LARUELLE’S BLINDSPOTS: Deleuze on style, heuristics, and the topography of thought

Laruelle has classified Deleuze’s thought within the category of the “philosophies of difference” and has further criticised it as remaining within the confines of the principle of philosophical sufficiency. This claim may be plausible applied to DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION, but it certainly is falsified by Deleuze’s succeeeding books, starting with LOGIC OF SENSE.

Given that Laruelle makes far-reaching claims about his “non-philosophy” and about its purported “scientific” use of philosophical material, it is interesting to see that he shows no sign of taking such falsifying instances seriously, and prefers to remain in the element of sweeping generalities. More generally Laruelle is constantly analysing and evaluating rival philosophical positions in terms of criteria and standards that he himself makes no effort to satisfy.

It has been the constant thesis of this blog that the sorts of criticisms that Laruelle makes of his contemporaries are not original nor are they of any actual relevance. Rather, they are long-winded out-dated parasitic re-formulations of self-criticisms made by these thinkers many years before Laruelle began publishing his “non-philosophical” works.

An interesting example of this constant process of creative self-criticism can be seen in Deleuze’s passage from a philosophy of difference in DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION to a philosophy-fiction in LOGIC OF SENSE. While DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION (1968) is a work of philosophy of classical facture, still presenting a diversity of concepts under the umbrella of a totalising concept, that of “difference”, LOGIC OF SENSE (1969) breaks with that model from the beginning.

Indeed in this book from 1969 Deleuze anticipates not only Laruelle’s “non-philosophy”, by working in terms of the marriage of philosophy with an outside, but also its later evolution into “non-standard philosophy”. On page one of the preface Deleuze tells us:

This book is an attempt to develop a logical and psychoanalytical novel.

This is no doubt one of the unavowed sources of inspiration for Laruelle’s own notion of “philo-fiction”, expounded forty years later, when Laruelle tardively showed signs of at last breaking with his antiquated scientism.

Laruelle’s work, wittingly or unwittingly, forms part of a more general movement to re-write the history of Continental Philosophy of the last fifty years by replacing subtle and complexly creative research programs such as Deleuze’s (and also those of Foucault, Althusser, Bourdieu, Derrida, and Lyotard) with simplistic stereotypes that are designed to provide a flattering contrast for our current “nouveaux philosophes”.

Despite his obscurantist prose Laruelle’s vision of philosophy is no exception to this movement of simplification of thought by falsification of the historical record. His “non-philosophy” is from this point of view merely a neo-philosophy.

This sketchy analysis of the pivotal role of LOGIC OF SENSE in Deleuze’s path of research is borne out by his remarks in the “Author’s Note for the Italian Edition of Logic of Sense“, published in the collection of essays, Two Regimes of Madness. Deleuze explicitly draws attention to the change in style inaugurated with this book, and affirms that it is part and parcel of a more encompassing conceptual change:

“I like this Logic of Sense because for me it continues to mark a rupture: it was the first time I tried to search for a form other than that of traditional philosophy” (my translation).

Laruelle is blind to such heuristic ruptures, seeing only a continuous reign of “sufficient” philosophy until his own attempts at something different.

One particular instance of this blindness lies in Laruelle’s contribution to the continuing vision of Deleuze as a philosopher of “difference”. Deleuze himself emphasises that all his concepts take on new roles in LOGIC OF SENSE, as they are reorganised according to the new dimension of the surface. He claims that the concepts remain the same but that their sense is transformed. Interestingly, his list of concepts (multiplicities, singularities, intensities, events, infinity, problems, paradoxes and proportions) makes no mention of “difference”, supposedly the key concept of his philosophy.

Another major blind spot of Laruelle’s is the transformation of the image of thought that Deleuze analyses in terms of a changing geography and topology of thought. Deleuze tells us of the movement along a vertical axis from Pre-Socratic depths to Platonic heights to the return to Pre-Socratic depths, etc. This displacement back and forth from heights to depths defines classical philosophy for Deleuze as movement within a vertical axis, that we may well call the axis of sufficiency.

For Deleuze the non-philosophical step outside sufficiency does not come with the return to the depths (Boehme, Schelling, Schopenhauer, ealy Nietzsche) but with the exploration of a new axis of thought, the horizontal axis of the surface of immanence (Nietzsche after the break with Wagner).

In contrast, there is still too much of the “depths” in Laruelle’s movements. His concept of the “One-in-One” is vertically abyssal rather than superficial, and his determination in the last instance reinstates the verticality of a determination that plays with the surface of multiple causalities (overdetermination) only to collapse them all vertically in the “final” instance.

In LOGIC OF SENSE Deleuze breaks with this vertical axis:

Even if I myself was no longer satisfied with the history of philosophy, my book DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION still aspired to a sort of classical height and even to an archaic depth (my translation).

A key transformation coming with that break with the vertical axis is in the concept of intensity, which is reassigned to the surface. On the role of intensity in DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION Deleuze affirms

My sketching out of a theory of intensity was marked by depth, whether true or false: intensity was presented as surging up from the depths.

This whole tradition of the vertical axis, which is Deleuze’s equivalent of Laruelle’s axis of sufficiency, is analysed and left behind in the course of, and in the terms of, Deleuze’s own self-analysis. This move accounts for the striking difference in the style of the two books.

Deleuze reassigns intensity from the depths to the surface and tells us that his very use of language changed. He wanted the language to be ever-more intensive, and for it to move along a path of various flows and gusts.

Note: the translation talks of “spurts”, but this is more reminiscent of a puny water pistol. “Gusts” would be a better translation. Gusts of wind, as in a storm, not spurts, or squirts.

All these changes work in the sense of moving away from sufficiency. However, Deleuze does not think that the book is fully successful in that attempt. He argues that his book is marred by remnants of complacency and connivance with respect to psychoanalysis:

Obviously, it still manifests a naive and culpable complaisance towards psychoanalysis. My only excuse would be that I was nevertheless, albeit very timidly, trying to render psychoanalysis inoffensive, by presenting it as an art of surfaces.

In his defence, Deleuze argues here that he was trying to divest psychoanalysis of its own principle of sufficiency as “depth” psychology and to align it with the immanence of the surface and its series.

Lest we conclude overhastily that surface and series have become the totalising concepts of a new instance of philosophical sufficiency Deleuze finishes this short note informing us that the next book ANTI-OEDIPUS is no longer authored by a classical subject, Deleuze the sufficient philosopher, but by a collaborative subject (Deleuze and Guattari).

The style changes, becoming more intensive, and the key concepts disappear:

ANTI-OEDIPUS no longer has either height or depth, or surface…A rhizome instead of series, says Guattari. ANTI-OEDIPUS is a good start, provided we break with series.

The practice of heuristic rupture is one of the ways in which Deleuze breaks with the risk of sufficiency in LOGIC OF SENSE and in the succeeding works.

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