PLURALISING LARUELLE: non-Laruellean non-philosophy and many visions-in-ones

1) Mystic versus mystique: against the mystique of the Laruelleans. I find François Laruelle’s non-philosophy very interesting, and his later non-standard philosophy even more so, but I absolutely reject the mystique thrown up by his disciples around his ideas, that he himself cultivates. We do not need another obscurantism.

2) Against the double standard in philosophy. Laruelle is guilty of maintaining a double standard: while practising and demanding a charitable reading of his own work as non-philosophy, he practices an uncharitable reading of the work of rivals such as Deleuze and Guattari, and Badiou, reading it as standard, « sufficient » philosophy.

3) Laruelle’s victims. In particular, Laruelle relies on an uncharitable reading of the work of rivals such as Deleuze and Guattari, and Badiou (not to mention Foucault and Lyotard) as enmeshed in philosophy’s sufficiency. These intellectual rivals are his (non-)victims.

4) Virtue epistemology. Laruelle’s non-philosophy is a form of virtue epistemology. He correctly identifies the vice of philosophical sufficiency, but his own readings of other philosophers are not virtuous. They are uncharitable and ungenerous.

5) Un-generic methodology. Behind this lack of charity towards rivals there lies a real methodological problem. If Laruelle is so stifled and harassed by the sufficiency of philosophy, why does he not seek fellow thinkers outside the confines of a very narrow French nostalgic set of references?

6) Non-philosophy is un-generous and un-generic. Laruelle gives us an uncharitable phantasmatic reading of his rivals yet remains within a narrow set of references. He has neither the depth nor the amplitude of Deleuze, Lyotard, Badiou. He fails in terms of his own criteria.

7) Against French sufficiency. Paradoxically, there is a principle of French sufficiency at work in Laruelle’s writings. He does also refer to German idealism as well, so we could call it the principle of Franco-German sufficiency.

8) Circles of sufficiency. Laruelle’s principle of sufficiency is his version of Meillassoux’s correlationist circle. He does not succeed in breaking out of this circle. In PHILOSOPHIE NON-STANDARD he pluralises the correlationist circle, and calls them the circles of Hell:

« the human being struggles inside these circles of hell and strives to be freed from them » (page 9, my translation).

9) Misleading terminology. Laruelle’s term for the great Outside beyond any correlation is the Real. This is in not to be confused with the Lacanian Real. Disappointingly enough, given his grandiose proclamations, Laruelle’s Real is « man-in-person ».

10) Breaking the translation barrier. Anglophone Continental Philosophy is not yet in a position to fully grasp and to discuss critically Laruelle’s later « quantum » thought, as up to now Laruelle’s research programme has principally been translated and explicated either by religious or by political reductionists.

11) Qualitative quantum. I have no objection to Laruelle’s qualitative use of quantum ideas. Paul Feyerabend, Slavoj Zizek, Karen Barad, and Steve Fuller have highlighted the heuristic use of qualitative ideas both in the development of quantum theory and in their own thought.

12) Quantum Porosity. Even if by qualitative quantum thinking all that Laruelle means is the logical impossibility of either correlation or withdrawal, due to the impossibility of sharply defined untraversable boundaries, that in itself is a very useful insight.

13) Against inflation. Laruelle proposes quite a few of such useful maxims, but he has inflated them into a system self-proclaimed to be new, unique, and beyond all the others. The absurd presupposition is that there is only one non-philosopher – Laruelle.

14) The Uniqueness Hypothesis. Laruelle’s pretension to uniqueness is the artefact of his un-generous readings and un-generic, biblio-correlationist circle of sufficient context combined with his art of philosophical inflation.

15) Visions-in-Ones. Heuristic maxims,rules of thumb, and insights are elevated into a new solipsism: only Laruelle is « Real », due to his vision-in-one. This vision-in-one is not unique to him. It exists under other names in Deleuze and Guattari (the Outside), Badiou (the Absolute), Lyotard (the Arrive-t-il?).

16) Permeability versus Demarcation. Rejecting sharply defined un-crossable borders and boundaries is an important step, that allows us to cut through the pseudo-Lacanian pathos of the « trauma of the real », indulged in by some of Laruelle’s disciples. Ignorant of science, they have stopped short of his quantum thought out of self-interest.

17) Cargo cults of jargon. Steve Fuller is another quantum thinker (as are Slavoj Zizek and Gilles Deleuze) who also operates with a « vision-in-One », but he would not use such pompous constipated jargon. He writes too well and too clearly to be annexed by the cargo cultists of Continental profundity.

(Note: for a very interesting account of academic cargo cults see Steve Fuller’s « Academia as Cargo Cult« ).

18) Against scientistic cowardice. Steve Fuller uses his own « vision-in-One » to criticise standard histories of science and standard methodologies, and so dares to critique actual scientific practice. None of this is to be found in Laruelle’s grandiloquent critique of all and everything except « science ».

19) Against empty abstraction. In Laruelle’s non-philosophy phase, the word « science » is an empty token, an argumentative joker. It serves to legitimate his philosophy by way of a desiccated abstraction. He gives it some content in his later non-standard philosophy, by drawing on quantum physics, but this is more a case of metaphoric transfer than of substantial influence.

20) Outside the frame. Laruelle’s argument is based on a qualitative application of the wave/particle duality associated with the phenomenon of quantum tunnelling. This is his way to break free from the « myth of the framework » (that vitiated his non-philosophy) and from the spectre of relativism.

21) Heuristic metaphors. One may defend Laruelle’s use of such metaphoric transfers on the grounds that we do this sort of thing all the time, and that it is necessary to use concepts loosely in order to communicate, and even more so to get thought moving.

22) Images of thought. A second defence of the quantum metaphor is that Laruelle is not engaging in analytic philosophy of quantum mechanics, but rather attempting to construct a general image of thought.

23) Exploration versus reference. A third defence is that philosophy is more concerned with conceptual exploration than with referential truths. However, this characterisation does not constitute not a licence for a philosopher to say just anything that comes into his or her head, regardless of empirical reality.

24) Empirical testability. On the contrary philosophy, even transcendental philosophy, is far more empirical than it usually acknowledges, and should be even more so, at least in spirit. Laruelle’s system would be in big trouble if it was shown that he got the science wrong.

25) Democracy of thought. A fourth defence of Laruelle’s quantum metaphor would be that it is a democratic move, against the hegemony of experts. In practice, science makes use of or presupposes philosophical concepts. Scientists are not, and should not be, the sole proprietors of these concepts. I defend Laruelle’s attempt on democratic grounds. I say « attempt » as there is no guarantee that he will be successful in constructing a new and useful type of thought.

26) Open Dialogue. One of the indicators of success of Laruelle’s endeavour would be for him to explore argumentatively but charitably the relations of his thought to that of other recent and contemporary thinkers working on comparable endeavours, but this is falsified by Laruelle’s continuing noetic posture of uniqueness and beyondness.

27) Lexical obscurantism. One of the major obstacles to understanding Laruelle’s texts, and so responsible for their obscurity, is the almost complete absence of comprehensible or useful definitions, even according to a very loose, contextual, pragmatic notion of definition.

28) Laruelle litanies. Laruelle uses an idiosyncratic set of words and expressions in a repetitive incantatory way, agglomerating them one after the other to form a secular litany. This does him a great disservice.

29) Lexical addiction. For example one of Laruelle’s older, non-philosophical, words is « unilateral » In his non-standard philosophy phase he introduces the quantum notion of complementarity, but he cannot free himself from the old terminology, talking about « unilateral complementarity », which is a contradiction in terms.

30) Lexical abstraction. Some of his followers claim that Laruelle’s style seems obscure because its syntax is innovative, following the « syntax of the real ». However there is not much syntaxic innovation in his texts, rather, as we have seen, the obscurity is lexical.

31) Naive empiricism. This ill-formed notion of « syntax of the real » is an expression of the worst sort of empiricism, the paradigm of an a-theoretical correspondence with the syntaxic structure of the real, that we are obliged to transcribe in our non-philosophical writing.

32) Ideological protection. In reply to objections, ad hoc defences of Laruelle’s style are advanced, notably the hagiographic defence of this style as expressing the « syntax of the real ». One forgets to mention that a « syntax of the real » contradicts « unilaterality ».

33) Performative infallibility. A further ad hoc protective measure is the pragmatic defence of Laruelle’s dogmatic and solipsistic approach as embodying philosophy as « performance ».

34) Eluding testability. Both of these ad hoc notions (the syntax of the real, performance philosophy) are attempts to elude the very real semantic obscurantism of Laruelle’s texts. Both try to grant infallibility to Laruelle’s pronouncements, to protect it from logical and empirical testability.

35) Sutural Reductionism. Each of Laruelle’s Anglophone presenters writes under the dictation of a particular suture: religious, political, artistic, or scientific. Thus alongside clones of Laruelle’s own scientism we are confronted with religionism, aestheticism, and politicism.

36) « Laruelle does not exist ». Thus the full extent of Laruelle’s research programme, expounded outside the obedience to any particular reductionism, is as yet unknown in English.

37) Pop-philosophy. Laruelle’s qualitative use of concepts is close in spirit to Deleuze’s notion of « deterritorialisation » of concepts, in view of the creation of a pop-philosophy. The problem is that neither Deleuze nor Laruelle attain that « pop » level of expression. They remain too academic.

38) Manifestos and Theatre. Only Badiou seems to have succeeded in the production of « pop-philosophy », with his manifestos following the first two volumes of his BEING AND EVENT trilogy, and even more so with his series of « plays for children » (the theatre of the Ahmed tetralogy).

39) Pop immanence. Volume three in the BEING AND EVENT trilogy, THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS, combines classical philosophical prose with extracts from his seminars, and theatrical episodes from his Ahmed Tetralogy, along with mathematical exposition.

40) Non-Laruellean non-standard philosophy. Badiou’s THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS is a thousand times more deserving of the name non-standard philosophy than anything Laruelle has produced, as is Deleuze and Guattari’s A THOUSAND PLATEAUS or Zizek’s LESS THAN NOTHING.

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