In light of recent events surrounding, I’ve decided to provide my own critique of Non-Philosophy. In large part, I’m responding to my friend Jeremy R. Smith’s which he asked me to do. For anyone interested in learning more about the political possibilities of non-philosophy, his article is second to none. Nevertheless, I’m of the opinion that it maintains a central flaw that is present in the work of Laruelle. Herein, I provide my own critique of non-philosophy, one that Jeremy’s future work will, I believe, attempt to resolve.
My reading of Laruelle (which is heavily invested in reading Laruelle as indebted to Deleuze) understands the non-philosophical project as a response to what Deleuze terms “the dogmatic image of thought.” This concept is raised in Deleuze’s studies on Nietzsche and Proust before taking up a prominent place in the third chapter of Difference and Repetition. Deleuze suggests that philosophy has been hounded by a certain way of thinking — one that centres identity and representation — and aims to uncover a “new image of thought” which breaks from the dogma. Both Laruelle and Deleuze attempt to circumnavigate this image of thought, but they do so in different directions. Deleuze, especially in the work with Guattari, is invested in a libidinal materialism that brackets considerations of thought (though, thought returns as a central consideration in What is Philosophy?). Rather than focus on a relationship between thought and material, Deleuze and Guattari’s work, particularly in A Thousand Plateaus, investigates the processes of material becomings in ways that are largely independent of the overdetermination of something like Kantian phenomena.
Even though Laruelle is inclined to suggest that thought is insufficient, he doubles down on the investigation of thought throughout his project. This leads to a paradoxical end: thought is at once 1) insufficient and 2) the only possible method of inquiry. This produces what I see as the ground of non-philosophy, insofar as it becomes so concerned with the limitations of thought, that the only thing it is able to uncover are these limits. And Laruelle sees these limits everywhere, leading to the various considerations in his work that extend beyond philosophy, to Non-Marxism, Non-Photography, and the writings on theological heresy. It is for this reason that I take Laruelle to be a writer of prefaces. He never gets to the point of his project because the point is something that cannot be reached. Non-philosophy would need to escape the conditions of philosophy — namely thought — whose limits foreclose the capacity of overcoming. Thus, Laruelle’s non-philosophy is perpetually asking ‘what is to be done?’ rather than doing it. While he is critical of thinkers who turn away from thought for reinscribing the philosophical decision, his own investigation leads him what I’ll establish below as a practical quietism where non-philosophy is incapable of saying anything at all.
I mention all of this to get to the primary motivation in Jeremy’s post: the relation of philosophy and capital. I do think that this comparison is apt, but in a way that goes beyond his intention. Insofar as philosophy takes on the capital-form in Laruelle’s thought, one can see it as an overdetermination in the same way that capitalism becomes an overdetermination in certain post-Deleuzian readings of capitalism (such as the work of Mark Fisher and ‘Bifo’ Berardi). Here, capitalism comes to encapsulate literally everything. As such, there is a certain inescapability in the capital-form because everything is reduced to capital. There is, for these thinkers no outside-capital, just as for Laruelle there is no outside-philosophy for thought. Non-philosophy has never been practiced; non-philosophy does not exist.
This relation becomes clear in a passage Jeremy cites from “The Thought-World: Capitalism and Philosophy” insofar as the capital-form and the philosophical-form become a “uni(-)versal ‘logic.’” This logic sets the stage for “philosophy [as] the capital-form of and within thought.” Within this gesture there cannot be an outside-philosophy for thought. I mean this in multiple senses. There is no outside in terms of an exteriority or transcendental outside. Nothing is outside the capital-form, and nothing is outside the philosophical-form. Furthermore, there is no immanent outside, found in the work of thinkers such as Schelling, Hegel, Adorno, and Deleuze, where there is an implicit negativity at the heart of being. For Laruelle, there is no internal limit to the capital-form and no external limit to the capital-form; for thought there is no internal limit to the philosophical-form and no external limit to the philosophical form. There is no outside.
Following this discussion, Jeremy turns to the notion of heresy in Laruelle’s thought — which I find to be the most provoking and important aspects of Non-Philosophy. The heretical gesture is a gesture against the world. Jeremy follows Laruelle in suggesting that this move is generic rather than philosophical. This is a key point, because it would suggest that a heretical gesture would actually fall outside of the philosophical/capital-form. Nevertheless, the issue is that Laruelle persistently fails in providing an account of heresy that is not merely theoretically outside the philosophical-form, but practically outside of the philosophical-form. For instance, Jeremy cites Laruelle in stating that generic heresy is “an invention of thought that is stripped of particularity, neutralized of sufficiency and spontaneity, and thrust into situations where it is, symptomatically speaking ‘marked-down’ or ‘unbranded’, we can even say ‘unary,’” but it is never made clear in Laruelle’s work what this sort of heresy practically looks like or why its invocation is not a reification of the philosophical. I remain unconvinced of the theoretical gesture of heresy as having practical application.
Jeremy continues that “Heresy…produces no effect in philosophy or in the World” but it remains unclear how this is the case for Laruelle. We could take up a related area of thought in Afro-Pessimism. Here, one is granted a clear invocation of heresy. Black existence is antithetical to the World. The very affirmation of Blackness is the negation of the World. I would ask whether this is the case for Laruelle. Because Blackness is outside the World, its very existence is a threat to the World. What is unclear is how Laruelle might make a similar gesture within a political register without reifying this heretical gesture as a new philosophical form that mandates a new image of thought. Does Afro-Pessimism not, for Laruelle, becomes its own source of philosophical sufficiency? Who then, is Laruelle’s heretic? What is it that they are capable of saying that doesn’t fall back into the philosophy-form? Laruelle is constantly invoking the heretic, the stranger, and ordinary man, but these are given as mere prefatory engagements. Laruelle speaks of heresy, but never speaks this heresy. It seems that the practical application of the heretical is foreclosed to thought, allowing only the perpetual introduction to the non-philosophical-form; the heretical may be never reaches the stage of given-without-givenness. To this I ask: Who is the stranger? Who is the heretic?
This brings me to the final consideration of Jeremy’s article, in which it is suggested that “It is high time for non-philosophers to strip the World of its power so we can see for ourselves what a human can do.” To this I ask: has a human ever done anything? Is philosophy not the work of ‘a human’? Is capital not the product of ‘a human’? Or are these things merely abstract entities which overdetermine the world as a force external to the human? Does the non-philosophical project not merely repeat the error it sees in philosophy in its practical application. Insofar as it perpetuates a discussion of the non-philosophical without the critical task posited by Marx: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it.” In terms of its practical application, non-philosophy is philosophical insofar as it falls into the philosophical camp in Marx’s statement. In practical terms, non-philosophy has merely interpreted the world. This produces a practical quietism, even if it claims a theoretical intervention. Marx’s theory, for better or worse, profoundly impacted and changed the world — and did so in his time. Will Laruelle ever awaken a stranger?
The post of Jeremy R. Smith: ‘Philosophy is the capital-form of and within thought’ – a non-philosophical hypothesis… you find