Edit, 10.1.14: The part on matrices got a little word salady so I rewrote some if it after this article got a few views. I also included more parts about the subject and the Stranger and philo-fiction. Everything here is tentative and provisional since I’m hardly an expert of non-philosophy.
I’ve been thinking about Patrick Jenning’s article about whether or not non-philosophy is just another academic discourse. One thing that perhaps marries the non-philosopher to the academy is the idea of the matrix. The generic matrix in non-philosophy is not mathematical of course but rather attempts to fuse, to quote Laruelle in Philosophie Non-Standard, “algebra and a lived materiality which implicates two different and complementary types of the subject, the generic non-individual subject or Last Instance, and the operator subject or the Stranger-subject.” In other words, the subject in its radical immanence which presents itself as an unknown variable: the Subject = X. The announcement or occasion (rather than positing) of this subject manifests as a difficulty that implies the non-philosophical break from a specific answer to X, the task at hand, then, is not to ground a philosophical system on this term but to let it offer the creative opportunity of philo-fiction: an unmoored philosophy based on “oraxioms” (roughly, provisional and non-decisional axioms that inaugurate experimental “non-standard” philosophies), a truly new kind of philosophy divested of its authority. However, the question of this subject remains an object of scientific and philosophical inquiry by the “real” institution of the university. The subject determined in-the-last-instance is exactly that, determined in this or that instance by a certain discourse or regime–Laruelle, I’m sure, would not propose that he is somehow out of the Foucauldian problematics of knowledge/power. The treatment of the subject, indeed its inclusion or exclusion in the attendant empirical practices that non-philosophy and non-philosophers use to supplement themselves with a scientific perspective remains in question. Laruelle, however, seems to have given the question a fair amount of thought with regard to his theory of the Stranger and victims. In sum, his views on theoreticism seem to abrogate him from the critique that he is loyal to the university, while the notable act of his foundation of the OINP and a non-philosophy journal (before this he did some samizdat publishing), has sufficiently divorced him from the normal reliance of theorists on the approval of the university for the dissemination of their writings and any notion of normal academic “standards.” So, again, Laruelle seems to have it all figured out. However, this is not the case for “us” in the anglophone world who are maybe obliged to struggle to establish the conditions for a truly democratic non-philosophy.
In an essay I wrote a while ago, which I have purposefully blacklisted and will never see the light of day again because it was immature and derivative, I proposed the idea of modeling (especially where it concerns humans and things that effect humans) as a “provisionally decisional” process that adequates the real without corresponding. (Note: the original article this idea came from was referring to computational quantitative models but I wanted to expand this to theoretical models such as mathemes or systematic philosophies as well, the language I use intends to refer to them both so it might be a little clumsy. I’ve since abandoned this notion for various reasons, mostly inexperience although one major one is Laruelle’s notion of heresy which also provides conditions for a provisional decision).
Conceptually, the individual–to the extent that the model impacts or effects them or to the extent to which they are a factor–is taken as a variable and is introjected into an algebraic matrix comprised of other variable terms so that Subject = X. (Also note: most of this is taken from reading about rather than doing math so take this with a grain of salt. I’m not in any formal math classes right now so please feel free to rail at me in the comments so I can learn). The value of X is always variable or indeterminate but is decided by whatever modeling procedure is in use. In the case of Subject = X, this could be conceived of as the individual in the capacity of whatever measurable traits they express which can be aggregated into quantitative data (as per agent based modeling or other sociological models); or insofar as they present themselves as material (in the capacity of “experience” or as an empirical datum) in a systematic philosophical or theoretical exposition or in the case of psychoanalytic mathemes. This individual who has become Subject = X, then, is free to be conceptually conjugated by/in the model so that their particular transcendental qualities transform or are co-determined by the factors and variables present in the model or the inferential methodology used to parse the data or according to the models various “readings” and interpretations–whatever the function of the model-as-matrix is in its capacity to produce something discursively “true” so that its material is determined in-the-last-instance. In other words, they have become generic.
Thus, the basic act of modeling something like the subject at all simply produces Subject = X (where the subject is a collection of variables); the matrix, however, provides ways in which this variable can be conceptually conjugated and transposed. Thus, the transpose produces Subject = XT, transpose again and you have Subject = (XT)T which still equals Subject = X (I believe this expresses the property of idempotence while the operation is an involution which is itself a bi-jection, a form of mapping). This, I believe, is something like Laruelle’s notion of a generic matrix which is integral and can undergo any number of transformations or transpositions. Philosophy’s mistake is to try to universalize and generalize its theoretical models by arguing for their formal necessity when actually they are the most arbitrary and proprietary. This would be the distinction between a generic and a general model where latter is philosophical and decisional and the former is mathematical or non-philosophical (it is contingent though it expresses properties that apply in “almost all” situations). It should be noted that the subject’s–and this goes for any philosophical material really, e.g. Real = X– facility to be conceptually/theoretically transposed in this matrix makes it vulnerable to philosophical decision, e.g. Historical Materialism/Marxism’s decision that man and history are determined-in-the-last-instance by economics. However, since the value of X is idempotent, even after long tracts on things like “the subject,” it remains unknown and the same as it was while somehow accomplishing numerous effectuations since it is treated by persuasive, propositional, descriptive, or argumentative philosophical language which awards it a thetic causality. Thus the hapless reader of philosophy, to use Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit as an example, hallucinates things like the reconciliation of man and God or the closure of history. The violence philosophy does by its modeling is thus not so much to the generic subject–who is also utilized in non-philosophy but with the caveat that nothing about them is being decided and that this subject is not generalizable–but to the Stranger (who is not determined by philosophy but rather be the real) so that the individual (in this case, as the reader but also when they are taken as an object of analysis in the capacity of the subject) is sutured to the decisional philosophical Subject = X which fails utterly to explain and represent them. Philosophy thus 1. fails to comprehend that it is modeling or producing fictions since it confuses its language with the real, 2. produces inadequate models and, 3. does violence to its subject matter (and the subject) by generalizing its conclusions about it.
The advantage of actual quantitative modeling is that there are rigorous and strict criteria for the adequate treatment of sample-data which ensure that it remains “undecided” that simultaneously offer the possibility of complexifying or expanding the model to account for more factors or even integrating with other models (meta-analysis); in other words it can offer a conceptual matrix which can also be “conjugated” and “transposed” but according to scientific norms while accounting for something like différance in its treatment of externalities or unknowns. Statistical models are privileged by certain non-philosophers [here I am at my legal limit and I don’t want to misrepresent anyone’s ideas so I must be vague, feel free to ask me about this in the comments and I can direct you to the relevant sources] because of their “fictional” status: they have a localized or contingent validity and are considered “good” or “robust” on the basis of their ability to represent mathematical truths about their sample data. For example, statistical models offer “degrees of freedom” based on the contingent problems of incomplete data or unknown values which can be solved mathematically–here, “micro-decisions” made in accordance to the mathematical exigencies of the data are made as a routine practice of problem solving. Another example would be the notion of the differential which just determines one variable in respect to another. In short, they say nothing about people or the individual and are even mute about the phenomena they attempt to model, rather they come to highly constrained conclusions about their data which are not typically profound and have a highly localized validity. They have the status of what I believe Laruelle calls being true without the effect of truth which effectively manifests in the recording of the phenomenon in mathematical symbols. However, the limitation of the conceptual matrix offered by quantitative modeling is that in order to effectuate the same conceptual transpositions that one can do with language or theory one has to do a great deal of work and adhere to very strict scientific procedures. Further, the matrix could be considered proprietary rather than generic and in many cases, if the conclusions are not written in simple English, are unintelligible and, if they are intelligible, fall subject to all manner of manipulations, misappropriations, misinterpretations, and decisional logic. This bears on the idea of the non-conceptual or non-knowledge and its proper representation; however, I want to take this to a different area.
To speak to the matter at hand, what I propose(d) a while back is that this issue of modeling introduces a divide in non-philosophy both between non-standard philosophy (as philo-fiction, as a unified field, as a quantum collider) and non-philosophy proper (non-philosophy as a evolving set of axioms, as the scientific study of philosophy) and a separate divide in non-standard philosophy between competing fictions as differends: politico-fictions, religious-fictions, science-fictions, econo-fictions etc. Why? Their material (the subject or the object they are studying) is necessarily transformed by the somewhat arbitrary assumptions and attendant empirical practices with which they use to model it–this is the obvious, the usual philosophical critique of the sciences, however, what is not par the course in this critique is that non-philosophy can be seen to become a critico-descriptive adjunct to science which, although it serves its stated purpose of de-operationalizing philosophy and asserting whatever truth it produces is provisional, primarily manifests as a description and defense of science as a supplementary non-philosophical practice. Less muddled, non-philosophy becomes a very aggressive handmaiden to a version of the sciences deprived of their ability to produce monolithic truths. –It is as if it is a hyper-skeptical philosophy of science that attaches to its very insufficiency, i.e., to the limits and exigencies of empirical modeling or its proprietary matrix, as a way of getting its scrap of truth and establishing its validity. If one can attempt a critique here, this is the academic, solitary, and potentially exclusive side of non-philosophy: a brand of non-philosophy contingent upon the university and its resources, e.g. advanced computers, laboratories, funding, the ability to collect and decipher data, a high degree of quantitative training and education, etc. (let alone the free time to read non-philosophy, which admittedly makes their investment in it all the more impressive). (As an aside, it is perhaps because of this merely adjunct use of non-philosophy as a defense of science and a bulwark against philosophy that adherents sometimes express a loyalty to some materialism or realism). At the same time, non-philosophy is the first to admit the severe limitations of what one can learn just by reading about science (since this is necessarily conceptual), thus the field and practice of science becomes a necessary assistant to non-philosophy. Although, it is possible that non-standard philosophy and philo-fiction is more permissive than all that considering Laruelle’s freewheeling creation of new terms and use of prepositional phrases (indeed when I first encountered the idea of philo-fiction–though I don’t believe this now–I saw it as a use of philosophical material in an exploitation of Lacan’s dictum that “truth has the structure of fiction” which would produce something like Deleuze’s notion of a schizoid hallucination–philosophy as literature). Laruelle’s notion of a quantum collider where dualized or cloned concepts can interface in new ways under the axioms of non-philosophy seems to indicate that while philo-fiction is essentially creative it is still highly disciplined–here knowledge of science becomes merely useful but not necessary while the study of non-philosophy is for the sake of adhering to its norms. Thus to partake in the “democracy” of non-philosophy via the writing of philo-fiction, like a real democracy, one has to learn and adhere to certain norms (in the form of non-philosophy’s axioms) and practices. What is notable is that this is sufficient criteria for it to function well enough–though maybe not optimally–without formal scientific knowledge or training but rather by the observance of non-philosophical procedures. Here the trouble bears on the issue of the interpretation of these rules and procedures (since interpretation and hermeneutics are interdit) and the relative degree of authority that Laruelle himself holds in creating and revising them.
All the same, since data is just another immanent thing with no special status in Laruelle’s non-philosophy one falls back on the usual displeasing theoretical notion that it is determined contingently by some discursive or “proper” inferential procedure. Non-philosophy deals scientifically with philosophical givens but not with data in its scientific specificity, it seems. But this might be for the better since 1. by its axioms it refuses to ontologize or award special privilege to any representation of reality (here one could also argue that Laruelle would be hesitant to impose himself on the scientific field by dealing with data) and 2. it aspires to be an inclusive and democratic discourse. In regards to the latter, not everyone has the privilege of making their arguments with data or even with the benefit of a proper education, –this becomes a tragedy especially when it becomes a matter of self-defense or participation in democratic society. [When I last dealt with this concept, I proposed that non-philosophy should be the policy writing of man by attempting a non-decisional translation of quantitative or mathematical non-knowledge, otherwise non-philosophy might fall short its democratic aspirations]. The conceptual matrix provided by quantitative fields and proper scientific, political scientific, sociological or economic research is non-philosophically “ethical” by its demonstrable refusal of the philosophical hubris of deciding the real and its ability to radically inform non-philosophical practice. It manages to preserve both non-philosophical notions of the subject (as Stranger and as a generic non-individual = X). But for those who do not have this ability, making philosophical decisions–the establishment of hard and fast truths–becomes attractive as a form of empowerment in the capacity of having a strong opinion or set of beliefs. Philosophy and anti-philosophy–in a mode that I am hesitant to call post-structuralist or post-modernist–demonstrates this by its “proletarianization” of science (especially the social sciences) and its hysterical recourse to and indulgence in ethics and ideology which formed a sort of radical democracy of thought. Situating actual–albeit non-decisional and non-philosophically informed–quantitative research as the standard for sufficient non-philosophy credentials as a counter to this introduces the issue of the democratic and inclusive pretensions of non-philosophy since 1. this is not available to everyone, 2. this limits non-philosophy’s otherwise generic matrix to one excessively determined by quantitative research and modeling, 3. establishes new conditions of authority and (in)sufficiency. Further, it is important to recall that the first scientific brand of non-philosophy was deployed against this post-modern anarchy of opinions in the first place to place philosophy under the conditions of science, –so while Laruelle didn’t seek to “terrorize” philosophy with science, he did follow an anti-democratic impulse which sought to more or less discipline it, reign it in and force it to present itself as material to non-philosophy. As I have said elsewhere, this potentially morbid and silencing aspect of non-philosophy that dotes on science as an anti-theory and uses it to police the “sayable” should perhaps be reconsidered since, as the translator of Principles of Non-Philosophy noted, non-philosophy is fundamentally an attempt to humanize and to find a way to once again enjoy theory. In other words, its about finding a way to appropriate it for a human end thereby making it useful. Playful irreverence rather than the outright censoring of philosophers seems to be in order since non-philosophy appears to require a degree of enthusiasm for philosophy (at least enough to access its basic problematics and history) more so than hatred.
If non-philosophy has any critical power, it should not just be established by its critique of philosophy and its reduction to mere material–for some this is like kicking a sick man when he’s down. Rather its radical democratic potential should be realized over and against the ubiquitous university and its intellectualism and be elaborated in “scientific” rather than gnostic or non-marxist terms (since my suspicion is that this is where anglophone adherents become a little skeptical). Non-philosophy’s allegiance should be to a generic conception of science–rather than a specific theory such as quantum physics which would require a wealth of prior knowledge and explanation–, i.e., one that concerns its daily practice. This seems necessary since–to Bachelard and Laruelle’s point–science is not reifiable to a set of texts or terms but is rather a practice, an institution, and an aggregate of methodologies and truth procedures. In other words, non-philosophy’s original scientific force-(of)-thought should maybe be expressed in a manner that is similar to its recent interest and allegiance to art and religion, i.e., in a manner highly concerned with the struggles of lived and daily life, while remaining loyal to the scientists (who’s to say they aren’t alienated?). Philosophie Non-Standard seems to do most of this work by elaborating his usage of quantum physics along side his notion of philo-fiction. However, since Philosophie Non-Standard remains untranslated and the majority of the most scientifically informed non-philosophy adherents discovered Laruelle in French, the situation and balance of power seems to favor Laruelle’s older anglophone adherents–who are highly antagonistic to philosophy and maybe somewhat exclusive–as the legitimate heirs and gatekeepers of his scientific brand of non-philosophy. (I’m thinking of people like Ray Brassier and insofar as his thinking implies an attitude and a school more than folks like Anthony Paul Smith). It certainly favors them more than those who recently discovered him by his works on heresy and gnosis, though this group–insofar as it is representable as a collection of blogs and publications–has shown a great deal of vitality and enthusiasm. A good middle ground may be his upcoming book on non-marxism, which will warrant attention from the Marxist community. (As an aside, I am waiting for more pieces on non-philosophy and psychoanalysis to be published since Lacanian’s could use a shot in the arm when it comes to the scientific status of their discipline and nothing would weird them out more than a discourse that asserts that psychoanalysis is already a science. Also they could use some distraction from their usual celebrities.) The goal here would be to disrupt the non-philosophical leveraging of science (specifically in its form as a practice sutured to the university) in the “dispute of phrases” –as per Lyotard–, which is always, in short, a game of power and an assertion of authority which just produces differends and points of interpretative friction. In other words, just more philosophical politics. How non-philosophy will deal with disagreements in its spontaneous politics is interesting since, while it is “politically engaged” (via its notions of heresy and struggle) it is not exactly engaged in any specific politics. Meanwhile, it refuses any and all hermeneutics but maintains a robust cycle of publications. More research might reveal that non-philosophy is a sort of neutral “de-sutured” perspective that allows avenues of exchange and dialogue that would otherwise not be possible by radically different types of people, yet one that remains supplementary and is held necessarily next to an individual’s typical positive beliefs. Non-philosophy’s democratic potential might be found in its ability to be a “rationally communicative” discourse as per Habermas.
What non-philosophy might require then if it is to achieve its democratic goals while maintaining its “scientific” rigor is a few things, 1. more discourse between the gnostics and quantum scientists, 2. it should get over its issue of debt and citation and explain and reference its influences as much as possible to liberate it from its quantitative knowledge/power monopoly–here non-philosophy could become an occasion for the dissemination of scientific knowledge, 3. adopt the type of Marxist enthusiasm that propagandizes and sets up reading groups or clubs, 4. (hell, why not?) a sort of referee or observer organization to make sure that non-philosophy is “free and democratic,” and 5. more interestingly, non-philosophy might attempt a sociology of itself and philosophy similar to Latour’s sociology of science to get a fully picture of “the situation.” After this, all the usual suspects and some new ones will be present in the non-philosophy congress and the sufficient conditions to liberate it from university will be in place. A sociology of non-philosophy or some sort of opinion poll at least might be interesting since it would reveal who is a Marxist, who is a libertarian, who is a plain old liberal, who is a starry eyed New Age spiritualist, who is Christian, a nihilist and so forth. The badge of non-philosophy seems to preclude an explicit engagement in a specific politics which might cause red blooded continental philosophers to sort of smirk and consider non-philosophy not worth engaging in; especially since contemporary philosophy and theory in general got its stride back via it’s philosophers sincere engagement in politics and their honest confession that their philosophies were axiomatically defined by their (political) positions (re: Žižek : “I’m a card carrying Lacanian!”).
All the evidence points to Laruelle having covered all his bases, he hasn’t gone senile with his religiously themed work. No one but an extreme Marxist would say that the “contradictions” in non-philosophy will cause it to fall to the wayside. It is important to recall that non-philosophy is an ongoing enterprise and a project or experiment. So while it is clear that it walks several tight lines between countervailing tendencies and aspirations, all of this can be conceptually integrated by his theory of a Unified Field as non-exclusive “pathways” to the essential idea and practice of non-philosophy. Perhaps non-philosophers might question their taste or preference for their favorite Laruelle text or period of non-philosophy (so far I’m partial to Philosophy II) and maybe assert that the authentic core of non-philosophy is not present in any particular non-philosophical vernacular but rather its gestures and effectuations, its style and its activism and relevance to a “lived materiality.”