The Specter of Non-Philosophy, by François Laruelle
What will we bring to the light of day? Between eternal thinkers and armchair philosophers, between an announced death and an excess of communication, between a permanent coup d’Etat and democratic chattering and gossip, we know the song. It is useless to join the choir once one has understood that we philosophers are cyclothymic, bipolar. At least beyond our personal taste for opera and philosophical variety, there is no choice to be made between a defense of ancient figures and the vanity satisfied by opinions, where the academic repetition that occupies the middle-ground only functions to assure its economic survival. The refoundation of philosophy reminds us of capitalism’s, its defense lets us believe it’s under threat, its scholarly embalming makes us believe it was living.
Move, philosophy! Like the gnostics, and before being crushed by the cynicism of the State, the lies of the Church, the necessity of Survival, it is perhaps again time to invent our more rigorous mythology! Why is philosophy, which verges on madness and invents such beautiful, ambitious systems, finally so sage, if not because it has prudently come to a stop mid-way? It invents inside its own codes; there are constantly even new “great” thinkers. Yet it seems fascinated by its own movement, siderailed by its own greatness, sunk in contemplation of its monuments, which is mirrored in its Ideal of the ego, which it calls Absolute. It has everything of the premature and incomplete individual who must try several times to be born, who continues to reject its placenta but without reaching itself, and decides suddenly to affirm itself once and for all. Yet it has neither the controlled surety of science nor the pig-like certitude of opinions. Science without being science, poetry without being poem, political without real power, its permanent hesitation induces the coup de force of the Impossible.
Faced with this situation without exit, one of non-philosophy’s objectives is to attempt to formalize the rules of an ultra-philosophical invention, starting from the philosophical model. What we call following others a generic gesture, thinking as “radical” but not absolute, is a type of inventive “forcing” opposed to the permanent coup de force of philosophy. Why would it be necessary to philosophize without the received and verified codes? We don’t want to add one philosophy to the others, nor to simply withdraw or retreat, but to produce “from” the quasi-philosophical, be it in bits, pieces or fragments, or like a new spectrality instead of the left-over stench of the old spectacle. The radiating specter of philosophy is already narrow enough, perhaps it is possible to spread its spectrality, to vary its nuances. What is a fiction in the neighborhood of philosophy, a philo-fiction? One of non-philosophy’s ambitions would be to create a new theoretical genre, philo-fiction with its political, ethical, and artistic affects pertaining. Another combination of science and fiction, less literary perhaps, more conceptual, less naively technological and more theoretical, coming to “accomplish” the ancient Law of philosophy rather than deny it…
Still it would have to possess the key of spectral invention and look toward science. The difficulty with the non-philosophical imperative is evident, how to get past the Platonic aporias of philosophical knowledge? Why not go to a certain limit already practiced elsewhere, up to those philosophers “without” a work [oeuvre], that is, the works [uvre] of a certain non-action. Can we imagine non-philosophers who would put their energy into inventing their powerlessness to invent? After all, why not make of our powerlessness a work or a doctrine? By definition, it does not belong to us to simply formulate a generic imperative, or even recipes, but we also do not want to dishearten rebellious wills; this would be a political ideal. One must seek out models in other practices, sciences, literature, and science-fiction; there is a minimum of procedures and means to get us on our way, faults or interstices of the earlier philosophy, actual excesses, ludic aspects, bricolages, parallel philosophies today. The idea is obviously to introduce a certain rigor of rules, and to prove an example of reflection on the conditions of invention. But perhaps if the term non-philosophy poses too many problems, produces too much fear or too many smiles, then “non-standard philosophy” would be just as meaningful and more open, but always on the base of a closure or a “non” that is decidedly inevitable.
François Laruelle, May 17, 2009
Trans. Timothy Lavenz, Oct 4, 2016