Notes on Non-Philosophy
Self and Subject
The distinction between self and subject is to be taken here theoretically, since neither of these terms bear an essence outside of their overdetermination by philosophy, which for its part is not always so good at distinguishing them. The self is as Kiekegaard defined it, “the self is a relation relating itself to itself”; that self-relating relation is then grounded in a third instance, namely, the power that establishes or grounds the relation (self), which Kiekegaard calls God. At stake is obviously the self’s possibility, its “Seinkönnen” insofar as it exists as a possibility. This 2/3 structure (dyad relation + basis) is replicated in many places and this is what it is of interest. Agamben for example goes very far in 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 its structure and its power. The habit-self is in relation to bodies, languages, landscapes, and world; but all of these are only really “there” through what is called a use-of-oneself (dyad of self and other) which remains “self”-compositional, auto-articulating, auto-constituting, auto-desiring, etc. The third instance in this case is again philosophical: the Homo Sacer series ends with a reaffirmation of the Platonic soul in the guise of form-of-life, a third instance attesting to the duality-without-opposition between natural life and political life, zoe and bios–between the facts of a life and the life through which one lives one’s life. This 2/3 structure can in fact be detected everywhere in philosophy.
Similarly, although Heidegger may not have an explicit dogma of the self, there is clearly (cf., the Trakl essays) 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 (finitude) on a new horizon of thinking. 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 transcendence, and so to philosophy, which is in a sense a technology of transcendence, even when it mixes it with a real and/or ideal immanence of transcendence. This axiom establishes the immanent precession of the Real, which is not philosophizable, over philosophy and its correlate = X as philosophizable. Immanence is “primary-without-priority,” a priority that philosophy as the form-world or as form-of-experience retains; but now those forms–let us broadly call them self-constraints–are “deflated,” stripped of their trascendence, and thus stripped of their pretension to determine or decide the Real, which “precedes” over them as a priori and in-immanence primacy of the Determined or the Undecided.
Non-philosophy is not a destruction or rejection of philosophy, but a confrontation with it as a problem, as a general system of resistance to or avoidance of generic immanence. The goal is to recognize philosophy’s relative autonomy “from” the radical autonomy of the One of-the-last-instance, yet without mixing the two. Philosophy — and more broadly, all thought, including science — is now seen-in-One, i.e., as foreclosed to radically immanence and thus, in its essence, purely transcendental, without presuming to correspond to any Real but corresponding only to the “side” of logos, or to “what is” 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 determining effect on the Real, or gives/receives the Real, or by extension that the Real is “instantiated” or “effected” somehow by thought. What is at stake is to “use” the relative autonomy of thought to accord the Real its radical primacy over it.
The passage through science, through axioms, through “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. 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 an a priori never-having-been-in. This is the “experiential content” of vision-in-One, and the most difficult task is to find a form of thinking that corresponds to it, it being understood that the One itself is not “implicated” in this thinking, in that the latter is now seen-in-One to be purely transcendental. 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) philosophy (which retains here its usefulness as a hermeneutic for this experience and for the form-world insofar as these necessarily pass through “philosophy” in the broadest sense [die Seinsfrage]).
Non-philosophy is a theoretical pragmatics or a theoretical usage of knowledges, rather than another knowing of objects of knowledge. 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 nothing-but-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 philosophy “itself” (and not just a particular philosophy) can 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” it designates, of the Real as a priori in precession any transcendental = X and over all transcendence of ego or self, any order of Being, any language, and yet not in any sort of “negative” relation to these. (For it is not right to say that these take place “in the Real” but, more simply, 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, because it strips decision of is pretension to determine the Real. Ultimately, such a theory doesn’t “ground” itself at all, but lets itself be (un)grounded, seen in its radical absurdity and contingency. Philosophy’s power of determination is weakened when seen “in the Real” because it is now the Real that determines thought in-the-Last-Instance, that determines it precisely as a priori transcendental and thus without-relation to the Real which is never a mixture of immanence and transcendence, and most definitely not an absolute or unconditional transcendence like it may appear; that 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 the force (of) thought, which is only an occasion for determination in-the-last-instance by the Real. One starts “in” the One or in-One, each time one time, with no “move” into being. Nor is there an alienation of thought or in the transcendental: non-thetic experience of the One is lived, inseparably and without ‘distance’ between the One and lived. Multiplicities are thus understood from their radical in-One-identity, and this 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 philosophical subject, the occasion for thought that philosophy provides, which is here reduced 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 constantly folds over itself, doubles itself into a self-transcending transcendence; thus it remains stuck in a structure of self-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, withdrawals… Certainly there is a different distribution of terms and relations between systems of self in philosophy, but this is precisely what it is, a distribution of terms and relations and “differences.” Even more strongly, the double-transcendence of self constrains thought to the torture of endless reflection and auto-position in division; 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 as well as the more soulful Abschied (dying, de-sisting, assumption of symbolic death, etc).
Non-philosophy approaches these self-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 an a priori 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 souls 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 (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, as an organon for philosophy’s transformation and the liberation of generic human productive resources from their self-constraints.
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 into the One “in itself” (for example, comparing it to statements like, “Das Ding bedingt” or “Das Eins einigt”) is contrary to the axioms and thus to the practice of non-philosophy– contrary because 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.
But determination in-the-last-instance does not mean the Real determines what X “is,” nor our knowledge of X: 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 “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. The One is not alienated in this organon, for it does not ‘decide’ the One in any way; but it can counteract philosophy by drawing from the One its immanent non-acting (the “messianity” of thinking). Force (of) thought does in a sense “reduce the human (self) to its purely experimental (non) existence” (Fontini), but this is not caused by thought but by the Real of-the-last-instance which impossibilizes the self in an immanent fashion.