The Organon of the Force (of) the Law, from Éthique de l’Étranger (2000)

The Organon of the Force (of) the Law
François Laruelle
In Éthique de l’étranger: du crime contre l’humanité (Paris: Kimé, 2000), p.327-338

The Non-Kantian Universalization of Ethics
We reprise the previous problem of the constitution of the Neighbour [Prochain] by transposing the problem into the non-Kantian problem of the force (of) the law that has the same structure: the first designates its subject-side, the second its practical-side or organon. Our material is now Kantian.

We have already used and examined the Jewish and Greek models in the theory of the other-Stranger and the Neighbour. First, we must imagine, here as elsewhere, one rather Christian model, being represented by Kant and the Law as Duty (rather than as a technic [technique] or as the Face or the Other man), as a non-Euclidean uni-versalization of Kantianism but submitted in-the-last-instance to the uni-versality of radical misfortune.

Non-Ethics is a practical thought for which the postulate of bi-univocity or bi-laterality is useless, a postulate that stipulates, in general, that to any event in the World corresponds one ethical interpretation and one alone, one ethical decision and one alone. Therefore, it supposes that the event is co-determinant of ethics through the reversible technological mediation, and the milieu of validity of this postulate is the relation of philosophy and the World in its contingency and particularity. It is enough to substitute, as determinant, the misfortune of man-without-world with the thought-world, raising this postulate to make ethics universal, universal in-the-last-instance and not universal through subtraction of a useless postulate. The essence of man determines in-the-last-instance, on the occasion of an event, a multitude of possible ethical interpretations, or indifferentiates them and renders impossible a determination of this behaviour by such and such particular norm. This means that man determines the World itself as the ensemble of ethical interpretations, or the ethics-world.

Let us call this style not so much non-Euclidean as non-Kantian. Kantianism remains Euclidean in ethics as in geometry and, more generally, in philosophy. All of philosophy even defines a “Euclidean” way of thinking or, at least, non-philosophy defines a non-Euclidean preparation for its own uni-versality. Kant postulates bi-univocity in the very Idea of “common moral judgment” from which it starts as a fact of Reason. In this form, this moral judgment, on the one hand, is valid for all reasonable beings, the essence of man being defined as a Whole and as Reason by the identity of these two predicates. In its content, Kant stipulates that what alone is good is “good will.” There is, on the one hand, a bi-univocity of the (moral) agent and judgment: to humanity corresponds one moral judgment and one moral judgment alone. On the other hand, Kant postulates the bi-univocity of moral judgment and the judging being (evaluating being): there is one being and one being alone, good will, that would be susceptible to an evaluation as good. The suppression of this postulate does not make an ethics impossible but changes its status and object, limiting ethics by ordering it to misfortune alone and giving it a new object: the ethics-world itself. One cannot obviously say: only radical misfortune is good, only solitude is moralistic, for precisely both fall outside of ethics and philosophy. It is on their basis indifferent to ethics, but the structuring of ethics in-the-last-instance (as according to…the-last-instance), that a non-Kantian postulate can be formulated.

The only “law” is to effectuate radical misfortune within the ethics-world under the form of the Neighbour. “Existing as an other-Stranger” is the only really uni-versal or uni-vocal imperative for all ethical prescriptions in their doctrinal diversity. The character of the “categorical imperative” that the most radical ethics updated (Kant) must be dualyzed in turn when it is said of Stranger-existing. Radically necessary by its cause, it is just as much uni-versal by its cause, but on a mode of non-sufficiency that excludes its auto-position such that it has a place in “moral law” or in the mixture of Reason with the Will. Misfortune and the Stranger are not formally void, and the Stranger invalidates formalism like empiricism. Their uni-versality and necessity possess no ontic nor even ontological content that would “empiricize” or above all “worldify” [mondaniserait] the exigency of being a Neighbour. This uni-versality that is non-formal, precisely non-categorical or absolute like Duty, nevertheless remains without content when it is effectuated by the World. Non-Ethics is void of the World without being formal, experimental without being empiricist – this is the “principle” of the non-sufficiency of the Real as the uni-versal cause. Non-Ethics is not powerless to legislate, like a “negative ethics,” nor is it pressed to legislate in the World and add its stone to the ruinous pile of ethics. Of course, a residual appearance of the ethical imperative subsists around it, like an aura bound to its material and language of its occasion, but it is manifested by the Stranger as a simple appearance limited by its occasional cause and, otherwise, as a hallucination.

From the non-ethical perspective, it is not just “good will” that would be an evaluable object. Every event of the ethics-world is, every ethical theory or behaviour would be or yet: any behaviour provided (and it is always ethico-philosophical) is liable to an identity, that is, a non-ethical type of “evaluation” but in their near resistance. Non-Ethics, defined as radically uni-versal, differently from the generality of norms (rational or not), can be valid for them regardless. A multitude of non-ethical judgments corresponds to the non-essence of man, neither singular man nor humanity as the ensemble of men defined by Reason, but men as other-Strangers or Neighbours.

This is obviously not a relativism (sociological or historical always) about the variety of morals, a relativism that is the petty change and forfeiture of rational man in their degradation. The real essence of the in-man determines in-the-last-instance a multiplicity of non-ethical judgments concerning the ethics-world at the discretion of occasional conjunctures. The search for rational consensus and its sociologizing form is over. Consensus and communication are the postulates of the philosophical closure of Kantianism (and not only Kantianism) – every philosophy is closed by a cosmo-ethical horizon. With the suppression of this postulate, we liberate an ethical sphere beyond the fetishes of Reason, Moral Judgment, Humanity, Duty, etc. This non-Kantian opening is valid for any ethics, whether it be formalist, materiel [matériale] and phenomenological, or Judaic – to note some examples – to the extent where they all are to varying degrees structured like a metaphysics (of morals) and repress or curtail it without eradicating in the principle the claim to validity for man.

From the Law to the Force (of) the Law (FL)
The previous analyses require the uni-lateralization or dualysis of the mixed concept authority, the author of the Law or the subject, and returning the concept to the radical identity that we have found under several forms: 1) the real identity (of) misfortune; 2) the non-ethical identity of the Neighbour-subject or the other-Stranger; 3) the unified theory of ethics and philosophy, or concretely the unified theory of the Greek, the Jew, and Christian, a theory destined to substitute itself for the aporias of their hierarchical or unitary relations. Undoubtedly, the solution is prescribed the position of the problem but is presentation by the critical approach of the ethics-world would postulate this solution as already acquired a priori in reality. The point is to together invent and discover the emergent, theoretically new concept that will contain the solution to the problem, and which already motivates the critique of philosophical ethics. This concept destined to take (but elsewhere with another theoretical – symptomatic – significance) the central place of the Law, Duty or rational Will (Kant), the Face or the Other (Levinas), the Call (Bergson and Heidegger) and Authority in general, is the concept of the force (of) the law (FL), another formulation of the Neighbour.

The FL must radically change the ethico-philosophical apparatus. Before manifesting this concept, we must distinguish it from the force of the law that supposes either that it is already given and that we evaluate its own force; that the (political or other) force and the law determine and constitute each other reciprocally according to relations or dialectics that political and legal philosophy give formulae and examples of. A brief “phenomenology” of the FL shows that it concerns a bloc of a phenomenal identity rather than a philosophical dyad; that the suspension of intentionality (“of” [« de »]) means not the suppression of any intentionality but of its doublet-form or its redoubling, the force of the law…of the law, together with what philosophy would imply, postulating the prior existence of an already constituted law as the essential and then bringing it in a duality relation with the force. The FL does not assume the law as already given and determinant of the essence of man but supposes that it would rather itself have to be constituted and determined by the essence of man. The FL is never, like the Law, perceived from afar like a commandment, a hearthstone, a factum, like an ideal fact – it is confounded with the concrete other-Stranger as it is constituted. Following Fichte, we could call it, but not think it, as an original drive or tendency, but we will prefer the formula “force (of) the law.” It is not the force that derives from the Law but the transcendental force that, preceding it, can determine it as a (non-)ethical identity for the Law (if the Law is given elsewhere). Evidently, it excludes the Pascalian dialectic, for example, of the force and the right as it has the primacy over the form of the Law and its Kantian auto-position.

In the philosophical sense, without speaking of its legal sense, the “Law” is a gregarious generality, a mixture that must be if not decomposed, at least dualyzed like thought(-)power in general, the Stranger or non-autopositional Distance, and the Neighbour as a mode of the Stranger. The FL is constituted as the clonal function of this argument that is the Philosophical Law. It is the identity-of-the-last-instance of the Law. The FL excludes as much the formalism in ethics (Kant) as the materiel ethics of values that is too simply opposed to it (Scheler). Brought back in this way to its phenomenal content, the “Law” no longer grounds itself but emerges in-the-last-instance from the vision-in-One. It is no longer a superior subject as claimant to the Real, then interiorizing despit it a content of empirical legality even if it were through its negation. The FL is the organon of Exteriority, without any other content than itself (this Exteriority, though a priori, is not a form) but with its mode of “vertical” transcendence as Neighbour. It contributes this supplement of ontic transcendence towards thought(-)power. The FL is in-the-last-instance a Performed, itself a performation rather than a will, or the real kernel of will rather than a faculty of desiring. It is enough to act under the conditions of misfortune, that is, practically or uni-laterally so that rational will, the Law, would be rejected outside of it, but so that the other-Stranger is constituted through it.

The FL as Uni-Lateral Duality
The FL is therefore not a concept of the type “spirit of the laws” or the face that is attributed to the made law or the law in becoming (necessitating force, inclining force, inspiring force, conspiring force, etc.). Its structure is no longer the structure of a philosophical dyad, namely a machine with 2/3 or 3/2 terms, but a uni-lateral duality with 2(1) terms. No doubt, the ensemble of the process will appear to still contain three terms: a) the given-without-essence or without-law, without moral or legal givenness (in, for example, Kant and Fichte’s fashions) and which enjoys a radical autonomy; b) the ethico-philosophical given, all the philosophical forms of Authority including the constitutive claim as to the essence of the Real, is suspended or invalidated, conserving it by contrast as a datum whose theoretical status is a status of relative autonomy; and c) the FL itself as the non-auto-mediating mediation, the non-ethical organon of determination, and not the law as given in the datum, but the actions produced on the occasion of ethico-philosophical data.

“Uni-lateral duality” then means 1) that the real-Man, non-consistent Man, is absolutely indifferent to any ethics or non-ethics, at the point of not being actively distinguished from them, which above all does not mean identifying themselves with them; 2) that the FL as non-ethical transcendence is not itself real but only transcendental and with an ontic content, or neither adds nor subtracts anything from the Real of misfortune; and 3) that it is sufficiently given or manifest through its ultimate enrootment in this immanence. In one sense, the FL is not the form of…but the real essence for the Law insofar as the Law, stopping from making the object of an auto-position whereby it claims to be the Real or as determinant, is on the one hand enrooted without mediation in the most immanent lived experience, on the other hand exterior to it or non-constituent of it; it is a transcendence uni-lateralized or separated (from) its auto-position. Man exists in their relation to ethics as the FL, but existence is a transcendental uni-lation rather than a relation and is added to its cause without adding anything from the real to it. There is no more possible ethical definition of man, no more “moral vision of the world,” which is but a philosophical enterprise of authority. Complementary, a practice called “non-ethical” becomes possible on the material of ethics itself.

More precisely, the FL is a separated identity rather than a divided identity, a separation that is required by the conservation of Identity, differently from the division that transforms it and claims to affect the Real. Therefore, the FL is the uni-versal kernel of Reason, Reason only providing a universal of abstraction or an empirically co-determined a priori. Let us remember that the FL, if it is identical to the other-Stranger, is the identity (of) an Other than the Philosophical Law, separated in-the-last-instance from the mixed state of the Philosophical Law. The alterity to the Law is not enough to determine the FL, if it is not specified in its radicality at once (if we must say it like so) as Other than of…(the Law) and not only as Other of (the Law), and as identity or the One (of) this Other, a One that precisely bears upon it as the determination of the being-foreclosed. The simple alterity of the Other of…would return to the philosophical doublet, but as Other than of…, assuming not yet to realize cloning, only would complicate the philosophical circle without imposing upon it this “heretical reduction” that is non-philosophy.

To sum up this description, we will pose two axioms and the theorem that is deduced from them:

Ax.1: Man as Real is in-man and is therefore not determinable by the Law or Authority (this axiom poses the essence of the human as without-consistency or independent of any authoritarian violence, even the violence of a philosophical axiom).

Ax.2: The in-man however determines the inhuman Law as human (this axiom poses the human transformation of the Law originally given as consistent or non-human).

Theorem: The in-man is the identity-of-the-last-instance of man and the Law, and this identity is the FL. Because it is in-man, man can (nothing prevents man, to the contrary) determine the Law as human through an organon that is this identity-of-the-last-instance, this uni-lateral duality of man and the Law.

The FL as Non-Technological Organon
How can man act upon ethics if they do not do so in an authoritarian and technological way? “Man” – to still employ this generality that we have dualyzed – can act but upon the resistance of the ethico-philosophical through the means of this organon that they are qua subject and realize the identity of-the-last-instance, not of adverse ethical positions, but first each of them, and suppress their conflict in this way. The FL indeed uses transcendence and exigency of the ethical type but without redoubled or refolded upon themselves forms which are the forms of the Law when it is announced as twice transcendent: a first time as exigency through its effect or operation, a second time through its nature and essence.

The FL is sufficiently in affinity with the ethico-philosophical technology and sufficiently distinct from it to be able to transform it. Indeed, this organon apparently has “two” faces or two heads that are non-continuous or non-indiscernible. It is human, that is, immanent or indivisible, and therefore non-technical and non-ethical, but human in-the-last-instance alone, “in”-man without constituting man nor even to exhaust this duality, without however stopping being foreign to ethics. We must recall the previous description of the FL. Like the ethical decision itself, the description in any case indeed comprehends a kernel of decision, exteriority or non-horizontal distance (the Stranger) but also the transcendence and alterity that is a mode but a non-“modalizing” mode of distance (the other-Stranger or the Neighbour). Thus, the kernel can act upon ethico-philosophical decisions; but, differently from these decisions, this kernel no longer has the philosophical form that always combines division and redoubling within an auto-position. It is still an exteriority and first an alterity, but now indivisible within their unification. What distinguishes these two actings?

Seeing as how they do not belong to technological structures, these two actings can act upon techno-ethical decisions without passing through technics. For example, to act upon bio-techno-ethical decisions, philosophy (which remains a technics) is powerless or vicious. The organon of the FL is not a supplement of technology as a help for the ethical decision. To the contrary, the organon represents the minimum of uni-lateral means necessary to act upon ethics. If ethical acting upon the events of the World supposes a technological mediation which only reveals itself in etho-techno-logical parousia, then non-ethical acting requires a simple organon without the redoubling proper to the tool in the “tool of the tool” specific to the utility circuit and technology in general. The FL exhausts its acting once each time but sufficiently without requiring a supplement of technology as is the case in the Etho-techno-logos. This status of the organon signifies that the FL is the identity (of) the tool of misfortune and that the Stranger is this organon without a technological context. One such identity-drive [pulsion d’identité] escapes from the antinomy of the law [droit] and the force, and others, for the Stranger is in-the-last-instance rather than in a face-to-face with the World. The FL is a force that does not intervene in the whole-technologically by claiming to directly do so on one such ethical event. The Stranger and its mode, the Neighbour, is an emergent transcendental force, a uni-facial force that makes a new meaning, new functions of ethics emerge by the very fact that they make use of ethics. The Stranger has nothing to do with a meta-ethical entity, not even having ethical sufficiency. The Stranger is not a worker or labourer of ethics, even less one of its intellectuals or philosophers, and if the Stranger transforms a material, it is not through technological procedures or continuous abstraction, but through their badge of solitude.

The FL is also the only means to really limit or transform (without reviving it) biotechnology for example. The authority of ethics, its technological power, can only be really fought through the suspension of its techno-metaphysical framework and through the correlative disengagement of the Stranger-subject manifesting themselves as quasi-ontic but uni-lateralized alterity. This transformation is still a phenomenon other than the downfall [déclin] of ethics, which is de jure and necessary. For example, rational ethics determine goals, values, and ends, and can be locally saved but auto-immersed and auto-imploded within itself, because this downfall of/within the ethics-world can be the object of a new force which is no longer exactly a project or an activity, but a practice, ergo uni-lateral, and performativeergo immanent. The non-ethical “utopia” interrupts (for its account alone, it is true) this long process of downfall in which rational ethics begins its cycle again, the functional couplings of man-machine after the couplings sovereign-subject, reason-will, etc. No place is liberated for a “new ethics” – save for the necessary illusion which men hope for. We will not restore lost ethics, even by deconstructing Practical Reason, and even by a new critique of Reason.

The Organon of Non-Ethics
Kant’s problem – to elaborate an ethics is itself a duty – is undoubtedly always our own in its generality but it can no longer signify, as we have seen, the authority of ethics over itself, ultimately its auto-position and authority of philosophy over ethics. In a sense, nothing still commands ethics, which is the sphere of any commandment (even meta-ethics). However, the Real can, by contrast, determine ethics under rigorous practical conditions and practical reality. Therefore, there is a non-ethical exigency that has nothing of a form, law or a value or, more exactly, which alone has the axiomatized form and therefore non-metaphysical form of a “non-law” or a “non-value” in the uni-lateral sense that we understand this “non” – an a priori for the Law but whose essence is not a duplication or a doublet of the law and thus enjoys a radical uni-versality.

As the apparent result of the critique of philosophy and “philosophy’s” ethics but as the cause of this real critique, the FL is the organon of a determination of philosophy in view of its new use. Not being the Real itself (still below it), the FL is the hidden life a new relation to that which, in societies and history, presents itself as the spontaneous moral and as the ethical elaboration of this moral – as ethico-philosophical technology. The FL is the reach of a sphere that represents the uni-versalization of the ethics-world that is, however, under the condition of the suspension of its claims to determine the Real of man. For the World and what is outside of the World, for philosophy and what is outside of philosophy, for reasonable beings as for beings deprived of reason – except for men as they are in their essence of non-consistency – the only uni-versally good thing is the FL or the action determined in-the-last-instance by the FL. The other criteria of Moral Authority (Law or Duty, Consensus, Happiness and Virtue, the Good, the Other, the Call, etc.) are compromised with the worldly experience from which they are simply subtracted, what they prolong with some near difference, ineffective in proportion to their specular nature. Better than the “metaphysics of morals” or “pure reason as practice,” the FL realizes the autonomy and identity of one practice that has ethics as an object. Though more than the remote philosophical auto-position of the Law or the Face or Other as Prohibited, the FL is given the means for an effective practice that neither rational purity (which exacerbates the will for itself) nor absolute transcendence of the Other (which annuls it and takes it as hostage) can attain. Ethics can only give rise to a radical exigency (and no longer “absolute” exigency) if the subject stops being given in the form of a rational auto-position and if the Law cedes the place to a subject of immanent performation, the other-Stranger or better yet the Neighbour. The legislator philosopher is given the Law and reposes upon it a second time, manipulating the Law as the force of the Law, while the Neighbour is confounded with a simple, non-split FL, where they are no longer the legislator ex machina.

Here, we can no longer describe the FL’s mode of acting and transformation of these blends and how concretely it relates them to man. The FL clones ethico-philosophical decision not to revive, redouble or reactivate them, to intervene within them, but to change their global use or their significance in relation to man as they are a Neighbour. The FL is able to enact [peut] this transformation because, at the same time, it is in a relation of affinity with these decisions, in-One or in-misfortune, and irreducibly exceeds their interminable circuit, the dance of norms or “waltz of ethics.” In particular, as a transcendental organon that suspends all amphibologies, the FL is the only practical causality that would neither be efficient nor formal, neither final nor material. It declasses or demobilizes in a stroke the ends or movers of Happiness, Virtue, Knowledge, but just as much the formalism of the Law or the phenomenology of values and the phenomenology of the Call. The FL presents itself to ethics as an organon that demands [exigeant] not the respect of the Law, the obedience or the project of liberty, but the a priori practical explanation of the Law as it is given. Nevertheless, it is not a new ethics of knowledge. The FL is intrinsically practical, namely uni-lateral and, far from confronting existing knowledge and given values, demands or imposes this practical knowledge of existing values. The scope of non-ethics is simply to contribute the phenomenon (of) ethics, performing it on the occasion of the ethics-world within the bounds of the heretical identity of the Stranger-Neighbour. Therefore, we do not oppose the principle of sufficient ethics with a principle of ethical insufficiency, but rather we oppose it with the revealed positivity of transcendental untruthfulness constitutive of ethics. Ethics does not need to be corrected or amended – it cannot even do so on the side of its foundations – nor does it need to be carried on by a new discipline destined to relieve an eventual “death” or “fading away of ethics.” It is the moral subject as Stranger-Neighbour manifesting themselves through a radical transcendence and alterity to the ontic subject who demands, who gives-by-demanding-it, an explanation: a practical explanation of ethics such that it exists.

Finally, non-ethics is not a superior norm for ethics which has no need of one, producing always superior norms for itself and laws that are always more “universal.” Rather, we had to limit the Law to make way for the force (of) the law. We had to limit ethics to make way for non-ethics. We had to, for example, refuse viciously complying with the ethical demand and entering into its “market.” Non-Ethics is an act that is itself non-ethical to show that man can perfomatively abandon ethics. Non-Ethics is not a negation of ethics but the use of ethics in the name of man-in-the-last-instance….Negatively, non-ethics is a liberation. Positively, non-ethics is both a theory and a pragmatics of these ethico-philosophical blends – our everyday [ordinaire] quandary.

translated by Jeremy R. Smith

taken from here

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