For the Strangers Who We Are – a response to Jacob Vangeest

In response to one of my exegeses earlier in January, my colleague, Jacob Vangeest, provided a preliminary criticism directed towards non-philosophy with elements that I wish to highlight, some of which I share, and others to which I must intervene, or, to use our (Jacob and I) vocabulary, to provide an in(ter)vention.[1] This portmanteau that we have created together is born from the fusion from our desire towards inventing novelty without re-entering into the milieu that we draw upon. Jacob has been a profound influence in my work and his criticism has been generative towards posing new avenues for non-philosophical work, so much so that at a recent talk by Rocco Gangle,[2] I asked something similarly to what Jacob stresses in terms of this primacy of the image of thought in non-philosophy, posing the following problem:

Regarding the notion of the non-philosophical wager, Laruelle notes in Philosophie non-standard that “to wager on generic chance is to ‘future think’ [«penser futur»]” (p.449, my translation). I have some sense to what this may mean, in terms of the transformation and liberation of the future from the past and present forms of philosophical domination, though I am curious about the role of the wager in relation to the futural, democracy, and invention. Must the non-philosophical wager deal solely with the image of thought and not the invention of new, human practices?

My concerns that I share with Jacob are precisely that thought becomes somewhat of a determining factor for Laruelle’s project. No surprise: Laruelle is, after all, a philosopher! Whereas “there is no philosophy without the task of determining the real through thought,”[3] the project of non-philosophy has not to do with the insufficiency of all thought to determine the real; rather, the point is to invent a thought adequate or determined by the real in the last instance. That kind of thought is philosophically insufficient, for it won’t result in auto-position and auto-circularity but results and its effects are then experienced in-One.

Further, Laruelle, a writer of many introductions, does nothing but introduce without fully carrying out the invention, the in(ter)vention, of the work that he introduces. I share this point, though on the condition that one is ready to make the clear distinction between Laruelle and non-philosophy, which is an amphibology all to its own. In my own work, I do grow tired of the proliferation of “Laruelle and X” titles of scholarship, for it presumes that Laruelle’s work is all that constitutes non-philosophy. What Laruelle says does it all, what Laruelle does says it all. This is why, in my work, I pose that there is no such thing as a Laruellean, but there are many Larualiens who seek to use the name of Laruelle to be more “Laruellean than Laruelle,” the academic commentaries begetting commentaries, the scaling of primary, secondary, and tertiary ad infinitum (and ad nauseum), so much so that Laruelle becomes his main adversary: a World. Larualiens rely on this Laruelle-support, this proletariat who identifies himself with humankind,[4] to make their claims, rather than invent alongside or with him. If there is a practical quietism in Laruelle’s work, it is not because the heresy has not taken place, it is rather that the conditions to access the in-One are never provided as given in philosophy. The problem, too, is that Laruelle’s development of non-philosophy is of a “practice being ‘of’ or ‘in’ theory.”[5] It is not yet a practice of and within the One, which is to say, theory vertically leveled and determined by the One in the last instance.

The claim, “non-philosophy has never been practiced; non-philosophy does not exist,” is bold but not incorrect. It is to be invented, but the conditions for that invention first have to be invented.[6] This does not mean an infinite regression, but once-each-time to work through the politics of invention.[7] Its practice and its existence do not exist in the World, and probably won’t ever. The heretical act that is to be instantiated as generic is the very condition of invention, and it is the radical Inside that sees the World, Philosophy, and Capitalism as the Outside seen in-One. Heresy is generic, but its genericity cannot be extracted through philosophy, its symptom is felt in history and cannot be exorcised as the specter that haunts from Nowhere. Said otherwise and in far less cult-like fashion: heresy is the act through which not only the subject is able to disalienate themselves from the World; it is the act through which the subject is able to disalienate the World from itself, too. That may be on par with Blackness as antithetical to the World according to Afro-Pessimism, but as a reader and practitioner of non-philosophy, I do not wish to subsume Afro-Pessimism (an independent yet already now-fungible negative project of Black scholars, fungible solely by the whims of white academics) under the aegis of non-philosophy especially under the current conjunctural and theoretical conditions that Laruelle comes to stand in as surrogate for non-philosophy.

This leads to the final questions that Jacob poses: the ordinary man, the Stranger, the heretic, the human, who is this and have they ever really done nothing, not capitalism, not philosophy? First, we are the ordinary man, the Stranger, the heretic, the human. We are the radical critique and science of the World. We are the One, we are in it, we are of it.[8] We do not need to exit from ourselves, to alienate ourselves to exercise our power.[9] That much is given even prior to any sort of scission or philosophical operation as an identity without identification. The ordinary man is not the Being of the Volk, but the Peoples [Peuples] (of) the One without the World and without the State. The point is to conceive of human action as independent and before its reproduction with the generalizing universals (Glissant) that make the unreflected opacity of individuals trapped on the surface of the World, no more as blends of the State and parts of the chain that make up the mountain-range of thought. The difficulty resides in the assumption that the human and the world are united, that every name in history is I, that these parts, these minorities that we are, are to be thought independent and before the State, are exercising our power, when, in fact, the very principle and axiomatic maintained is the productivity of the World. In-One as One qua One, we are parts – without-the-Whole.

If, indeed, Marx has awoken many to the declaration that “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it” (a point that I nonetheless cannot argue against), the transformation of the World cannot happen in the World lest that would be an auto-positing. When the World is seen-in-One, as a material to transform and liberate ourselves from, that is where the practical quietism ceases from being the background noise and the loud chatter of academics, and the Larualiens ceases from dominating the discussion, where academics are but one subject (of) non-philosophy, alongside the mystic, the heretic, the analyst, and the militant,[10] forming a red star within the black universe as the organon and a priori defense of generic humankind.


[1] See our forthcoming article in Philo-Fictions 5: “Aleatory Gnosis, In(ter)vention, and Quantagonism.”

[2] Rocco Gangle, “Introductory Tutorial on Laruelle’s Non-Philosophy,” presentation at An Encounter in Non-Standard Philosophy: Laruelle and the Kyoto School, at Temple University Japan, January 8-10, 2021.

[3] “The Transcendental Method,” in From Decision to Heresy, p.148.

[4] “Non-Philosophy, Weapon of Last Defense,” in Laruelle and Non-Philosophy, p.244. Even if the declaration, “Laruelle does not exist,” is taken as imperative to prevent Laruelle from being the ‘next big thing’, what is imperative is that Laruelle identifies with humankind, the nonphilosophizable.

[5] “What can non-philosophy do?” trans. Ray Brassier, Angelaki 8.2 (August 2003), p.179. Emphases mine.

[6] Philosophie non-standard, p.92. “What does it mean to invent the possibility of invention? The point is not to philosophically invent non-philosophy but to invent it with or under philosophical conditions…A vicious circle is avoidable if one presupposes the generic integrating the form of a science capable of becoming subject but obviously non-reflexive or, in general, non-philosophical. Whence this complex apparatus, the generic ‘matrix’ that we have given the most general following formula: the unity of science and philosophy under science…Our problem is different: to invent a consistent generic thought capable of carrying philosophy on without negating it. In other words, the generic must already be itself a ‘subject’ carrying out new thoughts.” (Translation mine).

[7] Tétralogos, p.54. “As for ‘invented politics’ (Badiou), must we perhaps accentuate the formulation a bit otherwise into that of a ‘politics of invention’? Politics does not have to be invented in accordance with given conditions. The point is to invent the new conditions, which by definition limit invention.”

[8] Philosophy and Non-Philosophy, p.81.

[9] Le principe de minorité, p.96. Discussing coupures irréfléchies [or unreflected breaks] from the continuum of Being, Laruelle writes that they “remain within themselves and never leaving themselves, not becoming phenomenal or ontological, having no need to be alienated to acquire or exercise their power.” Elsewhere, the One and the unary parts independent of the Whole (or Unity) are described in A Biography of Ordinary Man (p.45) as ‘parts’ without the Whole, as minorities, no longer blended with the stato-minoritarian.

[10] Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy, p.25-26. “In the end, this book envisions non-philosophers in multiple ways. It inevitably sees them as subjects of knowledge, most often academics insofar as life in the world demands, but above all as close relatives of three great human types. The analyst and political militant are quite obvious, for non-philosophy is close to psychoanalysis and Marxism insofar as it transforms the subject in transforming philosophy. Here again, one must have a sense not of certain nuances but of aspects (of the interpretations, but unilateralized) and not in order to construct a simple proletarianization or militarization of thought as theory. To be rigorous, rather than authoritarian or spiteful, is its task. And lastly, non-philosophy is a close relative of the spiritual but definitely not the spiritualist. Those who are spiritual are not at all spiritualists, for the spiritual oscillate between fury and tranquil rage, they are great destroyers of the forces of Philosophy and the State, which are united under the name of Conformism. They haunt the margins of philosophy, gnosis, mysticism, science fiction and even religions. Spiritual types are not only abstract mystics and quietists; they are heretics for the World. The task is to bring their heresy to the capacity of utopia, and their utopia to the capacity of the paradigm.”

taken from here

Foto: Sylvia John

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