LARUELLE’S « LAW »: jargon is inversely proportional to citation

François Laruelle is the inventor of a current of thought called by him « non-philosophy ». As it is easy to see that this thought is, contrary to Laruelle’s own claims, still philosophy, he later came to call his thought « non-standard » philosophy.

The title of the major work of Laruelle’s non-philosophy phase is PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY. However, the term « principles » is unfortunate in that it suggests a form of overview or meta-perspective (which is quite appropriate as Laruelle affected to produce a « science of philosophy »), so the title of the major work of his non-standard philosophy phase is simply NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY (and not « principles of non-standard philosophy »).

Laruelle sees the human situation, harassed by the vicious circles of philosophy, as « hell ». He cites René Daumal’s aphorism “the human being is a superposition of vicious circles », and he gives a quantum acceptation to the term “superposition ».

Laruelle argues in favour of a « quantum » understanding of phenomena. However, he admits that quantum phenomena in themselves are not necessarily and automatically positive.

What is positive for Laruelle is the quantum itself, quantum thought, even when it is applied to negative phenomena, as it can show us a way out of hell.

The superposition of vicious circles posited by René Daumal delimits a closed space, that Laruelle calls “hell »:

“the human struggles in these circles of hell and strives to free himself » (PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD, 9, my translation)

Since for Laruelle philosophy is one of the forms of « hell » (perhaps the form of hell) his text, insofar as it is philosophical, is hell. The macrocosmic struggle that humans deliver in the world against the superposition of vicious circles can be found also within the microcosm of the philosophical text

Thus Laruelle is led to ask the question:

« What is hell on the scale of this text? » (PNS, 9)

Laruelle interprets hell in his text as subjectively a form of harassment, for example the exasperation that one feels at the lack of citations in his analyses and arguments, or the frustration one experiences at the overabundance of highly abstract and insufficiently defined vocabulary.

More deeply (one is tempted to say more « quantumly« ), according to Laruelle, the very opposite is the case: a text is objectively harassing if it contains an overabundance of citations and a corresponding lack of idiosyncratic, « highly complex » (PNS, 9) conceptual vocabulary.

In a long paragraph on the third page of Laruelle’s first introduction (« Introduction 1 », as there are two introductions) to NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY, Laruelle attempts to reply to repeated criticisms of his style as overly abstract and lacking in citations:

« The more theoretical and terminological means are mobilised, the less citation is possible, feasible and useful. Hyper-information and hyper-communication make it useless, and in any case impracticable and irrelevant. Nonetheless, this systematic absence of citations, which we make our rule, preferring objects to citations, is perceived as solipsistic and annoying, and deserves an argument » (9).

Laruelle admits that the lack of citations in his texts is often perceived as solipsistic and annoying, but he thinks he has good arguments in favour of his methodological « rule » of omitting citations.

« Over and above the fact that citation is an academic technique for staging and exhibiting knowledge, that it serves to ensure recognition and a research position, that this stockpiling [of citations] occupies space potentially precious for invention, it represents the share of waste and of unbridled consumption that is the price sometimes paid for « weak » academic research » (9).

This set of arguments inspires the following set of responses:

1) Firstly, this paragraph argues for an interesting hypothesis, that « complex vocabulary » is inversely proportional to number of citation. The more abstract theoretical terms the less citations, and vice versa. This seems an implausible assumption taken as a general law.

2) As so often is the case in Laruelle there is an illegitimate passage from is to ought: Given Laruelle’s law of inverse proportionality, privileging complex vocabulary over citation is good.

3) There is also a weasel clause, i.e. that even if you can’t see the citations, if they are not visible in the text, they are still there implicitly, invisibly. An extensive philosophical culture or an efficient internet search (« hyper-information and hyper-communication » are enough to reveal or restore them.

4) To legitimate the law of inverse proportions and its corollary of invisible citation Laruelle resorts to a depreciative description of citational culture as exemplifying a careerist academic strategy and a disconnection from objects.

5) « Complex vocabulary » is question-beggingly posited as on the side of invention, and bibliographical citation assigned to the side of consumption. This may be true in some cases, but not in all. Obscurantist jargon is sometimes a case of consumption and of careerist academic strategy. Citations can be a sign of close, but inventive, reading.

6) Laruelle in effect places the claim to intellectual authority (part of what he calls « sufficiency ») on the side of citations, and the practice of free invention and democratic exchange on the side of lexical complexity.

7) As Laruelle constantly claims scientificity (and thus testability) for his non-philosophy we are entitled to put these claims to a concrete test.

8) The case of Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU is very interesting from this point of view. The ratio of lexical complexity to citation is quite high. According to Laruelle’s hypothesis his book has all the chances of being inventive, virtuous, non-consumption-oriented, and close to its object.

a) Invention. Contrary to Laruelle’s hypothesis and arguments, his ANTI-BADIOU is not inventive, but repeats, less clearly and more long-windedly, criticisms made thirty years before, including Badiou’s own self-criticism:

b) Closeness. Nor is Laruelle’s ANTI-BADIOU close to its object, neither as it was in BEING AND EVENT (30 years ago), nor as it is now:

c) Virtue. Laruelle’s non-philosophy is a form of virtue epistemology, as we can see in this extract. For him the supreme philosophical vice is a dogmatic, pretentious approach he calls « sufficiency ». Laruelle is constantly claiming to be virtuous, yet he dogmatically disqualifies other approaches and pretentiously implies that he alone attains the real in its « immanence »

d) Consumption. Laruelle’s accusation of the vices of consumption-oriented production and of academic careerism levelled at his philosophical compeers comes from a tenured professor who has published 27 books over 42 years.

9) Therefore, either Laruelle is not virtuous according to his own criteria or there is something inadequate about his criteria and about the hypotheses and arguments that he advances to found them.

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4 commentaires pour LARUELLE’S « LAW »: jargon is inversely proportional to citation

  1. Ethan NOPE dit :

    While I definitely agree with you that the relation between citation and jargon is not always as Laruelle states — at least in the quotations you’ve included here — would you say that that relation ever holds true?


  2. terenceblake dit :

    Yes, the inverse relation between citation and jargon is not a universal law, but it is a reasonable heuristic procedure to follow as the case demands (or not). I would tie it to Deleuze’s law that conceptual invention requires abstraction. Deleuze sees this abstraction as being expressed either in new terminology (jargon) or new syntaxes for familiar terminology (citation or allusion).

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    • Ethan NOPE dit :

      It would be interesting to hash out under what particular situations — stylistic constraints, subject matter, audience etc. — the relation does hold good in and to see, if ‘hashed’ sufficiently, said ‘law’ could indeed claim law status. Could we the find domain of absolute applicability for the relation? I am a little suspicious of to much judicial(‘law’) or scientific vocabulary in philosophical discourse if that vocabulary is not recognized to be figurative, but I do think you could qualify this absurd assertion into an area of ‘discourse’ or into a linguistic environment wherein it wouldn’t be absurd and even hold good in most or all cases.


      • Ethan NOPE dit :

        Or, to use your terms, if we could establish the contexts within which this heuristic procedure is effective and the ones within which it isn’t, we might more firmly establish this heuristic procedure itself — not that establishing anything is particularly ‘Deleuzian’ — or even qualify it as a particularization of this law of Deleuze’s you mentioned. (Also, I used ‘to’ instead of ‘too’ in my last comment — oops!)

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