Levinas-Effects

Les effets-Levinas, by François Laruelle
trans. by Timothy Lavenz

Pointless to talk about and comment upon Levinas, an enterprise he does not tolerate very well and, besides, there are colloquia for that. In the most decisive part of his work, he himself does not comment upon a tradition of philosophy. Husserl and Heidegger only serve him as foils. It’s not even certain that he does a reading of phenomenology in the rabbinical style. He does something that some philosophers do but with many mediations and ruminations of style, of which Derrida gave us an idea. He registers and “translates” as closely as possible, annulling the translation, the trauma of the Shoah, echoing it immediately “with” or rather “in” the means of a language whose intelligibility is no longer classic, even if these means are paradoxically the effects or affects of a globally ontological mode of intelligibility. If we don’t want to think ourselves capable of appropriating him in an erudite commentary, we also have a duty to simply register some Levinas-effects, which are those of a text as inadmissible as it is irrefutable. Levinas is impossible: there it is, without delay, i.e., without différance, the point of the situation. He will have persecuted us, we philosophers. Regarding this Levinas-persecution, here are some traits:

1. He provided, for the first time, a conceptuality that seems to have the virtue of being mediating and rational, the clearest conceptuality possible for us “modern” philosophers who can now access a certain non-degrading intelligence of Judaism. He gave us a common language, created a language that was not the vernacular language of philosophers but a language of intellectual commerce between the Jews and others. The social, economic, and therefore also ethical exchange is what unites us on both sides of Socrates and Christ. He created a way of speaking, a language perhaps, apparently mixed but without there being any mediation between these two faces. Logos and Torah are not recto and verso; they do not form a Möbius band. He who knows no mediation in fact gave us the Torah, but he had the skill to present it to us in a form that was acceptable for us. Between Jews and Greeks, there is a problem of indirect and even impossible communication, but he found a Judaic solution for it.

2. He put Judaism back on an equal level, even an equal level of competition, which it had not had for a long time, with the Greco-philosophical problematic; and he connected it up with our kind of problems in a way that Spinoza and Maimonides, for example, could not. Suddenly he fecundated every philosophy and ethic and tore them from their numb idleness; compelling us to crucial questions, he crucified Greek ontology. Thanks to him, the Moderns took new measure of the seriousness and originality of Judaism in thinking, and he rendered obsolete the ancient problematics of integration, assimilation, and Enlightenment, at the risk of authorizing a new philosophical communitarianism.

3. He has made a clear and intelligible work. Levinas, like Althusser and Lacan, is the translator and introducer of thoughts that had remained obscure to us. In Marxism, in psychoanalysis, and in Judaism, there has always been an opaque depth that gives rise to violences, persecutions, and resistances, but which their lucid work helped dissipate, in preparation for a “dialogue” which had remained very limited and full of misunderstandings. After these heralds of the “return to…” (is Levinas himself perhaps the herald of philosophical rationality’s return its source, the Torah?), philosophers who always manifest the same rejection against these three experiences of thought inherit the burden of proof—and it would be better if it were not a proof of their ignorance or bad faith.

4. Christians asked how to philosophize in Christ, with Christ. Levinas asks how to philosophize in the Torah, with the Torah. He is a religious thinker (an expression used for Lutherans like Hamann, Jacobi, and Kierkegaard) with the all-encompassing authority and primacy of religion, against the primacy of philosophy (and not only against some conceptuality proper to its system). He took advantage of the Logos in order to implant another word in it, another hyperbolicity, in excess or in exception: the affect of infinity. This effect is particular to a broader tradition of thinkers who use Christianity, Lutheranism, and/or Judaism to challenge the “great rationalism” of philosophical systems. Hamman is Kant’s protesting genius, Jacobi Fichte’s, Kierkegaard Hegel’s; but Levinas is the religious genius who hounded the whole of philosophy.

He therefore summons a double language, Logos and Torah, the one quite ontological, the other quite spontaneously ethical. He orders philosophy to the Torah, Logos to the Law. He showed that by subordinating philosophical language to the Torah it was possible to shake off the yoke of philosophy, not to think without philosophy but to think without its authority. He taught us to create this difference that philosophers don’t, and this opening is for us one of Levinas’ most enduring achievements. But he obviously did not deliver us from the Torah itself. Since he doesn’t much want to name “God” anyway, what is essential is the Torah and the Talmud, which are absolute representatives, not really intermediaries; it cannot be said that they mediate God or the Other for man. They are a milieu of exteriority, legality, sociability, perhaps of “presence,” which is enough to make us fear God, not to sense him, even less to anticipate him, but to fear him, the true content of the face to face, from the face to infinity [du face à l’infini]. Nothing in philosophy corresponds to this situation.

Derrida marks a regression in relation to Levinas, a return to a certain englobing authority of philosophy. His deconstruction of Levinas comes from there, and it almost is one but in a bad way, because it effaces Levinas’ violence by making it appear (same goes for Lacan). At the same time, it is a useful work. Derrida showed how problematic it was to liquidate not only philosophical materiality but even the simple authority of philosophy.

Derrida works with very complex presuppositions. He substitutes the Logos for the Torah or treats the philosophical text like a Talmud (Talmud of Athens…), but he remains within Judaic transcendence. In a sense, he is more of a philosopher than Levinas (he stays within the immanence of the text-Logos) and at the same time more Jewish in the Logos than him (the Logos is understood as letter or text or writing, which Levinas does not do). Derrida tightens the interval between Logos and Transcendence become archi-writing. Levinas treats the Logos as Logos, respects it and in a sense takes it as Logos; Derrida in fact treats it like the Talmud, while saying that it is the Logo, subjecting it to an initial violence. This is why, on the basis of this decision, he can claim to deconstruct Levinas. He supposes a common-being to the two discourses, to Levinas and to the Logos, a signified wherein they would recognize or agree with each other, as if Levinas’ “faith” was an affair of language or text in the sense that Derrida understands these words. The paradox is that the Torah is never a text; it is not valuable like a text comparable to other texts of philosophy; it is actually the Law, the absolute medium. What will become in Levinas a text of combat, somewhat comparable to the philosophical text, is the Talmud. The combat with the Logos will be engaged through these two “texts.” The need for two mediations-without-mediator, Law and Talmud, is perhaps what extreme transcendence or the infinite wants.

5. There is a general problem of the limit or leap in relation to a common plane of experience, whether it be in the absolute leap of philosophy, or in the leap of infinity in Judaism, or again in the radical but not absolute leap of non-philosophy. All of this must be distinguished. Philosophy is always impregnated with religion and crowned by theology, but the point is that it is always armed to regain the upper hand, to rework the accounts and draw once more the final stroke that will lead transcendence to immanence. But here with Judaism that was not possible, and philosophy was subordinated to ethics and Judaism; the latter was planted in Greek soil, but it tears the subject and tears itself beyond the ego in the violent mode of exception and election. Levinas exploited every power of transcendence, in a certain way he recreated the famous leap by passing to the limit, but “within” the limit as transcendence. He stiffened the neck of thought and the exception as universal. But this is a leap that isn’t one, except for someone who has put his faith in the Logos. Unless it’s a leap backwards [à rebours [1]] into my own responsibility, if this formula makes sense, and Levinas demands from us such a leap backwards, which does not annul the indefinite Platonic transcending but embeds it in an actual transcendence. This transcendence is special in that, by definition, it is always opening itself more, indefinitely, but Levinas makes the leap by “deciding” that the infinite is actual or is “One” and that it is what separates backwards. It resolves [régle] once and for all, perhaps one time each time, the neo-Platonic drift or hyperbolicity. It seems like the formula “beyond essence” is, in reality, ill-suited for Levinas, for it does not let the Judaic leap be made [2]. There is a danger and something a bit derisory in wanting, like Derrida, to re-logicize by re-textualising the absolute leap, particularly if it is made backwards, to want to bring it back within the text. It must be admitted that it is impossible to persuade a religious mind philosophically. Faced with infinity, Deconstruction remains a dead letter.

Hence in Levinas the extraordinary torsion of language where the metaphor is constantly summoned and destroyed by the very phenomenology that destroys the Face. Philosophy has always moved in this torsion, following a course of thought that folds back over itself, and the Christian-religious thinkers accentuated this violence. But Levinas adds ex-position to the torsion, he exposes, tearing the natural torsion of the concept. It’s a coup d’état in philosophy that is a double coup d’état here: the first is naturally philosophical and pertains to the philosophers of the Absolute, who are at bottom religious, this is a reversal; but the second is specifically Jewish, no longer an infinite reversal but an inversion in reverse where it is the infinite that inverts. The hyperbolicity of the process is ultimately backward. There is almost something more convincing in the texts of Difficult Freedom and the Talmudic Readings, which correspond better to the style of rabbinical and Jewish thought. The larger works often contain a forced allure. But the point is to create new effects through them in an old thinking. Without Levinas, without Lacan either, without Derrida following their trail, philosophy would have been very boring. We would have had to be content with the tasteless Christians, the irenic insipidness of Catholicism, the ecumenical blandness of Protestantism.

The thinker of extreme transcendence, but also the thinker of radical immanence, the Jew and the non-philosopher, are therefore opposed to philosophy, which only jumps at the indefinite end of the limit (and Derrida returns here); they direct every approach or process to an absolute or an actual leap that inverts their sense; they think against the current. But it must be seen later how the non-philosophical leap distinguishes itself from the Judaic leap and opposes itself to it as much as to the philosophical leap.

6. Levinas and Derrida divide up the realm of transcendence, that is to say, there is a lack or an absence in Levinas. No more than Michel Henry did with his ordering of radical immanence, and no more than thinkers of the extreme or the radical do in general, Levinas did not do the work of demonstrating this possibility of shaking up philosophy by using it and its means without its authority. It is Derrida who made this theory of Levinas, yet by refusing to abandon this authority and, as a result, deconstructing it. But Derrida did not keep Levinas’ promises and led him back to Reason. It is the measured revenge of philosophy, but it is indeed a revenge or a resumption of authority. Our problem is to create from these two halves, which have split contemporary philosophy, one single and unique thought that, consequently, would be neither a philosophy nor a separated religion, neither a Logos nor a Torah.

The problem is not to know if Levinas’ gesture is possible in a traditional philosophical sense, which would be to remain closed within philosophy (and at any rate, it is not possible), but to know to what extent and in what form it can help us, affect us enough to attempt a different gesture and a different leap outside of the Logos, but perhaps for it. However, it is not a matter of copying his rupturing effect. Generally, Judaism ought to be, like Greek paganism or Christianity, a model for the concrete, empirico-historical interpretation of non-philosophy. It is not the only one, since all philosophies are.

Non-philosophy is the practical theory that transforms, on the one hand, the revolutionary or imperialist overthrows, the philosophico-religious violence of the leap into the Absolute, and on the other hand, their textual digestion, their quasi-smoothing via deconstruction which, left to itself, truly became much too academically comfortable. It uni-fies them in an immanent way and thus unilaterally. Levinas has a liberating function, as we’ve said, for we who are enclosed within philosophy or in its “end” (which is the same thing). But the textual prudence and almost rabbinical meticulousness of Derrida tempered it, the one freed from philosophical authority, the other nuancing this liberation. They do not complete each other any more than other thinkers among them do; they make possible another thinking of which they are not the premise but simply the symptoms which have finally appeared. To make it intelligible that one can be set free in this way, bringing to the light the strongest reason why philosophy lets us justly free ourselves from the authority though not from the materiality of philosophy, this leads to a “dualysis” of philosophy, which owes more to these two authors than to psychoanalysis itself, even if it too leads very close to it.

7. The transcendence of the Other, the Face, is not a problem, it’s the most real point. It is not to be debated or, even worse, commented upon. The Other is an-hypothetical, but through itself, through the infinite or through God. Non-philosophy is a different choice. It crosses paths with Levinas, universalizing him not by inverting him a second time, since he already does that himself, but by leading the backward transcendence back to the heart of radical immanence. This transforms the axis of backward transcendence, which goes from the Other Man or from God to me, into an axis of immanence, it too backward, which goes from Man-in-person to the subject as Stranger or Messiah. Whether the Real is the infinity of God or the Other, or the intrinsic, radical finitude of Man-in-person, both are foreclosed to representation, thence a transcending backwards, which is the effect or consequence of a leap into the Real.

How do the One and the Other combine in these two cases, in the Other man as Autrui in the one, and in Man-in-Person as subject-Messiah in the other? The first articulates it in terms of a transcendence that “denies itself” in one point, while maintaining itself and inverting itself; the second articulates it in terms of an immanence for which transcendence is already denied and already given a priori by Man-in-person. It appears like the One is first, but in Levinas it is helped by the transcending that annuls itself in the leap, but which maintains itself as a religious link or as my responsibility; it is directly constitutive of me, indirectly of the Other, so this is still a unitary thinking. In non-philosophy, the One is helped by a transcending that also annuls itself but that, if it is maintained, is maintained as Other-in-reverse or as a priori, and furthermore as an objective appearance reduced by this a priori. Transcending is reabsorbed into the One in both cases, either Infinity or One-in-One, but it is refound either as Transcendence or separation backwards, as Torah for the Same, or as dualized in an a priori of the in-reverse and in a transcendental appearance. There is always a given, be it the Torah or the Logos, which adds itself to the non-relation between the Absolute and the ego, the Radical and the subject. Radical transcendence of infinity, radical immanence of Man-in-Person, this radical character separates Transcendence and Immanence from the world or their mixture. But a supplementary element is always necessary. The Torah gives shape to the world of humans, the Logos to the world of subjects.

8. From the Leap to the Coming. Transcendence is the philosophical law of the world. To be realized, it demands a supplement as leap into the Absolute, whether it is ontologico-classical or Judaic. To attain radical immanence, it demands, relative to philosophical transcending, a half-leap into the immanence of Man-in-person. Transcending only passes to the Absolute, as with all transcending, with a leap. But transcending only passes into radical immanence with a half-leap required by the non-place where Man-in-person has never jumped. Man-in-person is a without-jump [hors-saut] that only leaps for philosophy and its transcending, and only for it, “for” meaning in the eyes of transcendence as one says, “in the eyes of the world.” It is impossible to leap into immanence or into the radical like one leaps into the Absolute. Something like a half-leap has no meaning and is only possible when measured by transcendence. Similarly, what is given to the eyes of philosophy as the reverse of transcending is an inversion in Judaism, but the Inverse-without inversion in non-philosophy. In both cases the leap is a messianism, but we will oppose to the transcending messianism of Judaism the immanent messianity of Man-in-person as Coming or as grace. Because Man is given in one fell swoop, not as a leap but as a half-leap or grace in reverse, the subject-Stranger is at most unifacial for the world. Immanence is not given in the face-to-face, like the fear of God or responsibility. Man-in-person is not a God for the subject-Stranger, and the latter is not in a face-to-face with him but is instead the unique face that Man turns toward the world. Non-philosophy, delivering us from the responsibility for the Other as God, frees us as a responsibility for the world and the “Others” who sojourn there from afar. Released from the fear and trembling of the face-to-face such that they deduce themselves from Man-in-person, who is entirely in coming [tout de venue], subjects are the messiahs or Christs who consume/complete the world.

François Laruelle, May 30, 2006
from his Non-Philosophical Letters (2006-2010)
trans. Timothy Lavenz, April 2017

[1] I have chosen to translate à rebours with “backwards” and “in reverse,” depending on the context. This locution, however, has a wide semantic register, potentially meaning, “the wrong way,” “to the contrary,” “in the opposite direction,” and “against the grain.” Suffice it to say, non-philosophy’s reduction or weakening of transcendence has precisely to do with this “counterintuitive” sort of (non-)transcendence. Elsewhere, Laruelle refers to as a “simple transcending” which does not fold over itself or return to itself or form a circle with itself or transcend itself, but is simply immanence transcending itself to itself, one time each time, in-immanence. Recall also that in non-philosophy the Real is sometimes spoken of as the immanence of the Other-than…, thus radicalizing extreme transcendence but “locating” it in immanence. Aside from this note, we refer the reader to the book Philosophy and Non-philosophy for a fuller treatment of these issues.

[2] Laruelle implies that the “beyond” in the title of Levinas’ final major work, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, effectively recalls and echoes a forward-leaping, and thus philosophical, transcendence. His contention is that the Judaic, “backwards” leap at stake in Levinas has nothing to do with the philosophical leap-forward or leap-into. [Trans.]

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4 Responses to Levinas-Effects

  1. Pingback: Laruelle Bibliography (English & French) | Linguistic Capital

  2. Rex Styzens says:

    Thank you for this. Good to see the developing cross-discussion. This piece demands a lot of study, but it is a good explanation of Laruelle in a manageable context.

  3. patrickhoburgblog says:

    Sweet and subtle translation, Tim, but I hope you will allow me to let out some critical energy, which happens to land here!

    Laruelle seems so thoughtful, and I don’t want to be rude, but some of the claims strike me as unnecessarily dramatic and unnecessarily certain, though I appreciate drama of many kinds, so I’m conflicted in my critical engagement with Laruelle’s bizarre text. Why does Laruelle refer to ‘Levinas’? Where are the so-called effects of Levinas in this text? Many wonderful considerations, but of Levinas, very few. I don’t mean to be mean, but why are the carefully constructed arguments of Totality and Infinity and Otherwise than Being absent from Lauruelle’s text? What follows is a quick critique of this text. I’m motivated to respond not to do Levinas justice, which is beyond me, but to suggest in my own small way that straw people should not dictate us. What a pure intention! I’m open for critique, of course, as we all are. Thank you Tim, and Laruelle, for even caring enough to write!

    I must admit straightaway, I find the approach ‘cringe-worthy.’ Laruelle’s condemnation of commentary is egregious. The practice of commentary is super important to Levinas, especially when it comes to literature (religious and secular, Torah or early Tolstoy). I’ll get to Talmudic reading below, but gesh, why the hate for commentary? Thinkers needing to profile themselves by slamming others is not what I call a good read. Carry out a damn critique, if you must, but don’t just offer it in a passive-aggresive word or two as if everyone should trust you. For instance, there are very careful and dedicated readers of Levinas attempting to think his ‘philosophy’ through the paradoxes of the Möbius strip (e.g. Sandor Goodhart, Sol Nealy). What a cheap and quick shot to take, evincing a lack of credibility, not to mention poor awareness of Levinas literature out there. Am I alone in my sickness regarding the straw-person fallacy? Whenever I detect some strawmanning, I typically abort the effort, but your translation is too rewarding, Tim. You are of course such a careful thinker, and I don’t mean to implicate you.

    I continue my ridiculous critique, just releasing the energy.

    Is Torah spontaneously ethical? I’m flipping through my Nine Talmudic Readings, and notes, but nowhere is such spontaneity suggested, and yet Laruelle insists upon it. Torah reading is struggle, indeed, but the struggle is very intricately articulated, not spontaneous at all in its purpose — extemporaneous debate, for sure, but carefully ethical through and through. Not if, but what kind, of ‘ethical,’ I feel Levinas would wonder. Such nuances are important for any reading of anybody.

    Is Levinas really all that ‘clear and intelligible’? No way good people. Let us love Levinas for his resistance to clarity, not for his subordination to the norms and institutions of his time, to Husserl, Heidegger, etc. Levinas is cool because he doesn’t give a you know what about the almighty H’s, and never claims to provide interpretation of their texts. I know that sounds crazy, but a careful look reveals a Levinas bent on thinking beyond such trivialities. Levinas often performs paradox, my favorite example of which is ‘future anteriority,’ but think of the notion of beyond being, and we cannot forget that Levinas is not driven by the principle of parsimony, for good reason.

    How did Levinas find a ‘solution’ for the between of Jews and Greeks? What a profound claim, a defense of which I did not find in the text. If only such a solution were to be synthesized with the words of Levinas, let alone anyone. Jews and Greeks, why? The terms and context seem like a regression to me, but maybe I’m missing something. Is it because Derrida dared to initiate such a discussion?

    What is forced in Levinas’ so-called allure? It is like Laruelle is reading Levinas as a pusher for publication. Levinas’ heart is too big for such games, and it is a major challenge to even follow one of his arguments. Few are allured by Levinas, if you really think about it.

    How crucial is Levinas’ relation to philosophy? I know the ‘stakes’ ploy is annoying, but really, does such a brilliant mind and writer need to spill over philosophy and non-philosophy? It is such an odd tangle consuming Laruelle, and I think it unnecessary, though not ultimately unworthy (who am I to judge?). If ‘philosopher’ is a title of importance, why would anyone deprive a thinker like Levinas of the title? I’ve never heard or read anyone doing such a thing. Some ‘philosophers’ do nothing other than think about the modal status of a table, who cares? I do, but few do. Oh well, let us get beyond such judgments of stakes. Levinas is far beyond such a quibble.

    “Ordering” philosophy to Torah is at best a simplification, though I think it is a totalization of both philosophy and Torah reading (or commentary, as many would prefer to call it). No need to make such a claim, to perform such a totalizing reduction, and I almost can’t believe it is made in the text above. Levinas orders nothing, which is why I love his writings so much!

    Lastly, and less nit-picky, the texts of Levinas are irreducible to ‘effects,’ as Laruelle would surely agree. We don’t have a ‘duty’ to ‘register’ effects of any text, especially the texts of Levinas. Most people just try to live another day. People able to dedicate time to Levinas’ texts are not registration readers, they are either students in a class, or devoted thinkers, merging their hearts with his words, attempting to devote themselves beyond being. Duty in the Kantian sense? Not sure, because Laruelle leaves us regularly lost in such weighted terms (an effect of philosophy I guess).

    Loved getting rid of critical energy. Thanks for translating and reading!

    • tmlavenz says:

      A laudable defense, but misguided, or rather misaimed.

      Laruelle is in a constant polemic against philosophy for reasons that are not as sloppy and ill-intentioned as an isolated text like this might suggest. Non-philosophy is not a negation of philosophy, but a stance (Vision-in-One), the stance of never-having-entered-philosophy, thus of only entering it occasionally (qua subject). It tries to think an immanence “prior” to the Logos and to Being, and thus prior to the circles of philosophy, its conceptual straightjackets, its paranoia about mastery, the surplus meaning it extracts from its own operation, its pretention to determine the Real qua effective decision, and so on. Levinas certainly concerned himself with commentary, but he also sought a transformation of stance, one that, while intervening with the help of philosophy’s arsenal, in fact references Judaic affects that do not originate in philosophy and that can only send phenomenology and ontology spinning. Non-philosophy borrows this initiative; it is a Levinas-effect.

      Secondly, the argument about the Torah is that, “prior” to being a text, it is concerned with the relation to God, Law, and the Other. One can certainly interpret it, but this should lead to a changed ethical comportment. This is an explicit claim insofar as the Torah communicates not first a meaning, but the Voice of the eternal. Another way to put it: the text does not “mediate” this affect, and so textual analysis cannot be the terminal stage of engagement. Also, authors like Elliot Wolfson have shown how, in Hasidism for example, the question of Law in the messianic time involves a kind of transubstantiation of the divine name in a hyperlinguistic body. Here “the interiority of the Torah is the aspect of marriage,” the conjunction (devekut) to God qua self-abolition and -nihilation, emptying the corporeal to make room for the manifestation of the divine light qua “embodied Torah” (etc., I’m riffing). I make these indications only to support the idea that Levinas’ texts are meant to effect similar ethical transformations, especially in priority over philosophical moves, which are rendered somewhat irrelevant. Another initiative that that non-philosophy borrows and modifies.

      As for Levinas writing a work that is clear and intelligible, I see no reason to disagree with a compliment. This is not to say that he is easy, but that, in the same way Lacan opened a dialogue between philosophy and psychoanalysis, Levinas did between a Judaic thought or affect of transcendence and a Greek onto-logos that had largely either infected it (Maimonides?), ignored it (Heidegger?), or swallowed it (Hegel?). You are right that he doesn’t offer master interpretations of the masters, and this is another Levinas-effect on non-philosophy. But neither does he treat Heidegger’s text like Talmud (the sort of accusation Laruelle makes against Derrida). The materials and terms of phenomenology and ontology are put to use, “compromised” with, for the sake of intelligibility and dialogue, but more primarily for the conjuration of an affect foreign to philosophy proper. This results in nothing less than a total reformulation of the sense and direction of “subjectivity” itself. And of so many other concepts, like signification, which is no longer on a register of the ideality of meaning, but the ethical one-for-the-other or substitution. (Laruelle doesn’t mention it, but he retains this in a modified version as well with the notion of the “generic lived”.) The extreme responsibility that corresponds to the reception of this affect (or call, it’s the same thing, since here the text is no Said, but the trace of Saying itself: again an indication that there is no mediation at play here) leads to thoroughly ethical categories: sincerity, prophetism, expiation, etc. In the end, everything is placed under that condition: the backward transcendence of the Infinite into me as my responsibilization (the glory of an infinite desire).

      All of the above has to do with the “ordering” of philosophy and its categories to the Torah. That Levinas is not a philosopher is a complement in Laruelle’s eyes, where “philosopher” obviously means something relatively rigorously delimited–a certain stance not just to conceptuality, knowledge, and ontology, but also to the World and totality and self, in the end, a kind of practice of division and unification whose system can be dealt with globally by non-philosophy, which is given(-without-givenness) the immanent Undivided-One.

      Keep in mind also that this translation comes from a series of “letters” only ever published on a website dedicated to non-philosophical research (never in book form, until one day I translate them all, if I have time). If Laruelle felt a duty to register these Levinasian initiatives or effects, it is out of respect, the acknowledgement by non-philosophy of its own inspirations; and for folks who intuit the links but can always use some help ironing them out. For the best extended treatment of Levinas, see the book Philosophy and Non-Philosophy. On the topic of the Jew and Greek, this plays out in its most advanced formulation in Christo-fiction. I’m sure many readers see in such “grand signifiers” only more lame, uncareful essentializing; they aren’t meant to be philosophically accurate, but to diagnose global tendencies in terms of how the relations between immanence and transcendence are distributed. There is an entire transformation of the use of language at play here too, but to get at it requires some engagement with the main syntaxes of non-philosophy (unilateral duality, determination in the last instance). Surely we won’t accuse Laruelle of not mentioning this here, when decades of work attest to an indefatigable quest to prove its rigor. In case you’re wondering, I consider the best starting point to be the first chapters in Struggle and Utopia. It is truly an altered form of thought that takes a “leap” (or half-leap!) of faith to get used to. If my testimony’s worth anything, I’ll say that I find his fidelity to Levinas and Derrida astounding, despite the polemical tone he takes. What is at stake is nothing less than the being-immanent of the Other-than

      Again, short treatments like this will certainly make the strawmanning of Laruelle easy too! I have a section in the column on the right side of my blog titled Non-philosophy that has some texts working in his mode (most of them, I admit, are pretty rough, but the only way to get the hang of the style has been to practice it). Of them the best creatively is probably OMEGA and I imagine it would reach you best. For something more schematic that discusses the various fronts involved in the change of stance, I suggest Self-constraints V.

      Shall I part with what I ought to have started out with? So wonderful to hear from you Patrick. I sent you an e-mail a few weeks ago, but it must have been to an unchecked gmail account. I’m glad Easter has reopened some lines. I leave this comment here, glad to know other dialogue boxes stand open for fresh responses. I wish you well, and thank you for your wonderful, impassioned objections. I have been studying Laruelle for about a year now, so I should be able to respond competently. Hopefully what I have here so far has helped soften the punch and counter-punch.

      Until then,
      Tim

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