Laruelle: the mountain of jargon that gives birth to a mouse of common knowledge.
One of the evolutions of my thought on this blog is the passage from a relatively favorable attitude to Laruelle to a great disappointment. This evolution stemmmed from my return to Laruelle, after having dismissed his non-philosophy as unworkable turgid repetition of insights better expressed elsewhere and long before.
My return to Laruelle was tied to my initial negative evaluation of Badiou’s post-Being and Event research programme as articulated in his LOGICS OF WORLDS and subsequent texts. In the light of my reservations Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU seemed to confirm my own ideas and analyses, and to represent a welcome evolution in Laruelle’s heuristics. I turned to an enthusiastic reading of his PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD, and I was in agreement with his positive goals. However, I soon found tedious his repetition without acknowledgement of his predecessors, his dogmatism, and his overblown jargon.
I came to see Laruelle’s attempt to move beyond his negativistic “non-philosophy” and to invent a more positive non-standard philosophy as culminating in an impasse, a monistic dead-end arising not from its basic principles and concepts but from the mind-numbing solipsism not only of Laruelle but of his followers.
This solipsism, that I have baptised the uniqueness hypothesis, is in flat contradiction with Laruelle’s self-affirmed commitment to a “democracy of thought”. Laruelle’s uniqueness hypothesis, which is not asserted explicitly but subtends all that he writes) is the idea that there is only one non-philosopher among all his contemporaries (himself) and that all the others (Deleuze, Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, Badiou, Serres, Stiegler, Latour) are stuck inside the principle of sufficient philosophy. I do not find that the uniqueness hypothesis is demonstrated in Laruelle’s texts, nor is it even a plausible idea.
This solipsism is also in contradiction with Laruelle’s constant positive self-comparison with others. This solipsistic attitude leads not only to a lack of fruitful critical dialogue but also to declining content (and eventually popularity). Laruelle constantly compares and contrasts his own “non-philosophy” with the whole of philosophy and so fails to advance his own problematics in any non-ad hoc way. In Lakatos’s terms Laruelle’s research programme of non-philosophy is in a degenerating phase
After a first wave of enthusiasm for such daring and for its brave new vistas one quickly realises that Laruelle’s portrayal of others is a grotesque travesty and that the positive ideas (“non-standard philosophy”) that are supposed to come after his negative critique (“non-philosophy”) are mostly restatements of that same critique in new “positivised” terminology along with a set of vague and often idiosyncratic ideas set out in obscurantist jargon.
My provisional conclusion is that Laruelle has produced a constipated long-winded jargonised version of what many other recent French philosophers (but also Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Feyerabend) have said long before him, only much more simply and concisely. Laruelle relies on this effect of recognition in the deforming mirror of a new jargon to gain word-intoxicated but concept-blind followers. Non-standard is the major characteristic of French philosophy from Lacan and Simondon to Badiou and Latour.
Laruelle’s attempt to inherit the mantle of non-philosophy is praiseworthy, his attempt to arrogate that title for himself exclusively has been harmful to himself and has impeded the dialogue necessary to the advance of thought. His positive suggestions can be retained, discussed, and (gasp!) criticised, but his solipsism is to be rejected.