Humanity on the Threshold? – Some Notes On Eco-Fiction or Ordinary Ecology

To Luka Stojanovic

What is this new ecological science present in Laruelle’s The Last Humanity, and what exactly makes it ‘new’? As another introduction, another invention, The Last Humanity carves out the space of verticality that dominant and majoritarian practices of ecology, as a horizontal practice, had lacked. In a way, the new ecological science presented here, with its vertical axis, is an ordinary ecology, ordinary in the non-philosophical sense as that which determines, in-the-last-instance (or here, the last-humanity qua authority, human authority), the defetishized order ensued from the One. In this post, I intend to describe this verticality through a reading of the introduction to The Last Humanity. As a result of this reading, I would like to pose some questions regarding the possibility of an ‘effective’ implementation of in-the-last-humanity as ordinary ecology within such debates as Anthropocene against Capitalocene, which may be riddled by vulgar ecology.

Please note from the outset that many terms that Laruelle uses here are transmitted and draw inspiration from quantum physics. They are not metaphorical. Rather, as is noted in Philosophie non-standard, they are torn uses to systematically envision and invent a discipline “through the combination of three contributions which, to our mind, have not yet been braided with each other in these new relations: philosophy as the object of a science, the quantum as a possible science of philosophy, and finally the generic style as encompassing these three sources.”[1] Laruelle continues:

Tearing these three essences from their declared proprietors, we can establish a ‘doctrinal of science’, a complex made up of entanglements and inseparabilities which will fix some other possibilities and some other limits – the price to pay – to be able to invent new situations within thought. Does it concern a system of reciprocal allusions or metaphorical glosses [frôlements] as one accuses philosophy? We receive these givens of the problem as likely aleatory and heterogenous phenomena without claiming ownership that the only possible operation is their interaction within a ‘closed’ chamber, a thought experiment under nonphilosophical conditions, physical conditions, rather than metaphorical conditions. Neither being of ‘spontaneous’ philosophy, nor of ‘spontaneous’ quantum physics nor mathematics, this experiment will also be worthy of being called a ‘philo-fiction’.[2]

The point is not to invent some Sokal hoax within thought, because “any philosopher encounters one day or another their ‘Sokal’,”[3] but to invent new situations within thought that otherwise must be forced (Cohen) towards a new continent or practice of thought, a new experience or experiment of thought. Are the uses of quantum mechanics, philosophy, fiction, and so on metaphors, or are they tele-phortations [télé-phorçage][4] that break with sufficiency and present rigorous and ludic possibilities that go beyond the bounds of disciplinary and capitalized centers of knowledge? Just because they break with sufficiency does not mean the inmates run the asylum. There is still a respect practiced towards the disciplines that are used now as material means towards novelty. Recall that non-philosophy is that discipline towards a positive project that is to invent new conditions for human invention; if the myopia of declaring these metaphors and drawing boundary lines is the desire that philosophy and science wish to have for their futures, then let them be palaces tattered in ruins.

As much as John Ó Maoilearca opines in his afterword, the ‘vulgar’ ecological that is criticized as the dominant and majoritarian practice is not the ordinary ecological that I wish to discuss here.[5] Following Laruelle, what I call ‘vulgar’ ecology is stated outright in the introduction to The Last Humanity as the “gradually emerging…universal thought rivaling philosophy.”[6] Readers must recall from the outset that philosophy is the capital-form of and within thought: what could this possibly mean in relation to the universality of ecology as rivaling philosophy qua capital-form? Ecology’s rivalry with philosophy seeks to provide a better life, a regulated one, that is ascetic, against the hedonistic commodity fetishism of capitalism, but equally as invasive as it (including ‘green capitalism’). In order to combat this ecology, the development of a new ecological science, or as I will call it ordinary ecology, concerns three theses: a fundamental thesis, “regarding humans defined within the framework of a new ecology as clones in-transit from the Earth to the Universe instead of subjects thrown-in-the-World, into Being, or into history”; the second, as a principal thesis, concerns a quantum-formalized ecological science dependent on humans within-the-last-humanity; and lastly, a synthetic or ‘dualized’ thesis, where clones, generally as living beings (irreducible to humans, but animals, plants, and the mineral, among many other species) and humans in particular, are entangled and superposed in this new ecology which is as much an eco-fiction as a new ecological science.[7]

This dependency on humans is less concerning an anthropocentrism or a humanism in their standard formulations, even, as will be used in the quantum metaphor, the macroscopic or microscopic. Rather, the human, as the only living thing who is able to reconcile themselves in the order as either being the middle, beginning, or end of a thought, Laruelle’s ultimatum and wager is to put the human before-the-first or after-the-last instead of in these placements; the standard order would either put man at the center of the World as in philosophy and its Copernican Revolution, or, in ecology as a rivalry, neither at the center of the Earth but one among a multiplicity of species with life coming to be the center (here in the sense of biocentrism, this is its horizontal dimension). Rather than putting man at the center or the periphery, it is the last humanity as cloned and as a generic matrix that determines the order of Man, Animal, and Plant within its radical immanence or superposition, to use those quantum terms, whereby Man is prior-to-priority and Animal and Plant (let alone other species, or the mineral in the personage of the Earth) are in priority without having primacy over one another. There is no hierarchy in this sense of verticality, but rather a directional and matrixial architecture that is furnished by the three theses stated above. The prior-to-priority of man has not to do with some residual humanism or anthropocentrism, but rather a basis through which as the only living being capable of determining themselves alone are able to clone an identity for themselves, the animal and the plant without putting themselves at the center or the periphery. If there is a test for the en-demic axiom (no-one-in-person knows what One/a human can do), it is precisely this change of terrain, this “ecological era of thought” that “[moves] from the ontological duality of Being/beings to ecology based upon the new duality accessible to quantum physics and capable of dissolving the antinomy [between philosophy and ecology], that of the Universe and the lived as a collapse that short-circuits the duality of Being and beings and places the world in brackets.”[8] An ordinary ecology is one that is determined in-the-last-humanity, a humanity that is inclusive and integrative as a matrix of these relations between Man, Animal, Plant (the MAP system discussed in the text).

Further still, this eco-fiction is as much a thought experiment as an experience of thought. While still conceptual, its novelty allows for a practical implementation that is unheard-of within the norm: “the minimal quantum of humanity we set at the base of every ecology…the lived-without-life that we fashion…and finally that of the clones which we place at the end of ecological transformations.”[9] As a partial thought experiment, it is not reducible to a philosophical thought experiment, but includes philosophy just as a singular experience that is genericized of its auto-positionality and auto-circularity. In other words, this eco-fiction may just be ultimately both a thought experiment and an experience of thought, but it is also a way to depotentialize (later on ‘degrow’) both philosophy and ecology of their antinomic rivalry at seeking to be the universal form of thought that governs the relations that one has with the world, earth, and universe. The eco-fiction is not about introducing an ecology of thought, as much as that may be seen in this text; rather, it is to introduce an ecology into thought that is for it, an ecological science that one is as lived-without-life:

Manipulators of algebras, hypotheses, and fictions, [the lived-without-life] are in themselves the new science of ecology and its ethics exploring the empire of clones. Eco-fiction runs alongside science-fiction on its most intimate edge and solves the antinomy of ecology and philosophy. At a different magnitude than the Cogito’s, the maxim of these objects of science that have become objects of knowledge, abandoning the already ancient words, ‘the starry sky above me, the moral law within me’, for the newer, ‘we humans thrown into the empty environment of the universe, guardians of all other living things, we contemplate the starry sky of the ecology lived within us and outside of us’.[10]

According to Laruelle, clones are the lived-without-life resultant from the transformation of Worldly and Earthly aleatory subjects that are generically sexed. This portion of the introduction now turns to the enigmatic use of the Young Marx’s Feuerbachian formulation of communism: the humanization of nature coinciding with the naturalization of man.[11]

This use of Marx is situated on two conceptual pillars or theses that are to be treated as conjugated coordinates to solving the antinomy between philosophy and ecology. The first is treated as infrastructural “in the style of quantum physics,” that states “man is an animal that makes animality human…man is a plant that humanizes plantness, man is an earthly being that humanizes the earth.”[12] Although the entire book primarily situates man in relation to animal as a variable, the relation between man and plant has yet to be explored in this light, after this introduction to eco-fiction. However, this thesis strives to see man as a variable to be conjugated with the other living beings, as an aleatory subject. The statement can and should be inverted, as it is with Marx: “the animal is a human (or humanized) being that makes the human being an animal or animalizes man.”[13] This, too, needs to be treated as a variable within this generic matrix known as within-the-last-humanity. The variables are not fixed essences but becomings in the sense of waves, but not becomings in the sense of philosophy. In other words, Man, Animal, and Plant, or any other species found in this generic matrix, cannot be subsumed under their philosophical and ecological images that strive to make them co-extensive with, and are rather in-the-last-humanity. The infrastructural-quantum thesis is then applied to that of sexual difference: man masculinizes woman and woman feminizes man, though here, again, this statement, much like the previous ones and their inversions, does not instantiate a fixed essence: “Our point of view is neither that of hormonal and genetic mixtures or relationships, it is that of a rigorous transcendental kind of knowledge that focuses on a priori knowledge of the objects of experience, or that takes all the previous distinctions as a priori pairs that mediatize the relationship of objective knowledge to experience.”[14] Said otherwise, these statements and their inversions are provided as the a priori knowledges of objects for experience, an experience liberated from philosophical and ecological subsumption. They also provide the data for the creation of this subject = X as a common to Man, Animal, and Plant, and Man and Woman.[15] This subject = X is the generic subject or the clone.

The second thesis, which compliments the first, is precisely the formulation of the generic subject or the clone, stating the following: “the aleatory subject produced by the quantum process of the infra-structure, whether man or animal, masculine or feminine, is now indexed to the universal form of objectivity that is no longer the World but the Universe as a dimension of superposition, and so forms a generic clone that exceeds the World through this indexing.”[16] Distinct from the first operation, this is more superstructural, but instead of the superstructure being that of the World or Philosophy, it is the Universe as genericized. No longer is the ‘starry sky above me’ but it is ‘below’ or ‘under me’, insofar as I am within the Universe and no longer centering myself in the World and not able to center myself with the Universe for I am One-in-One. This is not a sense of transcendence, but of an ascendency that decoheres or collapses the unity of one’s (One’s) lived experience with the World or Philosophy. This decoherence is provided with the ecological framework of degrowth, which is a means to under-determine “the production of the generic lived…to provoke, more deeply to take its origin (as its flight) within a collapse.”[17] Furthermore, the possibilities and the variables that are now within the last-humanity as a matrix provide the means towards inventing this generic subject who is no longer bound to the World or the Earth as the dimensions that govern their cloned experience, with Laruelle writing:

The clones fill the Universe and constitute the in-the-last-humanity as the set of messiahs, they are almost reflected on themselves (or ‘in’ themselves by the dimension of the universe) through the collapsed superposition that unfailingly binds the Universe to this collapse. The Universe is the cogito of the clones, concerning which everyone must be able to say, ‘I think the Universe, therefore I am a clone’. There is no metaphysical human nature, but a multiplicity of cloned states, of lived-without-life cloning that inhabits the Universe as the new Earth of the living.[18]

From here, Laruelle introduces the three dimensions for this eco-fiction which have already been discussed: the World, the Earth, and the Universe. With a Gnostic inspiration, Laruelle’s tripartite schema sees that these are three possible places of being embedded: “the Earth which is habitable by all living things in their most exact definition of ‘down-to-earth’ [JRS: or earthbound, terre-à-terre], the Universe uninhabitable by the living but desirable in their current definition as clones or messiahs, and between these two, the inhabited but hateful World that is dominated by the living-beings-in-transit called humans.”[19] These three dimensions structure transcendental ecology akin to the transcendental dialectic in Kant, or rather ordinary ecology, insofar as the functions that originated in Kant’s time are transfigured by ecology, gnosis, and science-fiction and their affects towards transforming our understanding of ourselves, life, and our relations to the World. It is in this portion of the introduction that verticality is expanded upon. Insofar as ecology is a horizontal way of thinking, the verticality introduced here suggests the placement and displacement of positions within these different dimensions. The Earth, firstly, is the in-sistence under our feet and the seismic shifts that it levels with other dimensions (horizontally so). The World then suffices as the index of transcendence affected by the Earth and its horizontality but strives to unite the immense (or im-mense, as in immanence and immensity) depth of the Universe with the horizontality of the Earth. In each, ecology is structured by the curvature or swerving of these dimensions, which inscribe the living and life and their finitude. Instead of collapsing by way of the Earth as the primary dimension of living or by reducing existence to solely being-in-the-World, it is the introduction of the lived-for-the-Universe that allows for a degrown complementarity and conjugation between the Universe, the Earth, and the World, and does not regress towards the reactionary Volkish stance that Heidegger takes of the earthly peasant. Eco-fiction’s goal is to “extend the sphere of ecology from the Earth to the Universe by passing beyond the World, to introduce the Universe into ecology as the parameter that extends it into the depths of infinity and obliges us to understand the facticity of life as a collision…[to de-specularize] ecology.”[20] Eco-fiction, or the new ecological science, is rather a paradigm to overcome the dominancy of ecology and philosophy and their antinomy, under two conditions:

Undoubtedly through the picture of the excesses of the destruction [of] human life’s natural place, which forms the basis of an ecology of protest, incrimination, and demand, whatever its political, economic, or aesthetic form. More profoundly, but in a less apparent way, through the progressive discovery of a new dual dimension of the collapsed Earth and the lowered-over Universe, of the living and the lived as well, which ‘sounds’ gnostic if we want to avoid the Copernican considerations of a prematurely philosophical or worldly essence.[21]

This leads us towards the conclusion of this introduction, with the running theme towards inventing this new paradigm that is discovered on the basis of these two conditions that nevertheless resituate and degrow our macroscopic, worldly, and philosophical conceptualizations of ecology. From there, the book and its principles are unfolded, applied towards commentaries on philosophy, the relations of man and the animal (which dominate discussion on that other figure, the plant in the MAP), and plenty of other inventive approaches.

I now would like to turn to what may be seen as an ‘effective’ implementation of eco-fiction or ordinary ecology, all the while being cautious that by effective here, the effects and results are not in the World or, as it is with vulgar ecology, the Earth, but rather in the Universe which determines both in the last humanity. I don’t truly desire to intervene on the level of the debate of Anthropocene/Capitalocene, let alone suggesting that Laruelle presents a novel interpretation of the Young Marx’s perspective that can aid towards understanding this metabolic rift, which presumably can be done and is desired. It’s just not my interest to do so. Rather, I want to pose some questions on this eco-fiction, the verticality in ordinary ecology by means of these dimensions as a new scale for conceiving of our relations with other living species, the planet, and the way we think of the planet in its dying days. These questions are as follows: What is the criterion of determining the non-existence of verticality in present, vulgar forms of ecology? Must this criterion or axiom not first be discovered before inventing the paradigm? If this criterion is indeed the Universe or the in-the-last-humanity, how can a change of terrain occur within the Universe or on the basis of in-the-last-humanity? Is the Anthropocene/Capitalocene debate still strictly horizontal in terms of vulgar ecology, and how can the in-the-last-humanity aid as a basis for this reconceptualization? If, indeed, this eco-fiction or new ecological science is a science that one is (as in the credo, Homo sive scientia), how do we maintain relations among living beings in their priority (the A/P of the MAP) without significantly making them components of our lived-without-life, or, in other words, are Animal and Plants One-in-One? Lastly, with the appropriation of Marx: the Young Marx has been contested as being either a part of the continuity of Marx’s theoretical development, or that this period, in contrast to the Mature Marx of Capital, is broken epistemologically from Feuerbachian anthropological humanism. If the reference to Marx is to be taken up as a continuation of Marx’s own project, how is the in-the-last-humanity not a romanticized, philosophized communism? These questions do not need to be answered by Laruelle, and they may indeed be answered in the pages to come (after all, I am merely discussing the Introduction). These questions must necessarily be posed in advance to any such in(ter)vention of effective implementation, so as to not overstep boundaries, to not regress back into the standard realms and to rather quantize, move beyond the standard model.

[1] Philosophie non-standard, p.67, my translation.

[2] Ibid, p.68, my translation.

[3] “Quelle science est la non-philosophie?” <; [NB: Translation on the blog soon].

[4] Tétralogos, p.132: “Without being a simple confusion of genres, being rather a certain quantification of the philosophy of genres, our project demands for a ‘conversion’ of entangled relations of the concept and art (music) as troubling as a religious conversion, a mutation of the quantum type of the relations of language, meaning and the entente of the signifier, in some sort a quantum teleportation of language by the imaginary number within another entente destined to break its linguistic sufficiency. It is a teleportation, or again, a telephor rather than metaphor. It is at any rate more than a general metaphorization on the foundation of a unidimensionality, this is already done and it is the work of sufficient philosophy based on linguistics. The metaphor is the final state of a process of ‘teleph/forcing’ or teleph/fortation [téléph/forçage], the contemplation of one such completed process in several dimensions.” Translation mine.

[5] “Afterword: Quantum Laruelle,” in The Last Humanity, p.155.

[6] The Last Humanity (hereon cited as LH) p.1.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, p.3.

[9] Ibid, p.4.

[10] Ibid, p.5.

[11] Marx, “Private Property and Communism,” Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, p.102-103: “Communism as the positive transcendence of private property, as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being – a return become conscious, and accomplished within the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully-developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully-developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and man and man – the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species.”

[12] LH, p.6.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid, p.7.

[15] In passing, one may find that the X and the connection to the hormonal and genetic remark above is in fact related to the chromosomal X common to both sexes, though I sense that biological determinism is not at all what Laruelle is going for here.

[16] LH, p.8.

[17] Ibid, p.9.

[18] Ibid, p.11.

[19] Ibid, p.12.

[20] Ibid, p.15.

[21] Ibid.Advertisements

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