Axiomatic heresy by nyut545e2


									Axiomatic heresy
The non-philosophy of François Laruelle

Ray Brassier

There are at least two ways of evaluating philosophical      detailed concrete analyses in a way that cannot be
originality. The most obvious is in terms of what a          mapped back onto this clumsy form/content schema.
philosopher thinks. As well as proposing novel philo­        Notwithstanding this clumsiness, however, and the
sophical theses concerning the nature of being or truth      ease with which exceptions and counter­examples
or knowledge, a philosopher may produce new sorts of         can be summoned, this admittedly simplistic schema
claim bearing on history, art, morality, politics, and so    remains useful if only because it provides us with
on. Another way of evaluating originality is in terms        a basic frame in terms of which to begin gauging
of how a philosopher thinks. There are philosophers          the originality of a thinker who has a serious claim
whose most conspicuous claim to innovation resides           to being the most important unknown philosopher
not so much in what they think but rather in how they        working in Europe today: François Laruelle.1
think. They propose a fundamental change in the way             What makes Laruelle so singular is that he may
philosophy is done – a revolutionary break, a new            well be the first European philosopher in whose work
beginning. Descartes, Kant, Hegel and Husserl are            substantive innovation has been wholeheartedly sacri­
perhaps the most celebrated examples, but figures such        ficed in the name of total formal invention. This is a
as Frege or Russell also deserve a mention. That their       polite way of saying that, unlike his more illustrious
putative innovation may, on closer inspection, turn out      peers,2 not only does Laruelle not make novel philo­
to be pseudo­revolutionary or essentially conservative       sophical claims about being or truth or knowledge; he
is irrelevant here. What is relevant is their avowed         also has nothing much to say about history, ethics, art
ambition to effect a total transformation in philo­          or politics – or at least nothing that would make any
sophical method, to have reconfigured both the formal         kind of sense outside the parameters of his own sev­
means and the substantive aims of philosophizing.            erely abstract theoretical apparatus. Those deliciously
Thus, the novelty of what they think is less important       ‘substantial’ titbits with which it is customary for the
than the newness of how they think. Which is to say          philosopher to placate the public’s appetite for ‘con­
that any substantive claims philosophers like this make      cretion’ are entirely lacking in his work. ‘Show me
about history or nature or art or politics can only be       an example of an example, and I renounce this book’,
appraised in light of the revolutionary innovation they      Laruelle once quipped.3
purport to have brought about at the level of the form          The truth is that his thought operates at a level of
of philosophical thinking.                                   abstraction which some will find debilitating, others
   It will be objected that this is an entirely superficial   exhilarating. Those who believe formal invention
distinction and that the canonical philosophers in           should be subordinated to substantive innovation will
the European tradition combine both dimensions of            undoubtedly find Laruelle’s work rebarbative. Those
originality in varying proportions: their work marries       who believe that untethering formal invention from
a greater or lesser degree of formal inventiveness to        the constraints of substantive innovation – and thereby
a greater or lesser degree of substantive innovation.        transforming the latter – remains a philosophically
And of course Hegelians or Deleuzeans will be quick          worthy challenge, may well find Laruelle’s work invigor­
to point out that in Hegel or Deleuze we have formal         ating. Regardless of the response – whether it be one of
invention and substantive innovation bound together          repulsion or fascination – Laruelle remains indifferent.
in perfect equipoise. Heideggerians or Derrideans            Abstraction is a price he is more than willing to pay
will be equally quick to point out that Heidegger            in exchange for a methodological innovation which
or Derrida wed formidable abstract inventiveness to          promises to enlarge the possibilities of conceptual

24     Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)
invention far beyond the resources of philosophical          unintelligible to Euclidian geometers.4 Thus, Laruelle
novelty.                                                     suggests that the ‘non’ in the expression ‘non­phil­
   Thus, Laruelle’s importance can be encapsulated           osophy’ be understood as akin to the ‘non’ in the
in a single claim: the claim to have discovered a new        expression ‘non­Euclidian’ geometry: not as a negation
way of thinking. By ‘new’, of course, Laruelle means         or denial of philosophy, but as suspending a specific
‘philosophically unprecedented’. But what Laruelle           structure (the philosophical equivalent of Euclid’s fifth
means by ‘philosophically unprecedented’ is not what         axiom concerning parallels) which Laruelle sees as
philosophical revolutionaries like Descartes, Kant,          constitutive of the traditional practice of philosophy.
Hegel or Husserl meant by it. Laruelle prefers heresy        New possibilities of thought become available once
to revolution. Where philosophical revolution involves       that structure has been suspended and non­philosophy
a reformation of philosophy for the ultimate benefit of       is an index of those philosophically unenvisageable
philosophy itself – and a philosophical stake in what        possibilities.
philosophy should be doing – heresy involves a use              Consequently, if non­philosophy can be contrasted
of philosophy in the absence of any philosophically          to the postmodern pragmatist’s ‘supermarket trolley’
vested interest in providing a normative definition of        approach to philosophy, where the philosophical con­
philosophy. This is not to say that Laruelle’s heretical     sumer’s personal predilections provide the sole crite­
use of philosophy is anchored in a refusal to define          rion for choosing between competing philosophies, and
philosophy; were that the case, there would be nothing       where the academy now figures as a sort of intellectual
to distinguish it from cynical Rortian pragmatism.           superstore, it is not as yet another theoretical novelty
On the contrary, what makes the Laruellean heresy            – the latest fad, the next big thing – but as a means
interesting is the way it provides a philosophically dis­    of turning the practice of philosophy itself into an
interested – which is to say non­normative – definition       exercise in perpetual invention.
of the essence of philosophy.                                   How is such a practice possible? Why should it be
   Like the revolutionary, the heretic refuses to accept     necessary? And what worth does this enlargement of
any definition of philosophy rooted in an appeal to           possibility for thought have? These are the questions
the authority of philosophical tradition. But unlike         we propose to examine in what follows.
the revolutionary, who more often than not overturns
tradition in order to reactivate philosophy’s supposedly     Philosophy as decision
originary but occluded essence, the heretic proceeds         We must begin by considering the first of several of
on the basis of an indifference which suspends tradi­        Laruelle’s controversial claims: that there is a single,
tion and establishes a philosophically disinterested         transhistorical invariant operative in every attempt to
definition of philosophy’s essence, or, as Laruelle           philosophize, whether it be by Hume or Heidegger,
prefers to say, identity. This disinterested identification   Descartes or Derrida. Laruelle calls this invariant ‘the
of philosophy results in what Laruelle calls a non­          philosophical decision’. The structure of decision is a
philosophical use of philosophy: a use of philosophy         formal syntax governing the possibilities of philoso­
that remains constitutively foreign to the norms and         phizing. Yet it remains unrecognized by philosophers
aims governing the properly philosophical practice of        themselves; not through a lack of reflexive scrupulous­
philosophy. And in fact, ‘non­philosophy’ is Laruelle’s      ness on their part but precisely because of it. It is
name for the philosophically unprecedented or hereti­        philosophy’s hyper­reflexivity that prevents it from
cal practice of philosophy he has invented.                  identifying its own decisional form. Decision cannot
   Yet despite its name, this is neither an ‘anti­phil­      be grasped reflexively because it is the constitutively
osophy’ nor yet another variant on the well­worn             reflexive element of philosophizing. The identification
‘end of philosophy’ theme. It is not the latest variety      of decision as essence of philosophizing presupposes a
of deconstruction or one more manifestation of post­         non­reflexive or (in Laruellese) non-thetic perspective
philosophical pragmatism. Non-philosophy is a theor-         on the thetic reflexivity which is the very element of
etical practice of philosophy proceeding by way of           philosophy.
transcendental axioms and producing theorems which              This is why non­philosophy is not metaphilosophical
are philosophically uninterpretable. ‘Uninterpretable’       – philosophy is already metaphilosophical through its
because Laruelle insists – and reactions to his work         constitutive reflexivity or specularity: every philosophy
certainly seem to bear him out – non­philosophy is           worthy of the name harbours (whether implicitly or
constitutively unintelligible to philosophers, in the same   explicitly) a philosophy of philosophy. Non­philosophy
way that non­Euclidian geometries are constitutively         is not a philosophy of philosophy but a heterogeneous

                                                        Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)          25
practice of philosophy; one shorn of the dimension           (Deleuze) – a (dis)joining that remains co­constituted
of specular reflexivity which is intrinsic to decision.       by the two terms it is supposed to condition and so
And once again, since philosophical specularity is a         implicitly contained within both. Because it is posited
function of the structure of decision, the identification     as given in and through the immediate distinction
of the decisional structure which conditions that specu­     between conditioned datum and conditioning faktum
larity is only possible from a non­specular, which is        – the very distinction which it is supposed to constitute
to say non­decisional, perspective on philosophy. But        – this structure presupposes itself as given in and
in order to understand how this non­philosophical            through the datum which it constitutes, and posits itself
perspective is not only possible but already operative       as a priori condition, or givenness, in and through the
for the non­philosopher, we have to understand how           faktum which conditions that datum.
decision operates.                                               Thus, because the disjoining of condition and
   Decision minimally consists in an act of scis­            conditioned is simultaneously extrinsic and intrinsic
sion or separation dividing two terms: a conditioned         to their joining, all the moments of a philosophical
(but not necessarily perceptual or empirical) datum          decision are self­positing (or auto­positional) and
and its condition as an a priori (but not necessarily        self­presupposing (or auto­donational): a conditioned
rational) faktum, both of which are posited as given         datum is given by being posited a priori through some
in and through a synthetic unity wherein condition           conditioning faktum which is in turn only articulated
and conditioned, datum and faktum, are conjoined.            as conditioning in so far as it has already been pre­
Thus the philosopher posits a structure of articula­         supposed through that datum, and so on. There is a
tion which immediately binds and distinguishes the           sense in which the structure of decision is circular in
conditioned datum – that which is given – whether            that it already presupposes itself in whatever phenom­
it be perceptual, phenomenological, linguistic, social       enon or set of phenomena it articulates. Hence the
or historical, and its condition – its givenness – as an     suspicion that philosophy manages to interpret every­
a priori faktum through which that datum is given:           thing while explaining nothing, because the structure
for example, sensibility, subjectivity, language, society,   of the explanans, decision, is already presupposed in
history.                                                     the explanandum, the phenomenon or phenomena to
   What is crucial here is the way in which such a           be explained. Yet strictly speaking the structure of
structure is immediately independent of, yet inseparable     decision is not so much that of a circle as that of a
from, the two terms which it simultaneously connects         Moebius strip – but one where the twist that joins the
and differentiates. It is a basically fractional structure   inner and outer faces of the strip and allows them to
comprising two differentiated terms and their differ­        flow smoothly into one another is also a fracture, scis­
ence as a third term that is simultaneously intrinsic        sion or split whose dimensionality is simultaneously
and extrinsic, immanent and transcendent to those two        more and less than, both in excess of and subtracted
terms. Thus, for any philosophical distinction or dyad,      from, the immanent dimensions of the strip’s opposing
such as transcendental/empirical, subject/substance,         surfaces.
being/beings, différance/presence, the distinction is            This fractional loop, this auto­positional and
simultaneously intrinsic and immanent to the dis­            auto­donational structure, constitutes philosophy’s
tinguished terms and extrinsic and transcendent in           inherently reflexive or specular character. It guar­
so far as it is supposed to remain constitutive of           antees that everything is potentially philosophizable,
the difference between the terms themselves. For the         which is to say, possible grist for the decisional mill.
division is inseparable from a moment of immanent            Thus, if philosophizing (especially in the ‘continen­
indivision guaranteeing the unity­in­differentiation of      tal’ manner) remains a loose­knit grouping of inter­
the dyadic coupling.                                         pretative strategies rather than a rigorous theoretical
   The result is a structure wherein the coupling of         praxis, it is because decisional specularity ensures
related terms is also their disjoining – for example:        the world remains philosophy’s mirror. Philosophiz­
pure synthesis as that which (dis)joins transcendental       ing the world becomes a pretext for philosophy’s own
and empirical (Kant); self­relating negativity as that       interminable self­interpretation. And since interpreta­
which (dis)joins subject and substance (Hegel); hori­        tion is a function of talent rather than rigour, the
zonal ekstasis as that which (dis)joins being and beings     plurality of mutually incompatible yet unfalsifiable
(Heidegger); différance as that which (dis)joins archi­      interpretations merely perpetuates the uncircum­
text and signified presence (Derrida); ‘indi­differ­          scribable ubiquity of philosophy’s auto­encompass­
ent/ciation’ as that which (dis)joins virtual and actual     ing specularity. Absolute specularity breeds infinite

26     Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)
interpretation – such is the norm for the philosophical       (what Laruelle calls ‘the Stranger­subject’) who now
practice of thought.                                          effectuates the unilateralizing identity of the term Y
                                                              while philosophy instantiates the unilateralized differ­
Unilateral duality                                            ence of the term X as it distinguishes itself from Y. Con­
Moreover, if everything is philosophizable, that              sequently, it is not non­philosophy that distinguishes
which most urgently needs to be philosophized for             itself unilaterally from philosophy but philosophy that
post­Kantian European philosophy is the difference            distinguishes itself unilaterally from non­philosophy.
between philosophy and its other(s); which is to say,         But in non­philosophical thought, the supplementary
the difference between the philosophical and the extra­       dimension of specular reflexivity through which the
philosophical. Continental philosophy lives off this          philosopher is able to oversee the relation between X
difference between itself and its specular, imaginary         and Y is effectively reduced, rendered inoperative, so
other(s): science, religion, the mystical, the ethical, the   that the unilateral relation between X and Y has itself
political, the aesthetic or even – surely a symptom of        become unilateralized, deprived of its transcendent,
terminal desperation – ‘the ordinary’. It is because          bilateral circumscription via the subject of philosophy
philosophy enjoys a constitutive relation to the extra­       and leaving only the unilateralizing identity of Y
philosophical, however characterized, that the ‘non’          qua subject of non­philosophy and the unilateralized
in Laruelle’s ‘non­philosophy’ indexes a suspension of        difference between X and Y qua philosophy. Y, the
philosophy’s all­encompassing specularity, rather than        subject of non-philosophy, is now radically indifferent
a naive attempt to demarcate or delimit it – which            to the difference between X and Y, philosophy and
would merely reiterate the decisional gesture.                non-philosophy.
    Thus, whereas the relation between the philosophical          This total structure is what Laruelle means by
and the extra­philosophical is constitutively dialectical     unilateral duality: a structure comprising non­rela­
(where ‘dialectical’ is taken to mean ‘differential’ in       tion (the subject of non­philosophy as unilateralizing
the broadest possible sense), and since the dialectical       identity) and the relation of relation and non­relation
relationality championed by philosophy is invariably          (philosophy as unilateralized difference between X and
one of bilateral reciprocity (following the circular          Y). Unlike philosophical unilaterality, which always
logic of decision), the relation between philosophy           ultimately has two sides, the unilateral duality which
and non­philosophy is one of what Laruelle calls              lies at the heart of non­philosophy is a duality with
‘unilateral duality’ – ‘unilateral duality’ rather than       only one side: the side of philosophy as difference
just ‘unilaterality’. This is a crucial technical nuance.     (relation) between X (relation) and Y (non­relation).
The concept of ‘unilateral duality’ lies at the very          Accordingly, if the apex of decision’s dialectical specu­
heart of Laruelle’s non­philosophical enterprise and          larity consists in articulating the relation between the
it is important to distinguish it from the notion of          philosophical and extra­philosophical as ‘relation of
unilateral relation, which is well known in philosophy:       relation and non­relation’, then the unilateral duality
X distinguishes itself unilaterally from Y without Y          as non­dialectical ‘relation’ between philosophy and
distinguishing itself from X in return. Various Neo­          non­philosophy has to be understood in terms of ‘the
Platonists, Hegel, Heidegger, Derrida and Deleuze all         non­relation of relation and non­relation’. Once again,
make (implicit) use of this logic of unilaterality in         unlike the philosophical dialectic, non­philosophy
different ways. But in philosophy, the unilaterality of       effectuates a unilateral duality with only one side
X is always reinscribed in a bilateral relation with Y at     – the side of philosophy as all­encompassing relation­
the supplementary meta­level available to the subject         ality. Since every philosophical decision is always
of philosophy, who enjoys a position of overview vis­à­       two­sided – that is, dialectical – the non­philosophical
vis X and Y and continues to see both terms in relation       unilateralization of decision cannot be dialectically
to one another at the same time. Thus, X’s unilaterality      reinscribed.
relative to Y is only operative at the level of X and
Y, not for the philosopher who exempts himself from           The axiomatic suspension of decision
this immanent relation through transcendence. The             What is innovative about twentieth­century European
philosopher is always a spectator who views everything        philosophy’s preoccupation with alterity or difference,5
(terms and relations) from above. This is what Laruelle       Laruelle suggests, is its attempt to use the latter as
means by specularity.                                         a way of acknowledging and mobilizing the struc­
    By way of contrast, in the non­philosophical logic        tural blind spot in decision, the moment of absolute
of unilateral duality, it is the subject of non­philosophy    division as absolute indivision, the fractional surplus

                                                         Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)            27
or indivisible remainder that (dis)joins decision and        thinking for which philosophical decision qua infinite
enables philosophical reflexivity while disabling phil­       reflexivity encompassing and integrating its own limits
osophy’s attempt to grasp the non­specular root of           has already been suspended through an act of axi-
its own specularity. If twentieth­century European           omatic positing. But what prevents this axiomatic
philosophy has consistently characterized that condi­        suspension of decisional specularity from amounting
tion as an aporia, caesura or unobjectifiable excess          to yet another decisional scission between the philo­
(e.g. différance, non­identity, Unterschied, event, other,   sophical and the extra­philosophical is the fact that it
real, and so on), it is because it has tried to grasp        is effected on the basis of an immanence which has
the non­reflexive root of reflexivity using reflexive           not itself been decided about: an immanence which has
means. Hence the latter’s aporetic or intra­decisional       not been posited and presupposed as given through a
characterization as condition of (im)possibility for         transcendent act of decision, but axiomatically posited
philosophy; as an unnameable traumatic kernel that           as already given, independently of every perceptual or
resists or shatters conceptualization.                       intentional presupposition, as well as every gesture of
    For Laruelle, philosophy’s assumption that deci­         ontological or phenomenological position. It is posited
sional reflexivity is the only available paradigm for         as already given and as already determining its own
abstract thought, and that specular abstraction is           positing.
the only possible kind of abstraction, results in this           Thus, this non­decisional immanence, which allows
aporetic characterization of the non­thetic root of          itself to be posited as already given without decisional
decision. Yet a non­specular paradigm of theoretical         positing, is an immanence that does not even need
abstraction already exists, Laruelle insists. Moreover,      to be liberated from decisional transcendence: it is
it exists precisely in that form of thinking which           precisely as that which is already separated (without­
‘continental’ philosophy has consistently belittled          separation) from the decisional co­constitution of given
and demeaned as un­thinking: the axiomatic. Since            and givenness, immanence and transcendence, that
philosophy cannot conceive of a thought operating            it conditions its own positing as already given. Con­
without recourse to the fractured mirror of decision,        sequently, this non­decisional immanence is not the
since it equates thinking with infinite specularity and       Deleuzean plane of immanence, which is at once pre­
interminable interpretation, it cannot imagine any           supposed as pre­philosophically given and constructed
thought worthy of the name that would be neither             or posited as given through the philosophical concept,6
specular nor interpretative. Yet axiomatic abstraction       in accordance with the decisional co­constitution of
provides the paradigm for precisely such a thought:          given and givenness, positing and presupposition.
one which is non­specular, non­reflexive. This non­           Where decision renders positing and presupposition
thetic or immanently performative thought anchors            co­constitutive – the positing of a presupposition and
itself in the non­reflexive root of decision by positing      the presupposition of the posited (as in Hegel’s exem­
it axiomatically as its own enabling condition, rather       plary analysis of the logic of reflection in the Science
than trying to grasp it decisionally and failing (it         of Logic) – the non­decisional axiom separates them in
is this failure which results in the aporetic charac­        such a way as to render the immanence it has posited
terization of decision’s non­thetic root as unthink­         determining for its own description as already posited
able caesura or obstacle to conceptualization). What         (without­presupposition). By the same token, the axiom
is an obstacle for decisional conceptualization – an         renders the immanence it has presupposed determin-
obstacle whose quasi­insurmountable status fuels the         ing for its own description as already presupposed
postmodern pathos of terminal exhaustion – provides          (without­positing).
a new basis for axiomatic invention. It is a question of         Consequently, unlike Michel Henry’s phenomen­
positing the non­thetic root of decision axiomatically,      ologized version of radical immanence,7 which has to
without presupposing it via decision. Or (which comes        absolve itself from reflexive specularity in order to count
to the same thing) of presupposing it via an axiom           as non­thetic, Laruelle’s non­decisional immanence
rather than positing it via a decision.                      is not co­constituted by decision. Non­philosophical
    For Laruelle, a thinking of this sort – axiomatic or     immanence is foreclosed rather than opposed to deci­
non­philosophical thinking – is not merely possible but      sion – which is to say: radically indifferent to the
real, which is to say radically performative (we will        dyadic distinction between positing and presupposing,
have more to say about this performativity below).           immanence and transcendence, given and givenness, as
Thus, if the ‘non’ in non­philosophy is not a negation       well as to every other decisional dyad. In other words,
of philosophical reflexivity it is because it indexes a       it is radically indifferent to all dyadic couplings of the

28     Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)
form: thinkable/unthinkable, decidable/undecidable,         non­decisional thinking operates on the basis of an
determinable/undeterminable.                                irreversible duality between them, so that immanence
    It should now be easier to see why a certain obvious    unilaterally determines its own transcendent concep­
philosophical objection to the non­philosophical pos­       tual description, without being determined by it in
iting of radical immanence misses the point. This           return.
objection, which tries to argue that the axiomatic              Third, the separation between the decisional and
positing of immanence as non­decisional reinscribes         non­decisional is not itself dyadic, which is to say
it in the dyad decision/non­decision, thereby allowing      decisional. To maintain that is to fail to acknowledge
it to become co­constituted by decision, is mistaken        that for non­philosophy that separation is axiomatically
on three counts.                                            posited as already in effect without recourse to deci­
    First, whereas philosophical specularity operates       sion, in accordance with the nature of radical imma­
by assuming a fundamental reciprocity or revers­            nence as separate-without-separation and determining
ibility between conceptual description and ontological      its own description as already­separate. Accordingly, it
constitution, non­specular or non­philosophical think­      is imperative that we appreciate the peculiar radicality
ing does not. It operates on the basis of a radically       of the manner in which Laruelle’s ‘non’ separates
irreversible or unilateral duality between the axiomatic    the decisional from the non­decisional. It is not two
positing of immanence and its description as already        distinct ‘things’ that are being separated. If it were, the
posited. Thus, the non­philosophical characterization       non­philosopher would indeed still be operating within
                                                            the ambit of decision. What this ‘non’ separates is the
of radical immanence as already given does not con­
                                                            realm of separability in its entirety (decision) from
stitute it as given. Radical immanence is ontolog­
                                                            the inseparable (immanence) as that which is posited
ically foreclosed. It remains non­constitutable, not
                                                            as already separated prior to the need for a separat­
because it opposes or resists constitution, but because
                                                            ing decision. In other words, the non­philosophical
it is indifferent to the dyadic distinction between des­
                                                            positing of immanence as already given axiomatically
cription and constitution. It is the already constituted
                                                            separates decisional separation (scission, distinction,
determining its own description as constituted. Thus,
                                                            differentiation, division, dialectic) from the inseparable
there is no dyadic distinction between the axiomatic
                                                            as that which is already separated, independently of
positing of immanence as given and its description as
                                                            any separating decision.
posited. Instead, there is a unilateral duality, which is
                                                                Of course, it is intrinsic to the character of decisional
to say a duality with only one side: that of the des­
                                                            thinking that it cannot acknowledge this axiomatic
cription which is determined by the positing without
                                                            separation between the decisional and the non­deci­
determining that positing in return. This unilateral or
                                                            sional as something which is already realized, already
non­decisional duality, whereby what is axiomatically
                                                            achieved for non­philosophy. Decisional specularity
given determines its own description as given, guaran­      cannot countenance the axiomatic positing of a radi­
tees that the non­philosophical description of radical      cally autonomous, non­specular immanence. However,
immanence as already posited is adequate to it in the       for Laruelle, far from indicating confusion on the part
last instance, without being constitutive of it. Adequa-    of philosophers, this incapacity is symptomatic of
tion without correspondence: such is the hallmark           philosophy’s necessary resistance to non­philosophy.
of truth for a non­philosophical axiomatic shorn of         Far from being an unfortunate, arbitrary expression of
the specularity that envelops truth as correspondence,      philosophical prejudice, this resistance is wholly and
coherence or unveiling (aletheia).                          legitimately necessary. It is structurally intrinsic to
    Second, that radical immanence is foreclosed to         decision rather than empirically contingent. In other
constitution does not mean that it is unconceptual­         words, it is de jure rather than de facto. Decisional
izable. On the contrary, it becomes limitlessly con­        thinking is programmed to insist that the axiomatic
ceptualizable on the basis of any given conceptual          positing of immanence amounts to yet another instance
material precisely in so far as it already determines its   of decisional division. It is obliged to reduce the axi­
own description as adequate to it in the last instance,     omatic suspension of decision according to immanence
without any of these conceptual characterizations or        to an intra­decisional opposition to decision, or an
descriptions becoming co­constitutive or co­determin­       anti­decisional annihilation of decision. And rather
ing for it. Thus, where decisional thinking posits and      than being a problem or obstacle for non­philosophy,
presupposes a reversible equivalence between imma­          this philosophical resistance is precisely what non­
nence and its transcendent conceptual characterization,     philosophy requires in order to operate. The decisional

                                                       Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)               29
resistance to radical immanence provides non­phil­          tion. In Althusser, the philosophical dyad infrastruc­
osophy with the occasional cause which it needs in          ture/superstructure entails that the last instance remains
order to begin working. It is what initiates non­philo­     reciprocally co­constituted by what it determines, in
sophical thinking in the first place. There would be         accordance with the bilateral logic of decision. For
no non­philosophy without it. Non­philosophy is the         Laruelle, however, the last instance is separate­without­
conversion of philosophy’s specular resistance to non­      separation from the decisional logic which it unilat­
thetic immanence into a form of non­specular thinking       erally determines. Determination­in­the­last­instance
determined according to that immanence.                     consists in the non­philosophical transformation of
                                                            the unitary syntax of decision qua transcendental syn­
Determination in the last instance                          thesis or ‘One­of­the­dyad’ into a unilateral duality
Thus, non­philosophy works with philosophical               whereby the One (i.e. identity or immanence) now
decision. It does not seek to replace or supplant it.       unilateralizes the philosophical dyad (i.e. difference
Philosophical decision is the object of non­phil­           or transcendence) – not directly, since it is indifferent
osophy – better still, its material. But it is a matter     to decision, but through the intermediary of the non­
of using decision non­philosophically. Consequently,        philosophical subject who has posited immanence as
besides positing immanence as ultimately determining        determining and decision as determinable. The struc­
instance for non­decisional thought, the non­philo­         ture of the non­philosophical subject is simply that
sophical axiom posits decisional resistance to that         of the unilateral duality: a duality with only one side
positing as something which is also already given           – that of decision as transcendent difference between
non­decisionally as a determinable material; a contin­      the decisional and the non­decisional. The ‘other’,
gent occasion that can be determined in accordance          non­side of this duality is not immanence, whose
with immanence’s foreclosure to decision. Following         radical indifference precludes any direct determination
an axiomatically given immanence as determining             of philosophy on its part, but the non­philosophical
instance, the second axiomatically given factor for         subject itself as unilateralizing instance effectuating
non­philosophy is decisional resistance to immanence        immanence’s indifference. Since philosophical resist­
as determinable occasion.                                   ance to non­philosophy occasions non­philosophy, the
    Accordingly, non­philosophy is the coordination of      non­philosophical subject effectively unilateralizes (or
‘two’ causes: immanence as necessary cause in­the­          ‘dualyses’) its own dyadic inscription at the hands of
last­instance and decisional resistance as occasional       philosophical resistance. Non­philosophical thinking
cause. Non­philosophy is simply the determination           consists in converting philosophy’s bilateral resistance
of the latter by the former: it is the taking into con­     to non­philosophy into a unilateral duality: not the
sideration of decisional resistance to immanence as         unilateral duality of immanence and decision, which
an occasional material to be determined in accord­          does not exist since the former is radically indifferent
ance with immanence as cause in­the­last­instance.          to decision, but rather the unilateral duality effectuated
Thus, the minimal but definitive coordinates for the         by the subject of non­philosophy in so far as it is
non­philosophical axiomatic are: immanence qua              now the organon for determining decisional resistance
radically necessary condition; decisional resistance        according to immanence.
qua occasional cause; and immanence’s determina­               Obviously, the role played by this non­philosophical
tion of decision as transcendental effectuation of that     subject bears little resemblance to that played by the
necessary determining condition for that determinable       philosophical subject. It is no longer the phenomeno­
material.                                                   logical subject, whether the latter be construed in terms
    We are now in a position to understand in what          of intentional consciousness or being­in­the­world. But
sense the new way of thinking initiated by Laruelle         nor is it the subject as caesura, self­relating negativity.
is supposed to be philosophically unprecedented. The        It is neither the explicitly reflexive, self­conscious
syntax of non­philosophical thought is that of determi­     subject, nor the pre­reflexive, unconscious subject,
nation­in­the­last­instance as unilateral duality whereby   who is merely the obverse of the latter and therefore
the non­philosophical subject determines philosophical      implicitly enveloped by decisional reflexivity. It is
decision. Like much in Laruelle, ‘determination in the      simply a function: the transcendental function which
last instance’ is an expression with an explicit philo­     non­philosophy effectuates for philosophy on the basis
sophical lineage – in this case, Althusserian. But like     of immanence as real invariant and decision as occa­
every other philosophical expression used by Laruelle,      sional variable. The subject as transcendental function
it has been subjected to non­philosophical transforma­      is a radically disembodied, excarnate, non­conscious

30     Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)
subject performing a set of quasi­algorithmic opera­        again). More exactly, the syntax of decision enacts or
tions upon a philosophical material by determining­it­      performs its own hallucinatory reality in what effec­
in­the­last­instance. These operations involve neither      tively amounts to an operation of auto­deduction with
interpretation nor reflection: they are blind, automatic,    a tripartite structure: decision is at once an empirically
mechanical, which is to say non­thetic. Consequently,       conditioned enunciation; an enunciated faktum condi­
the non­philosophical subject is simply an axiomatiz­       tioning that enunciation; and finally the transcendental
ing organon, a transcendental computer, but one which       synthesis of enunciated condition and condition of
Laruelle prefers to characterize as a ‘uni­maton’ rather    enunciation as event of thought. This is the complex
than as an auto­maton.8 This is a subject which has been    internal architecture proper to the decisional ‘autos’
definitively purged of all its philosophical privileges as   as self­positing/self­donating circle or doublet.9
locus of reflection and reduced to the unilateralizing           For Laruelle, the trouble with this performative
structure of determination­in­the­last­instance. Thus,      dimension of philosophical activity, this decisional
for non­philosophy unilateralization is subjectivation      auto­enactment, lies not in its performativity (far
and subjectivation is determination: the non­philo­         from it) but in the way in which the latter invariably
sophical subject determines decision by converting          operates on the basis of an unstated set of constative
the philosophical dyad which provides its material          assumptions which themselves only ever become per­
support into a theorem that is – at least temporarily       formatively legitimated. In other words, philosophy
– philosophically uninterpretable because it cannot
                                                            consists in the co­constitution of theory and prac­
be dyadically circumscribed or ‘decided’. However,
                                                            tice: it is a theory whose cognitive possibilities are
unlike deconstruction, where aporia or undecidability
                                                            compromised through an extraneous set of practical
is unleashed merely in order to effect a destabilization
                                                            exigencies, and a practice whose performative capaci­
of metaphysical conceptuality, the non­philosophical
                                                            ties are hindered by a needlessly restrictive system of
subject’s unilateralization of decision has a positive
                                                            theoretical assumptions.10 The philosopher, in effect,
and expansive rather than negative and delimiting
                                                            never says what he/she is really doing, nor does what
effect on philosophy: a non­philosophical theorem
                                                            he/she is really saying.
ultimately forces philosophy to expand its available
                                                                Laruelle objects to this co­constitution of theory
decisional resources by obliging it to invent a new
                                                            and practice, constative and performative, on the
dyad in order to decide – reintegrate – the unilateral
                                                            grounds that it needlessly constricts both the possi­
duality encapsulated in that theorem.
                                                            bilities of saying and of doing, of theory and of
                                                            practice. Moreover, simply to affirm the différance
The non-philosophical identity of theory                    between theory and practice, constative and perfor­
and practice                                                mative, is complacently to reaffirm philosophical
Determination or unilateralization is not just what         decision’s embroilment in its own self­presupposing,
the subject of non­philosophy does, it is what he/          self­perpetuating structure.
she is. Performativity is the hallmark of thinking              By positing radical immanence as already-per-
in accordance with immanence. It provides the cri­          formed, as performed­without­performance, the non­
terion for an important contrast between the self­          philosophical subject operationalizes the non­decisional
sufficient or philosophical practice of philosophy and       essence of performativity.11 It releases the identity
its non­philosophical practice. Philosophy’s specular       (without synthesis or unity) of theory and practice
self­sufficiency means that the philosophical practice       by converting their decisional co­constitution into a
of philosophy is not really a theoretical practice but      unilateral duality whereby the subject performatively
rather an empirical activity whose claim to theoretical     unilateralizes the dyadic synthesis of saying and
legitimacy is only ever assured through its perform­        doing. Thus, the non­philosophical subject unleashes
ance. Thus, philosophy is a game, the rules of which        the radically performative character of theory as well
are always effectively guaranteed by virtue of the          as the rigorously cognitive character of practice. Non­
operation through which their stipulation is enacted.       philosophy is at once a theoretical practice and a
Moreover, the philosopher reinscribes his/her own           performative theory. Moreover, it is precisely in so far
philosophical activity within the decisional mirroring      as the non­philosopher is already operating accord­
which renders that activity co­constitutive of the real     ing to immanence as ‘already­performed’ that he or
at a level that is simultaneously ontic­empirical and       she cannot help but say what he/she does and do as
ontological­transcendental (the decisional hybrid once      he/she says.

                                                       Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)            31
The reality and contingency of non-                            Yet since non­philosophy only exists as immanent
philosophy                                                  axiomatic determination of philosophy’s resistance to
Consequently, for Laruelle, non­philosophy is more          immanent determination, does this de­speculariza­
than just a possibility. It is real – more radically real   tion have any binding force for philosophy as such?
than any positivity or effectivity gauged philosophic­      Could something like a non­philosophical injunction
ally in terms of empirical concretion or actuality. The     to change how one thinks become imperative for
question of its possibility is a philosophical one: it      philosophers?
continues to assume the validity of the philosophical          Laruelle himself would be the first to admit that
problematization of something that is no longer a           there is nothing necessary about non­philosophy.
problem for non­philosophy; something that is simply        There is no obligation for the philosopher to switch
out of the question for it – radical immanence as           from the philosophical to the non­philosophical
the real root of decision and hence as the answer to        posture. Unlike philosophical revolution, whose
every philosophical question. More specifically, radical     raison d’être stems from a vision of the true tasks
immanence is the solution that precedes the possibility     of philosophy, Laruelle’s axiomatic heresy cannot be
of decisional problematization.                             philosophically legitimated by invoking an intolerable
   Clearly, however, if radical immanence is the            shortfall between what philosophy has been doing and
non­philosophical real, it is no longer the real as         what it should be doing. While the conceptual preoc­
philosophically characterized in terms of percep­           cupations which – after long and arduous detours
tion, consciousness, materiality, production, power,        – led Laruelle to his discovery have a venerable
the social, and so on. Nor is it the real as being,         philosophical pedigree, they cannot be used to lend
différance, Ur-grund, noumenon, thing­in­itself, will­      it an aura of necessity. Thus, from a philosophical
to­power, self­relating negativity, Unterschied, non­       perspective, the non­philosophical practice of phil­
identity, absolute deterritorialization. Instead, it is     osophy is neither necessary nor inevitable. Unlike
simply real immanence as utterly empty invariant=X.         Heideggerian/Derridean deconstruction, which lays
This is an invariant that does not resist philosophy        claims to an irrecusable ‘historial’ necessity for itself
but is indifferent to it, and hence can be rendered         – the uncircumventable necessity of deconstructing
axiomatically determining for thought on the basis of       the history of metaphysics – non­philosophy simply
any philosophical occasion. It is an invariant whose        remains an aberrant possibility for the philosopher;
empty transparency does not render it refractory to         one whose sole criterion of legitimation resides in an
cognition but on the contrary can be axiomatically          efficacy which can only be judged according to the
specified using any philosophical material.
                                                            parameters of the practice itself. Since that practice
   Thus, the specifically Laruellean discovery that
                                                            suspends the teleological considerations in terms of
makes non­philosophy effective is that the real is not
                                                            which the necessity of a move in the space of con­
a philosophical problem: it is positively nothing at all.
                                                            ceptual possibilities is usually appraised, Laruelle is
And the fact that the real is no longer a problem for
                                                            obliged to deny that philosophers are under any kind
non­philosophy allows for a change in the way one
                                                            of obligation to accept the pertinence of his discovery
thinks. Instead of proceeding philosophically from
                                                            and begin practising philosophy non­philosophically.
thought to the real, or using philosophy to think the
                                                               Interestingly, the very considerations which render
real as difference, or as differing from some other
                                                            non­philosophy unproblematically real and immedi­
philosophical term, one proceeds non­philosophically
                                                            ately operational for the non­philosopher also ensure
from the real’s immanent identity to philosophy as
                                                            that it remains at a safe remove, safely ensconced in
specular transcendence which strives to split, dis­
tinguish or differentiate between the real and some         the realm of possibility for the philosopher. Yet the
other term, and then mirror the world through that          question remains: what is non­philosophy for? This
difference. Instead of using the mirror of philosophy       is a philosophical question, but perhaps one non­phil­
to think the transcendence of ‘real’ objects in the         osophy cannot entirely obviate by simply referring
world, non­philosophy uses the immanence of the             the questioner to the efficiency of non­philosophical
real to de­specularize those objects which philosophy       practice. Since the only philosophical legitimacy non­
cocoons in its reflexive transcendence. It follows that      philosophy can muster is as an arbitrary possibility,
the object of non­philosophy is not the real, which is      and since its non­philosophical validity is out of the
never an object, not even an unthinkable one, but the       question – being a simple matter of efficiency – is it
philosophical specularization of real objects.              possible to frame the question of the worth of Laru­

32     Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)
elle’s axiomatic heresy without reinscribing the latter      constructive? Has Laruelle not retreated from phil­
within a philosophical teleology?                            osophy into something like a mathematized theology
   Laruelle himself invokes the desirability of              of radical immanence?
‘enlarging the possibilities of thought’ as one way             The answer to the latter question must, I believe, be
of legitimating non­philosophy. And he also suggests         an emphatic No. Unlike philosophers of immanence
that, despite appearances, philosophy’s privileging of       such as Spinoza and Deleuze, Laruelle does not decide
thought has always involved subordinating it to some         in favour of immanence (which means against trans­
extraneous end (ethical, political, aesthetic, and so        cendence) through a philosophical decision which has
on) while simultaneously reappropriating that end for        an ethical telos as its ultimate horizon: liberation,
thought, in conformity with the logic of decisional          the achievement of beatitude, the intellectual love
co­constitution. Thus, Laruelle seems to imply, thought      of God. Although ethics is a philosophical material
has never been an end in itself for philosophy. Non­         which can be treated non­philosophically, there can
philosophy, by way of contrast, frees thought from           be no ‘ethics of radical immanence’ and consequently
every end. By curtailing philosophy’s specular narcis­       no ethics of non­philosophy.13 The very notion of an
sism, non­philosophy untethers thought from every            ‘ethics of immanence’ is another instance of the way in
decisional telos.                                            which philosophical decision invariably subordinates
   Consequently, despite its apparent arbitrariness,         immanence to a transcendent teleological horizon. But
Laruelle’s axiomatic heresy can lay claim to a valid­        Laruelle is no more interested in subordinating radical
ity for philosophy: the validity of an emancipatory          immanence to philosophy than he is in subordinating
gesture as far as the form of thinking itself is con­        philosophy to radical immanence. Radical immanence
cerned.12 ‘Emancipation’, of course, is an eminently         is simply not the object of non­philosophy. It is not
philosophical motif. But Laruelle invests it with a          even interesting: it is utterly banal, radically trans­
non­philosophical valence: philosophical specularity is      parent. This is what separates Laruelle from Michel
constrictive because the possibilities of philosophical      Henry, whose phenomenology of radical immanence
invention, whether formal or substantive, are already        entails an ultimately theological disavowal of phil­
delimited in advance by philosophy’s decisional syntax.      osophy. Yet the point, as Laruelle tirelessly repeats,
But only from a non­philosophical vantage point does         is not to abandon philosophy in favour of a thought
this constriction become perceptible. Philosophers           of immanence, but to use immanence to think phil­
themselves are entirely oblivious to it and more than        osophy. It is the consequences of thinking philosophy
happy to keep spinning variations on the decisional          immanently that are interesting, not thinking imma­
theme for centuries to come. If non­specular thinking        nence philosophically. Thus, unlike philosophies of
does have a certain binding force for the philosopher        absolute immanence such as those of Spinoza, Deleuze
willing to explore its possibility, it simply consists in    or Michel Henry, non­philosophy has nothing to say
the impossibility of returning to the circuitous ambit       about radical immanence ‘in itself’. What it does have
of decisional mirroring having once frequented the           something to say about is how immanence provides a
horizonless expanses of mirrorless immanence.                new basis for practising philosophy.
                                                                Conversely, and in spite of the fact that Laruelle
The price of abstraction                                     has certainly been guilty of encouraging such mis­
Nevertheless, there will be many for whom the puni­          interpretations in the past,14 it would be a mistake to
tive abstraction of Laruelle’s thought is too high a price   see in non­philosophy nothing more than an attempt
to pay for such scanty rewards. Non­philosophy strikes       to extend the Kantian critique of metaphysics to the
its more generous detractors – that is, those who do         whole of philosophy. Unlike Kantian critique, the
not simply dismiss it out of hand as incomprehensible        non­philosophical suspension of decision is not guided
gobbledegook – as interesting but thoroughly incon­          by a normative, ethico­juridical telos. Nor can it be
sequential. Unlike Adorno, Heidegger or Derrida,             reduced to some sort of post­Derridean variant on
Laruelle does not set out to dismantle metaphysics           deconstruction. Unlike deconstruction, the unilateraliz­
in a way that could be co­opted for the purposes of          ation of decision involves a positive enlargement of
ideological critique. And, unlike Deleuze or Badiou, he      the ambit of decision, rather than just an aporetic
does not elaborate a new philosophical system capable        interruption.
of incorporating a broad spectrum of contemporary               Thus, before hastily dismissing Laruelle’s work as a
artistic, scientific and social phenomena. But what           crypto­theological renunciation of philosophy, a hyper­
is the worth of something that is neither critical nor       deconstruction, or even a sterile exercise in meta­philo­

                                                        Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)           33
sophical narcissism, it is important to remember that               Seuil, Paris, 1976.
although non­philosophy does not have a goal, it does            Nietzsche contre Heidegger. Thèses pour une politique ni-
                                                                    etzschéenne [Nietzsche contra Heidegger: Theses for a
have a function. And although it cannot be legitimated              Nietzschean Politics], Payot, Paris, 1977.
in terms of some transcendent teleological horizon,              Le déclin de l’écriture [The Decline of Writing], Aubier–
non­philosophical practice is for something: it is for              Flammarion, Paris, 1977.
                                                                 Au dela du principe de pouvoir [Beyond the Power Principle],
philosophical decision. Anyone interested in practising
                                                                    Payot, Paris, 1978.
philosophy should be interested in Laruelle’s incisive
                                                                 Philosophie II
exposure of what he calls the ‘theoreticist idealism’
                                                                 Le Prinçipe de minorité [The Minority Principle], Aubier,
inherent in the spontaneous philosophical practice of
                                                                    Paris, 1981.
philosophical decision. Philosophers, Laruelle insists,          Une biographie de l’homme ordinaire. Des autorités et des
do not know what they are doing. They are never doing               minorities [A Biography of the Ordinary Man: Of Authori-
what they say or saying what they are doing – even and              ties and Minorities], Aubier, Paris, 1985.
                                                                 Les Philosophies de la différence. Introduction critique [The
especially when they purport to be able to legitimate
                                                                    Philosophies of Difference: A Critical Introduction], PUF,
their philosophical decisions in terms of some ethical,             Paris, 1986.
political or juridical end. The theoreticist idealism            Philosophie et non-philosophie [Philosophy and Non-Phil-
inherent in decision is never so subtle and pernicious              osophy], Mardaga, Liège/Brussels, 1989.
                                                                 En tant qu’un. La non-philosophie éxpliquée au philosophes
as when it invokes the putative materiality of some                 [As One: Non-Philosophy Explained to Philosophers],
extra­philosophical instance in order to demonstrate its            Aubier, Paris, 1991.
‘pragmatic worth’. To condemn Laruelle for excessive             Théorie des Identités. Fractalité généralisée et philosophie
                                                                    artificielle [Theory of Identities: Generalized Fractality
abstraction on the grounds that the worth of a phil­
                                                                    and Artificial Philosophy], PUF, Paris, 1992.
osophy can only be gauged in terms of its concrete,
                                                                 Philosophie III
extra­philosophical (e.g. ethical, political or juridical)
                                                                 Théorie des Étrangers. Science des hommes, démocratie,
effects is to ignore the way in which extra­philo­
                                                                     non-psychanalyse [Theory of Strangers: Science of Men,
sophical concretion invariably involves an idealized                 Democracy, Non-Psychoanalysis], Kimé, Paris, 1995.
abstraction that has already been circumscribed by               Principes de la non-philosophie [The Principles of Non-Phil-
decision.                                                            osophy], PUF, Paris, 1996.
                                                                 Dictionnaire de la non-philosophie [Dictionary of Non-Phil-
   It may be that Laruelle’s crisp, sharply delineated
                                                                     osophy], François Laruelle et Collaborateurs, Kimé, Paris,
mode of abstraction turns out to be far more concrete                1998.
than those nebulous abstractions which philosophers              Éthique de l’Étranger. Du crime contre l’humanité [Ethics
try to pass off as instances of concretion. In other                 of the Stranger: Of the Crime Against Humanity], Kimé,
                                                                     Paris, 2000.
words, the criteria for evaluating the worth of non­             Introduction au non-marxisme [Introduction to Non-Marx-
philosophy’s function for philosophy are not available               ism], PUF, Paris, 2000.
to philosophers, who know not what they do. In non­              Le Christ futur. Une leçon d’hérésie [The Future Christ: A
                                                                     Lesson in Heresy], Exils, Paris, 2002.
philosophy, radical axiomatic abstraction gives rise,
not to a system or doctrine inviting assent or dissent,
but to an immanent methodology whose function for
                                                                  1. Born in 1937, Laruelle is Professor of Philosophy at the
philosophy no one is in a position to evaluate as yet.               University of Paris X–Nanterre, where he has taught
Ultimately, then, non­philosophy can only be gauged                  since 1967.
in terms of what it can do. And no one yet knows                  2. For instance: Althusser, Badiou, Derrida, Deleuze,
                                                                     Foucault, Lacan, Lyotard, Serres.
what non­philosophy can or cannot do.
                                                                  3. Au-delà du principe de pouvoir, Payot, Paris, 1978,
                                                                     p. 7.
Bibliography of works by Laruelle                                 4. The radically heterodox character of Laruelle’s thought,
Laruelle divides his work into three periods: Philosophy I,          its sheer unclassifiable strangeness, has consistently
Philosophy II and Philosophy III. Philosophy I (1971–81)             managed to provoke hostility and bewilderment not
could be called Laruelle’s formative period, his philosophical       only among the guardians of philosophical orthodoxy
apprenticeship. The shift toward non­philosophy is initiated         within the French academy but also among his relatively
with Philosophy II (1981–95). However, as far as Laruelle            unorthodox philosophical peers. The unfortunate result,
himself is concerned, it is not until Philosophy III (1995–          after a certain degree of intellectual notoriety among the
present) that non­philosophy truly begins.                           Parisian avant­garde of the 1970s, has been a position
Philosophie I                                                        of almost total intellectual isolation. Laruelle continues
                                                                     to inspire a peculiar mixture of derision and fear among
Phénomène et différence. Éssai sur l’ontologie de Ravaisson          his fellow philosophers. Derision, because his work is
  [Phenomenon and Difference: An Essay on Ravaisson’s
                                                                     deemed utterly ‘incomprehensible’. Fear, because those
  Ontology], Klinskieck, Paris, 1971.
                                                                     same philosophers, who are used to baffling the un­
Machines textuelles. Déconstruction et libido d’écriture [Tex-
                                                                     initiated, find their own inability to understand Laruelle
  tual Machines: Deconstruction and Libido of Writing],

34      Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)
     unsettling. Yet, contrary to what these philosophers main­            from dispersion in average everydayness to the properly
     tain, there is nothing obscurantist or wilfully esoteric              meta­physical appropriation of being­unto­death as its
     about Laruelle’s work. Understanding it is not a matter               ownmost potentiality for being. Since it is via the lat­
     of initiation: it does not entail exhaustive familiarity with         ter that Dasein’s own being comes into question for it,
     a corpus of sacred texts replete with all manner of lexical           fundamental ontology as theoretical project is ultimately
     trickery or obscure wordplay. The difficulty presented                 supervenient on the existential ur­project delineated in
     by Laruelle’s work is entirely objective: it is a matter of           being­unto­death.
     learning to think in a way that is radically unlike the way     10.   ‘Once [philosophy] begins to be used as a material and
     one has been trained to think if one is a philosopher. And            occasion, it becomes shorn of its traditional finalities, all
     having learnt to think non­philosophically, the point is to           of which are based upon a “spontaneous philosophical
     put this technique into practice to see what it is capable            faith”. The latter forms a circle: it obliges one to practise
     of producing. Laruelle’s work presents the reader with                philosophy for reasons that are extrinsic to it, whether
     an organon, an instrument which one needs to learn how                these be ethical, juridical, scientific, aesthetic, etc. But
     to use so as to be in a position to gauge its potential, not          philosophy then uses these finalities the better to triumph
     a system or world­view whose doctrines invite assent or               and affirm itself on the basis of their subordination as
     dissent.                                                              the only activity which is genuinely excellent, uncir­
5.   For example Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze. Laruelle
                                                                           cumventable or “absolute”. All this prescriptive activity
     analyses this problematic in Les philosophies de la dif-
                                                                           – whether it be ethical or pedagogical, etc. –, all this
     férence, PUF, Paris, 1986.
                                                                           normative or auto­normative use of philosophy “with a
6.   Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?,
                                                                           view to experience”; every latent or explicit teleology
     trans. G. Burchell and H. Tomlinson, Verso, London,
                                                                           concomitant with the spontaneous practice of philosophy
                                                                           must be abandoned, which does not mean destroyed
7.    Michel Henry, The Essence of Manifestation, trans. G.
     Etskorn, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1973.                           but treated as a mere material and practised henceforth
8.   Laruelle sketches a non­philosophical treatment of the                within these limits’ (Laruelle, Philosophie et non-phi-
     issue of ‘thinking machines’ in two recent but as yet                 losophie, Mardaga, Liège, 1989, p. 27).
     unpublished papers: ‘Théorie unifié de la pensée et du           11.   ‘It is this Performed, shorn of the fetishes of per­
     calcul’ [‘Unified Theory of Thought and Computation’]                  formativity and of activity and the causa sui in gen­
     and ‘Performance et Performé’ [‘Performance and Per­                  eral, which invests thinking itself as identity (within its
     formed’]. I should mention here that Laruelle himself                 relatively autonomous order of thought) of science and
     would probably not endorse what he would see as my                    philosophy, and more generally, of the theoretical and
     excessively ‘machinic’ characterization of the non­philo­             the pragmatic. We shall not say too hastily – confusing
     sophical subject.                                                     once again thinking with the Real – that this identity is
9.   This decisional structure is at work in Deleuze and                   performed directly in­One, but that it is performed only
     Guattari’s machinic constructivism: the philosophical                 in the last instance by the One as the Performed itself’
     concept’s counter­effectuation of intensive materiality               (Laruelle, Principes de la non-philosophie, PUF, Paris,
     is at once extracted from an empirical state of affairs               1996, p. 215).
     through which the philosopher is forced to think and            12.   A point made by Hughes Choplin in his admirable little
     transcendentally productive of being qua event. But                   monograph La non-philosophie de François Laruelle
     perhaps it is best exemplified by Heidegger, who re­                   (Kimé, Paris 2000).
     inscribes the conditions for the genesis of the project         13.   See, for example, Laruelle’s Éthique de l’Étranger
     of fundamental ontology within the structure of funda­                (Kimé, Paris, 1999) for precisely such a treatment.
     mental ontology itself. Thus, the philosophical project         14.   Especially in certain works from Philosophie II such
     delineated in Being and Time encompasses its own                      as Philosophie et non-philosophie, and En tant qu’un
     conditions of possibility, as explicated in Dasein’s shift            (Aubier, Paris, 1991).

Centre for Research in                                                                Keynote speaker

Modern European Philosophy                                                            François Laruelle

Non-Philosophy Now: Theory and Practices
                                                                                       Media and Inter-Media
Saturday 15 November, 2003                               10am–6pm
                                                                                       Ethics and Politics of the Real
 Non-philosophy is not anti-philosophy or post-philosophy but a new way
 of using and practising philosophy: an autonomous theoretical discipline              Religion and Non-Religion
 for which philosophy functions as a material. This conference brings to-
 gether researchers from Canada, France, San Salvador and Venezuela                    Aesthetics and Non-Aesthetics
 to explore ways in which non-philosophy, inaugurated by François Laru-
 elle, might be developed beyond the confines of Laruelle’s own writings.
                                                                                       Radical Translation
                                                                                       Science and Non-Philosophy

£20 waged, £10 unwaged. Contact: Ray Brassier (, Centre for Research in Modern European
Philosophy, Middlesex University, White Hart Lane, London N17 8HR, Tel. 020-8411-6220

                                                               Radical Philosophy 121 (September/October 20 03)                     35

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