Reading WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (5): Breakdown, Sickness, Negativity

One of the general themes, or rules of thumb, of Deleuze and Guattari’s (non-)philosophy is that one cannot just begin at the beginning. We « begin » in the middle, but this is not an invitation to a euphoric swimming with the current. The middle is the breakdown.

We begin with a breakdown, with multiple breakdowns, and the book is very clear about that. We begin with our faults. Of course, this notion of fault is to be taken in a geological sense, of a break or rupture in the strata. Nonetheless, we must not be too quick to reject other associations: ethical (but not necessarily moral), machinic (fault as malfunction), or aesthetic (fault as flaw).

The book begins by citing negative conditions, « late », « old age », « agitation », « midnight ». As we have seen Deleuze and Guattari were not « old » at the time of writing, but rather sick. This is a case when we can apply the criterion of « speak concretely ». Why do the authors speak of old age, and not of sickness, at this moment? They will do so later in the book, speaking of the « fragile health » that is characteristic of artists and philosophers (172).

Deleuze and Guattari situate themselves and this new book as breaking with, or being in rupture with, their previous way of doing philosophy, now seen as too abstract:

« Earlier, one posed it, on did not cease posing it, but it was too indirect or oblique, too artificial, too abstract »

The text reads:

« Auparavant on la posait, on ne cessait pas de la poser, mais c’était trop indirect ou oblique, trop artificiel, trop abstrait ».

The published translation reads:

« It was asked before; it was always being asked, but too indirectly or obliquely; the question was too artificial, too abstract ».

As usual I must insist that I am not criticising the published translation, but proposing a more literal reading in order to concentrate on certain points of interest.

NB: I translate « auparavant » by « earlier », in order to bring out the opposition with « late ». I keep the impersonal « one » as the subject (such constructions are quite often translated by the passive voice in English), to keep to the language of the event, which is described by Deleuze and Guattari as containing, explicitly or implicitly, the impersonal one. I read « it » (in French « la »), the object of the verb « posed », as different from « it » (in French « ce », contracted to « c’… »), the subject of the attributive « was » (« était »), and qualified by the four adjectives. These are different subjects, and what is indirect, oblique, artificial, abstract is not the question but the posing of the question.

Deleuze and Guattari see their earlier selves as having been too abstract, and indicate that the time has come to break with that, as this abstract approach itself breaks down under the conditions of old age, sickness, and « the discreet mark of death » (172). These seemingly negative conditions are the effects of « something » that is

« the source or the breath that make them live through the illnesses of the lived (what Nietzsche called health) » (172-173, translation modified).

In French:

« la source ou le souffle qui les font vivre à travers les maladies du vécu (ce que Nietzsche appelle santé) ».

The published translation reads:

« the source or breath that supports them through the illnesses of the lived (what Nietzsche called health) ».

I have translated « font vivre » awkwardly by « make live » (as opposed to « supports ») to bring out the relation between the infinitive « live » (ideal event) and the past participle « lived » (empirical state of affairs).

« Something » (a quality, a power, an affect, a colour) opens a fault in our lived states of old age, sickness, or death to extract and release the event within or covered over. This extract is encapsulated (contoured, configured, constellated) by the concept.

« The concept is the contour, the configuration, the constellation of an event to come » (32-33).

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Reading WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (4): dramatised prototypes and the high degree

In WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? Deleuze and Guattari desire to « speak concretely ». As we have argued, a book of philosophy can be read by means of the hypothesis that it is proposing criteria by which to judge not only its interlocutors, but also its own conceptual creation.

We may take the concept of « speaking concretely » both as one of the tasks of the book and as one of its criteria, and ask to what extent does the book satisfy this criterion.

The book begins with a composite concept (late, old age, the hour to speak concretely) serving to specify more concretely the circumstances for posing the question « What is philosophy? »

The rest of the lengthy first paragraph further specifies and dramatises the title-question, proposing two different scenarios for posing it, or two prototypical cases, exhibiting both the high degree of satisfying the concept and the low degree, its opposing prototype. As we have seen concepts are concrete universals – they are dramatised prototypes rather than structural archetypes. A useful rule of thumb, part of the implicit methodology of the book, is wherever possible one should pass from abstract universals to dramatised prototypes.

The high degree is exemplified by the scenario of one asking the question concretely and directly, at the height of old age, « seized » by it, « soberly », with a « sovereign freedom » and a « pure necessity ». In contrast, the low degree is illustrated by the younger, more abstract approach to asking the question, whose element is « domination » rather than freedom.

This coincidence of opposites (seizure and sobriety, freedom and necessity) does not lead to a neutral state but rather to a state of high intensity, signalled also by the markers of a high degree (« sovereign », « pure ») of the sub-concepts deployed.

The existence of these sub-concepts is enough to show that the slogan « philosophy is the creation of concepts » is incomplete and potentially misleading. For Deleuze and Guattari philosophy is also conceptual analysis (and synthesis).

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Reading WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (3): Laruelle’s Lapse into Scientism

Agitation, Not Sufficiency

Laruelle, despite his considerable merits, is forever wrong when he assigns Deleuze to the realm of philosophical sufficiency (which Deleuze calls « representation »). Despite his deep and intense non-philosophical voyage Laruelle is incapable of reading Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? in terms of the relation with the outside, because he has not measured what the collaboration of Deleuze and Guattari brought to both of them.

It is noteworthy that WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY is not just a work by Deleuze, as Laruelle’s response,“A Reply to Deleuze” implies. It was written in collaboration with Guattari, a non-philosopher, who Deleuze explicitly honours for taking him outside philosophy.

Philosophy, Non-philosophy

François Laruelle gives a one-sided “philosophical” reading of the book, and so comes to the predictable conclusion that it is still “philosophy” in the sense of enclosure within the principle of philosophical sufficiency, which has next to nothing to do with Deleuze and Guattari’s sense of philosophy as expounded in the book Laruelle is purportedly replying to. For them philosophy comes from « agitation », the encounter with chaos.

On Laruelle’s Scientism

In WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? Deleuze and Guattari mention Laruelle twice explicitly.

“The non-philosophical is perhaps closer to the heart of philosophy than philosophy itself,  and this means that philosophy cannot be content to  be understood only philosophically or conceptually, but is addressed essentially to non-philosophers as well” (41).

Followed by note 5:

“François Laruelle is engaged in one of the most interesting undertakings of contemporary philosophy. He invokes a One-All that he qualifies as “non-philosophical” and, oddly, as “scientific,” on which the “philosophical decision” takes root. This One-All seems to be close to Spinoza” (220).

Deleuze and Guattari highlight the function of the prefix « non- » in their account not just of philosophy but also of art and of science:

“The plane of philosophy is pre-philosophical insofar as we consider it in itself independently of the concepts that come to occupy it, but non-philosophy is found where the plane confronts chaos. Philosophy needs a non-philosophy that comprehends it; it needs a non-philosophical comprehension just as art needs non-art and science needs non-science” (218).

Followed by note 16:

« François Laruelle proposes a comprehension of non-philosophy as the “real (of) science,” beyond the object of knowledge: Philosophie et non-philosophie (Liege: Mardaga, 1989). But we do not see why this real of science is not non-science as well” (234).

1) The Authority of Science

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? was first published in French in 1991, i.e. well within Laruelle’s PHILOSOPHY II, which lasted from 1981 to 1995. Deleuze and Guattari pose the question of Laruelle’s scientism, that is to say of his continuing imprisonment in the presuppositions of the authority of science that characterise both State philosophy and Royal Science. In PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY, published in French in 1995, Laruelle seems to accept this criticism as he declares that during Philosophy II he had been still under the sway of the principle of sufficient philosophy in the form of a scientistic submission to the “authority” of science.

2) The Privilege of Science

Deleuze and Guattari’s second criticism of Laruelle concerns not the authority of science but the privileged relationship of philosophy with science, where they advocate a similar relationship with art too. In his PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY (page 34) Laruelle analyses his PHILOSOPHY II phase as being based on two axioms that were supposed to be complementary, but that he later found to be conflicting in their loyalties:

1) The One is immanent vision in-One.

2) There is a special affinity between the vision-in-One and the phenomenal experience of “scientific thought”

Axiom 1 is faithful to non-philosophy. Deleuze and Guattari have their own version of an immanent « vision-in-one », the infinite that is present on virtually every page of WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY.

(For details see my article MY PATH THROUGH BADIOU’S THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS: Philosophical intensities and language of the infinite)

Axiom 2, with its supposed “special affinity” between the vision-in-One and science, is faithful ultimately to the ruses of philosophy.

It was not until his Philosophy V that Laruelle, in his published works, was able to free himself  partially from this “special affinity” with science in his actual practice of non-standard philosophy (in his works on non-photography and non-religion). However, this break with scientism is more a pious wish, than a real practice, always announced but never fully accomplished.

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Reading WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (2): strange loops and concrete universality

FEEDBACK LOOPS

The book WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? can be seen as circular and self-correcting, and its end gives us important clues as to how to read its beginning.

The book, whose title is a question, begins in the interrogative mood, and in the modality of uncertainty. Its first word is « perhaps »:

« Peut-être ne peut-on poser la question Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? que tard, quand vient la vieillesse, et l’heure de parler concrètement ».

« Perhaps one can pose the question What is philosophy? only late, when old age comes, and the hour to speak concretely » (my translation).

This is an extraordinary beginning to a book of philosophy. This first sentence is written in the language of the event, and its function is to counter-effectuate the book’s title and its effects. The sentence seems to be the « negative » or the « shadow » of the title-question.

In the last paragraph of  WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? Deleuze and Guattari tell us that each of the three disciplines considered in the text (art, science, philosophy) are in relation with a « negative » that « sends back (« renvoie ») its effects ».

Note: the published translation reads « that echoes its effects », which is perfectly correct, but which neglects the implicit resonance with « counter-effects ». Further « echoes » is a passive process, whereas the negative or shadow is seen as actively participating in the process of noesis or « non-conceptual thought ».

« Perhaps » – the event exists in a virtual plane that is irreducible to its actualisation. There is an inherent uncertainty to the event, as Deleuze argues in LOGIC OF SENSE.The event as becoming points in both directions at once.

In terms of this distinction, modal adverbs are dis-actualising devices.

« one« – the « fourth person of the singular ». This is the pronoun to be used for speaking of events in Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophical language that subtends their seemingly ordinary way of speaking.

« can » – this is a modal verb expressing real potentiality, and not just abstract possibility.

« pose the question » – the bare infinitive after « can ». The infinitive is the tense of the event in Deleuze and Guattari’s event language.

« What is philosophy? » – we need all this modalising context to get us away from the type of question posed by metaphysics. There is a paradox when we see the names of Deleuze and Guattari as authors on the cover of a book, over the title « What is philosophy? » For these thinkers the question of « What is…? » is typical of abstract metaphysical thinking, and asks for an essence. We will need to understand the question, and not just its asking, « concretely », i.e. in terms of « its moment, its occasion and circumstances, its landscapes
and personae, its conditions and unknowns » (2).

« late » – chronologically this designates a period after the time of abstract thinking and talking, when comes the hour to « speak concretely ». Intensively, it designates a moment that is the opposite of « pre-« , and that cannot strictly be situated on the temporal line of Chronos. It is more properly designated by the prefix « non-« , as in « non-philosophy ».

At the end of the book, in the last paragraph, Deleuze and Guattari talk of this more concrete approach that shadows the more abstract one, as being necessary at every moment of the becoming of a discipline:

« Philosophy needs a non-philosophy that comprehends it, it needs a non-philosophical comprehension, just as art needs non-art and science needs non-science. They do not need the « non- » as beginning, or as the end in which they would be called upon to disappear by being realized, but at every moment of their becoming or their development » (218, translation modified by me).

« when old age comes » – “Old age” is to be understood intensively, it is the time for posing the question. Not a chronologically situated stage of life, but a type of event that « comes », an intensive moment.

Contrary to a popular stereotype, Guattari and Deleuze were not « old » when they wrote WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? At the time of publication, Deleuze is 66 years old and Guattari is 61. By current standards this is hardly the end of the active life, one is still productive at this age, as the book itself attests. Badiou is still going strong at 82 years of age, and he only retired at the age of 80. His last major work was published in September last year, at the age of a little over 81 and a half.

Deleuze and Guattari were sick, not old.

« the hour to speak concretely » – the « hour » is a hecceity determined in terms an infinitive « to speak » and a qualifying adverb « concretely ». The whole stake of the first part of the book is to reverse our usual perspective, and to establish that real philosophy happens in an encounter, when we are seized by a question, and speak about it concretely. We can do philosophy only as located in an hour, a place, in relation to landscapes, personae, friends and enemies.

All philosophy is local and singular, and it is only as such that it can attain a sort of trans-temporal universality:

« to send into the future a feature that cuts across all ages » (1-2).

Thus, although Deleuze and Guattari were too anti-Hegelian to approve of the term, their « non-thinking thought » can be characterised as a form of concrete universality.

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Reading WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? (1): quasi-causal reading and non-standard noesis

I am going to talk about my reading of Deleuze and Guattari’s last book written together: WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? This poses the question of the criteria that one uses in reading a philosophical text, i.e. a text that aims at transforming our criteria for what constitutes a philosophical, for what philosophy is..

DIVERGENCE AND CRITERIA

My criteria for reading a theorist are based on divergence as well as on convergence. I must have enough convergence to take an interest in a thinker’s work, but I must also diverge from it enough to be able to produce my own work. Thus, I am not talking solely about a theoretical satisfaction based on finding divergences within the text examined, but also about divergence in my evaluations.

I am successively and/or simultaneously satisfied, dissatisfied, perplexed, critical, and inspired by what I read. So you will never see simple satisfaction or convergence in my meditations. I do not seek convergence so much as divergence, multiple perspectives.

This emphasis on divergence will lead me to read a text as creating criteria and implying that it embodies and lives up to them. A divergent reading will evaluate whether the text actually satisfies its criteria or not.

QUASI-CAUSAL READING

All the thinkers I admire (Nietzsche, Foucault, Canguilhem, Simondon, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari, Stiegler, Latour) are in favour, explicitly or implicitly, of individuation and thus of creative mis-reading, or what we could call in Laruellese a non-reading. We shall see that such a process of creative reading of a work implies a running engagement with its, and our, shadow.

In Deleuzian terms, we must become the « quasi-causes » of our influences and not their banal repetition in the sense of mechanical re-transcription. The thinkers, the works, the visions, and the ideas you love are not only your influences but also your traumas. That’s what pushes you to think, and not just to follow, to creatively counter-effectuate and not just to submit to.

NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY

In reading Deleuze and Guattari I do not effectuate the standardised moves of standard philosophy, with its dualisms and its unilateral valorisation of abstract cognitive thought. This is one point where I can wholeheartedly adopt Bernard Stiegler’s vocabulary as a useful tool for highlighting elements of Deleuze and Guattari’s text that otherwise might have escaped us.

The substitution of the term « noesis » for that of « cognition » (or understanding or « reflection ») is no mere verbal tokenising, it allows us to avoid the reduction of thought to abstract cognitive processes and the sterile contrast between concrete emotional or imaginative thought and abstract cognition. Noesis is the more generic, less reductive, term.

With this distinction in mind, we can see that, not only does WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? end with a call for noesis under the name of « non-thinking thought », or a thought that proceeds by « non-conceptual concepts », but that it proceeds all along in terms of noesis:

« Can the entire history of philosophy be presented from the viewpoint of the instituting of a plane of immanence? Physicalists, who insist on the substance of Being, would then be distinguished from noologists, who insist on the image of
thought » (44).

Deleuze and Guattari’s works can thus be considered to be principally noetic rather than cognitive or abstractly conceptual in orientation, they are contributions to a noo-logical or « non-standard » approach.

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LARUELLEAN VENTRILOQUISM: Badiou remarketised

I have already discussed philosophical ventriloquism as a form of re-marketisation. One reformulates, whether consciously or not, the insights of one philosopher in the language of another. In particular, I commented the case of OOO, and of speculative realism in general, as a re-marketisation of Badiou’s ontology. For details, see

https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/ooo-a-demi-post-structuralism/

especially the section BADIOU REMARKETISED: SET-THEORETIC REDUCTION FOUNDS OOO’S AFFECTIVE REDUCTION.

I have also commented on the sutural nature of Laruelle’s Anglophone appropriation:
« 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 ».

It should come as no surprise that this epistemological defect of Laruellean reductionism operates in favour of a re-marketisation of Badiou’s problematic. In sum, Laruellese is a ventriloquism.

This sort of annexing of a philosopher’s language to serve one’s own prior problematic can be called, in Babette Babich’s term, « reductive convergence »: this is the empiricist error of being blind to or denying incommensurabilities, a form of concept blindness and meaning blindness.

In my reading I follow Paul Feyerabend’s practice of counter-inductive divergence. When received readings converge on an interpretation perceived as an obvious fact I explore whether a counter-hypothesis can highlight previously unperceived aspects of the text’s problematics.

We must distinguish empiricist perceptual convergence, which dogmatically sees commensurability everywhere, and hermeneutic convergence, which does the work of reading and the further work of translating.

When physicists at first saw no difference between Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction and Einsteinian relativity, because the corresponding equations were the same, that was a form of empiricist convergence.

When Schrödinger’s formulation of quantum theory was shown to be convergent with Heisenberg’s, that was a hermeneutic « reduction ». This convergence is not a strict equivalence at the heuristic level, as different formulations suggest different lines of research.

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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.

3) Laruelle’s victims. 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 uncrossable 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.

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.

20) Outside the frame. Laruelle’s argument is based on a qualitative application of the wave/particle duality associated with the phenomenon of quantum tunneling. 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 is democratic against the hegemony of experts. Science makes use of or presupposes philosophical concepts, and 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 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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