SCIENTISM AS WORD-MAGIC: Laruelle’s negativistic impasse

Alain Badiou has emphasised the constitutive role that negativity plays from the outset in any philosophy. One way of understanding a philosophy is by examining the extent and the type of negativity that it deploys, and the role that it plays in the whole system.

Far from contradicting or refuting Badiou’s thesis, François Laruelle’s trajectory is one of its most striking confirmations. Laruelle’s negative phase, called “non-philosophy”, must be understood and assimilated before we can hope to understand his more recent positive propositions, under the name of “non-standard philosophy”.

Following very much in the footsteps of Ray Brassier’s science-oriented presentation of Laruelle’s work in NIHIL UNBOUND, Anthony Paul Smith’s Critical Introduction and Guide to Laruelle’s PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY introduces and facilitates our access to a key work from Laruelle’s negative scientistic phase. However, Smith is unable to confront the scientism inherent in Laruelle’s work, preferring simply to endorse Laruelle’s implausible denials. This scientism is necessary at this stage of Laruelle’s work, and constitutes a desperate attempt to supplement to Laruelle’s negativistic post-deconstructionism with some form of positivity.

It is true that Laruelle’s PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY (1996) is an essential step on the way to his later more positive works such as NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY (2010) and CHRISTO-FICTION (2014). It expounds a form of speculative scientism, proposing to avoid the danger of relativism inherent in philosophical understandings of being by ascending to a greater degree of abstraction.

Laruelle’s solution is essentially terminological, and thus ultimately unsatisfactory. He rather arbitrarily chooses to define “Being” as an intra-worldly transcendance, and to reserve the name of “the One” for the Real that is outside the multiplicity of conflicting philosophical interpretations.


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