Notes on ‘Introduction aux sciences génériques’

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The following are notes typed up fairly summarily and quickly from Laruelle’s Introduction aux sciences génériques [Introduction to the Generic Sciences], Paris: Editions Petra, 2008. Since this work hasn’t yet been translated, I have tried to stick closely to Laruelle’s verbiage. Any lack of clarity is definitely on my part. One thing not included in these notes is a little dig that Laruelle makes at Badiou and Deleuze (p. 21). Since I am mentioning it now, I will go ahead and preface it here…two reasons being: why not highlight some minor polemic spectacle? but, more generally and importantly, because chapter three on non-epistemology has a lot to do with distinguishing ‘ensemblism’ from ‘en-semblism’…bringing in Lacan’s notion of the ‘semblant’ and really ‘riffing’ on it extensively…But that’s not in these notes–yet!

Here’s the Badiou/Deleuze thing, just for a taste!

The distinction between the ontological fundamental and the applied would correspond in classical philosophy with a broad distinction between two possible descriptions: one speculative, of the whole/all, the other of objects and of the empirical manifold. The ontological fundamental would involve tight relations with fundamental research, and the regional of the philosophies [would involve tight relations] with the distribution of the theoretical domains of objects. A philosopher like Badiou leans on the text of Set Theory, rather than on the fact that there are millions of theorems produced annually. Must one then lean solely on the interesting, the striking, the singular (Deleuze) rather than on the fundamental or the foundational? Philosophy supposes that there is a topology of the sciences, a cartography of disciplines and continents, an archeology of knowledges [savoirs]: this is an immense effort to lay the sciences on this Procrustean bed that philosophy is and into the coffin of history, to reduce knowledges [savoirs] to quite distinct disciplines that they consequently exceed. [This quote continues in the notes, cf. pirating on the high seas!].


This work calls “generic” a type of sciences or knowledges [connaissances] sufficiently neutral and devoid of particularity in order to be added to others more determined and co-operate with them, transforming them without destroying them or denying their scientific nature. They are capable of being added to others acquired in a more “classical” way without unsettling what the latter take from their domain of object and legality, i.e. capable of transforming knowledge without philosophically destroying it.

Against “métissage” or crossbreeding of knowledges—against their “transference”, their de- and reterritorialization, their “interference” or what turns them into an “epistemological soup”.

Symptom of another problem: philosophy is perhaps not the best milieu (midplace) for thinking whichever knowledge or play of knowledges (10). Rethink the two relations of philosophy toward science: either as epistemology or as philosophy of sciences. Not to prepare a philosophy as rigorous science, but “science as rigorous philosophy”.

Axiom of a reciprocity of science and philosophy in crossbreeding (mediocre form) or more subtly in Husserl (more elaborate)—the older occidental tradition, most damaging for both parties—reciprocity is philosophy’s ruse, best means of subjecting science. Generic is defined as a universality inferior to totality, which is the philosophical norm—thus “sub” rather than “super”. Risk of the middle situation—neither singularity nor totality—which risks being confused with a “juste milieu” or a common generality, i.e. with a sub-product of the All/Whole (11-12).

Thus to protect against this confusion: generic as factor = X which is added to an already existing knowledge or product, ‘intervening’ there so as to unlock it from a limitation, change the destination of its power and orient it in accordance with its adequation to man or to the “subject”—this is the best way to dispel the horizon of totality. Some call a “truth” such a transformation, which does not destroy a knowledge but re-orients its destination in accordance with the subject. Instead, we call an ‘evil’ [ mal ] or a ‘minimal wrong’ [ tort minimal ]—which can immediately be a positive good—the only good that is no longer vicious and does not turn back into an evil. Concerning philosophy’s power, the wrong done to epistemology is to lift the abuse or sufficiency of a transcendental origin from the real. Generic is not opposed to the philosophical term for term, but freed from it by the minimal evil it does to it. It is added onto knowledges [savoirs] as a factor that lifts all anti-human abuse.

The most surprising effect is that of a new, non-epistemological distribution of scientific “operators” and philosophical “substances” which will compose the generic (13).

Two great passages need to be carried out: from the banal usage of the generic as predicated being said of certain knowledges [connaissances], towards its attribution to sciences and thus veritably to an epistemology; then the passage to the project of a generic science-thought as such destined to add science and philosophy to one another without denying them or limiting them reciprocally, if not sciences in their positivity and philosophies in their spontaneous sufficiency. Generic knowledge, as additional factor = X, “transforms” knowledges without being affected by them.

Question of passing the generic from the state of predicate said of objects and operations to the state of veritable scientifico-philosophical constant necessary for rigorously founding the human sciences—and when they are not directly “human”, for returning them all in-the-last-instance into the sphere of determination carried out by man and her subject.

Radical critique of “crossbreeding”, showing it to be a biologico-colonialist and falsely egalitarian notion—contains only a superficially descriptive value.

Generic because of its neutrality can intervene in several sciences or philosophies without unsettling them as sciences (except in their pre-epistemological positivity which prepares them to be seized by the All). (14). But more specifically, it would be more exactly intermediary between the identity of philosophy—not the generality of “laphilosophy”—and positive or spontaneous disciplines.

But the generic is only acquired through the radical critique of intermediaries and mixtures—a generic science is not at all a “juste milieu” (unless as factor of justice and democracy in-the-last-instance), even if it can intervene in a multiplicity of theoretical “milieus”. Not a discipline of science or philosophy on the model of what already exists, but that which is identically although unilaterally science-and-philosophy.

Generic is sufficiently neutral so as to integrate the Ideal of science and the Ideal of philosophy (not the Idea of philosophy/science, or the ideal philosophy/sciences); think of the Freudian distinction between ideal ego and ego ideal… (15).

Only adversary is double: epistemology in its premature and sufficient (philosophical) forms of the relations of thought and science; and the positivism that elevates the positivitiy of the sciences to the state of philosophy (16). Question of determining a sort of generic imperative for all the disciplines.

Call to scientists and philosophers: this book serves as a preface to New Principles of non-philosophy (18).


Chapter 1: For Philosophical Research

World-research, a worldification of research: just a symptom serving to elaborate a certain type of “thought” entirely concentrated in an activity of research; also an activity of struggle for the emancipation of this research (20).

Science-thought as a new research—against an indefinite, traditional questioning research, there must be distinguished a solutioning research, finite and infinite, but not indefinite (20). This is science-thought.

Classical figure of research can be called both “fundamental” and/or “applied”. This image is guided, dominated and formatted by the dualist model of strong theories and experimentation; numerous dualities of sources of knowledge as so many philosophical ways of producing empirical knowledge (20-21)

Philosophy supposes that there is a topology of the sciences, a cartography of disciplines and continents, an archaeology of knowledges; this is an immense effort for placing the sciences on this Procrustean bed which is philosophy…for reducing knowledges [savoirs] to perfectly distinct disciplines which they nevertheless exceed. We imagine otherwise that the sciences are phenomena of navigation along the coasts of experience, phenomena of voyage on the high seas amidst the ocean of theories. Now we navigate like buccaneers so as to capture and pirate knowledges [connaissances] that are in transit, to abscond with them as contraband and participate in the international commerce of knowledges [saviors]. However, this will be a vain effort without having transformed epistemology in a “generic” sense, making it take on a different relevance besides the philosophical, something like a “non-epistemology” (22).

Foucault’s archivist posture—philosophers are too quick to become historians of science (23). They isolate interesting results according to their philosophical criterion in the midst of an ocean of “results” which viciously secrete their own mode of evaluation. Reciprocity or reversibility of epistemological and scientific research. Privileging research and process of production of knowledge over science already made or complete—which leads either to Idealism or to Materialism (23). We can seek in some modifications of contemporary research a new guiding thread for elaborating not the contents of a new epistemological doctrine but for modifying its philosophical form and producing what we call sometimes thought-science, sometimes a non-epistemology or a generic epistemology (23).


Several theses on world-research

Becoming-world of philosophy and becoming-philosophy of the world: a new harassment of the researcher. Most general philosophical structure is that of a variable combination of unity and duality, of the One and Two (24-25). Becoming-world: when heterogeneous terms of duality fuse in immanence but one term acquires a primacy over the whole and assumes this immanence, is detached and added as a third transcendental term. Immanence and primacy—instead of being excluded—are reciprocally presupposed; this is the super-All, essence, existence and telos of philosophy. This simple schema will provisionally suffice for the following theses:

1. Becoming-immanent of research to science and of science to research signifies an ultimate primacy of scientific research over science. Research has stopped being an activity on behalf of science so as to become an autonomous and dominant activity.

2. The becoming-immanent of its theoretical paradigms and its other conditions to “normal” research is resolved by the ultimate primacy of a supernormalization of research over its normality which would still suppose the in-between of paradigms.

3. World-research prevails over its geopolitics; topology of relations between researchers prevails over the topography of sources; faculties of knowledge, research centers prevail over the cartography of knowledges.

4. World-research is inseparable from the multiples it interiorizes, regional/national, national/international, public/private, technical/scientific, but it is resolved by the primacy of the self-evaluation of research as production of a surplus value of knowledge.

5. World-research is formation to research but through research itself; it is its self-legitimation as surplus value of research.

6. The multiple finalizations of research have primacy over its classical ends, just as the techniques of incentivizing (orientations, gifts, patronages, contracts, offers) designed to activate the national and international market of researches have primacy over the efficient causality of the agents’ mind, reason and interest.

7. World-research becomes effectively globalizing through the constitution of new disciplinary, molar, molecular and reticular materialities on the paradigmatic model of the enterprise, and these materialities are capable of local mobility and delocalization. These new disciplinary entities, these specialized enterprises in research, assemble multiplicities of knowledges, technical, human and financial means in accordance with the various objectives. As if an invisible and divine understanding—which would be that of world-capitalism—worked secretly to organize its internal development as capital of knowledges. Research for a long time has generated its own theology and its mystique, and now its “economy”.

8. World-research requires the generalization of modeling and assures it a primacy not only over “theory” but also over “experience”. The development of modeling signifies the inclusion of knowledges in the dimension of the world. The loss of the authority, but not of the functional necessity, of theory is judged by its pragmatic requirement in accordance with the needs of research. But modeling still remains a divided or double enterprise of philosophical and amphibological essence with its two vectors, rational/real and their double orientation (concrete interpretation of formalisms, formalist interpretation of experience).

9. Another symptom of research’s worldization is the emergence of the theme of “generic sciences” and of the interdisciplinarity that gives an effective content—other than verbal—to “crossbreeding” (a biologico-colonialist concept that stems from the Human Sciences). But this new figure emerges on the edges of epistemology; it is a way of actualizing the market of knowledges under the philosophical law of the All by being distributed according to transversal or diagonal lines. It culminates in the elevation of research to the state not simply of the productive force but of the “true” wealth or capital of nations in their struggle for development.

10. In the arena of the machines of world-research, the computer has primacy as material-and-intellectual productive force, and informatics has primacy in the relations of production. The computer is at the source of a new duality, as productive force and as social relations of production of the agents, it has primacy over the old dualities, like theoretician/experimenter, which it does not cancel out but displaces. This new duality which re-traverses the preceding dualities is that of calculabilities and of publications, of calculable writings and grey literatures; the computer is a sort of theoretical panopticon which promotes transparency and always displaceable secrets. But instead of being a duality irreducible to a philosophical type of system, it arises from the organizational capacity of informatics, which is to it simply an economic factor and a new logos. The computer has displaced philosophical functions which are not immediately recognizable, it is gifted with a capacity of synthesis, connection and communication, interface and exchange, which are properly philosophical or worldifying. Hegel is dead but sublated/raised up by the calculator.

11. Rather than distributing itself in paradigms and “normal science”, world-research follows two lines of flight—search without finding, find without searching—but these two divergent lines converge in the infinite. Research is for research, it infinitizes itself, but this “durable” research only has merely “interesting results”, without decisive or “crucial” value, immediately re-invested in the recommencement of another research.

12. Research no longer obeys a logic of development which would be scientifically controlled by the distinction between normal science/paradigms. This is another distribution, world-research is the normal state of research, where there are no longer paradigms but merely islands of research which are said to be fundamental but are nevertheless surveilled and managed by States. At this level, nothing can any longer justify a new epistemology, except to reformulate it in the classical frameworks of philosophy as activity of ‘étiquetage’ [labeling] (the “philosophies of knowledge”) which take for their object precisely normal or normalized science.

13. The becoming-immanent of researchers to research prevails over the dependence of research on researchers…

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  1. Pingback: “There is no economic world.” | Linguistic Capital

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