Translation: Six Entries from Francois Laruelle’s Dictionary of Non-Philosophy

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axiomatics / decision / first science / fractality / French Translation / Laruelle / metascience / non-philosophy / Theory / Philosophy / transcendental / Untranslated Theory


Francois Laruelle’s project (from the following entries) can, in my opinion, be best related to the previous translations I have posted on Alain Badiou and Albert Lautman. Badiou’s concept of model as coupling (ideological/scientific)–like Laruelle’s coupling of philosophy/non-philosophy–and questions of logical formalism intersect well with Lautman’s discussion of Hilbert and metamathematics.

Although Laruelle specifically names Deleuze (in a negative way, moreover), his project seems to have the strongest correlation to Alain Badiou (especially some of the language like: philosophical decision, the One, philosophical faith, etc.). The strongest ties between these two figures is definitely the constant problem of locating and axiomatizing philosophy’s foundation (unlike Badiou, who goes to philosophy’s four conditions, Laruelle opts for an autonomous discipline–non-philosophy–which axiomatizes in philosophy’s place). As a contemporary (and possibly the most radical) thinker of the void, Laruelle asserts that philosophy must evacuate itself in order to found itself, and failing the former, non-philosophy continues the task of the foundation of philosophy (which necessarily cannot legitimate itself). Even the figure of St. Paul (Badiou’s ideal subject type) must craft a discourse that navigates beyond the discourses of Greek philosophy (proof and argument) and Jewish prophecy (interpretation of signs) in order to install itself in an apostolic discourse (which is a discourse of weakness, of ‘folly’, because it can never lay claim to the other discourse, i.e. the miraculous, which would propagate itself through a discourse of revelations and miracles). The apostolic discourse is (at least for Badiou) precisely this (non)founded discourse that will evacuate fidelity from the state of the situation, making it legitimate. (If not Deleuze and Guattari, Badiou and Guattari–Nomadology and Moses rebaptized as the ideal subject–the Wanderer and His Manna.)

The following are six selections or definitions from Francois Laruelle’s Dictionnaire de la non-philosophy. Pars: Editions Kimé, 1998. Original Translation by Taylor Adkins 10/24/07.

Transcendental Axiomatic

The nature and procedure of the formation of the primary terms of non-philosophy, of its non-conceptual symbols, starting from philosophical concepts concerned with philosophical intuitiveness and naïveté.

Axiomatics is initially a scientific object. It is the organization of a theory or a fragment of a theory in order to empty the terms of their empirical or regional contents and to explicitly reveal the logical apparatus which connects them and becomes through this their only contents. There is a philosophical reflection on the axiomatic (Aristotle), but there are few examples of axiomatization in philosophy itself, if not perhaps in Descartes’ Responses, Spinoza’s Ethics and Fichte’s Science of Knowledge. In all these cases it is a matter of an ontological axiomatization, still largely intuitive. In the sciences, more or less complete attempts at axiomatization were made in particular by Hilbert in geometry, by Jean-Louis Destouches in quantum physics—i.e. above all in fields where unexpected innovations (non-Euclidean geometries, Heisenberg’s ‘uncertainty’ principle) required theoretical reorganization to legitimate their rigor. The epistemology of Mario Bunge draws conclusions from the postulate that it is in theory possible to axiomatize any scientific discipline. But axiomatization is an effort of reorganization which comes with the aftermath—even after a crisis—in the goal of examining the validity of a theory and the formalization of its relations to other theories which, in any event, has known limits (Godel). It is more a theoretical instrument than a theoretical project of the foundation of science.

In opposition to a formal axiomatic, applied to a body of scientific knowledge, and an ontological and intellectualist axiomatic that is still intuitive (for example, I think, therefore I am of Descartes or I am—the World is, of Husserl), the pure transcendental axiomatic forms the terms or primary names, the non-conceptual symbols, starting from the intuitive and naïve concepts of philosophy. It explicitly inscribes in the writing of these names the first suspension of their philosophical sense (e.g. One-without-being, living-without-life, given-without-givenness, One-beyond-being, etc.), of its worldly and/or ontological intuitiveness. It gives them a radical, indivisible theoretical universality in “generality” and “totality” and a transcendental, or univocal, universality applying to any philosophy. This decision of nomination, non-philosophical decision itself, given-in-the-last-instance by the vision-in-One, is the primary transcendental act of the force (of) thought. This is to say that far from being subservient to a philosophical project of foundation, even of the auto-foundation of science, it is only a transcendental instrument given-in-the-last-instance by Reality, thought (thought according to the One) thus using science as much as philosophy.

It is no longer a question of a logico-formal, scientific axiomatization of philosophy—an absurd project that misunderstands its irreducibly transcendental style. Non-philosophy does not claim to reorganize the system of philosophy after its crisis. To axiomatize is its primary ordinary practice of philosophy, according to the” abstraction” or the being-separate-without-separation of the Reality-of-the-last-instance. Thought is condemned to resort to philosophy and its language while rendering it adequate to the non-philosophical essence of this thought, which wants to be the measurement of Reality.

Generalized Fractality

One of the other possible names of the unilateral structure of non-philosophical representations. It attests to the practice of theoretical and experimental generalization—a radical uni-versalization—of a particular physico-geometrical theory: the fractals of Mandelbrot, from which it releases a fractal identity being able to call itself from philosophy and then constitute an `artificial philosophy’:

The philosophico-spontaneous treatment of the Mandelbrotian concept of fractals—which is the quantification of the degree of irregularity and fragmentation of a physico-geometrical object—is revealed from a decisional gesture of philosophy in regard to the sciences. The mechanism of philosophical universalization, illegitimate or “delirious” (cf. Kant) but inevitable, of a local scientific theory, is the following: knowledges are isolated from their practico-experimental and auto-positional processes as transcendent “facts,” only in so much as they ideologically sustain the representation of Being. The result of this universalization, indispensable to the survival of philosophy, is a mixed, empirico-transcendental concept of fractality. That is to say scientific modeling (dimension D) is confused with reality or being: it is reality itself which “fractalizes itself” (Serres). Suppose that this is re-appropriated “schizo-analytically” to become a unitarily split representation of being: the “fractal” model describes “the smooth space” of the non-metric, nomadic multiplicities (Deleuze). It is then supposed that the thought of being or the being of thought acts under the pretext of the `reconciliation of science and philosophy’, of the claim of the `transcendental’ right of philosophy over the sciences.

Generalized or uni-versalized fractality is a specific experimentation which gives up its destiny as the desire of philosophy to be science. Instead of being a simple analogical transfer of the scientific knowledge for the representation of Being, it is the experimental non-philosophical work of scientific concepts: I) let this be such a particular scientific theory in its own legitimacy without intervening there as it wants to do philosophy 2) do not “apply” or do not generalize imprudently this particular theory for the benefit of philosophical authority. The universalization of fractality is rather a modeling, similar to the theoretico-experimental work of Mandelbrot, but under other conditions of experimentaiton—the universal of the vision-in-One—and with a broad object consequently “larger” than geometrico-physics, the philosophical object itself.

These conditions are those of first Science rather than philosophy: 1) the One or the condition of identity-of-the-last-instance replaces the internal principle of homothety or constancy in Mandelbrot; 2) the Unilateral as the very structure of thought according to-the-One replacing the condition of irregularity or fragmentation; 3) the object of fractalization, maintaining the natural language in its various philosophical, poetic, literary uses….replaces the geometrico-physical object. These conditions given, the fractalization of philosophy is possible, as a potential example of non-philosophical work, effectuated under the condition of the last-instance of the One and the force (of) thought. This work produces an opened ensemble, a universe of really universal fractal knowledges that `reflect’ the One adequately. Such a practice is distinguished from the task of the wise-philosopher who, believed to hold the authority of transcendental approval, repeats the mixed epistemo-philosophical gesture of’ expropriation and re-appropriation, instead of using the sciences themselves only under the conditions of a transcendental axiomatic.


Ensemble of discourses of a philosophical type that finds its origin in the object of science, the elucidation and foundation of its essence, but which in their turn are treated as the object or the phenomena of first Science.

This concept does not have a special use in philosophy since it, spontaneously, recognizes the right to legislate over science, and that it is thus by definition `meta-science’, sometimes the absolute science or science of sciences, sometimes the discourse of elucidation or commentary, interpretation, criticism, and foundation of the sciences.

Non-philosophy defines a precise content and statute of metascience. Content: the whole of the nonscientific discourses that aim at the essence of science; that is to say directly: epistemologies, philosophies-of-sciences and philosophies-to-science (which are based explicitly on a given empirical theory); that is to say indirectly, philosophy in general as it is implicitly determined by scientific ruptures. A statute: `metascience’ conjoins with `science’, and this generalized couple is that of `mathematics’ and `metamathematics’ posed by Hilbert in his theory of the demonstration of the absolute consistency of formal systems. This concept thus has sense only within and according to science and of its priority over metascience.

This generalization answers a precise objective:

1. To show the similarity between the programs of formal (Hilbert) and logical (Frege, Russell) foundation of arithmetic, and the programs of foundation of science in general which are implicitly all philosophies and explicitly the `theories of science’ (Aristotle; Fichte; philosophy as `science of science in general’; Husserl: philosophy as rigorous science or `science with absolute foundation’, etc).

2. To make metascientific discourses a type of similar operation to that which Godel did to metamathematics: instead of supposing, without evidence other than philosophical faith, that philosophies are really able to found and anticipate sciences and that this objective has some sense that it is, reversing the situation and giving itself the means of a science of metascience or philosophy. It is `first science’, still known as `non-philosophy’ (or `science of philosophy’, but this is only one aspect of its activity). Philosophy corresponds indeed to the area of the phenomena of which this new or “unified” science uses in order to determine not the traditional “essence of the science”, but the knowledge of the essence (of) science.

3. To show through this new discipline in the character of “unified theory” that if metascience aims at the essence of science, it aims at it in the illusion or repression, seeing the foreclosure, and that it is for these two reasons that philosophy functioned through materiality.

The concept of `metascience’ makes it possible to renew the parallel problem of `metalanguage’ and to draw a possible treatment of this question. First Science poses the following statements which are also applicable to metalanguage: 1. there is, in any event, metascience, that is to say a discourse which is posed or is presented in the form as such (resp. metalanguage); 2. The statements: `there is no metascience’ (…)’, or; “there is a metascience, and it is valid”, are excluded as an expression of the sufficiency of philosophy; in the same way, though to a lesser degree: “there are effects of metascience (…)”, effects of a play of `textual forces’ or of a `play of language’ in the immanence through which metascience plunges. First Science is a transcendental science of metascience, it reintroduces it into the immanence-of-the-last-instance of the One-real; it is not a philosophy which would reintroduce it into the immanence of a (philosophical) decision.

Philosophical Decision

Principal and formalized invariant or structure of philosophy, according to philosophy which does not indicate it without however simultaneously auto-affecting and affecting its own identity; according to non-philosophy which gives it a radical identity this time (of) structure or which determines it in-the-last-instance. Its synonyms: dyad and unity, ambiguity, unity-of-opposites, mixture, mélange—are likely even to have a double use, intra-philosophical and non-philosophical, which change their sense. The philosophical Decision is a mixture of indecision and decision, never pure decision.

1) The decision in the traditional rational sense is the act; determined by reasons of a structural nature, of the economic situation or individual (choice), by which the individual puts an end to a deliberation. The economist and specialist in artificial science, H.A. Simon, defines it: `the process at the end of which one chooses at each time one of these alternatives. The series of decisions which determine behavior during a given amount of time can be called a strategy’.

2) The philosophical, variable Decision according to the philosophers, corresponds to a certain invariant, explicit or repressed distribution, of transcendental and empirical functions. Compared to an ensemble of facts known as `empirical’, or a ‘technico-experimental’ work, etc., the philosopher reactivates the decision of the question, which he considers fundamental, of the essence of phenomena. He makes a double distinction, that of the empirical and the a priori, whatever it is; then that of the a priori and the transcendental, which is an increase so that he calls it beginning, origin, substance, Being, etc, but which is always presumably authentic reality, equipped with transcendental functions (in a broad sense).

3) These concepts were obviously generalized and criticized in Deconstruction and the philosophies of Difference, by the interrelated concepts of play, effects and strategies. But the empirical, a priori, transcendental levels and reality are structural invariants and do not apply only to Kant and Husserl, with the provision of understanding them as invariants and not as entities or essences.

The philosophical Decision is an operation of transcendence which believes (in a naïve and hallucinatory way) in the possibility of a unitary discourse on Reality. This authoritative claim is expressed through autoposition, an operation made possible by its being mixed or ambiguous. The philosophical Decision thus has as a structure the coupling of the Unity of opposites and as a function to hallucinate the One-real and thus to foreclose. To philosophize is to decide Reality and the thoughts that result from this, i.e. to believe to be able to order them with the universal order of the Principle of Reason (Logos), but also more generally in accordance with the “total” or unitary order of the the Principle of sufficient philosophy. Hence the ambiguities that relate to Reality (as Being…) and to thought (as philosophy), and which are at the same time the element and the result of the auto-decisional process. This comprises various operations which are the fundamental moments of any philosophical Decision, and to which corresponds, under a non-auto-decisional form, the transcendental and a priori identity of the subject of non-philosophy, the force (of) thought. Broadly, the philosophical Decision, as the philosophical formalization of philosophy itself, is used as a symptomatic indication and occasion for the development of the force (of) thought which, in addition, has for its “correlate” the identity, the sense (of) identity of the philosophical Decision, which is to apply to a foreclosure of Reality or the One.


Object (occasion, material, symptom) of non-philosophy.

When it tries to be thought rather than to be practiced spontaneously and naively, philosophy is for itself the object mid-speech, of a semi-definition, a set of speeches and silences. It is embarrassing to say “the” philosophy is the true philosophy. Philosophical systems are a fallen or menaced effort to say what they are, to dissimulate the impossibility of saying it, to avoid having to keep silent itself.

Philosophy is an a priori discourse on the one hand, with a systematic goal on the other hand. It poses the world of which being is preformed in the logos with a predicative structure. This predicative structure of philosophical discourse is organized in a speculative reflection, as the last absolute philosophy shows (Hegel). The essence of the speculative reflection is specularity, or the dyad. The suture of being and thinking forms, since Parmenides, the unsurpassable mirror stage of philosophy. Since Heidegger, certainly, the deconstructive philosophers try to break the mirror in substituting it with the specularity of Being and its residue dispersed or disseminated by the Other. However, this Other of the logos has efficacy only in an ultimate reference obligated to the logos that is presumably relevant for Reality. The philosophical Decision has become a forcing. Since Plato at least, it homogenizes, idealizes, quantifies and qualifies Reality and the foreclosed. To philosophize means to decide on a strategy of posing the world. It is not to know, but to form a priori decisional speech acts in an action of culture. Always (re)stated in a diversity of styles of writing, form-philosophy, following the example of myth and its primordial metaphors, expresses the repetition of itself and the inertia of its auto-reproduction. Nietzsche shows extremely well that philosophy is brought, to think itself, by thematizing the absolute and primordial metaphor of the Eternal Return of the Same. Form-philosophy is then a metaphorical discourse (supported by the logos, being, etc. and basically anointed by primordial Greece). In general and non-Nietzschean terms, philosophy is finally a priest, conveying to the Occident the sacred Greeks overdetermined by the holy Judeo-Christian.

Through its principal process—to transcend it as it overrides the transcendent–, it is a faith, with the sufficiency of faith, intended by necessity to remain empty but which necessarily evades this void by its repopulation with objects and foreign goals provided by experience, culture, history, language, etc Through its style of communication and `knowing’ it is a rumor—the occidental rumor—which is transmitted by hearsay, imitation, specularity and repetition. Through its internal structure, or `philosophical Decision’, it is the articulation of a Dyad of contrasted terms and a divided Unity, immanent and transcendent to the Dyad; or the articulation of a universal market where the concepts are exchanged according to specific rules to each system, and from an authority with two sides: one of the philosophical division of work, the other of the appropriation of part of what the market of the concepts produces. The philosopher is thus the capital or a quasi-capital in the order of the thought. Or the shape of the World understood in its more inclusive sense.

The preceding descriptions of philosophy find their occasion in philosophical descriptions, but they actually already suppose the non-philosophical ground. If it is embarrassing to say that philosophy is the criterion of the philosopher, the transformation of this aporia into a problem and its solution is the criterion of the non-philosopher who substitutes, in connection with philosophy, i.e. its identity, knowledge of the sufficiency of its faith. He or she does it using radically unknown means of philosophy (vision-in-One as `’presupposed reality’), or foreign to it (cloning and the determination-in-the-last-instance of the force (of) thought; the reduction of philosophy to the state of symptom and occasion). Non-philosophy breaks with auto-hetero-critical philosophy, typical of modernity and post-modernity. With its manner it develops philosophy by releasing it from its authority over itself and by releasing its identity or its sense for the force (of) thought, which is the authentic subject of (for) philosophy. It gives philosophy even a widened relevance by which it seems like the span or the dimension of the World, i.e. like the identity (of) its Greek, cosmopolitan determination; like the thought-world that only the vision-in-One can take for an object.


Autonomous and specific discipline of an identically scientific and philosophical type, which describes in-the-last-instance according to the One-real and by means of philosophy and science considered as material, on the one hand the force (of) thought or the existing-subject-Stranger, on the other hand the object of non-philosophy, the identity (of) the thought-world.

Non-philosophy is regarded by philosophy either as the state of immediacy of naive and sensible opinions (the judgments of common sense), or as its other which it remains to think (sciences, technologies, politics, the arts…) that is to say as the presuppositions of philosophy itself (the innumerable “non-thoughts” [impensés]) which are in their turn philosophables. Merleau-Ponty’s report, in connection with post-Hegelian thinkers (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Marx…) is very revealing when he wonders whether our century `does not enter the age of nonphilosophy’. But the expression initially has a negative content, even depreciated, which can become positive like it has among contemporary thinkers of difference, such as Derrida (cf. Positions), and especially Deleuze (cf. What Is Philosophy?) who still synthesizes to the extreme this very `negative’ vagueness which is at bottom the thought of the Other, in writing: `the philosopher must become non-philosopher, so that non-philosophy becomes the ground and the people of philosophy’.

Distinct from this becoming which intertwines Being and Difference, the vision-in-One (as immanent and manifest Real) is the transcendental `wire’ of a non-philosophical thought consisting and positively distinct from this non-philosophical current flowing in the recesses of philosophy.

Non-philosophy is an autonomous and specific discipline which has its own concepts (One-real, vision-in-One, first science, cloning…) ; its theoretical operations which are transcendental by their real or in-One cause (induction and deduction); its non-autopositional pragmatic rules; its philosophically undecidable objects such as; the One, Being [l’Être], the Other, Being [l’Étant] and which, non-philosophically transformed, gives: the One-real; the a priori structure of Representation; the philosophical as the Principle of resistance of the thought-world; the chaotic universe (of) multiple representations obtained by acting it from the One-cause over the philosophical material as forms of the World. Autonomy means the epistemic cut (foreclosed-being, determination-in-the-last-instance, unilaterality, the dual…) between the non-philosophical posture and the philosophical Decision. The specificity of non-philosophy wants to speak a practice (pragmatic and theoretical) strictly immanent for philosophy but also sciences, art…, with determined rules, as for example the rule of the chora, the suspense of philosophical Authority and the staging of philosophy’s material.

Non-philosophy is initially a theory by or according to the One, therefore a unified theory of science and philosophy. It is over time a theoretical, practical and critical discourse, distinct from philosophy without being a meta-philosophy. It is specified according to the regional material inserted into the structure of the philosophical Decision (non-aesthetics, non-ethics, etc).

Continue to definition of Vision-in-One

Continue to the introduction of Laruelle’s Beyond the Power Principle

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  6. Trans space says

    Thank you for this. Perhaps you might appreciate my contribution to the project at WordPress: Constructive Undoing. Direct Tangent. I would appreciate your input.

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