by Terence Blake
Laruelle’s PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY was published in French in 1996. Some people have claimed that it is in part a response to Deleuze and Guattari’s WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?, published in 1991. I do not think this is so, which is just as well as in this case it would be a very bad reply. It reads more like part of Laruelle’s continuing reply to Deleuze’s DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION (1968).
I have already commented on Laruelle’s “time machine” effect (here) in his relation to Badiou. In this book and in later ones Laruelle shows no sign of having come to grips with Deleuze and Guattari’s ANTI-OEDIPUS (1972) or A THOUSAND PLATEAUS (1980). Deleuze remains for Laruelle a frozen photo, a conceptual persona, the philosopher of difference and not of multiplicities. For more on this see my article LARUELLE AND DELEUZE: From difference to multiplicity.
Laruelle’s PRINCIPLES OF NON-PHILOSOPHY embodies a great tension. It is at once the retrospective summation and systematisation of his preceding non-philosophical works and a prospective programmatic statement of the principles that will lead to the later non-standard philosophy. There is the non-standard voice of an unknown stranger and an unassimilated foreigner in Laruelle’s texts (“étranger” in French means both stranger and foreigner) along with the more standard voice of a Continental academic philosopher. Even the title of the book expresses Laruelle’s awareness of, and struggle with these two voices.
Laruelle’s appeal and continuing relevance lies in the difficult and conflicted harmony (or at least co-presence) of these two voices. He maintains the exigency of immanence in perhaps its purest form today, although that very purity may have prevented him from attaining it except in its most general, and programmatic, outlines.
Reading this book and the immediately preceding books (where Laruelle tries to come to terms with Lacan) and also the succeeding ones (where he tries to come to terms with Levinas and Althusser), we can see that something more than non-philosophy is required if Laruelle is to actually implement his research programme.
Laruelle is in need of a non-standard supplement to allow him to pass from the critique of philosophy’s sufficiency and abstract programmatic talking about a different mode of thinking to its concrete practical effectuation. He responds to this need for a bridge from critique (negative heuristic) and programmatic principles (positive heuristic) to concrete application first by supplementation with a gnostic dramatisation of the figure of Christ (in FUTURE CHRIST), and second with the quantum meta-modelisation of thought (in NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY).
These bridging principles of Christ and Quantum are insufficient as “Christ” is already too concrete a concept, and is insufficiently generic. On the other side of the attempted bridging, Laruelle’s “quantum” thought is too abstract, and he is unable to determine it outside a very obscure conceptual jargon.
Unable to produce the necessary bridging principle for the non-standard implementation of his thought, Laruelle proceeds to simply combine in an abstract-concrete hybrid these two unsatisfactory attempts, identifying Christ and the quantum, in CHRISTO-FICTION.
We can conclude that despite the seeming promise of its (negative and positive) heuristic principles of Laruelle’s metaphysical research programme it is missing a crucial element: the bridging principle that would permit the practice of non-philosophical thought. This un-bridged gap accounts for the disappointing attempts at realisation, usually amounting to repetitive affirmations of a “new use of philosophy” by Laruelle and his disciples, as if simply proclaiming something made it so. This characterises Laruellean non-philosophy as a form of performative idealism.
This gap also explains Laruelle’s persistent blindness with respect to other thinkers that do achieve a non-standard use of philosophy: Deleuze, Latour, Stiegler, the later Badiou (LOGICS OF WORLDS), Zizek. Beyond any personal dynamics and academic positioning, there is a fundamental fault in the system, a conceptual blindspot, and the voice of the stranger is stifled yet again.
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