Live-blogging Laruelle’s TETRALOGOS (2): Structure, Themes, and Questions

TETRALOGOS is subtitled « an opera of philosophies ». The book is conceived as a libretto for an opera composed of an overture and four books. The whole book is 622 pages long.

1) The Overture (84 pages) introduces the main themes and goal:

« to describe, via a montage of philosophical theories and of central references to music, the harmonic and contrapuntal amplitude of the epic of human life as a function of its sites which go from the Cavern to the Stars and the diversity of its stages and of its intrigues which go from Birth to Messianity » (page 11).

2) Book I (76 pages) is the Prologue, it presents « the conceptual characters and the structure of the action ».

3) Book II (132 pages) is the Organon, it articulates Laruelle’s theory of « reminscience » (sic), a « fusion of philosophical memory and of contemporary science ».

4) Book III (the longest, 231 pages) deals with the Amplitude, going « from the Cavern to the starry Sky ».

5) Book IV (59 pages) is the Ritorno, the « musical return from the Sky to the Earth ».

6) The Coda (15 pages) is entitled « For a treatise of speculative music (therefore effective without-music but not without ideally philosophical musicality) ».

Commentary: This is an ambitious project, whose amplitude covers the sites, stages, and intrigues of human life as cosmological epic. We are lucky to have such a book.

Nonetheless, we can make some observations, arising from diverse interrogations.

1) Given Laruelle’s operatic image of thought (I), his new topology of knowledges (II), his philo-science-fiction methodology (III), and his concern for a compositive praxis (IV), we may consider that TETRALOGOS is a work of conceptual Space Opera. The question to be answered here is whether Laruellean Space Opera belongs to the genre of « hard » science fiction or whether its use of science tends more towards the « soft » end of the spectrum.

2) The dramaturgy of conceptual characters and the dramatic structure of actions and intrigues reveal a greater closeness to Deleuze’s thought than some of Laruelle’s earlier writings may have led us to think. We can see TETRALOGOS as overcoming some of the problematic features and limitations of Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?, while being heavily indebted to it.

3) Reminiscience is central to this new book. It refers to the generic « forced » mixture of philosophy as de-foundationalised transcendental act and quantum physics as the basis of the transcendental dimension. Here we can only note the contradiction between a will to overcome foundationalism and a continued scientism.

4) To achieve the goal of « amplitude », describing the passage from the Cavern to the Sky and embracing the stages of the epic of human life Laruelle’s endeavour must be fully generic, rather than partisan or parochial. We have seen that his scientism is a lapse from genericity, and I would argue that the same applies to his concept of « Messianity ». If this is only a question of terminology, then Laruelle should be willing to conjugate other forms of telos, e.g. Buddha-Nature, with Messianity.

5) Laruelle is a materialist in his emphasis on the dialectic of descent as just as important as the dialectic of ascent. The descent means that we acquire in the real a new practice of philosophy, and not just a new manifesto of beautiful intentions.

6) This new practice of non-philosophical composition may produce a dramaturgy of philosophy conceived as inaudible soundless music. We must then ask if the « descent » manages to produce new nuptials between the virtual and the actual.

It is thus a dramaturgy that is musical in spirit but philosophical in the « letter », whose « libretto » is provided by this text and its philosophico-scientific « dialogues ». But, let us repeat, it is a drama without sonorous or auditory actuality (TETRALOGOS, 11).


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