We have entered a post-pluralist age where reductionism has come back in force. The old reductionisms based on a single final foundational level have been mostly abandoned at the philosophical level, although dogmatic scientism survives in the media.
Pluralism has come to be travestied as post-truth anti-realist relativism where every idea and opinion must be respected. In its place, given that mono-reductionism has failed, we see the edification of more eclectic versions, combining two or more foundational levels. This is the epoch of multi-reductionsm.
François Laruelle’s non-standard philosophy, with its concept of the “quantum Christ” is an exemplary case of bi-reductionism, combining as determinant in the last instance two domains that were formerly in competition for the determining role, or at least that were sharing that role against all other rivals.
(This notion of determinant “in the last instance” corresponded already to a weakening of direct reductionism, attempting both to incorporate aspects of pluralism (by means of the concept of “over-determination”) and nevertheless to maintain a fundamental level).
Laruelle’s scientistic religionism constitutes one of the avatars of this new configuration in the battle of reductionism against pluralism. Combining two “magisteria”, in this case religion and science (after effecting a preliminary reduction of these domains to gnostic Christianity and to quantum physics respectively), by voiding them of all but the vaguest content leads to a highly unfalsifiable bi-reductive synthesis.
This combination is unstable, and Laruelle oscillates between one or the other of the two domains as finally determinant, but it is apparent that he gives primacy to religion. This tendency towards religionism is clearer in many of Laruelle’s Anglophone followers, the rest tending towards Marxist scientism (but seeing no need to distance themselves from their religionist comrades).
Thus with Laruelle we see the triple movement of the new multi-reductionism:
1) explanatory reduction of all domains to two or more foundational domains (this corresponds to “suture” in Badiou’s terms), e.g. to science and religion
2) simplificatory reduction of each foundational domain to one of its components, e.g. reduction of science to the “quantum”
3) valuatory reduction of a reductive composite giving primacy to one of its elements, e.g. in the composite science-religion (quantum Christ) giving primary value to religion
(In Laruelle’s case this leads to the absurd notion that the early Christians discovered or invented the basic principle of quantum mechanics two thousand years in advance).
Bernard Stiegler’s thought, on some interpretations, is a form of tri-reductionism based on the trinomial of individual, collective and technical determination, with primacy in the last instance given to technology. However, Stiegler escapes this reductionism most of the time, given his emphasis on individuation, and ontogenesis at each level.
This accounts both for the reductionist aura of Stiegler’s thought, and for his frequent protestations that he is not a scientistic or technological reductionist. He does not bother to declare that he is not an individualist or a social determinist, as there is no ambiguity on that point.
Stiegler’s denial of reductionism is flawed, in that he can avoid one-sided technological (mono-)reductionism only by elaborating a more complex triune model.
Zizek’s ontology is also based on a form of tri-reductionism (Freud-Lacan, Hegel-Marx, quantum physics). In his case the preliminary reduction involves reducing psychic and social individuation to Lacanian psychoanalysis and Hegelian dialectics, and reducing science (as ontologically relevant) to quantum physics.
These new forms of reductionism allow the system to incorporate elements of pluralism without renouncing a foundational referential base. The double movement of reducing each domain to one of its component parts and then reducing all else to these domains or “conditions” (in Badiou’s term) permits ambiguity. In particular Zizek is able to pass back and forth between a Deleuzian pluralism and a Lacanian reductionism, in conformity with his ideal of a Deleuze/Lacan “pact” or “compromise” (Zizek’s words in A TRAVERS LE REEL, page 17).
REDUCTIONISM HARD AND SOFT
Such multi-reductionisms oscillate between a soft and a hard version.
The soft version makes use of key words in a polyvalent and evocative way, elaborating a thought that is seemingly open , tolerant, and multidimensional.
The hard version sticks to a very limited acceptation of these same terms as glossed in terms of the intra-conditional reduction.
Badiou’s philosophical system is a very clear example of the ambiguity allowing him to oscillate between hard and soft reductionism. His four conditions on the soft version are art, science, love, politics. On the hard, double reductive version, Badiou’s conditions are the matheme, the poem, the Two, and communism.
On the soft version Badiou could easily add further conditions, e.g. religion, sport, or technology. In contrast, on the hard tetra-reductionist version there is no un-reduced place for religion, and Badiou clearly does not know what to do with it, proffering highly implausible analyses in terms of the hard versions of the four conditions.