it into generic freedom is doomed to failure. On the other hand, such an operation of extraction into genericity has no guarantee of success. François Laruelle in his most recent work wishes to extract two nouns from the bounds of doxic paradigms of signification in the hope of creating a new type of thought that would be both philosophical in aspect (and in its points of departure) and something else, both freer and more ordinary.

Laruelle has tried to free science from its own principle of sufficiency and also from the principle of mathematical sufficiency, to make of it something generic rather than reductive. However, in doing so he has taken the word “science” to a very great distance from its habitual sense, to the point that his texts are virtually incomprehensible to the uninitiated, displaying a surface meaning that is in grand part indistinguishable from vulgar scientism.

Viewed from the perspective of the ordinary man or woman this operation, the extraction of the word “science” from its context of sufficiency into a generic sense, is a failure. It can be argued that Laruelle’s own texts often do not live up to this project of providing a generic redefintion of science, cycling around in a vain repetition of the vocable “science” as a poorly disguised replacement for an original re-thinking of science.

Laruelle’s attempt to liberate a generic meaning by means of the word “Christ” has met with a similar fate of failed genericity. The existing historical , geographical, religious and theological sedimentation is too strong here. “Christ” is the wrong word to designate the generic background common to all religions, unless it is given a radical redefinition, and unless Laruelle himself manages to stick to this generic sense of the word. This is what he tries to do with his identification of Christ and the quantum, in the hope also of freeing this word (“quantum”) from the grip of scientific sufficiency.

However, colliding two insufficiently generic words together in the hope of generating a more generic result is a risky business, and I think this detour of the quantum via Christ is a failed operation. The word “Christ” extracted from Christianity, however algebrised and quantised, is neither pertinent nor efficacious for locating and freeing the generic content of religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, which are already more generic, and which could themselves be used to locate and to extract the imprisonned generic content of Christianity.

In view of this wider context, Laruelle’s analysis remains inside the Christian worlds, and to that extent it is sub-generic: it is generic for us, for Westerners still living under the influence that historical Christianity has had and continues to have on our schemas of thought.

Further, Laruelle does not always keep to the level of relative genericity that his analysis recommends. He sometimes conflates Jesus the “religious personality”, the hypothetical historical human being whose life is supposedly recounted in the gospels, and Christ the “founder of a new religion”, whose concrete physical or historical existence is not evoked by Paul. Further he sometimes operates a conflation of this “Christ” and the “author of a “logia” which must be read as the protocol of a new human science” (Angelaki, volume 19 issue 2, A SCIENCE OF CHRIST, 25-26).

In consolation, we can say that the experiment was worthwhile, as it looked good on paper.

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