BEING (CRITIQUED) WITHOUT BEING (READ): Galloway’s Laruellean Ignorantism

I have already dealt with Galloway’s claim that Latour’s thought is « being without event » in a previous post, here:

Galloway seems to think that the alternative to « democratic materialism » (cf. Badiou, LOGICS OF WORLDS), what he calls Latour’s « bodies-and-languages position », is the inclusion of the event.

However, in Badiou’s terms the alternative to democratic materialism is the inclusion of truths: « there are only bodies and languages, except there are truths ».

Galloway incoherently assigns Latour’s thought to the « bodies and languages position », while claiming that Latour is not postmodern. He forgets that in Badiou’s terminology postmodernism is the « bodies and languages » position.

The whole point of Latour’s AIME is the protection of truths against such a bodies-and-languages reticular reduction, via the modes of existence as modes of veridiction. Latour provides us with a « truths-position » over against a « bodies-and-languages position ». This is the central point of his AIME project.

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Scientistic intellectual incomprehension and rejection of pluralism is often combined with affective hostility. Galloway’s remarks on Latour are a fascinating example of this phenomenon.

The spectacle of a reductionist determinist Marxist accusing anyone else, let alone Bruno Latour, of « naturalising » is just risible. Latour’s thought is one of the most deconstructive of naturalisations there could be.

Galloway’s article on Latour is replete with naturalised terms that he attempts to pass off as more conceptually sophisticated than they actually are by means of a vague veneer of Laruelleanism.

The key weasel word here is « the world ». Latour’s thought bifurcates the sense of « world » and describes the antagonism between being-as-other and being-as-being, or rather the agon of world against « world ».

Galloway himself reifies « world ». In fact, just about all of Galloway’s approach to Latour is one misguided reification after another. Not only does his Laruelleanism not serve to protect him from such reifications and naturalisations, it actively produces them.

The idea that « there is no event in Latour » is ridiculous, as is the related idea that he does not admit historical contingency.

One of the most important modes of existence for Latour is that of REL, or the religious mode of existence. Latour invokes Jan Assmann’s MOSES THE EGYPTIAN to describe how REL detached itself from MET, the polytheistic metamorphic mode of existence.This is an event of ontological scale for Latour.

He further describes, devoting a whole book to it (REJOICING), how once again REL has almost disappeared from the contemporary world.

Similarly for Latour « Nature » itself is historically contingent in its birth, persistence, and current replacement by Gaia.

Latour is obviously a post-modern thinker, in Lyotard’s sense of the incredulity towards legitimating meta-narratives. Galloway’s superficial attempt to attribute « one particular grand narrative, systematicity » to Latour is belied by Latour’s explicit deconstruction of his own burgeoning systematicity in AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE.

Galloway cites Latour’s « Why has critique run out of steam » without realising that there is a large part of self-criticism in this text. Latour admits here (and elsewhere) that the network-ontology has been the basis of a critique that ultimately allows the reactionaries to turn it against those who want to change the world.

Latour takes his distance from the paralysing relativism of the network paradigm and seeks a pluralist realism that culminates, for the moment, in AIME. This self-critical and self-transformative mode of research is the opposite of the scientistic entrenchement that Galloway’s Laruelleanism leads him to.

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LARUELLE’S MACHINE OF MISREADING: Ignorantism and Semantic Bloat

It has slowly become apparent that François Laruelle’s non-philosophy as applied by his Anglophone acolytes is a machine of misreading, a technique of getting things wrong.

Laruelle’s obscurantist syntax and lexics does not hide any meta-sophistication over and above its targets but an overgrown and overblown sub-philosophy.

All talk of « de-growth » given this problem of semantic bloat is laughable. Applied to other philosophers’ texts de-growth equals de-reading, leaving out all that does not correspond to the over-simplified picture that is elaborated out of this ignorantist methodology.

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the challenges of reading Latour

One of the problems with Laruelle and his disciples is that they produce critiques of thinkers who have already advanced the same critiques and moved on. Alex Reid rightly cites Bruno Latour’s AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE as escaping from Galloway’s objections. AIME contains the results of Latour’s autocritique, and de-emphasizes networks in favour of a panoply of concepts of a different order (the multiple modes and the diverse felicity conditions). Latour thus recognizes the danger (and not the necessity) of sufficiency in his previous work and proposes a far more nuanced and differentiated way out of that sufficiency than Laruelle’s clunky scientism. I do not think that Galloway’s complaint is basically political. Alex Reid points out that his portrait of Latour’s work is based on an incomplete and erroneous reading. My impression is that Galloway cannot abide Latour’s pluralism, and its critique of scientism. This pluralism finds one of its models in networks, but then goes beyond the network model to the modes of existence model, thereby deepening its exploration of pluralism.

Alex Reid

A couple of Latour-related articles have been going around lately, particularly this article in the NY Times and more recently this critical piece by Alex Galloway at least partly occasioned by the Times article. Galloway’s rejection of Latour (and Deleuzian, new materialism in general, if one reads other works of his) comes down to the infelicity of this kind of thinking for his political project. That is, it is, in my view, an ideological objection. And I don’t have any problem with that. Well, let me rephrase that. I don’t have any problem with people–academics or otherwise–having a goal and selecting the best tools for achieving that goal.

That said, at the end I think the only conclusion you can draw is that Latour doesn’t share Galloway’s political commitments, is not seeking to carry out Galloway’s political objectives through his research, and that therefore Galloway believes his work has little…

Voir l’article original 719 mots de plus

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1) It is laughable that so many people blindly repeat Laruelle’s claim that Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy is a « philosophy of difference ». It is much more accurately characterised as a « philosophy of multiplicity », that mutates in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? into a philosophy of infinity.

2) Laruelle has shown that he is capable of self criticism, but he is much slower in this than his contemporaries, and he lags behind them (his long-lasting scientism is a case in point). He is also blind to the self-criticism embodied in the work of others.

3) A notable case of this concept-blindness is to be seen in his persistence in criticising the « philosophies of difference », when the thinkers involved had already noticed the problem and moved on years before Laruelle got round to his critique.

4) A striking example is Deleuze’s passage from DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION (which features the concept of difference, but closely tied to multiplicity) to LOGIC OF SENSE, where the concept of difference is marginal, and multiplicity comes to even greater prominence).

5) Laruelle’s ideas are becoming increasingly irrelevant. His critiques of Deleuze are of relatively minor interest. Zizek, Badiou and Latour have produced deeper and more thorough responses to Deleuze’s work, and their own work has been in constant evolution.

6) One would not guess these sorts of evolution exist from Laruelle’s texts. So Iwe must reject the undue simplification of philosophical history effectuated in Laruelle’s grand narrative, where he takes pride of place (quite unjustly).

7) Laruelle promises far more than he delivers, he misses the mark far too often, and it serves no good purpose, unless wilful ignorance is a good purpose, to pretend otherwise.

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1) Laruelle’s attempted escape from philosophical « sufficiency » (a form of totalising monism) leads him initially to the relativism of a plurality of thought worlds. But this plurality is still not pluralism, but merely a refined (and obscurantised) relativism.

2) Laruelle seeks for ways out of this relativism. His « democracy of thought » (where all thoughts are equal) is no solution as it leads only to a plurality of thoughts in an ocean of democratic relativism.

3) Some of Laruelle’s principal solutions to relativism are: determination, superposition, collision (in the methodological introduction to his NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY).

4) Determination in the last instance is envisaged by Laruelle as a way of acknowledging relativist plurality without falling into full relativism. However, this concept is quickly deconstructed in NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY, and replaced by the more pluralist and less reductive concept of superposition.

6) Laruelle eventually sees the error of his notion of determination in the last instance (which we could call the « ultimate » determinant) and so inverts his conceptual flow, moving upstream to what he calls « indetermination in the pre-primary instance ».

7) This amounts to enshrining a new determinant under the name of « indetermination », and then proclaiming performatively: « no determination here ». It would be a solution if he could hold on to it consistently, but in practice it amounts to a prime determinant, as he incoherently conflates it with determination in the last instance. This is similar to his incoherence about his own scientism. He critiques it, but thenblithely conserves it.

8) « Superposition » is in itself not a solution. Its plurality of superposed circles is a form of relativism, unless quantum entanglement and leakage can break through the boundaries and borders between incommensurable worlds.

5) « Collision » is a violent image of using classical materials in a classically describable set-up capable of mobilising enough energy to produce non-classical outcomes. The intensity of the collisions cannot hide the fact that this method is anti-immanent, its method of collision is extrinsic.


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Vidéo Mon parcours du livre : Intensités philosophiques et langage des infinis

Voici ma contribution aux journées autour de « L’Immanence des vérités » d’Alain Badiou 1° et 2 octobre 2018, Théâtre La Commune (Aubervilliers):

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