MUTATION AND THE INVENTION OF CONCEPTS
Laruelle’s book IN THE LAST HUMANITY The New Ecological Science (to give it its full title, translated literally) begins with the basic movement of his philosophical project: to revise concepts, to expand concepts beyond their standard philosophical limits, to cancel their positivity in order to permit greater inventivity in their formation and use. To effect a conceptual mutation.
This is the formal procedure: to change the syntax of our concepts.
« Une telle mutation de la rationalité écologique, fondée sur l’algèbre du nombre complexe ou imaginaire, exige la création de nouveaux termes ou une re-donation de sens aux anciens » (page 7-8).
« Such a mutation of ecological rationality, founded on the algebra of the complex or the imaginary number, requires the creation of new terms or the re-donation of sense to the old ones ».
COLLAPSE AND THE IMAGINARY NUMBER
This formal procedure, of syntaxic « mutation », is at the same time a material procedure that removes the standard content from our concepts, collapsing them away from their standard metaphysical scaffolding. Thus syntaxic mutation is accompanied by semantic collapse. New concepts require new objects.
Note: Laruelle’s use of the complex or imaginary number is explicated here.
LIVING-WITHOUT-LIFE AND LIVED IMMANENCE
Such new objects include the « living » in a transformed sense
« Ils sont considérés sous l’angle de leur vécu par une écologie très élargie comme science nouvelle, moins biologique que quantique, moins empirique que transcendantale, qui prend pour objet le « vécu-sans-vie » comme le fond abyssal (ou le « collapse ») » (page 7).
« They are considered from the angle of their lived by a very extended ecology as new science, less biological than quantic, less empirical than transcendental, which takes as object the « lived-without–life » as the abyssal ground (or the « collapse »).
Translator’s Note: one often translates « vécu », the past participle of « vivre » (to live), as « lived experience ». This addition of « experience » would seem to be blocked by Laruelle’s qualification that the new science of ecology is « less empirical than transcendental ». This qualification is based on a dualism that is overcome elsewhere (e.g. in his TETRALOGOS) by the concept of transcendental experience. Another way round the clumsy expression « the lived » would be to integrate the context of the previous sentence, which is about the new ecology as based on immanence: « the immanent history of the living ».
One could then translate « vécu » as « lived immanence ». This phrasing would be between the two (« their lived », « their lived experience »), expressing the transcendental kernel of a lived experience.
NON-STANDARD METHOD: COLLAPSE AND MUTATION
This dualism of syntax and semantics has its usefulness as well as its limitations. One is entitled to talk of conceptual collapse followed by conceptual mutation, as long as we are aware that the collapse is also in the real. This « method » of collapse and mutation recalls Bernard Stiegler’s method of noetic ascent and descent, where a noetic shock leads to a noesis (conceptual invention) and a new bifurcation.
Those who follow Laruelle but show themselves incapable of, or unwilling to, follow the requirement of syntaxic ascent are what one could call the little Laruelleans (as Stiegler talks about the little Deleuzians » and « little Derridians »), entrenching a positive Laruelle. They repeat the terms, but without the collapse or the mutation.