May 31, 2021
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What Is To Be Done With Philosophy?
François Laruelle
In Tétralogos: un opéra de philosophies (Paris: Cerf, 2018), p.46-54.

How does philosophy intend to save itself if it is no longer to conserve itself under the form of traditions that are sometimes denounced as sutures with other disciplines or obsessive objects (but never completely) because of a field, one that is initially too narrow and resulting from mathematicians alone, that philosophers wanted to appropriate without precautions? This traditional solution is a solution of two “great” philosophers who seek to repeat philosophy since its supposed beginning or seek to begin it anew by correcting its presupposeds and sometimes its materials, all by conserving its initial ambition fixed once and for all. Its rehashed argument, its well-known bad faith having stopped, crashing its means, diverting its goals, all disorganized, but the trajectory is always the same: it is enough to find it again, to begin again on new more refined, more recent, more modern bases, the eternal goal of this type of thought is to assure its own salvation against humans, to make Being and other anonymous entities triumph, to submit humans to the whims of the subject and truth, the world and history. Philosophy is a jubilant tradition that takes “one more step” even if it must always, in this case, start with “a step back” to continue this journey. Coming after or at the same time as Deleuze and Derrida, the two greatest contemporary philosophers whose action is sufficiently extensive and efficient to send us back to our babblings [balbutiements] are Heidegger and Badiou. They are reformers rather than radical innovators because, if they change means and innovate on the plane of theoretical resources, one conserves the ideal of philosophy as the common place of the submission of man to the service of philosophy, and the other conserves philosophy by mathematical means. Perhaps philosophy would not be absolutely fragile if these powerful machines (fundamental and existential ontology and set-theoretical ontology) had remained simple means among others though not always of the same historico-worldly type with Hegelian posterity for one such work of submission. However, they are the only model required for the same task of systematicity which never ceases to veer into the monomaniacal foundation that philosophy has always been: a monodisciplinary enslavement which gives off such deep ennui. Could philosophy have been the noblest of humanity’s dressage to the point where it never ceases to fail in beginning again, in repeating the same instructions and slogans? The efforts to diversify the objects, fields, theses, “procedures” and instruments of salvation cannot bring change and persuades towards a new destination of thought for a long time that when it falls in the hands of philosophers and when it falls again in these same hands, philosophy is the “passing game” (Heidegger) or “ball game” (Althusser) of recommencements or bringing philosophy back into play whose sportive monotony could enthrall a Greek stadium filled with “big children” that we remain. This diversity is a diversity of conservative reactions which serve to cover the monotony of the principal intention despite the declarations of intention, banners and manifestos of their authors and the relative mutations of their operation. It is in the stride of these authors that we must apparently practice the multi-titration of thought – the strategic plurality of goals and means.

Both Heidegger and Badiou militate like Kant and undoubtedly are activated by the model of crushing reconstruction that Hegel delivered himself to the stake of History: towards the recomposition of philosophy, towards its aggravation. They undoubtedly didn’t believe it so to say: the proofing of philosophy’s debris, as if the point was to raise the noblest of monuments that, while admiring itself in its own mirror, philosophy would have prepared for its own glory without fearing this auto-empoisoning of nihilism. The point would be to begin again or re-compose philosophy as much as redraw it in its globally unchanged plans. What would philosophy be if it no longer began through reverence and not only through an archeological reference? For example, Heidegger confides care and the place of our salvation in being-in-the-world which is nevertheless the testimony of our malady that the Gnostics identified, for we too are “Platonists” – “other Platonists.” Extended by Heidegger in its understanding, being-in-the-world sanctions the exclusively philosophical perspective of fundamental existentiality. In reality, it is an anti-Gnostic attempt (and not Gnostic like some commentators say) for it attempts to save the World by philosophy which makes the World a tailor-made garment and makes the World presentable.

It is through Badiou that another solution is found in the recomposition of philosophy as repeating or aggravating itself not only from a “step back” or “withdrawal” but “one step more” which doesn’t compensate for both. Having inserted the “one step more” into his content of the generic procedures and the One of his own, void without truth, Badiou establishes the asymmetrical or unequal relation between the functions of generic conditions and the philosophical functions of collection, eliminating the suture functions among them. Generic truths are the conditions which support philosophy but must not constitute sutures or be captured by conditioned and void philosophy. The suture would be the relation of reciprocity or co-belonging, even co-propriation between truths and philosophy, the guardian and above all void but in no way fallen queen, to the contrary. That’s an Anglo-Saxon conception of contemplative royalty of the labour of its subjects and the royally paid guardian. Badiou finds with philosophy, lazy but handsomely paid by the many honours of the Anglo-Saxon style of royalty, what he hunted with language and linguistics. Refusing Heidegger’s romantic-German solution (the suture with poetry), and like ourselves, Badiou inevitably leaves a doublet: the doublet of mathematical set theory, the arbitrary procedure and its dual amphibological status, the arbitration which is its own or specific content, and its being or its arbitrary position as procedure inter pares. A generic procedure is a model that is both particular and privileged, one that makes truth a secretly self-reflexive knowledge. When it comes to mathematics, is it possible to do it otherwise than awakening the old Platonic demons of the fundamental identity where mathematics and philosophy end up mirroring each other in the extremities of the space of thought? If there is something inevitable in this situation, just as mathematics is engaged twice as philosophical materiality and as a principle of philosophical sufficiency, would philosophy be engaged twice as mathematical materiality and as a principle of sufficient mathematics?

Our solution is to reduce at maximum the importance of the mathematical procedure required by the set-theoretical approach when it wants to be a founder. We use algebra as a pragmatic instrument and correlatively to implicate or engage philosophy in generic labour itself by depriving it of its principle of sufficiency. The solution to obtain through the generic, when it engages its two conditions together, is to eliminate their principles of sufficiency, and find for them a model of equal conjugation in the quantum model. Either the philosophico-mathematical ideal as the materiality of thought is posed as the beginning and thus as sufficient (but thought is then surreptitiously auto-reflexive), or we accept to slide from the sufficiency of this philosophico-mathematical model towards a model of physical and quantum thought whose algebraic deployment (whether it is so obvious and undoubtedly very necessary) does not become unchained and sufficient. There will be the use of the supposed  “generic procedures” under a condition of non-sufficiency and no longer under the assumed sufficient essence of these two disciplines. It is quite possible to generalize the critique with three other generic procedures, other than those of the multiple: love, art, and politics, which each fantasize on their own about their fusion with philosophy and dream of acquiring philosophy’s omnipotence. If mathematics secretly fuses with philosophy, this secret marriage turns into an Italian comedy. The excessive love for the “matheme” betrays love tout court which makes a use of the Two without elevating it to the state of the (prostitutional?) essence of philosophy, and it also betrays politics whose sufficiency then reduces the power of invention and makes it turn into the invention of dictatorial violence, hence this turn: the introduction of Maoism and other strongly disagreeable practices into philosophy. If there is a generic labour, it cannot implicitly depend on the set-theoretical in general or be tested in a very obvious and innocent way on the mathematical terrain. The deepest suture escapes from what contents itself with putting mathematics and philosophy in a face-to-face to draw the benefits from each of them. By presupposing their fusion in the formula “being qua being” or “ontology,” Badiou thus draws all the benefits from all possible solutions without consenting in an inevitable loss with the re-doubling or de-doubling of philosophy and ontology. Badiou is not fully modern: he wants to be even if he hears himself proclaim it. Modernity is just a militant manifestation, a cry within philosophical uproar.

There is a sort of amphibology of the generic, the mathematical, the philosophical and their re-doubling here. And there is also perhaps a general amphibological structure which explicitly affects ontological set theory but which we reduce or treat as residual even if each of the four generic procedures invoked here participate. Here, many philosophico-scientific couples will obviously be formed, strong or weak couples, residua of an amorous coupling or a weakened Platonism, but, at the same time, the last love which binds the following for example: Marx with Planck, Kant with Einstein, and Nietzsche or Heidegger with Cohen. All these improbable theoretical couples are less obvious or expected than the couple of Plato and Descartes and even the couple of Plato and Cantor. We require new unexpected amorous dualities to constitute the 3/4 stages (Book III) and engender the three avatars of the aleatory lived, the clones and messiahs, our protagonists, all these messiahs who are even more bastardized or illegitimate in the eyes of philosophy, the guardian of good morals[1] and the sacred act of marriage. The legitimate Badioulizing genealogy of philosophy presumes a limited genericity, a singular generic for the multiple which is not the generic of the couples that we use, and which are very distant from each other. A minimum of conjugation is inevitable, but we conceive it as a conjugation of quantum variables.

Badiou cuts down the intra-mathematical couple of the generic and the philosophical and disposes with a pair of pliers with which he thinks the relation and non-relation between the generic and the philosophical: the relation of the generic to the philosophical and the non-relation of the philosophical to the generic. He holds philosophy outside of the conditioning by its own conditions, as duly free but which is still in relation to them. The generic procedures are philosophy’s real conditions, but philosophy is capable of de-suturing itself from them, affirming its thanklessness towards what supports it or projects it in the air: it is a floating and rocked philosophy cradled by the illusion proper to the Platonic dove who wanders with the currents that carry him.

This is Baron Munchausen’s leaping philosophy: it presents its thanklessness all by recognizing its conditions…the conditions which leave it unconditioned and royal. There is certainly a trick behind this wordplay or a sliding of the generic as unconditioning condition. But which? The passage from the singular condition to the totality of conditions. Philosophy is not sutured by a condition exclusively, but is it not sutured by the totality of conditions? As it is philosophy which brings about the concept of this totality, philosophy is only really conditioned through itself, free from any other exclusive attachment but not free from this totality of sutures. Hence philosophy’s contingency, its non-necessity in relation to itself, its autonomy as Kant would say, but also a residue of the suture which attaches philosophy to itself and lets the royalty within it be penetrated by what has no right or accounts to render only to oneself: the arbitrary. If the absolute liberty of philosophy is impossible save as an illusion, it is as much to recognize this minimum of attachment and reciprocity of conditioning between the condition and conditioned. This attachment of philosophy – whose Platonic refusal is an illusion of the macroscopic and Newtonian problematic is an aristocratic, not to say royal, position as is often pointed out by Plato to remind ourselves – is a dream of omnipotence, a naïve and infantile arbitration. The only slightly rigorous consequence for those who have not forgotten a certain Marxism is to recognize this abasement of philosophy finally put to work in company with science, and put in the same bath as it.

Ours is an attempt towards divorce, but one that is just a separation of body. For sure, this attempt does not leave the hope for a reconciliation, but only the possibility for old lovers to work together, having stopped gazing enamored eye to eye. The point is to push the generic through mathematics to physics and to still speak of love, namely “physical” love and the body in movement. This is why in the generic ethos [génie], the ethos is multiple, not only the generic itself. Our problem is to transfer the generic from the mathematical to the, if possible, quantum physical terrain and therefore complexify the concept of the generic. Physics dissolves or alleges to dissolve the amphibologies of philosophy more easily than mathematics. We must reorganize from top to bottom the general economy of the Earth, the World, and the Universe in accordance with man as an eco-transcendental animal, one which introduces the fall by the Imaginary Number and the collapse which affects the entire structure of places required by humans with ruins. To introduce a physical, and not mathematical, forcing, one that is particularly under the name cloning and messianity, is another way to get rid of the Kierkegaardian trilogy of the stages of aesthetics, morals and religion, or even phenomenological figures. The only clear means to exit this amphibology without infantile tricks, which Kant so well denounced this mechanism, is undoubtedly to admit it as minimally as possible which is the physical and quantum solution of the conjugation of variables. If there must remain an amphibology between mathematical set theory and philosophy, between “Being and Event,” and if there must remain an amphibology which would no longer be either a Platonic scale or duality, as much as we must change context or terrain, we must displace this ambiguity on the only terrain where it can be converted into entanglement or the conjugation of variables according to the quantum model. A Badiou II is imaginable: he would re-write Being and Event under the form of physical theory, with undoubtedly a minimum of mathematics like algebra, a Badiou with Planck rather than a Badiou with Cantor to be honest. What an amphibology is in philosophy can cease from being one in a physics of entanglement. It would be to ground among other things the thesis already supported in Anti-Badiou: an en-semblist discipline in which mathematical set theory is opened and disarticulated to be re-articulated as a One of entanglement which undoubtedly protects set theory and philosophy as apparent or decoherent macroscopic entities but awaiting their coherent reduction. In the perspective here opened, it becomes possible to subject other generic procedures to the same global solution. We should conceive Eros ceasing to unite the macroscopic duality of man and woman, or other dualities, however mythical they may be, but by converting themselves into a quantum Eros, a weakened and over-abased Eros, crossing and entangling transcendent couples, like those of philosophical macro-conjugality and its context generally said to be “familialism” (Lacan, Deleuze, Foucault). As for “invented politics” (Badiou), must we perhaps accentuate the formula somewhat otherwise into that of a “politics of invention”? Politics do not have to be invented in accordance with given conditions. The point is to invent the new conditions. Conditions limit invention by definition. The problematic here is the problematic of the generic as the thematic of invention (theoretical or other forms). Perhaps this formula, turning “invented politics” into “politics of invention,” is the objective we must reach. In the same way that for art, we cannot limit it to the poem which relays philosophy too quickly and too simply, art must be what creates and invents philosophy on the artistic mode. Art must be invented like politics – this is a sort of tautology or pleonasm. This is what politics and art have always done, and it is not necessary to repeat it. Politics, or what must be called as thus, has not yet been invented. It is more interesting that invention either is an art or a politics, and it is invention as well which is or must be brought to the height of an art, bringing the generic as an invention in a still traditional sense to the height of an art or a politics. This is to entangle the generic procedures themselves, despite or because of their specificity.


[1] In the original French, Laruelle writes “gardienne des bonnes meurs,” which would be read as good deaths, but this does not make sense in the context, and I have rendered it as morals [moeurs]. – Trans.

translated by Jeremy R. Smith

taken from here

Foto: Sylvia John




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