COMMUNING WITH NON-PHILOSOPHY: when “non-” equals “co-“

In a recent blog post advertising his latest book, Anthony Paul Smith gives a good account of the dream of non-philosophy, a dream that existed and guided the steps of many long before Laruelle came to propose a new embodiment for it. This dream is not universal, to claim as much would be a philosophical move that many, including Laruelle, would prefer not to make. Rather than universal, the dream is “generic”, to use one of Laruelle’s non-philosophical terms. Many people are passionate about philosophy (philosophical concepts, theories, arguments, and examples), but do not want to be caught in the confines of philosophy as domain or discipline or guild, nor do they want to be excluded from it. They do not want the tyranny of experts but the democracy of thought.

These dreamers, whatever their profession or situation in life, are ordinary people who have encountered philosophy in some way and glimpsed something of interest and concern for their everyday living. Enthusiastic at first, often they have felt disappointed and become a little wary, but still they continue to hope and to search, to try out and experiment with philosophy, without stopping at the boundaries. These people form a community outside the academic guilds and grids, and they share a common dream, that thought be democratic and unbounded.

Non-philosophy is one embodiment of that dream and that practice, it is one possible codification. Laruelle does well to declare “Laruelle does not exist”. There is a Buddhist ring to it, as if he were declaring “Laruelle does not exist, and neither do you!”. We should not be misled by Laruelle’s own obsessive circling around (and perhaps inside?) Christianity, for example in his books THE FUTURE CHRIST, NON-PHILOSOPHICAL MYSTICISM, and CHRISTO-FICTION. Just as the Buddha refused to answer the big philosophical questions, saying “The Buddha does not exist, work out your salvation with diligence”, we can hear Laruelle as saying “Laruelle and non-philosophy do not exist, work out your non-philosophy with diligence”. Not existing (should we call it, in a new sense of the prefix non-, “non-existence”?) implies hard work and rigour over a very long time.

Laruelle is no messiah, no prophet, no guru. He comes from, and belongs to, the great community of dreamers and practitioners of philosophy unbound. He cannot lord it over us, and has no desire to (most of the time!). He can contribute something of worth to be examined and, perhaps, used by us or inspire us to emulation. French philosophers are passionate readers and Laruelle has read widely and deeply in philosophy. Far from calling on us to “forget” Foucault (Deleuze, Derrida, Lyotard, Badiou, Althusser, Lacan, etc.), he inspires us to read them with intensity and freedom. And he invites us to read his works, and to write our own, in the same intense and free manner. Along with the erudition and the rigour, there is great freedom in Laruelle’s texts.

Laruelle is not a guru, he is one of us. In a democracy, we are entitled to ask: what have you done with all that time devoted to reading and thinking about philosophy? What do you have to contribute to the community? Not in the sense of judgement and critique, but of evaluating a contribution from a fellow dreamer, and a fellow traveler. Many of us have read the same books over the years, have had many of the same influences. Amongst the living, in France, we can cite Alain Badiou, Bruno Latour, Bernard Stiegler, Michel Serres.

All of these thinkers share with Laruelle a desire for a democracy of thought. All are pluralists, concerned about the contradictory mix of tolerant relativism of opinion and brutal realism of exploitation that characterises our society, and its relation to others. Democracy means being open to others, and also open to change. These thinkers also emphasise that time and change run as deep as anything. Nothing final can be said, and the real is ultimately ineffable, as it cannot be reduced to any of our particular working realities.

I do not think that contemporary philosophy in France is “post-Continental”, only some noisy and conceited newcomers pretend to that. All that is living and worthwhile in that passionate community contributes to a thought that is pluralist, valuing change, humble and non-dogmatic in what can be said about the real, open to experience and experiment, and above all democratic. Laruelle’s thought is a welcome contribution to this community, and much can be learned from it if it is approached with fellow feeling.

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7 Responses to COMMUNING WITH NON-PHILOSOPHY: when “non-” equals “co-“

  1. Patrick jennings says:

    Reblogged this on The Non-Buddhist and commented:
    Over on Agent Swarm Terence Blake continues to publish insightful posts on Laruelle and other contemporary philosophers. His latest offering is a paean to Laruelle’s thought, and one more powerful for the reservations which Blake has expressed about some aspects of Laruelle’s output. Of interest here and unusual for anyone writing about Laruelle outside of the non-buddhist fold, he makes a passing reference to the Buddha. If you are looking for a reasoned, critical and appreciative resource on Laruelle this is the place to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ari says:

    Stimulating share, invigorating non-political call to non-standard practice of the Outside-in…. If I can be excused for a trip down a memory lane that are my-our long-circuits of public intelligence this reminded me of Agrippa Menenius speech of the members of some generic body that Paul takes up in his own way as the “diversity of gifts”. In an individuating manner, style, or practice I-we as a living pronoun or pointer also have a dream of diversifying polymorphous desires in tune with the generic values of modern non-organizing assemblages of the non-instituted with-out status and poor in the established knowledge constituted by prestigious references and its centralizing terminology. The insurrection of non-organizing fictional assemblages of the Real in-person appeals to modern ‘values’ if this is the best word (perhaps here it is a question of “motifs” of a style or practice) , most importantly of which are, flexibility, innovation, and diversity. Yes, motifs of a practice, that are there when we leave untranslated “Mystique Non-Philosophique” and here in the word “mystique” as I first learnt from Michele De Certeau operates as an apophatic practice of subtraction that leaves the understanding void of mental pictures so that thinking dwells in the outside making sense but not making one think about something since in an inoperative understanding there is non-thinking occurring not once and for all but till one comes to again. This coming to again, that is coming to again from lucid dreaming, means an operative understanding starts to figure out the sense-data of experience and so one is disconnecting from an integral non-equality through some identification that blocks access to the arriving Outside. But not all processing or organization of mental pictures that constitutes the operations of the understanding are necessarily short-circuiting identity blocking access to the non-equal. Some motifs of organizing mental pictures in non-fiction can operate as non-authoritarian reminders to keep dwelling in the Outside in-person and therefore without any essential human identity. This Other manner of practicing thinking would then constitute that which Laruelle in “General Theory of Victims” referring to cognitive labor or the general intellect as a possible reading refers to as “the role of the future intellectual [which] is only to help victims arise in-Man rather than mummifying them in the decidedly too inglorious shadow of memory (pg. 112).

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  3. terenceblake says:

    I provide a loose set of non-binding criteria. Perhaps “criteria” is not the best way to designate them in all circumstances, so “motifs” or “reminders” may be more appropriate designations when we wish to underline their polyvalence and fluidity. I think you are right to say that apophaticism is not to be reduced to dwelling in the outside of un-thought, but concerns a less mummified relation to thought. It’s less about dwelling than about freely thinking and exchanging.

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    • Ari says:

      One could perhaps also say “suggestions” that as a stimulant set off a train of thought that just because of their lack of attributes are “phases of a flux” (Christo Fiction pg.39) of common and ordinary Simple Ones indicating by their weakening discourse their lack of a central school of knowledge and its historical memory defended by the standard normalized philosophers who have mastered its culture expressed through a static terminology that never seems open to defamiliarization or translation through grafting hybridizations, through diversifying mixtures, through innovation. In this weaking of thinking, in this process of practitioners one becomes more of a Stranger -subject.. Non-binding criteria, motifs, suggestions then function like “oraxioms” which unbounds us or takes us through a process of disidentification thereby poking holes in the blockages to the non-equality of the singularity events that are Stranger-subjects and their unsusual non-standard alien tongue that as the pronoun of an instance of discourse points to an event of language itself not unlike unlike a Pollock painting that is best understood as the performance of an event of some color without a why where language goes on a holiday and becomes an abstract decorative motif? Decoration is really a luxury like the exchange of an anonymous unilateral gift that although it does not require a return as if it was an investment of a profitable use of time is still an obligation for the recipient to pass it on. So with regards to exchange there is then a gift exchange during our time off where posting can have a useful value but this doesn’t mean it can be a commodity through some sort of comparison. For it to be a commodity means the Stranger-subjects become an identity in a group-synthesis characteristic of Laurellian epigones for instance. Good for professional minded careerists but a disaster for the individuating excess. Just making suggestions not calling for a fixation around terms not up for disturbing, irregular drifting…

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  4. It is very inspiring this view of the philosophers that you present. But I am not a philosopher. Just a common man. And I wonder: if it is not for me to be a full time philospher what is in this community for me, for us, the others. What is the function that this philosophical community offers to the broader community? How do we and they fit (in any sense) in societies like ours?

    Liked by 1 person

    • terenceblake says:

      What use is philosophy? The honest answer is I don’t know, I have no idea. I too am just a common man, not an expert, but I feel I am part of the larger philosophical community of those that care about philosophy, even if I am not a professional philosopher. How do I fit in? The answer is still ongoing, and this blog is part of it. What place is there for me? Precious little, just enough to go on. I don’t like party lines, cliques, tribunals, and exclusions. I was banned from the Laruelle facebook page by the official Laruelleans because ignoring me was not enough to reduce me to silence. So I created my own space, once again, as I have always done, as I have seen this sort of behaviour before. Democracy is easier to talk about than to practice. People want simple answers. This is why Bruno Latour’s emphasis on diplomacy is a useful motif. It reminds us that when anything worthwhile is at stake there are several parties concerned, and that negotiation is our ordinary state. This is what Feyerabend calls an open exchange, and Deleuze and Guattari call an “arrangement”. “Agencement” is often translated as assemblage, but this may tinge it with a too mechanical connotation. It also means arrangement. Full time professional or not, we are all peers, and our relations, insofar as they are democratic, are not imposed or fixed. We make our own arrangements.

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      • Félix II says:

        Thank you very much, it is very encouraging.

        If there is something I am increasingly perhaps completely convinced of it is that the the stranger subject must be formed outside the academy. Not only formed but perhaps defined, refined, declared, created.
        There is some glaring contradiction that I could write pages about how obvious and far-reaching it is, but it all circles around the identity of the professional academic.

        The unreflective matter-of´-factness with which the continental subject is embedded in a structure of violent competition, and the fact that all our great heroes from Badiou to Laruelle are indeed “winners” in that competition. They have all achieved what we as Class B to G smalltime intellectuals would perhaps all identify as the object of our corrupted desire: Their logos and identities are in unity. Their thoughts and ideals matter. They do not have to live with the contradiction of being a meaningless cogs in the irrational machine. In one word: They are all masters. Autonomy? Check. Recognition? Fucking check.

        There are ideas of authentic reconciliation that I could come up with that could bridge that paradox, but the fact that I even have to think like that already seems to show the problem. Like the fact that when Badiou and Foucault first went to Uni it was probably full of die-hard aristocrats. As such they deserve the largest of respect for smuggling that trojan horse into those holy walls. Or perhaps related, a favourite theory of mine: Continental thought is at this point a form of scholasticism: Heretical ideas un/consciously obscured in esoteric language not primarily because of their inherent difficulty but to conceal their explosive danger to the watchful master and the anxious herd alike.

        Or on a perhaps personal note: As a relative newcomer into this world: It is addicting. Its like fucking magic. The power of symbols, not only as an explanation for what was before only a diffuse sense of wrongness, but their mutability, the vast potential. That if only someone here would find the right words, the abracadabra, unexpected things might truly happen.
        Where the dilemma once again creeps in is that as I enter that world of what I can only perceive as the call of authentic human rationality, I feel the urge dedicate my life to it, to become professional myself.

        The only way to dissolve the dilemma for myself, to perhaps really break with the old master-slave dialectic is to regard those “great philosophers” (something that I really think should at this point become a derogative term) as to in some regard and extent traitors of their own material.

        That the only way for me to really unleash the force of those thoughts I will have to submit. Not once again sing hymns to the invisible soldier but to truly and actually become invisible myself. Just a meaningless particle in the unleashed world spirit.

        As said I could write pages about this, descriptions about how deep the connection between thinking and the longing for power seems to go on a subjective level, and how getting rid of that longing might make philosophy not only easier, a joyous game but at the same time more functional.

        To again reconcile this maybe, one interesting observation I had was that there is a kind of “naive” interpretation of continental theory that mid-level continental academics seem to be so adamantly trying to beat out of anyone starting to engage with the material. But then I read an more informal interview, I don’t know who it was Foucault or Badiou, perhaps both, and the very strong impression that I got was that, yes, the “naive” interpretation, whatever that maybe, is exactly what they want.
        So the interesting thought was that the master-slave dialectic is in the case of those thinkers maybe not upholden by themselves but by the slave who can not give up on his papa-figure, to truly think on his own. Or perhaps most obviously by the intermediary: the good old schoolmaster poisoning everything. Badiou does not want to be a master but the world inevitably turns him into one anyway…

        There is of course the problem of the gray goo of equalized opinion but I see quite a lot of ways to deal with that perhaps that would not involve a return to academic pedantry.

        In the danger of being personal and unfair to someone I know nothing about, Anthony Paul Smith writes:

        “There is to be no guru in non-philosophy, no new figure to genuflect before, though this is not an excuse to simply run roughshod over that work with poor readings.”

        It is exactly this kind of thing that makes all the alarm bells ring in my sensitive anarchist soul. Like whatever should even be a “poor reading” when dealing with someone like Laruelle? Is there really a danger of someone engaging with Laruelle in any capacity whatsoever only to turn it into stupidity and anti-democracy? There are better avenues for that. What would even be the motivation ?
        And whats the danger? Somebody writes something stupid and/or uninteresting and nobody cares. That is just how it goes. He will have to try harder if he wants a reaction…

        Except of course if it is your job to earn your shillings with being an “authority” on Laruelle. The irony tastes like chocolate to me…

        I have my own interpretation of continental theory in whole, and Laruelle in particular that matches closely in some ways, diverges in others, and am at this point not really interested in working on the grounds of some unified non-philosophical theory. Maybe that is a weakness on my own, and I am very well aware that there are people who spent a decade or two more than me brooding about this stuff, but at this point my own statement would be that nonphilosophy is now bigger than Laruelle, and has thus place for a view point like my own.

        I am not that interested in speaking with someone that I can not ask any questions to, a one-directional conversation. I will try talk this out with my peers instead. It just feels better…

        Sorry for the ramble, don’t feel pressured to reply in whole.

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