LARUELLE’S DEMOCRATIC RELATIVISM: failed immanence, concept-blindness, and non-virtuous performance

1) Recent attempts at validating François Laruelle’s ideas in terms of the idealist criterion of « performativity » actively hinder their immanent evaluation and reduce his system to a form of democratic relativism where « all thoughts are equal ».

2) There can be no automatic validation of performance, performativity is not the same as infallibility, and a performance needs itself to be evaluated.

3) Laruelle’s critique of « sufficient philosophy » is based on his own primitive form of virtue epistemology: for him the (sufficient) philosopher is by stipulation not virtuous. « Sufficient » philosophy is not only cognitively closed, one-sided, and dogmatic, but also morally flawed: arrogant and authoritarian.

4) Laruelle’s replacement hypothesis for philosophy’s failed attempt at immanence is a form of quantum messianism. However, the « Quantum Christ » is a personal non-generic posit, which cannot rationally exclude the coming of a quantum flying spaghetti monster as synonym of his own more traditional appellations.

5) Laruelle’s quest for a new philosophical space (for what Badiou has called a space of configuration) is laudable and inspiring. His attempt to annex and to colonize that space is to be rejected. His dream of « non-standard » philosophy is not unique to him, nor is he its best exponent.

6) There is no saving metaphor: you cannot break free from the tradition simply by conserving its vocabulary and « quantising » or performatising the terms that happen to please you more than the others. Something more is needed.

7) Laruelle acknowledges this problem that a revisionary conceptuality is not enough to ensure philosophical virtue. A new practice of concepts is required. This is why quantum conceptualisation, felt to be insufficient, requires support from performative practice.

8) Laruelle’s monist « determination in the last instance » represents his attempt to escape from his relativism, but it leads him to abandon pluralism. To avoid this problem some Laruelleans replace this notion with that of « performation in the last instance », thus abandoning realism, and falling back into relativism.

9) Here a new problem arises: Laruelle cannot just declare performatively that he is making new uses of old concepts, he must give us some reason to think that he is indeed doing so. Unfortunately, this reason is not forthcoming, the claim is not justified, only  re-iterated. Rational argumentation is replaced by obscurantist incantation.

10) When Laruelle’s Anglophone followers reluctantly concede the need to justify his repetitious incantatory self-legitimations and self-validations, they talk naively of his « performative » style, they make no mention of criteria.

11) However, this is to ignore that performatives have felicity conditions, as Bruno Latour tirelessly points out in his AIME project, following John Austin: a performative can be inappropriate, inauthentic, feigned, or irrelevant. It can be a fake or a failure.

12) One criterion is democratic exchange. However, Laruelle is incapable of recognising a virtuous performativity when he encounters it in others. This uncharitable approach to his rivals is concept-blind and non-virtuous. It is a sign of Laruelle’s own sufficiency.

13) For example, instead of favourably citing Badiou in a democratic pluralist spirit as an exemplar of his own goals and hailing his non-standard usages, he dogmatically freezes, re-essentialises, and excludes Badiou’s hypotheses.

14) My hypothesis is that Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU (2011) can properly be understood as belonging with the initial responses to BEING AND EVENT (1988) that were published in the succeeding years by Rancière, Desanti, Lyotard, and culminating in Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (1991).

15) Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU breaks no new ground, it functions as a time machine back to that period just after 1988, producing his synthesis of the critiques of that period. It is further out-dated in that it does not take into account Badiou’s evolution since that time.

16) In the intervening period Badiou undertook an immense theoretical work of extension, reformulation, and conceptual invention culminating in LOGICS OF WORLDS. He elaborated a theorisation of « anti-philosophy » in his seminars from 1992 to 1996, treating Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Lacan, and Saint Paul. None of this development is taken into account in Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU.

17) Laruelle published ANTI-BADIOU in 2011. It contains a one-sided discussion of Badiou’s philosophy from the point of view of his own « non-philosophy ». Laruelle’s sufficiency is monologic.

18) I have undertaken a response, not by replying to the book itself, but by doing the same sort of thing: describing how Laruelle’s project appears when viewed through Badiousian spectacles:


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