Adorno and Laruelle: The non-identical and the real

Adorno speaks of the “non-identical being the own identity of the thing against its identifications” (Adorno, Negative Dialectic: 164). The cognition of the non-identical identifies differently from the identifying thinking, it emphasizes to say what something is, while the identifying thinking acts up as representation of the something that now evaporates to the specimen. And the further the identity thinking moves away from the identity of the thing, the more ruthlessly it moves onto its fur, Adorno writes. (Ibid.: 112) Identifying thinking is that of the majority; it makes the non-identical a problem. Consequently, the representational-logical belief in the power of language, which reflects existing phenomena or even captures them, is the metaphysical substrate of all philosophies. Adorno, on the other hand, makes strong a something that exists on the side of existence and that remains external even to dialectics; he postulates the precedence of objects. In this process, the attempt to overcome the identification logic of capital in the form of an immanent critique must fail, because this critique must begin with the affirmation of precisely the positivity that Adorno seeks to overcome by showing how this positivity is always already broken at the preceding non-identical. The non-identical cannot be defined precisely as a boundary arising from the immanent movement of the concept; rather, it represents something like a marking of that which does not fall into the immanent movement of the concept or is absorbed by it. Adorno’s Negative Dialectic is an attempt to drive thought into real areas, but not to subsume or incorporate the real/reality, but to achieve a “togetherness of the different” (thinking and the real) of whatever kind. In this she touches upon Laruelle’s conception of the real.

Adorno’s non-identical shows similarities with the Laruellian Real. The non-identical that must be thought refers on the one hand to the empirical in the sense of a lived experience, on the other hand to a surplus that resists commensurability, statistics and accounting. Laruelle, however, ventures an even more radical break with continental philosophy as a whole, replacing its bivalent and trivalent conceptions, which always refer to the relation “reality and discourse”, with the concentration of “philosophical problematics” on the axiom of the One or the Real, freeing the two terms (One/Real), which he usually uses as synonyms, from any determination by philosophical being. The One is neither to be understood as being nor as being, nor should it be equated with existence. Rather, the One is the result of a transcendental setting, it is given-without-givenness and, at the same time, defined as a negative possibility that stands for every “tangibility” of objects and for the rigor of thinking itself. In short, it is about the One that is not (negative possibility) but is real (given-without-givenness). If one wants to make a distinction between the One and the real at all, it must refer to the “dimensionality” of the determination-in-the-last-instance. While the One appears at the level of language, insofar as a non-philosophical decision is indicated here, the Real does not at all appear as part of language and its ontological claim, which consists in capturing the Real, rather the Real shows itself through its radical indifference towards language and thinking. The One is qua immanence its own real ground and is determined by the knowledge of its own syntax. The real in its uniqueness is attributed to the laruelle of identity, and yet there is a stronger relationship to the non-identical Adorno at this point than, for example, in Derrida’s work, who allows the non-identical to merge completely into the movement of différance. Poststructuralist philosophy and non-philosophy are both modes of thinking, but while the former thinks according to and through difference, the latter thinks according to the One or in One.

Laruelle does not conceive the distinction between the real and the transcendental (language, theory) as a split that constitutes a duality, but he tries to think it with the term unilateralism. The act of unilateralism involves a non-relative and non-relationalistic relation of difference. It is an act of singularity produced by the singularity, a radically solitary act of unilateral self-differentiation. It is also about the radical loneliness of the self in the autogenerative and autoreflexive process of subject production, and this always occurs parallel to the transformable and multiple subject. An a closed reality of sheer work, where the organic and the sensual of the self merge, independent of the authority of language. An instance of the unassailable imprisonment in its own self. This instance is the reality of the self, which remains without mediation from the other and language. This irreducible loneliness describes the limits of mediation by the other and the other.

The mode of unilateral differentiation and the generic demand for the One contain two theoretical figures that place non-philosophy in correlation with the real and identify it itself as a radically non-dichotomic thinking. This is the immanent procedure of what Laruelle calls “dualysis” thinking, which consists in the radical affirmation of the transcendental and the real as duality without the attempt to unify or split the two terms, that is, in a duality in which each of the terms correlates unilaterally with the other.

The minimal form of relationism, however, is digital binarism. Duality always implies dualism, it consists in the assumption that there is no possibility of thinking the two beyond their relation of two. But if one considers that the Two does not imply a division or binarism, that its simultaneous work does not imply an exclusion of one term from the other, then thinking is situated beyond duality. Thinking beyond relation and relationism requires thinking in the terms of singularity. The situation of non-relationality is always also that of radical loneliness. It can only refer to the instance of oneness. Relations are thus thought beyond a simple relationism. The reality of a certain relation is understood in its singular positivity. Therefore a non-dichotomous thinking is localized in the One and constituted by it, as One as one of the first names of the real.

Thinking in singularities opens the idea of a completed unilateralism in the stage of an infinite reiteration. It is also about an attitude based on empirical experience that recognizes the self-transcending movement of the real (radical immanence) as its own right, or rather an instance of the non-reflective empirical that we want to see in its singularity. Thus, the real is not an abstraction or idea, or something that exists independently in the outside for itself, but rather the real is a status that can be seen by other realities. Non-philosophical thinking correlates with the real, according to the real, which is an unassailable authority in the last instance, and thus it does not correlate with the systems of thinking at first. The real forces the concept in the last instance. The non-philosophical process of describing and rigorously explaining reality is to be seen as an effect of the real, inasmuch as the process pays attention to the procedures of the real that exist “behind” the discursive phenomena that represent it, and this process forms its own syntax that is in accordance with the real. This is only possible by disorganizing the philosophical material and reducing it to a transcendental material or by transforming it into a philosophical chora with which thinking works. As a radical concept, thinking must correlate with the real in an immanent way, rather than with the conceptual apparatus of a school of thought. As something that cannot be caught up with or is absent, the real always receives the same meaning, the meaning of being identical to itself (A=A), and thus nothing can emerge from the world qua real, whereby the real remains eternally frozen in static and unchangeable concepts. The real is thus meaning per se and consequently it is to be understood as an instance of the transcendental.

Non-philosophy, similar to the process of scientific thought, describes the real as rigorously as possible, acknowledging that the real remains afflicted by its own immanence. Anything else would imply, in fact, to subject the real to a philosophical decision again, and this in terms of conformity in the context of a particular cosmology. It is thus a matter of the uncontrollable and intangible real beyond reality, which seeks to explain it. It is about the real that dictates the generation of truth and not about scholastic axioms that seek to grasp the real. In this respect, the non-philosophical gesture is an empty position, a non-position that in philosophy makes use of a non-conceptual material, namely the chora, which is ultimately heretical and faithful only to the specificity and singularity of the theorized reality. The real and the fiction should be thought in their singularity in their specificity, freed from a mutually dependent dependence of one term by the other term. “Interrelatedness” would then be understood as a totalizing unit of binaries and multiplicities in an all-encompassing One, which can be a system or an anti-system. A cosmology, a philosophical universe that demands consistency with doctrine, even if it wants to be an antisystem. Oneness and radicality in the sense of non-relationality and immanence, on the other hand, are the constituents of non-philosophical, non-dichotomous thinking. The One is an identity that is non-setting, non-decisive and non-positioning in itself; it remains without existence, without topology or essence. And the Vision-in-One is an experience that is non-decisive, non-reflective, it demands the completely singular immanence. The reality of the subject of thought in terms of reality is always experiential. Nonetheless, thinking that is correlated with the real relates this reality to its own theoretical vision (as vision-in-one). It remains singular, and this is the method of thinking according to the Real or Vision-in-One. It recognizes itself in the last instance. In the laruellesque sense, however, it remains unreflected, that is, it is inseparably founded in the rest of the undefined real, and thus it remains singular and separate from the network of philosophical decisions. Fiction and the real are not placed in any relation that would condition their mutual significance. Freed from the compulsion of the philosophical decision to set fiction as the antithesis of the real or in a mutual binary relationship, the real remains unconditioned in relation to fiction or the processes of the imaginary, of signification.

The self is limited in its autotransformation by the rules of the real. In most cases, one of the terms is excluded in the differentiation or it is totally included by the other, whereby an appropriation or colonization of the subjected term takes place. This usually leads to the ontological possibility of a continuous change (of the self), its incessant mobility in the context of an open horizon of overwhelming and omnipresent possibilities. It is precisely here that postmodern optimism overlaps with neoliberal optimism, and this with regard to the preaching of the inexhaustible, the never-ending possibilities of possibilities. The futurist fundamentalism is common to them, the spell of the negative and the finite. Already Kroker/Weinsein speak of the infinite (as opposed to the quantum-theoretical infinite) as the postmodern ideology per se. They write: “I could stay here forever and keep talking to you. That’s the attitude of those people who hang around Mc Donald’s: the ideal speaking community that already exists but has been overlooked by Critical Theory.” (Kroker/Weinstein, Datenmüll; 65) What is meant here is of course Habermas. All considerations of the flexible and unstable nature of the post-metaphysical subject should be understood as a stabilizing gesture in the context of uncertainty (which has accompanied the rise of the precariat in recent years). Marx, on the other hand, was aware of a non-identity that he described as a non-rising remnant outside of work, which binds it to the person of the worker, who is still something apart from his (flexible) work for himself. Adorno is also concerned with this priceless “remainder” that eludes the system. He formulates it more sharply in Laruelle: “The human-in-human, the radically foreign in the human is a pre-linguistic humanity, and this as an experience that precedes every decision, every demand for a set thought of philosophy or the capitalist system. The human-in-human is an instance of the real. The real is an identity that is nothing but singular, and not singular and universal, mixed, so to speak, in relation to an imaginary, philosophically or systemically produced world. This would precisely be the precondition for the mutual conceptual constitution of the two oppositions (real and language) or their dual conceptual condition, their discursive coexistence, which makes the exclusion of the one from the territory of the other possible and necessary. This way of thinking is generated by the constitutive relation of the terms, by the necessarily binary and oppositional way of being, as a mutual constitution of a twofold structure. It seems impossible for this way of thinking to break the trust in reality as we have known it so far, although at least a traumatic intervention could break the image of the world. The multiplicity of an event constituting the instance of the real is an aspect of the real that does not appear in postmodern thinking. The real always remains in relation to the singular. One is one of the first names of the real. At the same time, the equation real = one fights against the status of the absolute non-relationality of the real. The real is not simply out there or touches it only as a boundary.

In terms of the inherent non-relationality of thought and the real, both occurrences possess singular, independent and non-thetical modes of operation. Each event and each thinking takes place in a mode of correspondence with the instance of the Real, which is unique and non-cosmological. In this sense, thinking is an experience or instance of the real de jure: the experience of thinking as an event and not as conceptual content belonging to the order of the transcendental. The Real and the One are to be understood here as synonyms that denote the same instance, the same thing: the singularity of the theorized reality and the instance of theory. The attempt to thematize reality in its singularity and in its correlation with the real does not seek to grasp the real, for instance to call the truth of the real real as real, as its accompanying reflection. Rather, the recognition of the singularity and the correlation to the real is a theoretical confirmation of the radical immanence or identity. This radicalism stands for the unique act of thinking that correlates with the unique instance of the real, theorized reality, in contrast to the scholasticism of philosophy, as an ultimate instance of legitimacy. Non-philosophical thinking is the operation that avoids ontology, but operates according to the real, as a non-thetical, as an absolute reflection or as a reflection without a mirror. It argues against divisionism. The real and thinking can neither form equality nor reciprocity, since they are not equal. Mutual equality and possible mutual mirroring are impossible – according to the non-ontology it is not a question of two that can form a relation of reciprocity. Thinking participates in the One. On the other hand, it is interpretation or signification that dilutes the density of the incomprehensible real in order to populate it with signs and make it livable, and this with the tool of language.

translation by deepl.

Foto: Bernhard Weber

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