Ross Wolfe: When I first began blogging in the summer of 2008, “speculative realism” and “object-oriented ontology” (still as yet largely undifferentiated) was on the rise. Taylor Adkins contacted me about providing some insight into the German philosophical references used by François Laruelle in his “non-philosophy.” I provided one brief commentary, having come out of a recent engagement with German Idealism via Dieter Henrich and Brady Bowman. I’m still very ambivalent about Laruelle’s ideas, insofar as I pretend to understand them, though I find his critique of the common “Greco-Occidentalist” threads in the post-Hegelian “philosophies of difference” intriguing and appreciate Ray Brassier’s contributions that rely on Laruellean concepts.
[C Derick Varn: Anthony Paul Smith is a scholar and blogger forAn und für sich. He came to my attention by a web seminar I “attended” on the philosophy ofFrançois Laruelleand non-philosophy which I attended. I have since read his translations of Principles of Non-Philosophy (with Nicola Rubczak) and Future Christ: A Lesson in Heresy both out with Continuum. While still trying to wrap by head around the implications of Laruelle, I also wondered why Laruelle has taken so long to catch on compared to many of his contemporaries like Badiou, Derrida, and Deleuze. ]
C. Derick Varn: Why do you think Laruelle has been slow to be introduced to the Anglophone world?
Anthony Paul Smith:Regarding your first question, I taught at DePaul University as an adjunct for a year bouncing between the departments of Religious Studies, Environmental Studies, and Philosophy. During that year Alan D. Schrift came and presented a paper to the philosophy department. You may know that he’s editing a pretty comprehensive history of Continental philosophy and I jokingly asked him about why he hadn’t included Laruelle in his history. After explaining that he didn’t really know anyone who worked on him, it didn’t come to mind and whatever, he did tell me that he thought Laruelle was one of those figures who just fell through the cracks. If things had gone a little differently, he said, or someone had picked up a text to translate in the 70s or 80s, who knows if he would have been picked up. I didn’t get the impression he particularly liked Laruelle or anything, but he did bring out for me the contingency of these sorts of things. I mean, there are lots of brilliant thinkers in the world and some of them are exceedingly smart. But in the same way we pass homeless people and think that there is some perfectly good reason why that’s him and not me, I think as readers of philosophy we just assume that there is a really good reason we all keep talking about Derrida or Deleuze or Badiou or even Meillassoux now (just to stick with some sort of contemporary names). So that is clearly part of it, just an accident of history. At the same time his work and the language he uses to express it are difficult and I think this has put off a number of potential translators. I always wondered why Ray Brassier, for example, never translated one of his works, even one of the shorter ones, considering his own skills in that area. But he has tended to go with relatively more straight forward writers like Badiou and Meillassoux. But that’s the real issue — the lack of anything of his to read unless you’re willing to track down the French and work through it in a language unfamiliar to most Anglophone readers.
C.D.V.: Do you think Laruelle’s linkage to Ray Brassier’s work and also to Badiou has limited his reading in the US and Europe?
A.P.S.: As for Laruelle being linked to Brassier’s work, I don’t know if it has limited his reading. Brassier really was the first person to advocate for him in his Radical Philosophy article. At the same time, I think that Brassier’s own development (which is ongoing as far as I understand) did really color how many younger readers ended up reading him. There was a certain assumption, since many of them weren’t reading the primary sources I don’t think, that Laruelle shared Brassier’s antipathy for the human, for religion, for meaning, even for a vision of science that isn’t itself colored by a certain grimness and darkness. I think with Laruelle’s own texts starting to finally be available in English this is starting to fade away, which means many of those first-generation of readers have moved on from Laruelle finding his work concerned with issues they are not. But, I think we are seeing new readers, many coming from the arts, and I’m looking forward to conversations that do build off of Laruelle’s actual work rather than Brassier’s. I should say, I think Brassier was always quite clear that he had found something useful in Laruelle, that he wasn’t just explicating him. And I think we see some of the harshest criticism of Laruelle, if respectful, in the chapter of Nihil Unbound where Brassier deals with him. Continue reading →
I’ve diligently read through F.H. Jacobi’s 1785 Letters Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza in Conversations with Lessing and Mendelssohn and K.L. Reinhold’s 1789 The Foundation of Philosophical Knowledge over the last two days. From here I’m going to proceed to G.E. Schulze’s 1790 Aenesidemus essay, which harshly challenged the claims of Kantian-Reinholdian philosophy from the perspective of Humean skepticism. After that I can finally advance into Fichte’s and Maimon’s contributions to the fate of the Critical philosophy in the 1790’s.
Nothing really new from me today. But you can expect something along these lines in the next couple days. I’m quite confident that this study I’m making will prepare me well for an inquiry into François Laruelle’s notion of “the One.” Perhaps a comment on the new Speculative Heresy blog is in the works.
In the meantime, however, I’ve received the latest revision of my paper on Spinoza and Leibniz from Boston University’s Arché magazine for undergraduate philosophy. This piece will appear in the forthcoming issue. Check out the current articles on their site, however; they have an interview with Jaako Hintikka!
Taylor Adkins from Fractal Ontology has invited me to participate in a new blog, Speculative Heresy, which will deal with issues of non-philosophy. “Non-philosophy” refers to a position that has been expounded in the last few decades by prominent French thinkers such as Laruelle. Authors from the blogs Naught Thought and Accursed Share will be contributing to this effort as well. I am excited to have received this opportunity, and hope to do my part in this collaboration.
Taylor Adkins, from Fractal Ontology, has graciously shared with me some advanced rough drafts of his continuing translations of François Laruelle’s work from French into English. This morning I read one of the more introductory, programmatic pieces he sent — the preface and introduction to Principles of Non-Philosophy. This outlines in broad strokes Laruelle’s notion of “non-philosophy,” which, from what I gather, is one of the central themes of his work. The work exhibits an uncommon originality in its interpretations of traditional philosophical (and extra-philosophical) problems, accompanied by a casual erudition which appeals to my tastes greatly. Personally, I do foresee problems (or at least significant obstacles) which will present themselves to Laruelle’s enterprise, which may be dealt with more or less adequacy. Given the competence and ingenuity he displays in this short piece, however, I have no doubt that he will make an honest go of it. It would be ridiculous, in any case, to demand an exhaustive treatment or solution to these problems from a work which he openly admits is propaedeutic in its function (i.e., it only aims to be “the most complete introduction to non-philosophy in the absence of its realization”).
What follows are my initial thoughts in response to this piece. I will refrain from idle speculation into those sections which exceed my topical familiarity at present, and focus mostly on some of the references and implications which I take to be most plainly evident in the text. In this way I might perform some small service of gratitude to Taylor for offering his work for discussion, contributing the occasional insights my background makes available for those who are interested. It is quite possible that my own take on what Laruelle is trying to say is mistaken; aware of this fact, I welcome criticism and correction from all sides.
Departing from the continental orientation toward questions of ontology (the logic of Being) and its differential corollary of alterity which has predominated in recent years, Laruelle grounds his exposition of “non-philosophy” in its (ontology’s) traditional rival, henology (the logic of the One). This classification is misleading, however. For Laruelle’s conception of the One is highly idiosyncratic. It differs in many respects from the object of the classical Platonic, Stoical, and Spinozistic henologies — the One(s) which philosophically ground(s) the order of appearances in their modal correspondence and community with one another.
On this point we may elaborate. Specifically, Laruelle seems to take issue with the place the One occupies within philosophies and mystical tradition, as something which is accomplished or realized through the relation of its subsidiary modes. This holds whether the One is reached by speculative/dialectical ascent (as in transcendental and Hegelian logic) or through revelation or religious vision (as in mysticism). This is why categorizing Laruelle’s thought as henological is potentially confused, because any “logic” which is thought to articulate the One cannot be conceived as literal. It can appear only in scare-quotes, since the One “is immanent(to) itselfrather than to a form of thought, to a ‘logic.’”
This contemporary French philosopher has been brought to my attention by Fractal Ontology’s Taylor Adkins, who has apparently taken up the task of translating some of his works. This is a generous labor for the philosophical community at large, since practically none of his thought has been rendered into English. I must say that my interest has been piqued; Taylor informed me that Laruelle is influenced by J.G. Fichte, a philosopher whose work is largely skipped over or mentioned only briefly in the history of thought. Several translated sections of his work have appeared on the Fractal Ontology blog ( here, here, and here) , which I hope to read in some depth.
Taylor has expressed an interest in discussing Fichte’s work in its relation to Laruelle’s philosophy with me, an opportunity which I welcome enthusiastically. I think we might learn a lot from one another, since our research seems to be developing along similar lines.