Notes on Non-Philosophy
Self and Subject
The distinction here is obviously theoretical since neither of these bear an essence outside of their overdetermination by philosophy, which for its part is not very good at distinguishing the two. The self is as Kiekegaard defined it, “a relation that relates itself to itself”; that self-relating relation is then grounded in a “third,” namely, the power that establishes or grounds or institutes or supports the relation (in Kiekegaard’s case, God). At stake is obviously its possibility, its “Seinkönnen,” and this doesn’t have to just be about humans. This 2/3 structure (dyad relation + basis, a ‘transcendental technology’) is replicated in many places and this is what it interests me to analyze. Agamben for example goes very far in following the critique of self as substance, essence, ground, identity, and he robs the self of any pre-existence in general, but this is only to intensify the structure and its power. The habit-self is in relation to bodies, languages, landscapes, and the world, but all of these instances nonetheless enter into a use-of-oneself (dyad of self-with-other) which remains “self”-compositional and moreover auto-articulating, auto-constituting, etc. The third instance is in a way philosophy itself: the Homo Sacer series ends with a reaffirmation of the Platonic soul in the guise of form-of-life.
Similarly, though Heidegger may not have an explicit dogma of the self, there is clearly (cf., the Trakl essaies) a thematic of the soul and its pain/sadness, a theme explicitly tied to “its precious relation to the word,” “its flaming vision,” where, “the spirit of apartness determines how great this greatness [of the soul] is.” These allusions also make his purported critique of the “subject” seem a bit thin; it is once again a correction, in the name of another essence, albeit a “coming” one, on a new horizon of thinking, etc. What matters here is not a critique of a texts but a reduction of the power of these systems and self-protocols. Following Laruelle, we find it hard to see how this can be achieved with a mere shuffle of terms, that is, through a solution that would come from and return to the philosophizable (which the Real is not).
Subjectivity is trickier because it depends on the theory you consult, and we know many “reductions.” Psychoanalysis sought a “subject of science,” radicalizing certain elements of the cogito while tending to catch it in a topology / transcendental net once again: the chain of signifiers, the order of discourse, the symbolic, all the way out to the ontological constitution of reality, albeit as the point of its incompletion or inherent gap (Zizek). Here the subject is brought to its void point but it remains a void-(self-)referral, where excess over itself = excess over the All. Thus all the narration in Lacan of his own history: “I, the truth, (half-)speak,” or “So, you will have heard Lacan.” The self-performance, this third-person reference, is not accidental to the symbolic chain that is behind it, since what is at stake is the subject’s (non-)place in it and the long trail of decentering (“symbolic death”) it is destined to undertake as “subject of the signifier” (or in Zizek’s case, as the “undead” participating in the life of the Holy Spirit beyond all biological life). One must look at the self-narration in philosophers, i.e., to the Greek-tragic essence of philosophy in its self-system that is sometimes modulated by the Other with a Job-Christ weariness. Personological admissions are inextricable from their philosophical presuppositions (as Derrida’s circonfession demonstrates) even when they seem at odds with the explicit positions they lead to.
Non-philosophy for its part seeks not a subject of science but a subject-science or a Generic Subject with its lived occasion of practice, but in no way referring to self, stemming from it, or returning to an “in itself” [en soi]. The subject would have its relevance only as a transcendence each time one time fallen in-immanence, yet not through an operation coming from itself or doubling itself as itself immanent; it would be “transformed” into the Last Instance, a more radical reduction than the phenomenological kind because no longer structured by a transcendental Ego-World structure, an auto-hetero-affection, or any sort of experiencer tied to “its” object (Life, Affectivity, etc.). Non-philosophy is the ‘strongest’ method for such a reduction which is hinted at in so many other philosophies but that, because of what is congenital to them (double transcendence), was never really allowed. Still, if there is a reduction in this subject-science, it is not due to a decision but to radical immanence.
The Precession of Radical Immanence Over… X
Non-philosophy aims to be a science of philosophy that does not begin with or found itself on philosophy, not on any founding figure or on a thought perhaps once glimpsed but now forgotten and in need of guarding or protecting qua logos or poetic saying (Heidegger). Here the only “exit” from philosophy is by way of an a priori “never entering into it.” This is reflected in the axiom: the immanent Real is indifferent to the transcendental, and so to philosophy, which is a transcendental technology. This axiom establishes the immanent precession of the Real over philosophy and its correlate = X. Immanence is “primary-without-priority,” a priority that philosophy as the form-world or as form-of-experience retains.
Non-philosophy is not a destruction or rejection of philosophy, but a confrontation with it as a problem, or rather, as a general system of resistance to or avoidance of immanence. The goal is to recognize philosophy’s relative autonomy “from” the radical autonomy of the One, such that any philosophy is purely transcendental, purely theoretical if you will, without presuming to correspond to any Real but corresponding only to the “side” of logos, or to “what is” (One “and” Multiplicity) and our knowledge of it. What is suspended is the pretension of knowledge of the Real, as well as the presumption that thinking has any reciprocal effect on the Real, or gives/receives the Real, or by extension that the Real is “instantiated” somehow.
The passage through science, through axioms, through the “first terms” (One, One-in-One, etc.) is necessary for the ‘destruction’ of metaphysics to not be contained “within itself,” like a self-critique or a deconstruction. In other words, the recourse or reference to philosophy is invalidated or disempowered by the Real itself, and immanently. This strategy is motivated by the insufficiency of the philosophical solution: not a going beyond, an overturning, or a revelation, but again an a priori never-having-been-in. This is the “experiential content” of vision-in-One. For this to not just be another auto-positioning “from outside,” it is clear that an axiom of radical immanence is needed and to draw its consequences not from but with(out) and “for” philosophy (which retains here its usefulness as a hermeneutic of this experience and of the form-world insofar as these necessarily pass through “philosophy” in the broadest sense [Seinsfrage]).
Non-philosophy is a theoretical pragmatics or a theoretical usage of knowledges, rather than another knowing of objects of knowledge. It does not take the subject as an object, but assumes it as generic by immanence. Whether drawing from science or philosophy or any other discipline, the aim is to use knowledge (i.e., to use the lived) “in defense” of radical immanence, and to do so not through a “philosophy of immanence,” but through a theory that is in itself non-epistemological and non-phenomenological but “forced” by the Real, “forced” precisely as transcendental. The axiom that the Real is foreclosed to knowledge a priori is what liberates theory into an autonomous sphere. Suspending the philosophical decision (whereby “each philosopher claims to posses the universal language of thought and of the Real”), non-philosophy is forced to pursue a thought “decided” instead by the essence of the Real, in a language-without-discourse or in words-without-language, a language “according to the Real and in-One.” It would seem like Laruelle has simply “put in place” these axioms, but one must grapple with the problem posed here, namely, how can philosophy “itself” (and not just a particular philosophy) become the object of a science? How will non-philosophy avoid becoming another meta-philosophy that only uses other philosophies to interpret its own? What perspective, what “outside” of philosophy, can accomplish that task? The answer is set with vision-in-One and the “non-thetic experience of the Real,” of the Real as a priori in precession over all transcendence, any order of Being, any language, and moreover not in any sort of “negative” relation to these (and it is also not right to say that these take place “in the Real” but, more simply and non-englobingly, that they have their radical Identity in the Real or in-One).
This is in a sense the weakest neutralization imaginable, one that philosophy by definition resists. Ultimately, such a theory doesn’t “ground” itself or grounds itself only in its objective appearance. Philosophy’s power of determination is weakened when seen “from the Real” that determines it in the Last Instance, that determines it precisely as a priori transcendental and thus without relation to the Real — the Real which is never a mixture of immanence and transcendence, and most definitely not an absolute or unconditional transcendence like it may appear; this is a doubling that would bring it back under thought’s control and would again miss its “radically immanental” essence. If there is a power in the non-philosophical critique, it is only this weak power, “exerted” by the Real through the relative causality it finds in theory, yet not “effected” by non-philosophy, which is only an occasion for determination in-the-last-instance by the Real. “The being of things” or beingness has nothing to do with the Real and has no impact on it, whereas the Real “under-determines” the being of things, but only in the last instance. One starts “in” the One or in-One, each time one time, with no “move” to difference. Multiplicities are instead understood from their radical identity in-One, and this is supposed to set up a new “equality” of thoughts (as clones, fractals, superpositions of vision-in-One).
What is most important, here, is the impact of all this on the “subject,” reduced from its self-reflexive, living-dying form, to a simple phenomenal given-in-One. It does not have to be torn from itself, but is already lived-without-life. It simply appears in-immanence as an occasion of the Last Instance, whereas in philosophy it always remains stuck in a structure of exappropriation whose horizon is an impossible recuperation, most often in the “other” (which it can be for itself): absentions, disappearances, renunciations, sacrifices, projections, leaps, tearings, exscriptions… Certainly there is a different distribution of terms and relations between systems of self in philosophy, but this is precisely all it is, a distribution of terms and relations. It remains tortured and it performs its torture, which it has to affirm in order to find “itself,” narrating its loss of itself from its narrative, the human narrative of its own self-dethroning (de-anthropocentrizing) as well as the more soulful Abschied (dying, de-sisting, assumption of symbolic death, etc).
Non-philosophy approaches these narratives/systems as simple materials or transcendental knowings which are all equal(ly debased) when seen-in-immanence. They are not planted or uprooted and pertain not to a living-dying being or self or body but only to a generic subject of the last instance, or to a lived-without-life. They lack coordination or assembly by the decisional, intentional, positional philosopher who would think himself in the system, in-possibility or in-the-World. When Agamben talks about bodies and their bodies, he is talking about “real things,” but a purely transcendental theory does not contain this pretension, this presupposition of linkage between logos/knowledge (of beings and their relations: being-in-language) and the Real. For the Real is under-coming, im-mediate, it “under-is,” if you like (this is to indicate it as Given-without-givenness). There is an element of abstraction here that is shared with mathematics but without its equally problematical presupposition to “reduce the Real to a letter” (Lacan) or to capture the Real directly through formalization (mathematical sufficiency); it is motivated rather by the transcendental identity of the force of thought which is a simple occasion for the Last Instance and, thereby, an organon for philosophy’s transformation.
The Inalienable One
One of the distinctions constantly drawn by non-philosophy is between the unified One and the unitary One. Philosophy is rooted in the latter, a One that is recomposed after a division and is thus a divided Unity (One-of-Being(s), the All, the One-All, the World, lots of variations). In non-philosophy, the Undivided or the unified has an a priori, immanent precession over division/unification no matter how it is pictured by thought. Thus the distinction between One-in-One and One-of-One or the count-as-one. The business of thingifying or “being-izing” the One and making it a One “in itself” (for example, comparing it to statements like, “Das Ding bedingt” or “Das Eins einigt”) is totally contrary to the axioms and thus to the practice of non-philosophy; it tries to give the One a transcendence and a relationality to “reality” that it doesn’t have; it tries to make it a conditioner or creator of phenomena or things; and other sorts of double transcendence.
Determination in the last instance does not mean the Real determines what X is: not in the mode of determining X’s essence, or letting X be in its existence, or giving X as real or autonomous, or “placing” X in-place, etc. It rather determines X in its radical in-One-identity, that is, as immanently “in” the Undivided (of course only in the last instance). The Real does not condition phenomena; it signifies rather the Determined in precession over determination from thought or of things, a precession that is not superceded or surpassed but that is each time one time immanent (the Last Instance). The “rigor” involved here is to treat this immanence in an immanent fashion (“in-One”) and not simply design another “philosophy of immanence” that would turn it into a mix with some transcendent instance; indeed, this is the temptation of philosophy and it can only be warded off with oraxioms like: “Non-philosophy has no identifiable effect outside of its immanent exercise.” As force (of) thought, it is only a transcendental organon for the transformation of philosophy and science (knowing being in general). The One is not alienated in this organon, but it can counteract philosophy by drawing from the One an immanent non-acting (this the “messianity” of thinking). Force (of) thought does in a sense “reduce the human (self) to its purely experimental (non) existence” (Fontini) but, to be more precise, this is not caused by thought but by the Real of-the-last-instance, which impossibilizes the self in an immanent fashion.