In what follows, I hope to offer a sketch of non-philosophy that will introduce some of its key concepts. Non-philosophy relies upon a highly technical, abstract, and counter-intuitive vocabulary, whose terms are almost always defined in relation to one another. This makes it nearly impossible for the uninitiated to get the hang of it, barring total dedication and immersion. This problem is further complicated by the current lack of translated texts by Francois Laruelle, the founder of non-philosophy, and the other members of the Non-philosophy Collective. The few that are available are highly forbidding.
So, to aid the introduction to non-philosophy, I have undertaken here the first in a series of posts aiming to clarify the context and meaning of the non-philosophical vocabulary, and to explain the purpose or reason behind non-philosophy and its relationship to philosophy (a forerunner to this post can be found here). Keep in mind, the forbidding character of the vocabulary is methodological, in that Laruelle has attempted to create a language that owes nothing to the saturated languages of philosophy. Nonetheless, the terms in question can be elucidated through use, which I have tried to do here. Rather than abstractly defining them, I have put them to work, with what I hope is adequate context in each case.
This post was also partially motivated by a misunderstanding that has arisen in the wake of my last post. Graham Harman and Levi Bryant both responded with well thought out critiques, which, while certainly understandable, nonetheless miss the point. This was in part my fault, as I, in that post, employed an unclear and unspecified mixture of philosophical style and non-philosophical ideas, making my position appear to be a philosophical one, attacking those of others. Yet non-philosophy is not a philosophy, it does not critique philosophical theories nor does it speak in a philosophical language. Indeed, for reasons that will hopefully begin to become clear below, philosophy cannot but misunderstand non-philosophy, it cannot help but try to understand it as a philosophical position amenable to critique and dialectic. Yet from a non-philosophical perspective, such criticisms are in vain, as they are formally incapable of ‘getting the point’, so to speak.
Non-philosophy is only intelligible from a non-philosophical perspective, and hence, to approach it as a philosopher is to invite confusion and ultimately dissatisfaction. So finally, my motive here is to explain why non-philosophy is worth embracing on its own terms, rather than those of philosophy. I can’t promise it will be persuasive, as philosophy tends to reinvest its discontent, using it as fuel for its endless expansion and reproduction. I can only say that discontent with philosophy does not need to result in either a rejection of philosophy itself, or a rejection of a certain family or tradition of philosophy. It can also lead to a new use of philosophy, one that is not itself philosophical, but that rather aims to transform the products of philosophy into more than a means to philosophy’s endless reproduction of itself.
So, for any philosopher or student of philosophy reading this post, a disclaimer: Try, as far as you are willing, to suspend the temptation to disagree with the ideas expressed below. They are not philosophical ideas, and to treat them as such would be to miss the point. If the purpose and function of non-philosophy is not clear by the end, then please feel free to comment. But criticisms, while always welcome, are not really applicable to non-philosophy: it is a theory that is not open to criticism, but only to being proven or disproven, which is to say, engaged on its own terms.
[Note: I have opted not to include any references and citation in this post, mainly for the sake of clarity and accessibility. Nonetheless, it must be said that these ideas, for the most part, originated with the work of Francois Laurelle, and that I was introduced to them through the few texts of Laurelle’s that are currently translated, as well as those of Ray Brassier. One can find the majority of these texts at Speculative Heresy.]
The Thought-World (Philosophy = World)
The philosopher describes, explains, or interprets the world. He does this by way of concepts and categories, which, as instruments of thought, populate a transcendental schema ideally capable of making the world intelligible. Yet the world, insofar as it is immanence, and insofar as philosophy begins within immanence and always pursues immanence (that is to say, philosophy aims to explain the world without resort to anything transcendent), includes the very activity of thought, its conceptual instruments and transcendental apparatus.
Therefore, it is not enough for a philosopher to offer an explanation of worldly situations. He must also offer an explanation of this explanation, not only describing the world, but also the relationship between this explanation and the world, or between thought and the world. Insofar as the philosopher thinks, and uses thought as a means of grasping or distancing the world, thought and world are always, inevitably, intermixed. If the proper object of philosophy is the world as such, or being as such, or immanence as such, this object nonetheless always includes and dissimulates its complicity or hybridity with thought.
Even ardent realist philosophers, who insist on grasping the world as it is in itself (for example, the world as multiplicity of mutually occasioning individual objects), without reducing it to its relation to thought, its accessibility by thought, or explainability for thought, are nonetheless stuck. Insofar as they are philosophers, they are human, and they hence conduct their explanation of the world by way of concepts (objects, substance, occasion, et cetera), which are instruments wielded by thought. The two options open to such a philosopher are not good ones: 1) either thought, and hence philosophical activity are not of this world, transcendent to it, and therefore fall beyond explanation of the world (and this has never been a comfortable philosophical position), or 2) thought, and hence philosophical activity, are of this world, they are objects like any other, and therefore a meta-philosophical theory that takes philosophy as object is possible, or even required.
The second option may seem attractive, until we note that this apparently reconciled and self-explanatory immanence nonetheless always has resort to a transcendental reserve, a meta- to which thought withdraws as condition, even while reducing itself in the first instance to the status of mere conditioned. In order to secure the sufficient explanatory power of its concepts, philosophy cannot resist raising itself again and again above the object, positing itself (auto-positing), that is, the concepts it marshals, as necessary conditions of worldly immanence, and not merely conditioned constituents of the world. It is both, it must be both, and even without presupposing anything transcendent, it nonetheless separates the immanence of the world between the transcendental immanence of the a priori conditions, which hold necessarily and universally in the world, and a posteriori immanence as presupposed or self-giving (auto-donating), self-evident and taken as given.
Decision and the One (The Authority of Philosophy)
This separation does not cost philosophy anything, although it does have its price. Philosophy has always gotten away with the immanent separation of its transcendental explanatory schema from the immanent hybridity of thought with its objects (whether thought be considered as equal to the world, or subsumed by it, or subsuming of it). It does so by means of a decision, in which a superior co-immanence of transcendental and world is presupposed as authorizing both their immanent separation (or deduction in thought) and their transcendental synthesis (real conditioning). Here we must distinguish between the a priori conditions that are thought by concepts as immanent transcendentals, and the transcendental immanence that synthesizes concept and object.
This synthesis, moreover, is necessary, because while philosophy may endlessly include itself within its object, and hence raise itself to the level of meta-philosophy, or oppose itself as anti-philosophy, it nonetheless must posit the mere instruments and products of thought – concepts – as real conditions, and not mere explanatory fictions. The philosopher must claim that his doctrine, his concepts, are sufficient to grasp the real conditioning of the world or determination of the world, and hence that these concepts are objectively valid. He must claim that his concepts are prescribed by the real conditions that are immanently transcendental, and not simply devised as useful though unverifiable abstractions extrapolated from personal or collective intuition.
The philosopher, in short, must suppose not only a transcendental immanence as unity of condition and conditioned (in Harman’s case, conditions would be ‘object’, ‘substance’, ‘intention’, ‘occasion’, et cetera, whereas the conditioned is the empirical data given to the philosopher as worldly mixture of thought and world), but must, moreover, claim that this immanence is adequately or sufficiently given by way of its explanatory division into condition and conditioned, or concept and object, or faktum and datum. In other words, the philosopher must claim that this original unity which is separated and then re-united or synthesized is attested or expressed in this synthesis in thought (synthesis of concept and object), that it is adequately or sufficiently (if not exhaustively) given by way of thought, which is to say, philosophical explanation or interpretation.
This decisional structure takes on many forms: it can posit Being as condition and beings as conditioned, or the One as condition and multiplicity as condition, or Multiplicity as condition and ‘ones’ as conditioned, or Nothingness as condition and existence as conditioned, or Difference as condition and diversity as conditioned… In Harman’s case, Substantial form as condition and intentional object as conditioned. In every case, however, there is a third term which mitigates this separation by not only synthesizing it, but thereby attaining the original unity of absolute immanence that is relativized in separation. This term may be explicitly conceptualized or taken for granted, its degree of visibility within a theory is variable, but it is nonetheless always presupposed. For example, in Heidegger it is Dasein, or later, Ereignis, as the synthesis or co-belonging of Being and beings. For Deleuze, it is the Intensive spatium or plane of consistency as synthesis of Virtual and Actual. For Harman it is the occasion as synthesis of real and intentional object.
In every case, this third is what non-philosophy calls ‘the One’ as that originary unity that is separated and synthesized by philosophical decision. Decision not only operates on the One and by way of the One, using it as presupposition to mitigate its abstract separation of condition from conditioned, but moreover claims, in synthesis, to ‘reattain’ it. It claims that the synthesis of concept and object is adequate to their pre-analyzed unity, or that the artificial synthesis of transcendental thought and immanent hybridity of thought-world is convertible or reciprocal with the originary One.
This ‘One’ must be distinguished from numerical or quantitative oneness, although the latter is certainly one possible figure of the former. This One can equivocally name Difference, or Multiplicity, or the Other, or whatever else, so long as it is thought as encompassing and absolute immanence, the ‘one’ immanence that contains all differentiation and separation. It is used by philosophical decision as the basis of the latter’s prescriptive relevance and authority: philosophical explanation of the world is, moreover, an explanation of explanation itself, it explains how thought separates itself from what it explains and yet is reconciled to it. It explains how the One passes through separation into condition and conditioned and finally, in philosophy, is fulfilled in synthesis. Yet philosophy itself posits this presupposition, from which it claims to derive its authority.
This authority, which is also the faith of the philosopher in the adequacy of his thought to the pre-separated immanence of the One, defines the activity of every philosophical system, however vague or unsystematic it may appear (Nietzsche, for example). The systematization of concepts refers finally to the the self-authorization of philosophy, which presupposes a higher authority only to grant that very authority to itself. Without this presupposition, no philosopher would be capable of claiming that his concepts are better than others, they are more correct, more sufficient. No philosopher would be able to claim, for example, that ‘discrete individual objects’ is the most adequate characterization of the real, more so than a continuum, a void, or a relational totality.
The Non-philosophical Use of Philosophy (One-in-One, or the Real)
Enter non-philosophy. First of all, non-philosophy does not seek to criticize philosophy, to challenge it or denounce it, to destroy it or humble it. Non-philosophy is content to take the practice of philosophy, historically as well as contemporaneously, as a given, as a datum or object of investigation. Non-philosophy seeks to reduce philosophical decisions to indifferent materials, rather than authoritative theories. And for what purpose? To put it simply, the auto-authoritative structure of philosophy demands that any use of a philosophical theory or concept itself be philosophical, that it justify itself in terms of a (presupposed) absolute to which it must be adequate. Without such an authorized and authoritative use, philosophical materials are nothing but fanciful fictions which, though perhaps useful at times, are no better than mythic or religious fictions, which of course also have a certain pragmatic value.
Non-philosophy, on the other hand, opens the possibility of a non-authoritative use of philosophy that, for all that, does not collapse it into a convenient fiction. Whereas the philosopher uses philosophy in a philosophical way, non-philosophy is shorthand for a non-philosophical use of philosophy. Hence, while non-philosophy begins as an explanatory theory of philosophy, the former, in taking philosophy as its empirical material, nonetheless makes use of philosophy, and is finally nothing but philosophy itself as non-decisional or non-authoritative. Non-philosophy does not wish to put an end to philosophy, but to liberate it from its self-imposed strictures; it is not merely an explanation of philosophical theories, but a way of using philosophy itself, qua creation of concepts, in a manner wholly alien to philosophical authority (conceptual adequacy to the real).
How does non-philosophy achieve this other use of philosophy, without thereby giving way to pragmatic relativism? It begins with the One, which for philosophy is the operator of synthesis. Yet rather than positing the One as original unity which philosophy separates and then reunites, non-philosophy begins by positing the One as without separation, or as already separated from the dyadic separation and synthesis, or cleavage, of thought and the world (which non-philosophy calls the Thought-World). The One as radical immanence is no longer split up into two parts which are then mixed together, but is itself already split off from every splitting. It is not the original unity of these two parts, but rather, is without unity and without parts. It is not a plane of consistency, nor is it inconsistent multplicity, for it is without consistency, separated from consistency without being separated into consistency and inconsistency, on the basis of either.
There are no predications of the One, there are no conceptual values assigned to it, because the legislation of such values already supposes the separation of thought from the world. The One is that which is already given without being given by way of a concept. It is not deduced by thought, but already given without deduction. While philosophy may appropriate the One for its own use, to authorize it and validate it, it only does so in an illusory way, employing a concept of the One rather than the One itself, which is without appropriation.
The One-without-unity and without-consistency, which is to say, without-concept, is already separated from the philosophical amphiboly of thought and world, or the Thought-World. Hence, the two constitute a Duality, yet this duality is not reconciled in a synthesis. Philosophy is capable of synthesizing its dyad only by doing so on the basis of an illusory appropriation of the One. Yet because the One is already separated from the dyad without being separated in and by the dyad, this Duality is also without-distinction, in that the One is already distinct from the Thought-World even while thought cannot distinguish itself from the former. Philosophy imagines that it already includes the One, that it is sufficient to the One, that its transcendental synthesis is ultimately identical to the One-as-unity. Yet the One is Identity (to) itself, and not the identity ‘of’ philosophy, nor identical ‘to’ its synthesis.
Unilateral Duality and Determination-in-the-last-instance
Because the One distinguishes itself from the Thought-World without the latter distinguishing itself from the it, we say that their duality is a unilateral duality, a duality that goes from the One to the World, but not reciprocally back to the One from the World. The World (which is ultimately another name for philosophy) is determined by the One, given by the One, but does not in turn give the One or determine the One. Because this determination is not reciprocated, we say that the One (or the Real) determines the World in-the-last-instance, akin to the manner in which, for Marxism, the economy determines superstructure by giving it and constituting its unsurpassable horizon, even without directly determining or ‘deciding’ its contents.
The One unilaterally determines the World in-the-last-instance as mixture of thought and world on one hand, and as their transcendental separation and synthesis, on the other hand. Or in other words, the One gives philosophy without philosophy in turn giving the One. The One is necessary, though insufficient, for philosophy (because philosophy requires a decision as well). Non-philosophy begins by submitting philosophy, taken as a material, to this determination-in-the-last-instance which it denies. Yet if philosophy is already really submitted to this unilateral determination, if the One is already really foreclosed to philosophical concepts and the decisions that determine them, then why do we need non-philosophy? The answer is that non-philosophy seeks to suspend philosophy’s self-declared sufficiency to the One, so as to render the decisional structure inoperative. Once inoperative, the philosophy becomes a pure material without prescribed or authorized use.
Vision-in-One, Cloning, and the Force (of) Thought
Again, if this foreclosure is already really operative on philosophical decision, then how does non-philosophy submit the latter to the former? How can it claim to do what is already accomplished? The answer is that, while the One is already really foreclosed to philosophy, non-philosophy accomplishes the transcendental effectuation of this foreclosure: it registers this foreclosure within the transcendental apparatus of philosophy itself. It does this by beginning from the One, by installing itself in the position of the One’s separation, so as to see philosophy in view of its unilateral duality. This unilateral gaze upon philosophy is called vision-in-One. Yet far from pretending to ‘be’ the One, to see for it or speak for it, vision-in-One sees philosophy according to the One or ‘alongside’ the One. For this reason, the vision-in-One is operative at a transcendental level, it is like a ‘clone’ of the One, or a transcendental organon that attaches itself to philosophy without synthesis.
Non-philosophy accomplishes this by locating the illusory One of synthesis presupposed by philosophy within a given decision, taken as occasional cause (or sufficient but non-necessary condition of non-philosophical thought). It then separates from the illusory One the One (in) itself, or the Real in-One, and installs itself as this separation which constitutes a transcendental horizon for philosophy itself. Non-philosophy thus clones the immanence hybridized in philosophical decision, so as to effectuate its transcendental foreclosure. This amounts to a kind of intervention upon a decision that registers within it that which was already the case, but which decision had to deny. This transcendental registration of real foreclosure is accomplished by ‘cloning’ the One-as-concept of the decision, in the form of a non-conceptual symbol for the One-without-concept. The decision in question, now placed under the transcendental sign of real foreclosure, is alleviated of its illusory sufficiency to the Real, and is instead seen-in-One as unilaterally given by the Real, without reciprocity.
The transcendental effectuation of this unilateral duality, accomplished though a non-conceptual symbol cloned from the decisional amphiboly of the real and concept, is performed (without-performance) by non-philosophical thought as a transcendental organon that, unlike philosophical thought, which is always capable of transcending and encompassing itself through the meta-, is more like the force (of) thought (without thought), a thought according to the real, acting on behalf of the real, rather than a thought that is of the real according to itself and on behalf of itself. While non-philosophical thought is still thought, it is, as force (of) thought, not a thought of or about anything worldly, but a kind of force exerted by thought that enacts or registers the separation of the One from itself and the world.
Using Philosophy According to the Real (Unified Theory of Philosophy and Science, and Effective Utopia)
The suspension of decisional sufficiency is univocally applicable to all philosophical decisions, and hence constitutes a kind of universalized syntax (or uni-tax) capable of translating all philosophical concepts in-the-last-instance. This is not a translation of one philosophy into another, but rather, a translation of any and all philosophy according to the Real, a universal decipherability or legibility seen-in-One. There is thus no universal philosophical language, but only a universalization and generalization of philosophical lexicons as materially equivalent for thought, insofar as they are given-in-the-last-instance by the Real and according to the Real. This material equivalence is also that of use, insofar as the materials yielded by all decisions, once suspended, become equivocally determined according to the Real.
This latter point is crucial, if we are to finally elucidate what a non-philosophical use of philosophy can do. Because the elements of philosophical decisions (concepts, for the most part), once released or at least disengaged from their decisional determination, no longer pretend to sufficiently explain, or determine, or give the Real, but rather, are posited as given according to the Real, concepts themselves become equivocally real materials for use. The conceptual contents of all philosophical doctrines, insofar as the latter have been adequately suspended and so the former adequately cloned, become the material of an experimental theoretical practice and practical theory, and no longer the instruments of a theory of practice and practice of theory. Concepts and theories, no longer sutured to their explanatory sufficiency, becomes the subject of an experimental use. This experimentation is performed on the basis of a new experience of the Real or of radical immanence itself, insofar as it is now a matter of an experience of (philosophy or the world given according to) the Real. It is this experience according to the One, or vision-in-One, that opens up a radically non-intuitive thought, for which concepts no longer function as conditions, but as ‘fracalizers’ capable of inducing unprecedented forms of experience, just as the telescope and microscope did so for the natural sciences.
Non-philosophy then constitutes a unified theory of philosophy and science, as it suspends philosophy’s pretentious claims upon the real, which in the past have always led to confrontations in which philosophy aimed to ‘ground’ science, or ‘subsume’ it, or deny it, or challenge it, or at least supplement it. Non-philosophy, on the contrary, as a use of philosophy, no longer seeks to explain the Real, but rather, like science, seeks to explain empirical phenomena through experimental testing and constant negotiation amongst disparate theories. For non-philosophy, philosophy itself becomes the empirical phenomena to be explained, experimented with, and theorized. The non-philosopher no longer claims privileged access to the Real, but rather, like science, confines itself to a kind of empirical pragmatics determined according to the Real. Good science never claims privileged access to the Real, but only the best available theory of how given phenomena work, while always leaving the determination in the hands of the Real (in-the-last-instance). This is why, for the scientist, the results of an experiment always take precedence over the hypothesis: determination is ultimately left in the hands of the Real, not in those of the theory.
As we can see, non-philosophy offers a universal pragmatics of philosophy, or a use of philosophy that is not itself determined according to philosophy. This is a use not only of philosophical materials taken as given, but philosophy itself taken as the means of production of conceptual materials. No longer constricted to their ‘authorized’ or ‘official’ use, the concepts and theories belonging to the history and future of philosophy are no longer pitted in an aimless and endless war of decision against decision, doctrine against doctrine, philosopher against philosopher. Rather, they are liberated of this vain toil and free to be used according to the Real. And as man himself is, in the flesh, given according to the Real as well, this use is determined according to the Real in-man or in-person, rather than man-as-philosopher. The question of this use according to man is also, finally, the question of a utopian use. Not a hypothetical, imaginary, or regulative idea of utopia, but an effective utopia as already given according to the Real, rather than according to decision.