LARUELLE’S CONTRADICTIONS: Aristocratic Scientism and Generic Christianism

François Laruelle often invokes a democracy of thought, but is one of the least democratic thinkers that exists in the “post-structuralist” constellation. Laruelle says he is not doing a critique of philosophy, but he constantly claims that philosophy aims at immanence and fails to attain it, etc. If a reader of Laruelle has never been struck by the sense of infallible uniqueness emanating from his writing then I think they may be taking Laruelle’s (and his followers’) declarations of principle for real practice.

Laruelle in his latest non-standard phase talks a lot about the “quantum”, but this appeal to a schema of thought purportedly derived from physics functions more as legitimation by slogan than as a real scientific reference. It is certainly very undevelopped compared to Alain Badiou’s well-worked out account of, and use of, set theory and category theory. In contrast Laruelle’s use of quantum theory is not unique to his own brand of thought, but it is very rudimentary compared to Deleuze’s, Zizek’s, or Barad’s use, amounting to no more than employing metaphorically a handful of unexplicated terms and notions taken from quantum physics.

Zizek is not imprisoned in the same sort of belief in his own uniqueness, and is willing to see analogies and convergences between his own use of quantum physics and Badiou’s use of set theory. Zizek also has the generosity to treat Badiou’s mathematically formalised notion of the inconsistent multiplicity as being on a par with his own concept of the incompleteness of the real illuminated by quantum physics. Laruelle in his “sufficiency” cannot see such parallels and implies that he is the only one to break with philosophical sufficiency, this is what I call Laruelle’s uniqueness hypothesis.

However, Laruelle and his followers are lacking in intellectual generosity. In Laruelle’s eyes he himself is the only non-philosopher. This self-blinding uniqueness hypothesis has had, and continues to have, a sterilising effect on his thought and on that of many of his followers. It is often allied with another, seemingly contradictory, idea, that we may call the scientistic hypothesis. This is the claim that Laruelle’s thought has a special and superior status as compared to philosophy, legitimated by the further claim that what he is proposing is somehow “scientific”.

Unfortunately, Laruelle’s theory is not a science, and it is ridiculous for him to claim so. It is as well contradictory to maintain both the aristocratic sense of his own uniqueness and the democratic aspiration to scientificity. (Note: I have discussed Laruelle’s scientism on many occasions, for example here). There is thus a contradiction between the uniqueness hypothesis and the scientistic hypothesis, constitutive of what one may call Laruelle’s “aristocratic scientism“.

There is a further contradiction between Laruelle’s goal of genericity and his scientism. If one adds “messianicity” into the mix, as Laruelle does in an attempt to render his science more generic, then this does not help to resolve this antagonism but only multiplies it, as Christ, the Messiah, the messianic, or even messianicity, are themselves not truly generic concepts, as any Jain, Buddhist or Hindu could tell us, not to mention just simple atheists. My thesis is simple: we are not immanently Christian, and the word “messianic” is not generic.

Thus, if one claims that the concept of generic is the content of Laruelle’s Christo-fiction, then I would object that there is a mismatch between the concept (generic) and its specific name (Christ) and I refuse the name, not absolutely, but as offered in its uniqueness. One cannot conflate immanence with Christian names, images, and concepts, even if their sense is heavily re-worked.

Every thinker proceeds by leaps and bounds, by impasses and ruptures, deadlocks and breakthroughs, and Laruelle has had the honesty to foreground his changes and to label them Philosophy I, II, etc.

However, we need not accept Laruelle’s own description of his progress as Gospel truth. In his synthesis PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY Laruelle gives us a brief overview of his development, in which he clearly states that in its earlier stages his system of thought was scientistic, and that now he has gone beyond scientism. While I agree with his diagnosis of scientism, one would have to be blind not to see it, I disagree with his assertion that he has been cured of that malady.

It is a sad sight to see that many of Laruelle’s followers react with disdainful silence, or even outright aggressive denial, to the mere suggestion that Laruelle was ever guilty of scientism, or that it persists in his later work.

Nonetheless, I disagree with Laruelle’s claim that he went beyond scientism, whether in PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY, or even in his later “non-standard” phase. I further disagree with the idea that a form of “Christo-fiction” is more generic, and thus closer to the immanent real, than philosophy.

The term “messianic” derives from the Judeo-Christian tradition that is unraveling around us, and it is both erroneous and dishonest to try and establish a scale which establishes Christo-fiction closer to immanence than “philosophy”. Far better Deleuze and Badiou’s atheism than sublimated religious prejudice masquerading as speculative refinement.

My own interest in Laruelle is in that aspect of his thought that tries to think outside the sutures, which has brought me into conflict with a few self-styled Laruelleans and the one-sided agendas that they pursue. Laruelle and non-philosophy do not belong to the religionist suture, any more than they belong to the politicist, the artistic, the scientistic, or any other suture.

I do not dismiss out of hand nor do I distort the various tendencies and sutures that I find in both Laruelle’s thought and that of his followers, I show how they themselves are both promising and distorted. I locate tensions, contradictions, and antagonisms in Laruelle’s texts.These antagonisms explain the multiple currents of Laruellean obedience, as each latches on to one side of his thought that flatters their own preconceptions, and proceeds to treat it as the key to the rest.

I have argued that “generic” and “messianic” are antagonistic, and that the religionist suture privileges the messianic over and above the generic. Laruelle’s thought is not the only example of such a conflation in recent Continental philosophy, which seems to be traversing a new religious turn. I have analysed a similar conflict in Bruno Latour’s works (for example in my article BRUNO LATOUR’S METAPHYSICS OF RELIGION). In both cases I think that Carl Jung’s approach is far more satisfying, and more generic, in its pluralism than a monist fixation on the messianic or a one-sided definition of the religious.

Aristocratic, refined, sublimated Christianity voided of all doctrinal content and liturgical obligation is still not generic enough to be either descriptively adequate or speculatively satisfying in Laruelle’s own terms, not mine (although they are mine too).

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7 Responses to LARUELLE’S CONTRADICTIONS: Aristocratic Scientism and Generic Christianism

  1. Ari says:

    The Stranger-subject is more generic than the Christ-subject. My guess is that he is surrounded by family and friends that are Christians so he talks to them. A generous reading is he is reacting in the same way we did when we picked up our vernacular languages and started addressing ourselves to “simple ones” and not Latin Scholastics. This is his breakthrough in relation to the insane sophistication of Deleuze, Derrida, Badiou, Foucault and others. He is not trying to be sophisticated so saying he lacks it misses his defense of learned ignorance and so his empathy and stance with simple thinking against the harassment of sophisticated intellectual positions on this and that topic.

    Jung is more generic. I read his concept of a Self in distinction from the ego caught up in complexes and projections of mental objects that are either idealizations or hatreds as a Stranger-subject. Harassing people with intellectual positions or psychoanalytic theories for that matter doesn’t help them/us work through the trauma that we have to in order to encounter the real of the Self. Similar to Laruelle, he writes in CW12 “… I know from experience that all coercion- be it suggestion, insinuation, or any other method of persuasion- ultimately proves to be nothing but an obstacle to the highest and most decisive experience of all, which is to be alone with his own self, or whatever else one chooses to call the objectivity of the psyche” (pg. 27-28). What then are we trying to get across to be understood? It is that practice that, thinking of Janet, Jung refers to as an “abaissement du niveau mental” which my quote from him just described. The very practice of attentive listening characteristic of an analyst is being proposed as a cure. You still need to express it and speak it out but it is not exactly a talking cure but one grounded in a generic understanding of prayer. It seems to me today we use the word meditation or mindfulness in this generic manner outside established religious orders and their textual authoritarian references. Sure this is trivialized in say the craze for hot yoga but this could be our elitist, sophisticated ego talking.

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  2. landzek says:

    His ‘democracy of strangers’ i think is particularly aiming at ‘the stranger’ and no some code word that is meant to imply a common humanity. So if such strangers could indeed find one snother, then thier interaction would function democraticslky, for then they would be speaking a common language. I address this in ‘non phil and aphilosophy’. Btw.

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  3. [TB]: “Laruelle says he is not doing a critique of philosophy, but he constantly claims that philosophy aims at immanence and fails to attain it, etc.”
    {AK}: Does it? I think he’s projecting, lol.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    [TB]: “Unfortunately, Laruelle’s theory is not a science, and it is ridiculous for him to claim so. It is as well contradictory to maintain both the aristocratic sense of his own uniqueness and the democratic aspiration to scientificity. (Note: I have discussed Laruelle’s scientism on many occasions, for example here). There is thus a contradiction between the uniqueness hypothesis and the scientistic hypothesis, constitutive of what one may call Laruelle’s “aristocratic scientism“.”
    {AK}: Only if Science is considered as disciplinary legitimation deriving from a general consensual practice conducted without bias, can such an opposition hold as mutually exclusive.
    If Science is the ‘objective’ distillate (the discoveries) of a general field of practice, whether that field be ‘individualised’ or ‘socialised’; the emphasis would be on the ‘objective’ distillate, not on the means of access, ‘individual’ or ‘social’, to ‘it’. Given such ‘objective’ emphasis, the distinguishing criteria of scientific knowledge would only be demonstrable accordance with this objectivity, not consensual belief. All of this, of course, is contingent on classical models of ‘objectivity’, & their corollary metaphysical extensions.
    One could say that objective necessity, in the homogeneity of its application, contradicts democratic variation & freedom; or one could say it exemplifies a democratic equality.
    So, in short, I don’t think Science, in this ‘objective’ sense, is contingent on the demos or the aristos, but rather, on its arete & aletheia, with respect to its ‘object’. To what extent, this ‘objective’ accordance is not already complicit with modes of socialisation & individualisation, is another question.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    [TB]: ” My thesis is simple: we are not immanently Christian, and the word “messianic” is not generic.”
    {AK}: Wouldn’t it be the case, that the “messianic” is generic, & that ‘Christ’ is an instance of this genre? (“Old English Messias : via late Latin and Greek from Hebrew māšīaḥ ‘anointed’”)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    [TB]: “Far better Deleuze and Badiou’s atheism than sublimated religious prejudice masquerading as speculative refinement.”
    {AK}: I see them both as complicit, cultural distributions. Nice line, btw.

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  4. Pingback: Non-Buddhism/ Decision/ Exclusivity | The Non-Buddhist

  5. hgn says:

    What is it for a concept to be “generic”? Is it that all people from all traditions should when becoming acquainted to it start claiming “Yes, indeed this concept is indeed cherished by us too, though perhaps we have not expressed it that well”? Is it the kind of concept that is irresistable for all well-intended people? Is it something like the common denominator for all reasonable discussion?

    Or is it a projection of a dialogic style or a way of thinking that happens (through our biography) to be particularly pleasing and satisfying to us, so that we feel that all others have to pass through it?

    What if a Christian does not find satisfying to his experience a Jungean concept? Does this make the concept non generic, or in this case is it the Christian that needs reform?

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  6. Ariosto says:

    hgn, those are good questions. I barely can start answering them but as I understand the generic it at the very least gets us out of a clash of civilizations dialogue where one assumes that one’s own path to truth is the only one that is valid and everyone has to be reduced to that uniform standard. It can be thought of as the universal dialogue that is not an antagonistic difference that is always put up as a uniform standard to follow. Why couldn’t the encounter between world views represented by a civilizations not lead to new ones? Isn’t this what happened for example to Judaism? And why wouldn’t it continue to happen? We should be suspicious of religions and their ways of forming mental life that are just stuck inside them and don’t see them as open to transformation.

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