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Notes on François Laruelle’s Les Philosophies de la difference

Notes on François Laruelle’s Les Philosophies de la difference

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Published by: AnthonyPaulSmith on Oct 14, 2009
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Notes on François Laruelle’s
 Les Philosophies de la difference: Introduction critique
(Paris: PUF, 1986).
Provided on 13 October 2009 by Anthony Paul Smith for personal use andedification.Originally posted at An und für sich <itself.wordpress.com> as part of a series of notes on important texts in Laruelle’s development of non-philosophy. All quotes aremy own translation, but they should be treated as rough translations not suitable for direct quotation. Also, as these are reading notes, I expect there may be spelling errorsand grammatical mistakes, but hope they may still be of use. Readers are advised tolook for Rocco Gangle’s translation, entitled
 Philosophies of Difference: A Critical  Introduction to Non-Philosophy
, to come out in 2010 with Continuum.
Instructions for Use
A short word about the book itself before I summarize the preface (entitled“Instructions for Use [Mode d'emploi]“. First, before anyone asks, Les Philosophiesde la différence: Introduction critique (PUF, 1986) is currently being translated byRocco Gangle for Continuum. I think we’ll see that English translation come outsometime in mid-2010 in an affordable hardback and then a year later in paperback.In Laruelle’s own history of non-philosophy this work is placed in the period called“Philosophy II”. This is the period of non-philosophy where Laruelle intentionally begins to develop his science of philosophy. The negative finding of this science of  philosophy is in the theory of the philosophical Decision as the invariant structure of all philosophy. The philosophical Decision is the structure that dooms philosophy to ahallucinatory specularity, blinding it to the Real as Real. The positive theoriesdeveloped in this stage are that of the vision-in-One and the reclaiming of science’srelationship with the Real for thought. In short, this book provides the criticism of  philosophy and gives us the map to avoid the traps of philosophy’s structure. Anecessary prolegomena for the positive work of non-philosophy found in the works of Philosophy III and Philosophy IV (works I hope to provide notes for in the futureinclude the magnum opus
 Principes de la non-philosophie
Mystique non- philosophique à l’usage des contemporains
).Laruelle begins by noting the need for “instructions” to reading the studies found inthe book. In these instructions he will provide some explication on the method of the book, its ends, the interior problematic of philosophy it intends to introduce (in acritical way) as found in the most manifest problematic of contemporary philosophy(difference), and the book’s internal organization.Method: Laruelle is explicit that this is not a doxography, it is not a typical history of  philosophy book. But rather it makes use of figures, texts, themes, positions, and theusual elements of philosophy as if they were objects of one problematic andundertakes a reconstruction of that problematic from the suspended material of  philosophy. Laruelle is considering Difference here as the most enveloping andcomprehensive problematic of contemporary philosophy from Nietzsche onwards.The task of this work is not to show what particular thinkers thought about Difference
(one might say “thought they thought”), but to use names like “Nietzsche”,“Heidegger”, “Derrida”, and “Deleuze” as indicies, indications of problems, the limitsand the possibilities in the problems, etc., and to bring out the “syntax” of philosophy.While the book aims to be an introduction it does so not descriptively, but critically of the thinkers it introduces.Ends: The goal of the book is not primarily criticism. Laruelle mocks the usual philosophical commentary industry tactics of writings books. Either the author showsthat there are no problems in the thinker examined or it claims to have found theinsurmountable problem in the thinker or it claims to know the thinker better than thethinker himself and to provide a new Hegelianism beyond Hegel or new Spinozism beyond Spinoza. For this kind of writing philosophy becomes primarily criticism,whereas for Laruelle’s project the criticism is secondary and an effect of thetranscendental approach to philosophy. Its real end is to develop a theory of  philosophy itself in order to exit the trap of philosophy. It does so in its “scientifictheory” of the philosophical Decision.Internal Problematic: Firstly, Laruelle appears to be resolutely humanist. It is thisnon-philosophical humanism of “immanent man” that he sets against the problematicof Difference or rather demands that Difference be thought through. He writes,“philosophy is made for man, not man for philosophy (10).” It is with this in mindthat he then states a major thesis for the book, “We experiment here, in this case fromDifference, from Heidegger and Derrida principally, and from Nietzsche and Deleuzealso, with the “thesis” that, in the One (in the sense we have extended to it), we findthe radical unity of man and of knowledge [savoir] the most immanent and the mostreal (10).” We are warned not to confuse unity with unitary philosophy. Instead unityrefers to the privileged mode of knowing that science has of the Real, which Laruellenames “gnosis” in honour of the forgotten martyrs of greco-occidental philosophy. It begins by taking up the forgetting of Being in the name of the One. According toLaruelle the One, as found in Dualists and Gnostics, is the minoritarian position inthought even as it is the scientific one. The task then becomes to think Being from thethought of the One and not, as has been the case, the One from ontology. The One is beyond ontological systems and open to the Real that is irreducible to a unitaryconception of Being or the One or Difference.Organization: Laruelle then summarizes each chapter. The first chapter establishes theconditions of possibility for a real and scientific critique of Difference and the philosophical Decision in general. It explains his concept of the “vision-in-One”. Thesecond chapter examines the syntax of Difference, though with the problem of Finitude (which will become a major theme in the chapters on Heidegger and Derrida)suspended as this chapter deals with thinkers of the infinite (Deleuze and Nietzsche).The third chapter examines the reality of Difference and introduces the irreducibledimension of Finitude as “onticand “real”. The fourth chapter analyses theoverlapping of Difference and Finitude in order to overcome the opposition of “Concept” and “finite Difference”. The fifth chapter considers the work of Derrida inorder to show the interior of the universal and invariant schema of Difference. Herethe Jewish-Occidental philosophy of Derrida overturns the Greek-Occidental philosophy of Nietzsche and Heidegger through a radical concept of finitude. This is,however, an idealist overcoming of the prevailing hierarchy. The following twochapters continue this overcoming but through a replacing of the idealist elementswith the Vision-in-One and begins the real critique of Difference. The sixth chapter isthe most fundamental and shows how the One in its rigorously transcendental essenceis required and denied by Difference. That the One has been forgotten. It goes on to
examine scientific and non-philosophical aspects of the real critique of Difference.The seventh chapter moves past the specific problematic of Difference to develop thetheory of the philosophical Decision using the tools uncovered through the precedingstudies.It is in order to move past the aporias of both Greek-Occidental and Jewish-Occidental philosophy that non-philosophy undertakes its transcendental science. Thisis not primarily a criticism of philosophy, but a critical introduction to the practice of non-philosophy.
Chapter 1 – Introduction: From the aporias of Difference tothe Vision-in-One
The first section is entitled, “How Difference became a philosophical decision”.Difference is understood here as a name for the constellation which assembles certaincontemporaries in complex relations but nevertheless remain in proximity to oneanother. This means Nietzsche and Heidegger but also those who follow after them(Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida). Difference is the shadow of the old Greco-occidentalworld. The dominance of “Being” on thought came to be replaced, partly due toHeidegger’s own thinking, by “Difference”. Difference isn’t an Idea or a category, butrather a syntax and concrete invariant of philosophy.“Difference is a syntax, a manifesting of articulating philosophical language. It is alsoa thesis of reality, a certain experience, itself multiple, of the real (16).” It is afunctional unity of both syntax and experience which elevates it to the level of a principle – real and “transcendentally” logics – and in this way is an instance of the philosophical Decision that can be found in other such principles (Contradiction,Existence, Structure).Laruelle then summarizes the historical ascendency of Difference in 20
Century philosophy, tracing its importance in diverse fields like semiotics and phenomenology. This arises at the same time as the “thinking of limits” occurs in Nietzsche and Heidegger as inscribed in the metaphysics of “Endand “Limit”. For all that it still appears as yet another variation within philosophy itself of the philosophical Decision that has the invariant structure of claiming to close thenetwork on its own openness, but it does so by supplementing this way with thealterity that renders it preferable to anterior attempts.How does Difference become a real principle or a philosophical decision? First, itelaborates the properties of its syntax and this gives it a real and transcendentalessence. Secondly, now raised to the level of a transcendental it joins the ranks of “Being” and “Unity”. As a category it assumes some pregiven ontic reality, yet it risesto the level of decision when it is freed from this double subjection and becomes itself that Unity, capable of (at the same time) bringing itself about, determining its syntax,its own transcendental experience of reality, and of carrying out the genesis of empirical reality. Thirdly and finally it must thematize its syntaxical structure.So Laruelle will concern himself with the question of uncovering the syntax that wecall “Difference” and how to distinguish it from other syntaxs, like “Dialectics”.Further to that question Laruelle asks what is the specific experience, or rather 
, of the real that animate that specific syntax and render it concrete? Whatkind of real is it that articulates and specifies it each time? Is it Being, Subject, Spirit,Power [
], the Other and if so, what Other?

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