Taylor and I are pleased to present to you the initial results of an ongoing experiment: recording our theoretical jam sessions, so we could capture our thinking more immediately. We invite you to take a listen.
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!].
It is my great delight to help announce the publication of one of the first book-length English translations available of the writings of French philosopher of technology Gilbert Simondon (1924-1989), published by Univocal. The volume is available under the title Two Lessons on Animal and Man and was translated by Drew Burk. The work is composed of a series of lectures intended for undergraduates interested in the humanities, especially philosophy, sociology and psychology.
As the translator puts it, “[f]or many, Gilbert Simondon is an unheard of landscape of philosophical inquiry. For other thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Bernard Stiegler his work on individuation is essential for the task of moving outside anthropocentric conceptions of identity formation and humanity’s relationship to the technical universe.” (Two Lessons on Animal and Man, Translator’s Note) I might merely add that in this text Simondon offers insights that are of vital urgency and interest, especially to those called by this aptly-designated “task.”
Biography of the Eye by François Laruelle
Originally published as “Biographie de l’oeil,” La Decision philosophique 9 (1989): 93-104.
for Adolfo Fernandez Zoila
“Man is this night, this empty nothingness that contains everything in its undivided simplicity…he is this night that one sees if one looks a man in the eyes.”
Supplement to Hegel’s judgment concerning man
A philosopher has never looked a man directly in the eyes. The philosopher is the man who turns his eyes away to look man in the eyes: he is a man with a distorted gaze. The philosopher misrecognizes the immediate for he himself is not immediate.
To look in the eyes: a maxim of philosophical curiosity, of its oblique indiscretion.
The philosopher is the man with an oblique gaze who lacks the straightforwardness of man.
To look in the eyes: this multiple sounds like a singular, like the penetration into the unique depths of the soul, if it isn’t simply a possibility of untruthfulness or contradiction between the eyes, quickly effaced.
The philosopher looks at man from outside: in the eyes, and he can only see the void and the night, a haze that thickens into nothingness or dissipates in the light of day.
Irrealism. Modernity can be seen as a kind of victory for realism, but this victory was always already betrayed by capitalism, disseminated to death. Despite all appearances, the masks and pseudonymity of the postmodern era indicate not an abandonment of the war against cynicism and superstition, but rather a renewed undertaking of this same battle with a greater degree of caution, pragmatism and assiduity than the modern age could have imagined necessary.
Will to think. Philosophy at its very best is saddening, a cautious disenchantment: a deciphering of the hidden resentment with which we have crafted our values, the nihilism behind the idealities humanity has raised above itself. Yet how could philosophy ever have taken hold and prospered without a certain artistry in masking its true purpose from us; how could it not begin by seducing us to another reality — seducing us to reject this life and this reality? Consider that the will to think must partially close the “field” of thought, in this way allowing it to acquire definite shape and form: the force of thought severs thought from becoming, reducing the chaos of becoming into an organized noise. In this sense, the force of thought disjoins not only a given thought from what it can do but transforms the very categories of thought in order to render existence inert, harmless and ready for transmission. The innate becoming reactive of thinking is what philosophy opposes in all ages and throughout all its disguises.
War on Information. Idealism begins with the proposition that life is futurity, yet attempts to halt before the inevitable futility this produces, the cancerous desires which follow, not from “particular” notions, but precisely from the incorporation of Truth into life, that is, the incorporation of a point of ideality into the social diagrammatics of thought. A bad conscience, alienation, a nullity or ‘nihilism,’ is the necessary counterpart to this process of internalization of the infinite (or at least a “point at infinity”) into the collective machines through which the world is enunciated. Existence as the stability of identity is the absolutely firm foundation upon which all idealism has hitherto constructed its watchtowers and fortresses.
Is mathematics discovered or invented? But what if we have misplaced the scent from the start; in other words what if this clear distinction elides the process itself, if the particular and immanent relation between invention and discovery forms the basis of the ‘singularizing’ expression involved in a new mathematical proof? But a rigorous diagram of novelty itself, of the Event, seems to escape the boundaries of mathematical thought. Ontology is not the royal road to reality, any more than dreams are a singular road the unconscious. In a way, it does not even seem to get us very far at all; at least in terms of understanding “truth,” that exceptional ontogenesis of knowledge and/or being, which after all constitutes what philosophers have so far approached as the ideal “problem” according to which all others are to be modeled, and to which the creation of any new concepts must invariably be induced to correspond.
Risk. The utter annihilation of the soul is an unavoidable stage of becoming human. The human soul is restless, without certainties — at least until it has finally inoculated itself to the world, jamming any channels still open to the outside.
Nihil. Philosophy is a whirlwind from which very little can escape; the breaks are not always where they appear to be! A pure negation of philosophy remains pure philosophy; it is coded in the same semiotic, an inverse. Even suspending this decision (to separate essence from appearance) is still a philosophical position. Finally, even if we manage to truly escape philosophy and found a new science which could in turn truly take the “human” science of philosophy and grasp it as raw experimental material, the risks of a new asceticism corresponding to this “higher” rigor are nearly unavoidable. All these risks are not unlike those Nietzsche or Deleuze are continually warning us about. The worst consequence of nihilism is not necessarily that of forgetting our philosophy in our despair; rather there is a stranger, more uncanny possibility — that the pious suspension of philosophy would be capable of sweeping reality away along with it, abandoning us in some non-human plane of transcendent nullity, enslaved to transparent emptiness and arcane jargon. Nonetheless, a positive “nihilism” undoubtedly constitutes an ideal space for the creation of a new kind of science capable of grasping in turn any human science, and even philosophy itself.
Supplements. What is true cannot change; what changes cannot be truth — is this not the miserable dream in which too many have diffused their cleverness?