Sunday, 28 March 2010

Francois Laruelle Day Conference: University of Nottingham, March 5th, 2010

Francois Laruelle is a leading French ‘non-philosopher’. He is often referred to as non-philosopher because he views philosophy as itself the object that is to be understood.
Non-philosophy is apparently not an anti-philosophy and his ideas in no way amount to a rejection of philosophy. For Laruelle, all philosophies attempt to think being from the point of view of transcendence whereas non-philosophy attempts to think being from the point of view of an immanence where there is no distinction between immanence and transcendence. Non-philosophy thus represents a mutation in the very practice of philosophy. It is philosophy’s adversary that defines philosophy and a mode of thought that attempts to depersonalise philosophy by turning philosophy against itself (Blanchot’s ‘neutralisation’).

According to the conference organisers, Laruelle’s philosophy consists of four stages.

In his early work, Laruelle thinks that philosophy is based on the idea of what he terms ‘the principle of sufficient philosophy’ - or the idea that everything is philosophical and philosophy can make sense of everything. Philosophy in this guise views everything in terms of a dualism of transcendental conditions and the empirically/experientially conditioned.

Laruelle wants to break with this conception of philosophy and develop what might be termed a science of philosophy so that we can ‘think philosophy’. For Laruelle, it is the experience of science that provides a model of a privileged thinking of the ‘one that is before being’.

In the last stage however, Laurelle no longer talks about philosophy but about ‘regional discourses’ and is now attempting a find a unified theory of philosophy and Christianity (Laruelle is a Gnostic non-philosopher).

The main issue with Laurelle’s philosophy is two fold: why does he view himself as a non-philosopher? Isn't this simply scientific realism in French fancy dress? And why does he think that it is science and not philosophy that is best equipped to think the real? Surely this idea is rather regressive in todays' intellectual, social and political context?

Laruelle seems to think that science gets things done whereas philosophy doesn’t and also that science has a more precise understanding of what immanence actually means. But this is highly contestable and perhaps a misunderstanding of how philosophy is itself remains the basis of science.

Neil Turnbull

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