New Translation of Laruelle’s “Toward a Science of Philosophical Decision”

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Toward a Science of Philosophical Decision


F. Laruelle. “Pour une science de la décision philosophique.” Editions Osiris (1987 : 25-40).


Translated by Taylor Adkins (6/16/20)


1. On Philosophy as Science’s Other


To introduce philosophy to science rather than science into philosophy: this task is already found to be posited with philosophy, which is its realization. It is therefore useless to posit it once again. To be a science by becoming one is already the immanent telos of philosophical Decision. There is no metaphysics that does not wish to be the science of Being or even the science of the Logos and thereby the excellent form of every knowledge that it achieves and makes adequate to its essence. There can no longer be a question of any of this once philosophy is supposed given. On the one hand, the scientific auto-realization of philosophy supposes that philosophy by itself produces and manifests the concept of science, that it consequently modifies the empirical concept of the sciences, imposes on them a certain ideal of validation and foundation, and that, in a certain way, it devalorizes and critiques the sense and truth of the real sciences. This endeavor of philosophical appropriation and critique of the sciences calls itself their ontological interpretation or their ontological foundation (the sciences would be a defective or deficient mode of the ontological project of objectivity or of the Idea of science), or their epistemological interpretation (there would be a fact of the sciences that philosophy would reappropriate). Conversely, science remains in the state of an infinite dream, of an impossible dream deferred played out over and over again. Philosophy is not a science because it wants—this will is essential—to be one: in philosophy the will penetrates more deeply than science. It will therefore remain content with scientific “form,” with “becoming”-science, with its infinite telos, etc. Well before Husserl, this is called philosophy-as-(rigorous)-science.

Another project is possible. Supposing that philosophical Decision is given with its natural desire to be a rigorous knowledge, it is still possible to introduce it to…the experience of science, if we at least suppose science to be autonomous or independent of philosophical Decision; to take philosophy to school, not the better to make it think science and to instruct it in the midst of science (an epistemological schooling) but to let it be thought by science. Perhaps there are in general two sources or two paradigms of knowledge. The infinite ideal of science belongs to philosophical Decision and its mode of phenomenalization of the real, but only as an essential attribute, not as Decision’s essence in person. Philosophy believes that its mode of phenomenalization of the real is universal. Perhaps this is not the case, perhaps that involves an illusion and a naivety that pertains to the interior of every Decision of this type? Perhaps science is a radically other mode of phenomenalization, one more primitive, one that can let philosophical Decision be like one of its objects?

It seems completely impossible to give up on the ideal of a rigorous philosophical knowledge in its foundation and its validation. But does philosophy itself have the relevance, force, and reality necessary for assuming this knowledge? This is perhaps its ultimate maxim and consensus: a founded and validated knowledge. But its meaning is still hidden. We are all searching for a rigorous practice of philosophy: but is this telos so universal and so certain? More exactly, aren’t its universality and certainty posited too often as self-evident with and by way of philosophical Decision? Are they not once again included in the philosophical circle, in the way that historicism, hermeneutics, and even—albeit with the slightest dose—deconstruction postulate it?

I will suppose—with the burden of having to explain its foundation later on such as it appears in science—that it is possible to not completely reduce this scientific postulation to its philosophical forms and modes; that there is, for example, a universality and a certainty proper to science; that it cannot be conflated with the old metaphysical certitudo; and that the latter can do nothing but negate it by appropriating it. The search for a certain and rigorous knowledge of philosophy perhaps isn’t necessarily reduced to a therapeutic need, desire, or care for it and perhaps is therefore not assumable by it. If science “in general” weren’t a mode of philosophical Decision (an ontological project, for example), then a non-philosophical science of philosophical Decision would be possible and would no longer be a supplementary mode of its quasi-“scientific” auto-realization.

The number of reformations, programs, and revolutions in philosophy is almost as great as the number of systems. But all these projects postulate the inclusion of the scientific in the essence of the philosophical and, in the long or short run, leave to philosophy the management of this history and this politics of “scientific becoming”—even, perhaps above all, somewhat more insidiously than “grand” rationalism, when (logical or sociological) positivism claims to avoid the ideal of philosophical auto-legislation and submit philosophy to the sciences, which are then interpreted as positive. The positivist critique of philosophy is generally a false scientific critique and a true philosophical auto-critique—just another system.

Let’s recall that there are several scenarios for this Ideal of philosophy as science or of science as philosophy; the most essential scenarios are the following (which are simple typical tendencies here):

  1. Two forms that forget the immanent scientific telos of philosophy as “absolute science.” These two forms are dominant in the current conjuncture:

a) the historicizing critique of philosophy, its reduction to the “History of philosophy,” which is not—as we shall see—just a coded scholarly practice but what is presupposed by the majority of scholarly practices. It is understood that this presupposition (reduction of philosophical Decision to its texts, its corpus, its institutions, its politico-textual “unconscious,” etc.) is a (extreme) possibility of philosophical Decision, not at all an exterior “downfall” [déchéance][1].

b) the logico-empiricist critique of metaphysics, which is ahistorical and atomistic, whether generally or dominantly (insofar as it is increasingly contested from within). The same type of presupposition is involved here, i.e. the reduction of philosophical Decision to an inert manifold from the “ontological” point of view. This is no longer the textual or the signifier but a factual and supposedly autonomous given of facts or logical forms. That is probably one possibility of philosophical Decision that may have the power to auto-negate itself as such, particularly in the alienating form of a substitution of science—interpreted as positive—for philosophy.

We will give priority to examining the first of these forms further because it is still largely dominant on the Continent.

  1. Two forms that affirm the immanent scientific telos of philosophical Decision.

a) the regulated importation of methods of “empirical” scientific demonstration and validation (logical, geometrical, chemical, etc.). What results is a knowledge that knows itself and wants itself to be mixed, that affirms (for example, in the classical “dogmatic” way, the style of which is the most general) the co-extension (give or take several nuances, albeit without remainder for either side) of science and metaphysics.

b) the auto-development of the scientific telos of philosophy as the purest Idea, the Idea most removed from any worldly and regional scientific object or knowledge (Husserl): although presupposed (like before), it is more purified.

            If we refuse this basic presupposition of philosophy—the co-extension of philosophy and (absolute) science—as insufficient to the task, and if we intend to keep philosophical Decision in its integrity and not devalorize it by way of an empiricist and positivist critique by resorting to the existing sciences, there remains but one solution: to replace philosophy qua auto-legislation (albeit in another place), there must be an absolute, transcendental, and not empirical science, i.e. there must be science (of) science. Science does not fall under an epistemology or an ontology but “under” itself. A science (of) science is not necessarily a positivist project to the extent that we can “reconcile” science and the transcendental function in a science (of the) real as such, in an “absolute Science.” Which means that this transcendental science will necessarily also be science of or for philosophy.

Thus, the disparity between science and philosophy will stop being undetermined, oscillatory, and reversible. It is undetermined to the extent that it is determined by philosophy, for philosophy includes in its essence an under-determination for which it compensates with an over-determination, the play of a process, a history, a becoming, etc. The disparity is always readable or operable in two ways, which are reversible according to various proportions: the whole history of philosophy is these attempts to constitute mixtures of science and philosophy. Conversely, if we manage to define in science a real = absolute thought by itself, a thought index sui that no longer needs to be thought in exteriority in Decision in general and, for example, in “ontological Difference,” then we are taking up a certain reference, a pole with respect to which philosophical Decision must be situated unilaterally. We are therefore proposing to no longer think in accordance with or under the law of mixtures, to make the disparity irreversible, and to read it in the following sense: science is not the Other of philosophy, but philosophy is the Other of science, with respect to which it must become possible to evaluate its “specific difference.”


2. Discontent in philosophy?


Can a science of philosophical Decision still be motivated by the latter’s insufficiencies?

Philosophy has always manifested discontents, not just the discontents it showed absolutely concerning itself and by way of its very existence, which consummated critique into auto-critique. There’s no use in invoking them to motivate the passage to a scientific form capable of relieving it of its congenital unsatisfaction. Nonetheless, that’s what motivates this inventory here (these discontents), and perhaps philosophy has only shown them partially, repressing them in the same gesture. Perhaps they are more visible today, in a time where philosophy is particularly attentive to itself.

Let’s be more precise. There’s some facility in motivating the project of a science of philosophy by way of the senility or sterility of its current state in opposition to a philosophy to come that would be more productive, more active, less removed from “reality,” etc. These symptoms, this unsatisfaction, become manifest the moment there has been some philosophy, i.e. in the passage from any philosophy whatsoever to another. Wanting to be universal, it also wants its discontent to be universal and tolerates allowing this discontent to be specified each time by various historical conditions. If this affect is congenital with Decision, we will keep ourselves from dismembering it and complaining about current philosophy in opposition to an older or future one. We therefore have to reorient our critique and raise its levels and its demands. We have to penetrate more deeply into the very essence of Decision to one day have the right if not the duty to complain about it. And, in general, we cannot “critique” philosophical Decision by arguing about its insufficiencies—that would be to proceed “negatively.” We would still have to become aware of the origin of these ills, which is probably only visible from afar rather than from philosophy’s point of view. We will therefore not place too much importance on the list of reasons for practicing philosophy otherwise. But is it a matter of relativizing them? On the contrary: we have to absolutize them.

Indeed, since these discontents belong to the very essence of Decision, we can complain about it only (lest we pile on) from science’s perspective and not from philosophy’s. This is what allows us to give them their full meaning, and, on the other hand, this is where thought’s current state is irreplaceable: current philosophy is oriented (above all since Nietzsche and to various degrees) by the need for its re-affirmation or its intensification. Above all, we will not believe that this re-affirmation of philosophical Decision is less naïve than its primary affirmation and that it’s enough to suspend the primordial discontent. In a sense, the re-affirmation is even more naïve than the affirmation it ratifies, which it protracts without really destroying. In other words, philosophical naivety and spontaneity become more visible or manifest without thereby being completely dissipated. The parousia of philosophical and pre-scientific naivety (for example) does not really destroy this naivety and above all does not substitute science for it: the ideal of parousia is the culmination of philosophical naivety itself and its final fruit. There’s no way to exit philosophy and surpass metaphysics by reaffirming them: we simply see them function better. It is this essential supplement of sensibility, of the philosopher’s pathos, that marks the conjuncture and better allows us to “sublimate” the discontent—no longer. Even the History of philosophy, which creates the greatest discontent que dominant practice (just like the various forms of rationalist treatment of philosophy), are by all rights positive possibilities of Decision, possibilities of its denegation or extenuation, the program for its quasi-extinction. We will have to place ourselves at the point where philosophical Decision reveals itself as such, in its spontaneity and its most accomplished forms. We will thereby avoid the overly truncated or opportunistic explanations contained within the symptom.


3. Objective philosophical appearance


With the previous reservation in mind, the intimate affects of philosophical Decision as such are those of repetition in every sense of the word: repetition of the identical, but also repetition of difference or the “same.” The affects of the “same” are “superior” to those of the identical that they re-affirm, but they do not alter its nature. If, for example, we talk about the nausea attached to the practice of philosophy, we have to understand that this affect applies to all practices, from the most identificatory to the most differentiated, which would remain content with wanting a “superior” identity, a universal equivalence which integrates an alterity that cannot really destroy it. We will therefore have to be careful to respect not only the heterogeneity but also the univocity—for us decisive—of the categories of nausea, rehashing, sterility, etc. by which the principle of philosophical Decision in general (be it the most “affirmative”) will be described.

  1. Philosophical Decision is an operation (of) transcendence, an operation which is variously anti-empirical but always destined to be achieved in an ontological position or an ontological opening, whatever its mode may be. This is a play of positions: not only are the positions finite in number (somewhat susceptible to variants), but also philosophy’s positionality, its nature as play of positions, imprisons the virtual infinity of positions in the finitude of a structure or a circle. Whence its power of repetition, which is its very essence rather than an insufficiency liable to be ameliorated by corrective techniques or new methods so as to increase its effectiveness and reduce its sterility. The accusation of sterility, rehashing, or lack of sure-footedness must instead come after the recognition of repetition as Decision’s essence, not before it, and, consequently, it will not reduce repetition to a historico-systematic accident of “certain” philosophies.
  2. Here are the consequences of this: philosophical practice is simultaneously marked—this is not contradictory given the structure of Decision—a) by the reproduction of a constant finite stock of authentic informations—authentic if we bracket redundancy, which is essential for everyday philosophical practice and whose monomaniacal goal is to tap into the benefits of power over the productions of the social field and—if we no longer consider anything but the thresholds of emergence (which are flexible)—of “new” philosophies; and b) by a decrease in the rate of production: the exploitation (swelling to its limit) of the finite number of possibilities originally included in philosophical Decision is equivalent with a progressive exhaustion of the stock and a rarefaction of “novelty” (which is therefore merely a possibility or a virtuality not yet manifested).
  3. The combination of these two traits explains what I’ll call the auto-inhibition or auto-paralysis of philosophical Decision, the feeling that it has only ever worked within and on itself, broadening its circle the better to conserve it, making it implode the better to reaffirm it. Philosophical Decision is the self-care that remains self, even when it’s interested in the Other, that enjoys itself even when it leaves itself to transversality, or that remains supposedly inevitable even when it’s fractured or solicited by the Other. Whence its regular self-burial in its texts, its works, its archives and its history, its institutions, in the unconscious it secretes or as which it reproduces itself.

In its most “scholarly” and peri-scholarly forms, in the most historian and active or laborious forms, philosophical practice is followed (no doubt also preceded simultaneously) by a gigantic shadow, i.e. by philosophy [LA philosophie] in person. We will not wonder to what extent this body might correspond to a sort of capital of philosophy. This body would be produced by philosophers more and more obsessed with and blinded by it, revering it as the element in which they live (being and movement) and producing thought’s surplus-value, which they would attribute to it while they would use its energy to convince themselves to work for it. Nowadays, there’s hardly any philosophical practice (above all continental practice) that isn’t accompanied by this fantasy of a constituted, undetermined, and tutelary philosophy, the fantastical foundation of the philosophical community. It constitutes the motor, if not the mover—always unmoved—of practice. In that community, this is a stockpile of knowledge, a willing of decision whose accumulation seems necessary for philosophical Decision, for its full-fledged reproduction, but also (this is perhaps the pinnacle of its alienation) for its production.

This emergence of a horizon blocked to the same degree as the opening it seems to procure for Decision is not an accident: even if its increasingly incommensurable dimension marks our conjuncture and constitutes contemporaneity itself, it belongs to philosophy’s essence or will. We will call it objective philosophical decision, i.e. the element of manifestation of knowledge that is given and received as necessary by thought’s laborers, an element they believe to need to base their community on. It is philosophy’s force of intimate seduction upon “philosophers,” the means to draft them into its service, to devote their questions to it, to bring them to the most spontaneous and most naïve practice…

Corollary: the affect of the “death of philosophy” is indeed real, it is lived by concrete philosophers (at least as subjects of philosophy), but it is partial. This is merely one of the two sides of a more complete affect (that of auto-inhibition or auto-stalemate). Instead of grasping that any stalemate of Decision forms a system with a supplementary opening (with this system moving toward a relative-absolute limit, both internal and external to Decision); instead of understanding that philosophy withdraws nothing, that philosophy does not withdraw itself without giving itself (albeit, in a sense, it gradually gives less and less because it gives itself more and more as such); instead of reaching philosophical balance, one has isolated or abstracted its most negative operation, its nature as (voluntary and/or involuntary) suicide. There is indeed a suicide of philosophy, but it lasts as long as history itself, and we should never sell philosophy’s skin before it’s stuffed itself[2]. The possibility of the impossibility of philosophizing belongs to every essential Decision. It still must not be separated from the possibility of thinking that conjugally animates it, even if this couple’s life is often hell.

  1. The combination of the finitude of the philosophical circle, of its circularity, and of its unlimited displacement in a relative-absolute limit signifies a perpetual state of conflict. War—an essential war—belongs to the intimacy of philosophical Decision. Every philosophical position is also a virtual struggle against another position. The arena of positions is rare and imposes a kind of mutual impediment, a reciprocal attraction and repulsion. And it is rare because, if there is a structural rule of philosophical Decision, it is the rule of the Unity of contraries, of the Coupling of opposites, whatever the modes of effectuation of this “transcendental Unity” may be. This type of Unity—devoted to the tasks of synthesizing a manifold (Being and Nothingness, for example) and which must be divided between contraries all while remaining indivisible—is rare by definition and beset by civil war. The history of philosophy (more exactly, objective philosophical Appearance) functions as the paradigmatic dimension of every decision (which chooses its play of positions there) and as the syntagmatic or “historical” dimension of principle, thereby making possible the organization of philosophical discourse. It is ultimately necessary to bind together repetition, auto-inhibition, conflictuality—and historicity…


4. The most apparent symptom: History of philosophy as dominant practice


The last and most salient symptom of discontent linked to the “pulsional,” spontaneous, and naïve practice of philosophy is the mounting primacy of the History of philosophy (HP) having become philosophers’ dominant practice.

We will not return to the critique of HP as a scholarly practice (which we have carried out earlier)[3]. This critique must be limited by recognizing that HP is a possibility included in philosophical Decision, the de jure historicity of which can always—according to a mechanism analyzed above that introduces objective philosophical Appearance—be reified. HP in this sense is indeed the moment when the discontent “takes” or “fixates” in a particularly massive symptom. However—for the same reason—there is some facility in the critique that claims to dissociate and oppose philosophical Decision and its dominant scholarly practice. The argumentation is short because it doesn’t recognize philosophy’s calling to sediment itself in an inert objective Appearance. And it demonstrates a certain bad faith. The dissociation of “good” historicity from the “bad” History of philosophy produces a certain number of completely provisional “benefits”:

  1. It conceals the guaranteed transference of HP (corrected or amended) into other institutions. Its marginalization is not its suppression; instead, it conserves what is essential to philosophical spontaneity and naivety. We can correct and sometimes embellish HP through Marxist practices, archaeological practices, deconstructive practices, etc.; we modify and no doubt thereby “work on” the values of historicity and history, but we conserve them as the essential optics on the essence of philosophical Decision. We above all respect what is essential for its will to auto-application and auto-legislation (more or less differed/deferred), which are the ideals of its naïve practice.
  2. It saves us from calling into question a deeper violence than the scholarly, a violence that fuels the scholarly and not the other way around. All the “shortcomings” of philosophy’s scholarly practice are rooted in Decision itself. Decision (at least in its spontaneous form) would therefore need to be called into question. But the interest in history and ultimately the interest in objective Appearance makes it possible to bypass the scientific examination of Decision and its essence. We remain content with leaving it to itself, at best to phenomena of alterity, opening, solicitation, etc. that undermine it and increase its “play,” yet all the better to save it in the last resort. Some philosophy, always some more philosophy!…To make it into a weapon against politics, against technics, against society, against the human sciences, etc….As if to spread the discontent would suppress it…; as if to divide a naïve practice wouldn’t multiply this naivety in its very dilution.
  3. The systematic recourse (in various and more or less indirect forms) to HP allows for the establishment of a consensus (if not a community) at low cost or with a low profile. And this is due to its at least apparent or supposed factuality on the one hand. More deeply, we trust in HP because it is a half-measure, a compromise between spontaneous philosophical Faith and an intra-philosophical suspicion or auto-critique. This middle solution allows us to harmonize contraries that engage in a civil war at the heart of Decision and to mitigate philosophy’s auto-destruction by realizing it in controlled forms. The psychological and affective importance of HP has to do with its essence or its provenance: it is reassuring because it provides an apparently solid ground (so we believe) for science, because we thereby confuse it with the old metaphysical certitudo. History is the pseudo-scientific alibi (an alibi which is merely all-to-philosophical) of the forgetting of philosophy’s “scientific” essence. Instead of a veritable science of philosophy, we increase the visceral suspicion that it feeds on itself in its savage usage, we replace it with the poorly understood ideal of science, with the ideal of certainty and facticity, with the “modern” ideal of “everything is historical” and judgable by the tribunal of history. All these practices have but one goal: to threaten philosophy with itself so as to better save it in extremis. It’s always the same logic, that of hypocrisy: History is the means to plan ahead, to master, to attain at a distance and even through distance, to divide-and-conquer. It is primitive philosophical violence pursued by other means. An “economy” in fact affects philosophy: exchanges, debts, conflicts, a whole market of critiques and violence more or less concealed under peace treaties which are merely scraps of paper, textual games or language games. History is the consensus of these struggles. Even the local contracts and agreements between philosophers record certain dominations, revive certain hierarchies, and are basically the equilibrium required for movement. The pax philosophica is a deception for the benefit of the weak who would rather ignore the philosopher’s heroic essence. To surpass, to overcome: these are not accidents, this is the essence of Western thinking. “To philosophize is to dominate” (Nietzsche): that’s the key to the community of philosophers.


5. From philosophical Faith to scientific Knowledge


We are therefore not especially critiquing “current” philosophy but the current good conscience that thinks it can deal with its problems by way of philosophy (problems actually birthed by philosophy) by taking refuge in history again understood philosophically: vicious circle… More radically, beyond any contemporaneity, we do not reproach contemporary philosophers for doing too much history: they do what they can, and this can neither be corrected nor reformed. We suggest that they do not know what they do and that they passionately give into a transcendental Illusion that affects (beyond “metaphysics” alone or “representation) philosophical Decision as such. They commit—neither more nor less than their predecessors, perhaps with more critical vigilance, although it is already biased since it belongs to the same order—a confusion between two heterogeneous modes of the real’s phenomenalization: the philosophical, which implies Decision or Transcendence as its major operation; and the scientific, which excludes such a Decision from its essence or which phenomenalizes the real by keeping it in its most realist and immediate “naivety,” in its immanence most deprived of any kind of exteriority. This confusion is naturally followed by another: every knowledge is ultimately reduced to a historical knowledge, i.e. to the deployment of a transcendence.

This unitary amphibology is philosophy’s soul and not just its dominant practice in a scholarly environment. Whence this belief (contained in spontaneous philosophical Faith, which it prolongs) that we have to use history to access a science of philosophy, as if it were not thereby a question of a supplementary vicious circle. Philosophical Faith is the same thing as transcendental Illusion and the denegation of science; the same thing as this belief philosophers have varied, enriched, displaced, altered, yet not destroyed: thinking = real; philosophizing = real. This is the belief-in-self-as-in-the-real or in what can co-determine and co-produce it (by manifesting it if need be). This is the unfathomable depths of philosophical Faith.

The intimate connection of historicity, war, and repetition is visible in Decision’s mechanism and forms an indivisible whole. It must in turn be linked to philosophy’s savage, pulsional auto-practice. If it is impossible to skeptically dismember philosophical Decision, to split it, divide it, to choose (i.e. to operate a supplement of decision) in the manner in which philosophical critiques habitually proceed, then what is to blame is Decision taken globally, the Faith that nourishes its spontaneous practice for philosophers and culminates in the Ideal (as we’ve seen) of philosophy-as-rigorous-science. This ensemble formed by Faith, by the structure of Decision and its operation of transcendence, by spontaneous practice (the philosophy of philosophers), and by historicity must be bracketed by means of a non-philosophical science of philosophy.

That science allows us to liquidate philosophy’s historicity (i.e. its simple vicious auto-application) is sometimes a dangerous obviousness. Let’s suppose a standard or statistical Anglo-Saxon style exemplified in the case of logical positivism: it will also claim to bracket the historicity of philosophical problems; it will develop an analytical, atomistic, and ahistorical optics in their formulation and their solution. However, although this style is a possibility of philosophical Decision (or precisely because it is a possibility), it is difficult not to see in it a (still philosophical) denegation of Decision’s native historicity. That would be a weak destruction, lacking in history and submitted to re-interpretation by this more powerful experience of Decision that the standard “continental” style represents. If we really eliminate the mediation of history in the treatment of Decision—Marxistizing or archaeologizing or historicizing History—Decision itself is what must come to be suspended without resorting to the means it would seem to be able to provide for this operation.

This supposes that science—in its most specific posture—is a knowledge of the real that does not modify it, wherein the observer can modify the objective phenomenon without modifying the real implicated in and by the immanence of the scientific posture. It would not form a circle with the real like philosophy, which claims not only to be a knowledge of the real but also a co-production of it: this is what is called ob-jectivity, which is a confusion of the real with the object of knowledge (which is always modifiable). Whence the following distinction: philosophy is the theory and practice of the ob-ject and ob-jectivity, it has ob-jects or confuses the real with the ob-ject or with its representation; science has a real “object,” i.e. has no ob-jects in the philosophical sense; it involves with the real a relation which is no longer a relation of objectivation. There are two heterogenous modes of phenomenalization that philosophy (which is always unitary) wants to confuse, whereas science wants the autonomy of its manner of thinking the real and the distinction between these two modes.

To ground it in its reality and not just in its simple real possibility, the scientific phenomenalization of the real (such as one comes to suppose it or require of it and so as to thereby distinguish it definitively from philosophy’s phenomenalization), we will ask ourselves if—and in what mode—we possess a sufficient experience of it that can recognize science’s autonomy of thought and, in the same stroke—this is a consequence of this duality—its greater primitivity, its anteriority over philosophical Decision and over its essential traits (repetition, auto-inhibition, war, and historicity).

Naturally, it would be contradictory to claim once again to reach science’s essence with philosophy’s technical methods and procedures. This means that neither (transcendental) reduction, nor mediation, nor an analytical and regressive foundation, nor the search for the ultimate prerequisites, etc. are still utilizable and legitimate, no more than the epistemological “reflection” on the so-called “fact” of the sciences, which is merely an artifact of philosophical objectivation. Then by what other technique can we access them? By no technique—always co-determining its ob-ject and co-producing it in philosophy’s manner—for no technique is necessary to put ourselves back in the most general posture of the sciences with respect to the real. The technico-experimental apparatus is a means organized by the essence of science, it is not this essence itself. Science’s essence resides only in the positivity, the quasi-“ontological” consistency, of a naïve and “decisionless” realism and certainty. It is certainly not a question of the local “objects” and “representations” produced by the sciences, but a question of what every “scientific” posture immanently postulates of the real to which it relates itself such as it is—of the scientific “intention” and of its transcendental pretention, so to speak.

Philosophy will seek and posit science always from too far away: at the end of its “reflection,” at the end of its “project” of objectivity, at the end of its “dialectic”—in general at the end of transcendence, which grounds all its techniques. And yet this is precisely what science excludes, at least from the relation (of the non-relation) that it “involves” in the last instance with the real. Whence its naivety, its irreflection, its realism, its “blindness,” which are so unsupportable by philosophical ob-jectivation that it has never stopped denying them, reducing them, and falsifying them—this is called “epistemology,” this is the epistemo-logos itself in every epistemology.

In “non-relation” (to the) real, we will say that there are—they are their own criterion of reality and truth, a transcendental criterion—certain radically immanent or non-self-thetic [non-thétique (de) soi] givens that refuse the philosophical artifact of ob-jectivity. Science is the only a-positional and an-objective mode of thinking, and this is why philosophy—which wants this a-positionality but cannot acquire it—denies its autonomy. It’s not just Kantian or “neo-Kantian” idealist epistemology that refuses the existence of radically immanent givens or the existence of a non-self-thetic phenomenalization, to which it merely opposes categorial ob-jectivity. It is every philosophy’s lot, qua Decision or Transcendence, to be unable to really access the essence of science and therefore afterwards produce this “reactive” symptom called “epistemology.” If the program of a rigorous science of philosophy passes in every way through the “destruction” of epistemology, that’s because the traditional unitary relation of preeminence between science [la science] and philosophy [la philosophie] is reversed and even more than reversed, since it cannot be a question of a reversal of hierarchy and a passage to anti-philosophical “positivism.” To sum up these simple indications, we will say that science does not receive its essence from philosophical Decision; that it possesses a positive and specific essence; that science’s essence allows itself to be thought neither as a mode of Being or an avatar of the ontological project, nor as the exploitation of the properties of beings; that in general its non-relation to the real does not pass through the philosophical type of objectivity, and that it does not fall under the legislation of ontological Difference.

We sum up the positive reason for all these phenomena, the reason that explains this (non-) relation (to the) real as transcendental experience (of the) real, with the following term: the One. The element of science is the One, not Being, and it implies a usage of language in general and of “categories” that is completely heterogenous to that of the “logos,” which philosophy makes constitute or unveil = realize the real. Science is a non-thetic reflection (of the) real that does not change the real by manifesting it. While science changes the order of its representations rather than the order of the real, philosophy claims to change the latter with the former. Whence its transcendental illusion.


6. The Idea of a pure science of philosophy


It is always possible to continue traditional philosophical practice with its traits of repetition and circularity, conflictuality and historicity, will to appropriation and auto-inhibition: it is made to continue, it postulates its unlimited or interminable nature. It is always possible to add a “new” system; to operate a new variation on the “limits-invariants” that constitute Decision; to define, for example, a “new” experience of the Other and to define in a complementary way a new form of the old metaphysics, its “logocentric” form to be “deconstructed,” etc., to proceed to new apportionments or disarticulations. Those are operations of Decision, possibilities included—in the long or short run—in philosophizing-power. And it’s even still possible to want an Ideal of philosophy-as-rigorous-science. But all of this, all these exciting and conflictual endeavors, changes nothing for philosophical Faith and the prestige of objective philosophical Appearance. This repetition does nothing but confirm it in its essence through the destruction of its merely “inferior,” “transcendent,” “gregarious,” “natural,” “worldly” forms, etc. And, above all, this is to prolong, purify, amplify the kinds of spontaneity and violent savagery that belong to Decision when it is left to itself. What we call the naïve practice of philosophy is not a simple possibility of Decision, it is the very mode of its existence (conflictuality, historicity), and there’s no “historical,” “political,” “philosophical” reason to stop it.

The program also does not consist in ceasing to philosophize—for once in its life…—or in interrupting the continuum of philosophical Decisions. That would be a simple denegation. It consists in testing—as already and actually suspended from science’s point of view such as we have defined it—philosophical Decision and its authority over itself. Not its authority over the World and effectivity, where, in a certain way, with its risks and perils, it bitterly battles to enjoy its full validity. But its authority over science, and the real that science accesses, and therefore also, from this point of view, over the rigorous knowledge that can be acquired of it. None of spontaneous philosophical Faith, its unitary belief-in-self-as-in-the-real, its transcendental Illusion, etc. is destroyed in the worldly or effective sense of the term: in that sense, everything is conserved—but as the object to be examined. Conversely, it is destroyed or invalidated from the transcendental = immanent = real point of view. From this real point of view = One, this relation (to) self of Decision or its circularity is no longer related (to) self. There is a “dual” dissociation of the object of science—philosophical Decision—and the science of this real object. Science is not a segment or a fragment of its corpus, a moment of philosophical Decision. No part of philosophy (and not just of the World) is conserved in the One—in the real and in the science that primitively gives it. This is how the reality of a Science of philosophy is founded.

If there is a program—this is not certain—it is the program of the passage from the spontaneous and naïve practice of philosophy to a pure science of philosophy, to a theoretical examination of Decision transcendentally founded in its own reality. Philosophers have sufficiently condemned science, its “naivety,” its “technicism,” its character of “deaf” and “blind” thought, its “operativity-without-thought.” From science that “dreams” (Plato) to science that “does not think” (Heidegger), there is a loop that is conflated with the philosophical circle. It is perhaps time to point out to the last trekkers of epistemology and “philosophy of the sciences” that they first have a consistent and specific thought, but one which does not exhaust itself in the philistinism of the “fact of science”; that science thinks, simply that it does not think like philosophy; that it only objectivates its representations, not the real; then that it has a more primitive and more essential naivety than the “second” naivety attached to philosophical practice down to its most exacerbated operations of critical vigilance. This is a residue and an ignorance, a denegation of its source of the last instance, which is the naivety proper to scientific knowledge.

This is not exactly an operation of retorsion or reversal, as if we “turned back” against philosophy the argument of the naivety and spontaneity of its immemorial practice. Philosophy takes the form of naivety that still affects its “reflection” or its “critique” of a more primordial experience of thought (that of science), of a naivety in a sense more founded and non-self-thetically certain, somewhat more mute and infirm from the point of view of the “logos,” yet it does not falsify itself, does not negate itself—being too inherent (to) self—like philosophy does. Science alone has the integrity of its naivety; philosophy falsifies that integrity, separates it from itself, or strips it of its transcendental essence. Philosophy then renders it complementary with reflection (Transcendence in general) with which it sets out to form a system. Philosophy projects into it a passably shoddy anti-reflexive or pre-reflexive (ante-predicative, etc.) image or version destined to be sublated. That’s how its unitary operation of conquest over science is achieved.

How do we manage to get out of this hallucinatory merry-go-round? This would be the effect of a science of philosophical Decision.


[1] [This is an allusion to Derrida’s usage of this word in Writing and Difference. The term déchéance is translated there as “decay,” while here I have opted for “downfall” for a more etymologically resonant rendering (déchéance is what “befalls” but also that which is collapsing)—TN.]

[2] [This phrasing mixes two metaphors together. The phrase il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué, literally means one must not sell the bear’s skin before having killed it, while in English we would more idiomatically say don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched. The second notion involving the image of taxidermy and stuffing is Laruelle’s humorous twist to this saying—TN.]

[3] [Here Laruelle is referring to the second volume (“The Crimes of the History of Philosophy”) of a self-published journal from the early 1980s titled Why Not Philosophy?—TN.]

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