The Non-Philosophical or Super-Philosophical Rebellion of Music

The Non-Philosophical or Super-Philosophical Rebellion of Music: The Death of Socrates Set to Music Through the Reversal of the Socratic Metaphor
François Laruelle
In TétralogosUn opéra de philosophies (Paris: Cerf, 2018), p.559-562.

Can we imagine a non-philosophical, indeed a super-philosophical rebellion of music which would lead to a musical modeling of philosophy, towards the general reversal of the conditions of the dominant philosophical metaphor, towards its amplification as super-music? Does « La mort de Socrate » (Satie) bring into play once more, more aesthetically amplified as music and not only “set to music,” the musical death of philosophy? Can we go from the intra-musical death of Socrates in and through philosophy towards the musically forced death of Socrates or philosophy?

According to Socrates and Plato, philosophy shall be the most beautiful music. However, this suggestive and intriguing formula lacks explanation. To what extent does it supersede the metaphorical stage, the metaphor of a comparison of philosophy with music, obviously without giving rise to a philosophically armed aesthetics of music? We propose to take this Platonic formula literally or non-metaphorically. Let’s invert the relations and pose that music as an art is the most beautiful of philosophies: philosophy is also concretely a genuine music, that it is at least the model for it in the logical sense and available in several versions. In ontological terms, it would be an inversion of the traditional relations of the philosophico-aesthetic domination or reading of music (like there is for Being over being), a reversal of ontological difference and a musical materialism of philosophy. However, this cannot be a simple inversion which would be sterile, a change of place in a hierarchy, as if the musical art must prevail over conceptual thought and the labour of meaning. What is important is not quite this very short and very simple inversion of Platonism. “The most beautiful music” would signal the excellence, the perfection, the superior musical form of philosophy, but more precisely we ask how philosophy is of a musical nature? Why is such a reduction a superiority? And is music a philosophy and how? This inversion of Platonism, like Nietzsche’s reversal who treats the concept like an artistic object and puts all of philosophy under an artistic and particularly musical condition, can be treated like a revenge of art against philosophy, if we hold to this gigantomachy worthy of the Greeks. But why music? Does philosophy have a particular affinity with this type of “logos”? Some philosophers (Schopenhauer, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Adorno) have been fascinated by the philosophizing and above all philosophizable power of music, but principally on the plane of expressivity, an unconscious and profound plane which had the tendency to escape from conceptual investigation. There, music is as a genre and type of discourse even more than an object of comparison of musical and philosophical techniques. These philosophers tend to pre-comprehend music either conceptually, or historically, namely already philosophically as a physico-macroscopic problem within the framework of a “worldly” physics. Without speaking of the “French” philosophers who evoke music in a very decorative way or at best ontologically (Baudelaire, Bergson), it is a comparison that touches on the real syntaxes and instances in play in a great but still too literary philosophical duality of the comparison of musical and philosophical writings.

If the first part of our project (the first three books) was to philosophically treat music through an ascending dialectic, albeit without giving way to an aesthetics, the second part is to this time musically treat philosophy, albeit without being able to fully attain it. This project is somewhat contradictory or at least difficult to delimit and arrive at a descending and musical dialectic of philosophy, a project which was only possible through a prior philosophication [philosophication] of music. The musical entombment of philosophy, an operation that would be worthy of it, should begin through the philosophical exaltation of music. This is the reversal of Reminiscience 1 (perhaps on the model of the generic) or the reversal of philosophy. It is therefore to bounce from music (as subtractive in relation to spontaneous or natural philosophy, as an art that gains its independence through subtraction with philosophy) back towards philosophy as an amplifying musical writing or thought. It is to pass from the philosophy-of-music to the music-of-philosophy as Reminiscience 2, having become “musicating” [musiquant] and not the simple object of an aesthetics. This amplification of philosophy by the musical as generic is highly problematic, but it is an exciting stake. Art would be directly projected within philosophy and not only the inverse (music as the object of an aesthetic reflection) and it would produce a text from philosophical material perhaps but with a musical structure, whose conditions to become an “experimental text” would finally be elucidated. The musical modeling of philosophy is still not done. It is for the moment a musical and very classical metaphor about philosophy, while the point is to really bring philosophy to the state of music as certainly conceptual, but musical at least on the model of its generic modeling. This implies treating philosophy through a subtraction, not a generic but a musical subtraction, or rather treating the generic itself as something musical, through a regression from spontaneous philosophy towards the musical model as generic and taking the place as subtractive. We must be able to demonstrate that music is subtractive of or with philosophy and its aesthetic comprehension. Socrates’ formula is the redoubling of philosophy around its musical object rather than the guide of philosophical pre-comprehension or description of the musical which has not been immediately subtracted. Then, the point is to leap from music (as the amplification or multiplication of philosophy) through the subtractive musical, the musical amplification of philosophy. This would be our oldest project, the project of a musical writing of philosophical concepts,[1] the payoff of experimental texts, our experimental texts as musical truths of the future. At bottom, it is what we have always sought and wanted to make, a “music with concepts” or to part from a conceptual material, like “an opera of philosophies” or again “On philosophy as music for an opera of the future.”


[1] In reference to Clémence Ramnoux’s statement during Laruelle’s thesis defense, “You wanted to make music with concepts.” See the coda to Tétralogos, p.595. – Trans.

Translation Jeremy R. Smith

taken from here

Foto: Sylvia John

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