Short note on Laruelle’s Anti-Badiou

Up until Badiou, philosophy was educative and pedagogical; with him, it is re-educated by mathematics.

– Francois Laruelle,  Anti-Badiou

Just began reading Laruelle’s new book on Badiou tonight. Already he sets up an oppositional thematics with Badiou’s philosophical project seen as a re-education of philosophy that incorporates a conservative and authoritarian stance:  “mathematicism is the condition of communism, with the authoritarian Platonist model finding a new lease of life in Maoism.” 1 As Laurelle states it, “Is this not a new, Maoist, avatar of universal Aufhebung, a manner of conserving philosophy through its re-education by means of dismemberment, redistribution and subtraction?”

Against such authoritarian re-education Non-philosophy, according to Laruelle, “seeks a way of depotentializing philosophy and making another use of it, but via other, more positive and less authoritarian procedures— formerly on the “non-Euclidean” model, and at present through a scientific (physical) experimentation and performation of philosophy— not at all through a scholarly and “cultural” breaking-in.”

He likens Badiou’s approach as a great Maoist bootcamp for re-education, one in which the new cadre of philosophers will under the rule of mathematics, logic, and a stringent pedagogical discipline enforce a specific, correct ‘image of thought’. Laurelle tells us that Badiou contents himself once more with a “revolutionary philosophy,” a “cultural” revolution “within the limits of philosophy, rather than a scientific and non-philosophical revolution in philosophy”. There will be purges as well, a new purification of philosophy, Laruelle tells us. In fact “the entire system, in its “metaphysical” depths, in its ultimate axioms, can be read as a manifesto of terror or of “cultural revolution” in philosophy.”

Ultimately with or without mathematics, in Badiou it is not a question simply of a “philosophy of force but of a political practice of philosophy (Lenin) conjugated with the mathematical void, a practice of the force of the void in all domains of thought, in the name of philosophy”. Laruelle asks the question: “How can we oppose Badiou without entering into a mere “relation of forces,” setting against him a force of the same nature as his own?”

Laruelle invites us to join in this struggle or agon against the authoritarian proclivities of such a project asking us if “to protect philosophy against itself, must we purify it through the entirely specular mediation of mathematics, making of it a superior politico-cultural doxa that exalts mathematics as force of the void (like a kind of philosophical brainwashing)? Or should we rather aim for a scientific-type knowledge of philosophy, a knowledge that would no doubt be contingent, but which, this time, would truly escape such doxa?” In the end he describes what must be done:

“The introduction of Maoism into philosophy cannot be a conjunctural accident, even if it is also a matter of a certain conjuncture; this would be to underestimate Badiou as a philosopher. No, it is an essential possibility of philosophy, one that philosophy makes available alongside others; a possibility first actualized by Plato, but one that is profoundly inscribed in the very axioms of philosophical decision, albeit more or less inert or apparently inactive at any given time. We require further details as to the new version of non-philosophy, and as to the analytic means that will allow us to detect in Badiou the indestructible residue of philosophy, and its conservation-reeducation by Cantor and Mao under the sign of Plato.” (ibid)

Looks like this will enact one of Laruelle’s gnosis-fictions: a dualysis masquerade between himself and Badiou, a knowing by way of a dislodgement, an escape from the prison house of Platonism under the sign of Badiou-Mao. But this is no ordinary gnosis, this is the inversion of Gnosticism without god, and venture into the democracy of thought, that is at once an attack upon the academic aristocracy, and a realignment with the scientific movement of thinking and knowing at the conjuncture of the real. And, yet, as we will learn it is not to gnosis that this strange non-philosophy turns, but to philo-fiction where it “becomes possible to transform philosophy, Parmenides’ formula, into a mere symptom of the Real, and then into the material of philo-fiction, and moreover into a model of philo-fiction”. This new form of philosophy must “act upon philosophy, rather than to contemplate it one more time— this is our imperative, and quantum theory is of the order of the means of man as Last Instance; it is not the mirror in which philosophy admires itself again and always.”

The new philosopher “tells a philosophical tale about a positive science”— he repeats the mythological style, whereas the Greek physiologists (rather than Plato) inaugurated a scientific vision of the object “philosophy.” This is a tale that renders philosophy of sciences themselves inventive. He continues, saying,

The Real of immanence, by virtue of the particle that it configures, is the non-dialectical solution to contradiction and to antinomies. It impossibilizes logic and theory without destroying them, instead simplifying them into their materiality, reducing them to the state of fiction— but a logic-fiction or philo-fiction. It gives to deployed theory, to all of fictional materiality, its force of “formalism,” for which reality, the empirical, and ideality are all of fictional materiality, but without constitutive effect upon it. (Kindle Locations 3247-3251).

He envisions a fusion of quatum theory and philosopy, a science ficitionalization of non-philosophy in which the new philosopher must treat metaphor generically, and not leave it either to internal relations or external relations; the correlation, or rather “unilation, of unilateral complementarity is neither substantial nor atomic”. Out of this new creed is born a new ethics, it “will be a matter of passing from absolute poverty (the philosophical loss of philosophy) to radical poverty as non-philosophical loss of philosophy”.

 

1. Laruelle, Francois (2013-01-03). Anti-Badiou: The Introduction of Maoism into Philosophy (Kindle Locations 87-88). Bloomsbury Academic. (all quotes from the preface)

9 thoughts on “Short note on Laruelle’s Anti-Badiou

  1. As a math major myself, I wonder if it is possible to perform the same move as Badiou with other forms of non-standard mathematics to “level” the playing field a bit. Allow me to explain.

    Badiou’s _Being and Event_ is precedented upon a particular – and not to mention very, very dominant – acceptance of ZFC set theory. To reject the axiom of choice (yet again akin to heresy; it is like the suspicion marked by the “non-” in Laruelle’s non-philosophy), then to build up an equally mathematical ontology from non-standard and/or non-formal mathematics… this might be a worthy project in light of Badiou’s mathematization of philosophy.

    Instead of “suture”, could one develop a pluralistic mathematical ontology of both “addition” and “subtraction” instead? I don’t see why not, and I am reminded briefly of Derrida’s playful reading of the more than one [plus d’un] at the beginning of _Specters of Marx_. To mix Badiou and Derrida in this way – what a monstrous thought! Yet, by incorporating Badiou’s perspective of subtraction, Laruelle would indeed move with-and-beyond Derrida/Lukacsian spectral ontology since now the absence of a specter (a-spectral) would also be just as telling as the presence of one. Whither Marxism indeed!

    A brief word on this Badiouian dominance or “mastery” which is decidedly problematic: It is the same “masculine” sort of dominance found in Lacan’s formulas of sexuation upon which Badiou builds his oeuvre. This reads: “There is one which is not”. Yet, in contrast to this, we have the feminine not-All which reads: “There is none which is not submitted to the phallic function.” How to translate this into mathematics? –a language Badiou purports to speak. This is our task, I’d imagine, though we can certainly drop the gendered language.

    In any event, we already have good precedent in the field of mathematics. Errett Bishop’s constructive approach is very, very rigorous. He has a lecture entitled “Schizophrenia in Contemporary Mathematics” in which he critiques, among other things, the state of contemporary mathematics. He also packs a few powerful punches:

    >One could probably make a long list of schizophrenia attributes of contemporary mathematics, but I think the following short list covers most of the ground: rejection of common sense in favor of formalism; debasement of meaning by wilful refusal to accomodate certain aspects of reality; inappropriateness of means to ends; the esoteric quality of the communication; and fragmentation.

    >Common sense is a quality that is constantly under attack. It tends to be supplanted by methodology, shading into dogma. […]

    And it continues… this is only on page 1-2!! Does this in any way sound like Badiou? I’d say so… There’s so much more detail here, and he begins to work from the ground up to re-construct set theory in such a way so as to avoid these problems. Bishop isn’t the only one, either.

    Thanks for the post, I’m looking forward to reading _Anti-Badiou_.

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  2. In the end Laruelle’s finger-pointing is no difference than many thinkers of the past trying to unseat a dominant thinker. Each is aiming either at Plato, Hegel, Heidegger or Nietzsche or whichever that’s dominant. In that sense, Laruelle’s project of non-philosophy is in fact not non-relational, but just as dialectical. Michel Serres is perhaps exemplary in this case: he refuses to critique. He considers critiquing another system as unproductive; it’s not proactive.

    Badiou has stated quite clearly in his later works, that truth doesn’t happen in philosophy: it happens in science, the arts, politics and love. In which case, Laruelle’s rejection of Badiou’s bootcamp, begins to appear rather misdirected. Non-philosophy is then another variant of antiphilosophy, that which speculates on non-thought as thought? By purifying philosophy, bringing it back as a powerful thinking tool to think through questions in science, arts, politics and love, Badiou should be considered a liberator from such antiphilosopher as Laruelle. Who, it seems, is more keen to displace the concern on topical issues to the tilting at the machine.

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  3. In Badiou’s philosophy, he makes very clear about extraction and subtraction, as functors that allow for new thought. Thus philosophy as written and as suture of thought should be distinctly separated. As counting should be differentiated from numbers. These functors, as used by Laruelle and many others, are useful in orienting toward a new aperture, not as a tool to be folded back into the system. Thus the emphasis is not on One, Two or Three, but the fact that one is compossible from zero, (0), as two (0)0)) and so on. It’s this suture or the functor of compossibility that opens up new venues of thought. We’d like to ask these non-philosophy philosophers then, what is the materiality of their thought? If Laruelle points at Badiou’s mathematics as the tool for aufgehung, then what is Laruelle’s materiality? Lest, we’re suspicious of exactly what Laruelle wouldn’t want to do: fold back to philosophy for a new tool of thinking. Immanent in philosophy is not the historicism of philosophy, but its functors capable of new sutures of thought. Enlisting quantum mechanics and the sciences in an apparatus doesn’t qualify Laruelle’s claim as a way out of philosophy, as non-philosophy, but along the same trajectory of Badiou’s set theory, for onto, and category theory, for the logics of appearances.

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    • Yes, I think Laruelle’s arcane language is what put me off more than anything, it seems almost mythic in intent as if a return to some private system of reasoning that strives to pit itself against all accepted forms of philosophy.

      Laruelle starts with ‘decision’ as the determining point or beginning of all philosophy. A decision in this sense is not a psychological event, but rather the operation which establishes a philosophy while remaining constitutively external to it. It does this by instituting a fundamental binary separation or bar S / s. A division between the One and Many, Being and beings, the virtual and the actual, etc. Since a decision is external, any particular philosophy is incapable of thinking its own decision; rather the decision is its blindspot. Yet it is on the basis of this decision that philosophy can claim self-sufficiency and ultimately its ability to philosophize everything. Philosophy can claim that it isn’t in need of justification from something outside of itself. From this understanding of philosophy, we can say that what nonphilosophy does is suspend the decisional authority of philosophy. From this basis, nonphilosophy can discern the transcendental conditions of a particular
      philosophy. It’s more like a cloning vehicle that makes copies of philosophy so that it can experiment or put its conceptual apparatus to work in pragmatic ways. With the horizon of a particular thought suspended, nonphilosophy can experiment with philosophies and try to open thought up beyond its current constraints.

      Badiou on the other hand ‘suspension’ allows philosophy to be sutured to one of its truth procedures (Manifesto for Philosophy) :

      ….philosophy is…the configuration, within thought, of the fact that its four generic conditions (the poem [art], the matheme [science], the political and love) are compossible in the eventful form prescribe the truths of the time, a suspension of philosophy can result from the restriction or blockage of the free play required in order to define a regime of passage, or of intellectual circulation between the truth procedures conditioning philosophy. The most frequent cause of such a blockage is that instead of constructing a space of compossibility through which the thinking of time is practiced, philosophy delegates its function to one or other of its conditions, handing over the whole of thought to one generic position. Philosophy is then carried out in the element of its own suppression to the great benefit of that procedure.

      I shall call this type of situation a suture. Philosophy is placed in suspension every time it presents itself as being sutured to one of its conditions. (61)

      For Badiou philosophy produces no truths of its own. Truths are always produced within one of the four truth-procedures. What philosophy does is compossibility in the present, of ‘thinking’ how these absolutely distinct and plural truths hang together in the temporal formation. In this regard, philosophy cannot be the domain of truth over and against other practices. It must always draw its truths out of these truth procedures: these other practices.

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      • The bar of S/s is a threshold in Lacanian terms. It is certainly not binary by most present thinkers. But the paradigm, that which moves around each other not in opposition. From here alone, one can see how impaired Laruelle’s take. Also One and Many is clearly defined by Badiou in Logics of Worlds as those who can count objects and those inanimate objects that can’t, thus multiple and multiples of multiples. The Parmenides problematic solved. No separator established as such.

        Decision for Badiou is after the event, when a path opens up by chance. Badiou’s decision, it should be noted, is not based on a ‘tribunal’ of the right courses, or choices, those are taken by the reactionaries, but is imposed by the event till one is ‘backed up’ against the wall and yet courages propels one to take another step forward.

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      • Yea, I find Laruelle’s whole oeuvre offputting so haven’t invested that much time in his full line of thinking…

        Badiou, because of his Communist affiliations, and because of my own affiliation to Zizekian ways of thinking and provocation fit my temperament.

        Anyway thanks for the input… I’ll need to spend a little time on your own blog, maybe this weekend… cheers!

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  4. Reblogged this on Senselogi© and commented:
    François Laruelle: Anti-Badiou: On the Introduction of Maoism Into Philosophy (2011/2013)

    “This compelling and highly original book represents a confrontation between two of the most radical thinkers at work in France today: Alain Badiou and the author, François Laruelle.
    At face value, the two have much in common: both espouse a position of absolute immanence; both argue that philosophy is conditioned by science; and both command a pluralism of thought. Anti-Badiou relates the parallel stories of Badiou’s Maoist ‘ontology of the void’ and Laruelle’s own performative practice of ‘non-philosophy’ and explains why the two are in fact radically different. Badiou’s entire project aims to re-educate philosophy through one science: mathematics. Laruelle carefully examines Badiou’s Being and Event and shows how Badiou has created a new aristocracy that crowns his own philosophy as the master of an entire theoretical universe. In turn, Laruelle explains the contrast with his own non-philosophy as a true democracy of thought that breaks philosophy’s continual enthrall with mathematics and instead opens up a myriad of ‘non-standard’ places where thinking can be found and practised.
    Originally published as Anti-Badiou: sur l’introduction du maoïsme dans la philosophie by Éditions Kimé, Paris, 2011
    Translated by Robin Mackay
    Publisher Bloomsbury Academic, London/New York, 2013
    ISBN 1441190767, 9781441190765
    246 pages

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