Some people disagree with my ideas on Laruelle as summarised in my « theses » (see previous post). It might be useful to consider the readings and arguments that lie behind them on my blog (https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/laruelles-non-philosophy-principles-of-a-metaphysical-research-programme/) and on my academia page (https://independent.academia.edu/TerenceBlake/LARUELLE-AND-NON-PHILOSOPHY).
I have no care for the sterile conflict of opinions nor even that of loyalties. I was never a « Deleuzian » but I was very influenced by Deleuze for about 20 years (from 1979 to 1989). I was always critical, but then I became more critical, and now have become detached as well. So I have no problem with people criticising Deleuze philosophically on his most basic assumptions, although I may disagree with particular criticisms.
For example, I find it laughable that so many people blindly repeat Laruelle’s claim that Deleuze’s philosophy is a « philosophy of difference », when it is much more accurately characterised as a « philosophy of multiplicities ».
But even this characterisation is ultimately unsatisfying, as in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? the idea of infinity is even more important, such that Deleuze and Guattari tell us that multiplicities and becomings to lead to impasses if they are not sustained by infinities.
So Deleuze’s last philosophy is a philosophy of infinities (rather than of multiplicities).
Thus I have no problem with people claiming that there is an incoherence in Deleuze’s treatment of « identity ». I don’t think he « denies » or eliminates identity, just that he gives primacy to difference and to multiplicity over identity. Even so it is questionable whether this constitutes a coherent position.
This is something I was already thinking about in 1979, when I first read Deleuze, and it seems the obvious objection to make, only Deleuze rejects argumentative objections. So that left me with the task of seeing if one could reply to this objection in a satisfying way, since Deleuze doesn’t bother (this practice of not deigning to reply to my mind is itself a very important objection to Deleuze).
I came up with two replies:
(1) thinkers such as Deleuze (Badiou, Latour, Laruelle) proceed hypothetico-deductively and heuristically. They posit certain initial concepts and hypotheses, such as Deleuze’s notion that pure difference underlies identity, or Laruelle’s fundamental hypothesis of the insufficiency of philosophy (for it is an hypothesis) and then proceed to develop the consequences, adding, modifying and subtracting all sorts of auxiliary hypotheses along the way. « Coherence » in the core assumptions is not as necessary at the beginning as fecundity. Full coherence may never come.
(2) thinkers such as Deleuze proceed not just intellectually in relation to their concepts and hypotheses but also affectively. They write for readers who will say « this is very interesting, I don’t fully understand it, but I sort of see what it means and some of where it can take me ». There is a non-philosophical affect at work in the thinker’s project.
This heuristic approach means that thinkers such as Deleuze and Badiou progress by constant self-criticism, even if they disguise that fact, proceeding as if they had always said the same thing.
Laruelle also progresses in this way, but my biggest objections to him (given that I like the non-philosophical affects his work embodies) are
1) that his own self criticism is much slower than his contemporaries and lags behind them (his long-lasting scientism is a case in point) and he is blind to the self-criticism in the work of others. The most notable case of this blindness is his persistence in criticising the « philosophies of difference » when the thinkers involved had already noticed the problem and moved on years before Laruelle’s critique. The most striking example of this is Deleuze’s passage from DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION (which one can argue contains a philosophy of difference, but I think this is only partially true) to LOGIC OF SENSE, scarcely a year later (where the concept of difference does not appear, except marginally, and « multiplicity » comes to even greater prominence). You would not guess these sorts of evolution exist from Laruelle’s texts. So I reject the undue simplification of philosophical history effectuated in Laruelle’s grand narrative, where he takes pride of place (in my view quite unjustly.
2) Similarly, Laruelle has chosen to ignore that philosophical history has continued after his few texts of reference. He talks about « quantum » thought but visibly he has not read Zizek’s recent works, he discusses Badiou but he has not read or followed the Logics of Worlds project and even less the Immanence of Truths project. Laruelle and the people who follow him have not read Latour’s latest work, the AIME project.
So I see Laruelle’s ideas as becoming increasingly irrelevant. His critiques of Deleuze are of relatively minor interest. Zizek, Badiou and Latour have produced deeper and more thorough responses to Deleuze’s work.
Laruelle promises more than he delivers, he misses the mark far too often, and it serves no good purpose, unless wilful ignorance is a good purpose, to pretend otherwise.
Note: I am indebted to a discussion with Matt Barber for pushing me to clarify my ideas on this topic.