Excerpt: 'Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy' by François Laruelle
|December 19, 2012|
Armageddon, Joseph Paul Pettit, 1852
From The End Times of Philosophy:
The phrase “end times of philosophy” is not a new version of the “end of philosophy” or the “end of history,” themes which have become quite vulgar and nourish all hopes of revenge and powerlessness. Moreover, philosophy itself does not stop proclaiming its own death, admitting itself to be half dead and doing nothing but providing ammunition for its adversaries. With our sights set on clearing up this nuance, we differentiate philosophy as an institutional entity, and the philosophizability of the World and History, of “thought-world,” which universalizes the narrow concept of philosophy and that of “capital.” We also give an eschatological and apocalyptical cause to this end, of “times” or “ages” rather than those of philosophical practice. Last but not least, it is the Future itself in the performativity of its ultimatum that determines this end times, reversing these times from the Identity the Future accorded to it, withdrawing the thought-world from the lie of its death.
Why this style of axioms and oracles, these more or less subtle distinctions, old and debased, with an appeal to the ultimata, to end times and last words? We fight to give, parallel to the concept of Hell, its new theoretical position, for its philosophical return and its non-philosophical transformation. No more so than any other word, Hell is not a metaphor here, just the Principle of Sufficient World. Every man, no doubt, has his “hell” readily available, connivance, control, conformism, domestication, schooling, alienation, extermination, exploitation, oppression, anxiety, etc. We have our little list that the Contemporaries established in the previous century in the same way one used to construct lists of virtues and vices or honors and wealth. They invented it for us without knowing it, for us-the-Futures who have as our responsibility to invent its use.
In the Christian and Gnostic tradition, the struggle of the End Times takes place “on earth.” The most sophisticated of believers have it taking place in Heaven as well, above all in Heaven. The various kinds of gnosis imagine infinite falls and vertiginous highs, the vertigo of salvation. On Earth as in Heaven, a hell is available. The Marxists have the law of profit and the control of production, the class struggle Capital imposes on man. The Nietzscheans, the dull grumble of the struggle in the foundations of World and History, the domestication of man, the society of control. The phenomenologists, the capture of being, the most superficial amongst them, the age of suspicion.
But all of these “hells” are taken from World, History, Society, and Religion. What we call Hell is no longer of the order of these specific and total intra-worldly generalities, it is both more singular and more universal, no longer being at all of the same order, it is the determinant Identity of these small hells strung out through history but unified here in the name of the last Humaneity. It is even found within the French idiom for hell [enfer], en-fer literally means “in-irons.” We are as much “in-irons” as we are “alive” [en-Vie]. We believe in Hell but as non-philosophers and it is even because we are non-philosophers that we can believe in it outside of any sort of religion. Hell is less mythological than ideological, it combines philosophizability with universal capital. Under what form? A single term could work for them without being a metaphor or something they would participate in by analogy, a more innovative and conjectural term than control, more universal than profit. It would denote the growing and permanent extortion of a surplus-value of communication, of speed and of urgency in change, in productivity and in work, in the pressure of images and slogans. It would be worse than solicitation, more tenacious than capture, more active and persecutory than control, softer and more insidious than a frontal attack, just as perverse as questioning and accusation, less brutal and offensive than extermination, less ritualized than inquisition, it would be soft and dispersed, instantaneous and vicious, it would be a crime without declared violence. Collusion and conformism, it would be afraid to show itself. Related to rumor, from which it borrows its infinite and tortuous ways. It is harassment. As a modernized form of Hell, perhaps harassment has a long future in front of it, of innocent torture, slow assassination, in short the fall, but radical with no way of recovering and which tolerates only salvation.
The Philosophical Past of Non-Philosophy
Non-philosophy is thus Man as the utopian identity of the philosophical form of the World, a utopia destined to transform it. We still have to understand these equations, in particular that of the being-uni-versed from Man, and this book adheres to this by re-exposing non-philosophy in a different way via one of its new possibilities. It uses this opportunity to once again take up formulations that lead to objections answering certain external critics, as well as revisiting diverging interpretations specific to non-philosophers. A portion of this book is devoted to going through these theories via a strict or “lengthy” presentation of non-philosophy, and its defense against more expeditious solutions. This work of rectification is the occasion, merely the occasion, for refocusing non-philosophy on Man (the “Man-in-person,” “Humaneity”), and in a more innovative manner, on its utopian vocation established since the book Future Christ. As for this “occasion,” it is quite obvious. A school of posture, not to say a school of thought, supposes a minimum of closure from the most liberating of knowledge, a heritage, its utilization, and its no less certain dispersal. Within its development, a variety of interpretations will no doubt appear, deviations that are as much normalizations, and a struggle against this multiplication of divergent tendencies. These are perhaps not inevitable evils, especially here, merely a normal development according to the twisting paths of history. But the problem is made worse by the fact that this school of non-philosophers is that of utopia. Not the former attempts devoted to commenting on the worst authoritarian and criminal forms of the past and the present, but utopia as the determinant principle for human life, or to put it another way, of the Future as an irreducible presupposition of (for) thinking the World and History. Non-philosophers are engaged in an aleatory navigation between the respect for the most rigorous utopia, whose rules are not that of the reproductive imagination but those from the Future determining imagination itself, as well as the temptations, diversions, and remorse of history. Little by little, we will begin to understand that the Future as we understand it no longer has any temporal consistency or positive content, without being an empty form or a nothingness, but that it is foreclosed to past and present History, just as it is foreclosed to the place of places, the World, and that it is the only method for establishing the practice of thinking in a non-imaginary instance. Because it is the World and History that are imaginary and have a terrible materiality, it is not necessarily utopia. We will overlap two objectives here: the defense of non-philosophy against the (non-) philosophers that we are, only occasionally, and the introduction of philosophy to a rigorous future. Together they set out to definitively render, without any possible return to philosophical conformism or towards the facilities of the past and present, the non-philosophical enterprise understood as utopia or uchronia. Imagination and speculation, left to themselves and thus undistinguished, are quite good for participating in the grand game of History but have little value or worse for the Future which is unimaginable and unintelligible and must be maintained as such.
Man-in-Person as Suspension of the Philosophical Chora
The point where philosophical resistance is concentrated is without a doubt the invention of the Name-of-Man, first name, oracular as much as axiomatic, of the determining cause for the non-philosophical posture. And that which concentrates the differends is the style of non-philosophy as identity that possesses the dual aspect, of discipline and of the oeuvre, of the theorem and of the oracle. But the real difficulty in understanding the simplicity of non-philosophy is profoundly hidden in the depths of philosophy itself. Because philosophy, from Parmenides to Derrida, even Levinas, continues to be a divided gesture, without a veritable immanence, transforming its thematic contents of transcendence in also forgetting to transform the operative transcendence in the element from which the ontology of surface is established which we will call, in memory of Plato, the chorismos. The general effect of the chora literally gives place to philosophy, demanding binding and sutures to which we will once and for all “oppose” the Man-in-person, his power of cloning, and his future being. All philosophy contains a hinter-philosophy in which it deploys its operations and weaves its tradition like an understudy of a topographical nature and in the best of cases being itself topological. Philosophy as well consists of two levels, its pre-ontological operative conditions on the one hand, and its superficial theme on the other, it too has its presupposed, but is not aware of it or erases it within the unity of appearance named Logos. Rightly, the Logos, and its flash or lightning nature, possesses a “dark precursor,” the chora, which is as much a virtual image, and philosophy, dazzled by its own lightning flash, seems to completely forget about it at the same time it sets itself up within it. Non-philosophy risks taking this same path, of confusing what it believes to be the real with its phantom double, contenting itself to working on the thematic level of philosophy, not its surface objects and its idle chatter (we stopped talking about this a long time ago and in any case they are merely simple materials for inducing a work of transformation), but the transcendence-form of its objects. In the end it risks, through precipitation, taking back up the heritage of philosophy, a heritage of a misunderstood presupposed, even more profound than the play of transcendences. This is what the imperative of the radicality of immanence meant, to treat immanence in an immanent manner, not to make a new object out of it. And from here we get non- (philosophy) and its refusal of the Platonic chorismos, symbol of all abstraction, and thus all transcendental appearance.
There are no illusions. The message will leave a heritage in tattered pieces and interpretations. But it was difficult not to dispute the differend to its core. There will be complete confusion of the multiple, possible, and necessary effectuations of non-philosophy with its interpretations. The non-philosophical or human freedom of philosophical effectuation and the philosophical freedom of interpretation. Effectuations demand non-philosophy to return to zero from the point of view of its philosophical material and thus also but within these limits the formulation of its axioms, but in no way providing from the outset divergent interpretations of the aforementioned axioms. They are divergent because they do not take into account the material from which these axioms are derived within non-philosophy, and because they do not see themselves as symptoms of another vision of the World. The utterances of non-philosophy are not mathematical theorems and pure axioms, they merely have a mathematical aspect. They are, by their extraction or origin, mathematical and transcendental. And by their determined function in-Real, within non-philosophy, they are identically in-the-last-Humaneity entities which have an aspect of an axiom and an aspect of interpretation (or an oracular aspect as we say) that attempts (sometimes it is ourselves who provide the occasion) to isolate and transform, in complete freedom of interpretation. There will be an opportunity to complain about the complex character of the language of non-philosophy, an idiom saturated with classical references, sophisticated in a contemporary way. Its freedom of decision up against the whole of philosophy demands these effects of “complication” and “privatization,” as the saying goes. But it also demands fighting against the drift [dérive] of the pedagogical-all and the mediatic-all that leads philosophy into the shallow depths of opinion, which is the site of its impossible death. The noble idealism of “pop-philosophy” has been consumed into a “philo-reality;” against this we propose philo-fiction.
Parricide, which is at the bottom of these interpretations and which we can judge as being quite fertile, although it has informed tradition, only takes place once or within one lone meaning. In regards to Parmenides, it was possible; Plato introduced the Other as non-being and language, bringing into existence the philosophical system of the World, but is it possible to repeat it again with the same fecundity in regards to non-philosophy, this time in introducing (non) religion or (non) art, still mixing them without taking into account this mixture, alternatively as a philosophical or religious resentment? If philosophy begins via a crime, it is no doubt obliged to continue down similar pathways, to the effect that the crimes of philosophy, once the founding crime has been committed, are a reaction of self-defense. It is undoubtedly from this that we get Marx’s declaration that history begins by tragedy and repeats itself or ends in farce.
The preservation of rigor and fecundity is, in every respect, a psychologically difficult task within a theory such as non-philosophy. Having posited an essential objective of liberation in regards to philosophy and its services, one has often understood this objective as an authorization of providing particular interpretations of its axioms and ends up obliterating their scope. This ends up confusing, on one hand, two kinds of freedoms in regards to non-philosophy, the freedom of its interpretations and the freedom of its effectuations. On the other hand, any defense of “principles” against precipitated interpretations is immediately taxed with a will to orthodoxy, a prohibitive objection when we are dealing with, as is the case here, a heretical theory of thought. Nevertheless, it is time to stop confusing heresy as the cause of thought with an ideology of heresies, which is certainly not at all our object, but rather a form of normalization. As for the “disciplinary” aspect, which is not the only aspect, it demands something other than philosophical “answers to objections,” a precision in the definition and use of its procedures in the formation of utterances, since non-philosophy is neither a supplementary doctrine interior to philosophy nor a vision of the world but one whose priority is a “vision of Man,” or rather Man as “vision” that implies a theory and a practice of philosophy. In the end, struggle is only one aspect of non-philosophy, not its whole or telos, struggle coming only from its materiality. In particular, if the discipline of non-philosophy is inseparable from struggle, it is not a question of reducing the monomaniacal obsession of its “marching orders.” This would reduce its complexity and kill its indivisibility, deploying it in a “long march” and a form of Maoization whose philosophical presuppositions no longer have any pertinence here, a case of the One and the Two, which are now cloned and no longer tied together. More generally, non-philosophy is a complex thought composed of a multitude of aspects, which is to say, unilateral interpretations, of a philosophical origin but reduced by their determination in-the-last-instance. The “liberalism” of non-philosophy is merely one of the aspects of which it is capable, not an essence. Similarly, it is only capable of having a “Maoist” aspect.
Let us generalize. The weakness of non-philosophy is due to a specific cause, the determination-in-the-last-Humaneity of a subject for the World. Everything that has a right to the philosophical city can be said about it in turn and in a retaliatory mode since Man contributes nothing of himself that Man takes from the World. We can consider non-philosophy as being pretentious, absurd, idealistic, empty, materialistic, formalistic, contradictory, modern, post-modern, Zen, Buddhist, Marxist; it endures or tolerates, perhaps “appeals” to, or at least renders possible, sarcasms, ironies, and insults without even talking about the misunderstandings, partly for the same reason as psychoanalysis. All of this goes beyond simple “deviations.” They are its aspects, which is to say, its “unilateral” philosophical interpretations in both senses of the word, being either sufficient coming from the mouth of philosophers, or reduced to their absolute dimension of sufficiency and totality in the mouths of non-philosophers, and both times due to the weakness and strength of Man-in-person as their determination only in-the-last-instance. The non-philosopher is certainly not a Saint Paul fantasizing about a new Church. The non-philosopher is either a (Saint) Sebastian whose flesh is pierced with as many arrows as there are Churches, or a Christ persecuted by a Saint Paul.
What is engaged in here is the practice of retaliation. A negative rule of the non-philosophical ethics of outlawed discussion by way of argumentation (the sufficient is you, the orthodox one is always you, you are the fashionable one, and when a master you are someone else) that is founded on the confusion of effectuations of non-philosophy and of its overall interpretations. Retaliation is the law but as with any too-human law, it must acquire a dimension that displaces it, or rather emplaces it and takes away its authority but not all of its effectiveness. If the non-philosopher is only authorized by himself, which is to say by philosophy but limited by the Real-of-the-last-instance, its critique of other non-philosophers can merely be retaliatory under the same conditions, only by the Real limited in-the last-instance.
The Tree of Philosophical Saintliness
The thematic horizon or material of these debates is in the relationships between philosophy, religion as gnosis, and non-philosophy. It is inevitable, regarding non-philosophers in general (whether they are non-philosophers by name or simply its neighbors) that we often end up evoking Marx’s Holy Family and imagining, arranged on the neighboring branches of the tree of philosophy and annexed, sometimes abusively, to non-philosophy, authors who would quite evidently and quite rightly refuse this label. So it is that we find, for example, a Saint Michel, a Saint Alain, a Saint Gilles1 without even mentioning the youngest who aspire as well to the freedom of “saintliness” and who make their muted voices heard here. If there is a Holy Family of non-philosophers, it extends completely beyond these three, provided that the sectarian spirit can save us.
This book is organized in the following manner: To begin, in order to recall the essential part of the problematic, we have organized a Summary of Non-Philosophy, a vade-mecum of notions and basic problems, in a classical style. Secondly, there is Clarifications On the Three Axioms of Non-Philosophy, designed to posit their proper use as much as to elucidate their meaning. Thirdly, an analysis of Philosophizability and Practicity, both being extreme constituents of philosophical material or the contents of the third axiom. Fourthly, the heart of this work: Let us Make a Tabula Rasa of the Future or of Utopia as Method. Fifthly, we have a theoretical outline of a non-institutional utopia, The International Organization of Non-Philosophy, L’Organisation Non-Philosophique Internationale, (ONPHI) already created in practice but under the conditions of possibility and functioning from which here we put into question “de jure,” thus not without a perplexity concerning “facts,” in any case, without the capability of “getting to the bottom of things.” Sixthly, an essay characterizing The Right and the Left of Non-Philosophy, a brief topology of several philosophizing and normalizing positions of proponents or tenants of this problematic. Seventhly, Rebel in the Soul: A Theory of Future Struggle, a systematic discussion starting from a confrontation of non-philosophical gnosis and non-religious gnosis to the extent that they pose, posed or perhaps still will pose themselves as rivals to non-philosophy in a mixture of fidelity and infidelity. Despite the fact that it can also be read as putting non-philosophy into perspective: it pits against a standard Platonism two contemporary appropriations of Gnosticism.
On the basis of the paradigm of Man who never ceases to come as the Future-in-person, each one of these moments strives to reestablish not the “true” non-philosophy and its orthodoxy, but the minimal conditions to respect in order to allow for its maximum fecundity. And in order to bring about one of the last possibilities of its development, making explicit Humaneity as a utopia-for-the-World. In introducing these considerations in the form of a “testament” and “ultimatum,” we want to indicate two things: First, that this is the last time we will intervene in order to caution non-philosophers against the temptation of returning and looking backwards towards philosophy. Only a disillusioned nostalgia for the former World and its traditions barely remain permissible to us.… Secondly, that non-philosophy is also a sort of ultimatum for considering one’s life and transforming one’s thought from the perspective of a uni-version rather than a conversion. Man as future is this ultimatum in action, not an impatient self-proclaimed genius, and philosophy is his testament. It is obviously the ultimatum that determines this testament as “old” with a view towards a life that is, itself, non-testamentary. In and of itself, the “old” can never bear a veritable eschaton. Thus, this book intersects according to the logic of this paradigm, under the sign of the ultimate or “last” as future, philosophy as testament and cautionary note for maintaining the non-philosophical oeuvre as “future” or “utopian.” We will see that between these two dimensions it cradles a theory of struggle.
In the end, this book envisions non-philosophers in multiple ways. It inevitably sees them as subjects of knowledge, most often academics insofar as life in the world demands, but above all as close relatives of three great human types. The analyst and political militant are quite obvious, for non-philosophy is close to psychoanalysis and Marxism insofar as it transforms the subject in transforming philosophy. Here again, one must have a sense not of certain nuances but of aspects (of the interpretations, albeit unilateralized) and not in order to construct a simple proletarization or militarization of thought as theory. To be rigorous, rather than authoritarian or spiteful, is its task. And lastly, non-philosophy is a close relative of the spiritual but definitely not the spiritualist. Those who are spiritual are not at all spiritualists, for the spiritual oscillate between fury and tranquil rage, they are great destroyers of the forces of Philosophy and the State, which are united under the name of Conformism. They haunt the margins of philosophy, gnosis, mysticism, science fiction and even religions. Spiritual types are not only abstract mystics and quietists; they are heretics for the World. The task is to bring their heresy to the capacity of utopia, and their utopia to the capacity of the paradigm.
Excerpt originally published at Continent |
1. We will recognize allusions, and sometimes references, to closely related or distant themes, but which are related, in the work of Michel Henry, Alain Badiou and via the representative of “non-religious” gnosis of a Platonic origin, in Gilles Grelet. It goes without saying that these discussions are current and local, neither concerning the ensemble of doctrines nor prejudging the eventual evolution of certain amongst them. This concerns defining certain proximities with non-philosophy (rather than adversaries which in some sense they are) and typological and emblematic differends (rather than conflicts with a certain author).
Inherent Vice’s Two Directions
The jokes certainly strike one as sophomoric and the latter one as clichéd, further below Pynchon’s intelligence than one would like to think he would stoop, at least in print. Discounting them and moving on, or throwing the book across the room as Parker half implies we should do, however, would be to lose sight of “that high magic to low puns”.
Auden, Larkin and Love
I was prompted to revisit these ancient questions anew by a long footnote about a single line in the new Complete Poems edition of Philip Larkin’s poetry. The footnote refers to “An Arundel Tomb” contains a provocative remark about that the poem’s celebrated, controversial, closing line, the one about the true nature of immortality: “What will survive of us is love.”
Plato, Our Comrade?
Not surprisingly, there have already been critics of Badiou’s translation. The first is that his translation breaks the formal rules of translation to such a degree that the original meaning of the text has lost its significance. But this critique is inadequate at face value because Badiou’s hyper-translation is forthright in its intention of taking Plato’s concepts and modifying them into his own lexicon.
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