Laruelle’s Les Philosophies de la différence – Chapter V: Derrida

“Derrida between Nietzsche and Heidegger”

This study of Derrida is placed into the analytic of Difference. This is in order, not to denounce the philosophical decision, but to understand it within the frame of not real, hallucinatory, and required. Derrida is the thinker who carries the philosophical decision to its pure and simple aporetic dislocation. The deconstruction of metaphyics is the “truth” of it, the enlarging of it and radicalizing of it as inconsistent that characterises the non-real, purely fictional and hallucinatory that is philosophy in general. This comes with a complimentary thesis that states “the auto-dislocation of the philosophical decision is at the same time its becoming-unitary, its auto-collapse, its auto-inhibition in itself  – its paralysis (122).”

He is not applying deconstruction to itself. Rather this study evaluates from a non deconstructive point of  view the mechanism (its validity suspended from the One) of “Differance” and of the affection of the logos by differance. Laruelle uses the capital in order to designate the glocal system of Difference (without the a) and the lower case to designate the moment of alterity, cutting, or slowing down of continuities and the specificity of the system of Differance. The same goes for Deconstrution (the type) and the deconstruction (the procedure).

What Laruelle hopes to show is that Differance is one of three types of Difference, the other two being the Greco-Nietzschean and Deleuzian Difference and the Heideggerian Differenz. Yet, at the same time, Derrida introduces an original and important variation into the tradition and this constitutes Derrida’s irreducibility into the philosophical field. That variation is found in the Jewish component that Derrida inserts between the Nietzschean and Heideggerain poles of Difference. Specifically, against the Greek notion of Difference and the Greek notion of finitude, Derrida presents an elaboration of Jewish finitude. Levinas does not present the same thing, as Derrida has shown a Greek symptom in Levinas as well, and so what Derrida adds is not the difference of the Greek and the Jew, but the Jewish mode of the aporia.

“The Greco-Jewish amphibology and how to process it [la traiter]”

Present in Levinas is an amphibology of Greek philosophy and Jewish thought, a “mixture” that is brought out by Derrida. This mixture is that of thinking radical Alterity alongside the Greek problematic of the Other and the Same. Thus in Greek philosophy it is a certain kind of immanence of the logos and in Jewish thought it is a certain kind of transcendence. Derrida’s method of deconstruction problematizes accentuates in an incredible manner the in-consistency and exteriority of Greek metaphysics and the similar in-consistency in the Levinasian figure of the Other alongside the Same.

Yet, Laruelle is not claiming that Derrida repeats Levinas’ mixture of Jewish-Philospher(Greek), instead he is claiming that the power of Derrida’s thought is found in his making appear or revealing what remains apparent but hidden in the amphibology.

Thus, from here, Laruelle will examin the theme and practice of “relation without relation”, of the relation (?) of the relation and (?) of the non-relation where it concentrates the problem of Differance. The question marks in the preceding sentence are Laruelle’s.

“The reduction of the amphibology”

Deconstruction locates a double discourse at work that speaks both of relativity and absoluteness. It is impossible to separate these two discourses. The only relation Laruelle takes as his object of study is that between this relativity and absoluteness of Difference, which is a delicate point where Deconstruction has perhaps set its own symptom and that it must analyze.

Deconstruction is an absolute process (in the sense of autonomy) of relativity, it is not absolute without reserve, but relative-absolute.

An investigation of the “plane of Jewish alterity”, that is the insertion of the absolute alterity found in Jewish thought into Greek philosophy, is how Laruelle understands Differance to be a mode of the philosophical decision derived by inversion from Difference.

Laruelle aims to actively recover Differance by reducing it to the synthetic syntax of Difference.

“The recovery of Differance: as Difference”

This is a very difficult section to summarize. At the beginning of the book, in the preface I think, Laruelle said that there would be a kind of introduction to the Capitalism and Schizophrenia works of Deleuze (and Guattari). While this was true to some extent in the chapter entitled “Syntax of Difference” it is coming out in a rather strange way in this chapter on Derrida. In short, Laruelle seems to be using Deleuze’s work here to discuss Derrida’s work, applying the “realist” and “materialist” tools found in those works to the theme of differance in Derrida.

This allows him to locate the way that continuums, from the relative to the absolute, are always a relation of connecting and cutting-off, a continuum is this relation and also is in relation to other continuums in the same way. Thus all of Derrida’s work on inconsistency and the “negative” movements of deconstruction found in the delay, differance, arrest, etc., are all merely instruments in a general an-economy that mirrors the inclusive disjunction discussed in Anti-Oedipus. Differance has the same positive identity as Deleuzian Difference, it brings together things in a disjunctive mode “at the same time”. Thus, Laruelle locates a “Jewish plane of immanence” in Derrida, which both allows him to locate this positive identity of Differance when placed into the general syntax of Difference but also foreground the specificity of Derrida’s thought.

[This emphasis on specificity is something I find very interesting. For instance, while it feels somewhat wrong at first to separate Greek philosophy from Jewish thought as Laruelle does, he does not do so to deny Jewish thought the same authority as philosophy or to somehow denigrate Jewish thought. Instead, neither Greek nor Jew has any authority over the other or over the One, but both are thought from the One. This allows a certain kind of relativism that subsumes them into elements in a democracy of thought. I’m still not sure that this is entirely unproblematic as yet. – APS]

“The Jewish inversion of Difference: as Differance”

Rather than holding together contraries the holding together of contraries constitutes a “cadaverisation” of everything as a necessary aspect of the system. Thus Differance aims to make absolute the splitting of contraries, affirms as an unlimited yes holding them apart in their specificity, rather than making them a cadaver of the same, chocking them in the double band. Laruelle coins the phrase “Body-without-writing” [Corps-sans-écriture] to name the process of Deconstruction that conjugates and the cadaverisation and the stimulating affirmation.

“The Body-without-writing or the Jewish plane of immanence”

The dicussion here focuses on the “unlimited Yes” that Deconstruction inherits from Zarathustra. This unlimited Yes is the same syntax as the continuum/splitting-continuum described before. The unlimited Yes always privileges the highest side, transcendence, the expropriation (affirmative certainly), the absolutely absolute(ly) unthinkingable.

But how is this affirmation possible without a prior activity? This prior activity is the syntax of the unlimited term, also called the interminable, and it is universal and the operative mechanism of differance just as much as affirmation.

Cadaverisation and affirmation are two syntaxal or structural function that co-belong. They both belong to a the system of the double band and the work that prolongs it, but also to a system outside that of the double band and its origin, a system not named by Derrida and that is designated by its effects and functions, this system Laruelle calls the Body-without-writing [BwW]. The BwW is constructed along two series or two bands – the cut/cission, but one become unlimited and universal, and the continuum, but become infinite. The BwW is the Greek plane of immanence which Jewish alterity is nevertheless completely capable of – but simply denies it.

The BwW is a shuttlecock of inscription, it condenses energy and intensifies the work of differance and reaffirmed the infinity of the double band.

Laruelle sums up the syntax of Derrida’s, and also Deleuze’s argumentation: they absolutize the forms that the most immediately circular to destroy (he gives the example of the signified, that of the signifier or of the “symbolic”, that of representation, of presence or the identity of objects) and projects the absolute character of these forms, correlatives of a finite conscience, on the operation of their destruction and more so along the way on the instrument of their destruction (Differance, Difference).

“Relatively undeconstructable”

“Deconstruction is from itself to itself for itself an Undeconstructable (161)”. Yet, as the first Undeconstructable, it is completely relative in itself. Deconstruction is the univocity of the system-of-the-Other, the Jewish plane of immanence. Thus it is relatively undeconstructable because its undeconstructability is its deconstructability (the amphibology of the Same and Difference).

The decline of Deconstruction is brought on by its suture to the syntax of Difference. The more Derrida works and analyses, the more he contemplates an agglutination or a infinite gluing together of objects for contemplation.

“On the good use of Derrida: How the Greek logos overcame its Jewish challenge”

Laruelle repeats much of what was written above about the contribution of Derrida’s work. He ends by saying that Derrida shows us how Jewish thought already compromises with Greek philosophy when it risks doing philosophy. It loses any radical position vis-à-vis the philosophical decision. It compromises with the Greek problematic of Difference and the Greek plane of immanence.

A summary of the invariant structure of Difference through the book thus far:

  1. Nietzsche gave Difference its absolute and idealist metaphysical form;
  2. Heidegger gave Difference its finite and “real” or ontico-Greek form, i.e. anti-idealist;
  3. Derrida gave Difference a finitude no longer ontico-Greek or real, but Jewish, in reversing the “terms” of relation that it constitutes, and thus recognized in it, indirectly, a necessity: beyond it simple presence as historical text to deconstruct.

5 thoughts on “Laruelle’s Les Philosophies de la différence – Chapter V: Derrida

  1. When I first read Derrida, I think it was his essay Plato’s Pharmacy, I thought it was a thrilling display of exegetical talent, but I wasn’t entirely sure where it was leading. It seemed pretty clear that Derrida was on the side of the scapegoated pharmakos, that he wanted to show that philosophical reason had trouble with the way language worked to undermine stable meanings, but where this left me I wasn’t sure. Over the years, I have come to see more clearly where Derrida left me, namely, with a confidence that language is the site of an openness to a futurity beyond radical evil. I have been dutifully trying to let Laruelle carry me in new directions. I am not, as I was with Derrida, captivated by any apparent brilliance at exegesis of literary or philosophical texts, and I only get a sense that he is unsatisfied with where Derrida has taken him (not only Derrida, but certainly Derrida seems one of the thinkers he seeks to escape from, as Plato was one such for Derrida.) Laruelle seems to want to stop doing philosophy at all, as if it were a sort of logic holding him imprisoned within an entirely illusory world (this is his gnosticism, I guess). I get that, but I am not captivated by his exposure of the imprisoning modes of thought he sees in philosophy nor do I yet catch a glimpse of some promised land beyond the veils of philosophical illusion. I do not find him to hold a candle to the greatest gnostic of our age, Philip K. Dick. So far, I have not found a reason to devote time to Laruelle when I could reread Ubik instead. Derrida, on the other hand, is certainly a match for Dick.

  2. Well, I’m not really trying to bring about the kind of devotion to Laruelle that one found to Derrida. Non-philosophy isn’t really something that claims to be the new philosophy, the new answer, or TOE, or, to use a somewhat more crass parlance, the new shit. If you have resistance to him I can understand that, though I I am a little worried my own lack of writerly talent is going to be confused with whatever talent Laruelle does have. Reading the whole of his text I am struck by a rather brilliant reading of the history of dialectical philosophy and contemporary focus on Difference, and I’m not sure I have reproduced that at all. I found his reading of Derrida using Deleuzo-Guattarian tools to be really fascinating. But, at the end these readings are not the main point of the book. He isn’t doing exegesis in the traditional sense and the real meat of the book comes in the final two chapters. You may still find him unpalatable, but the reason I have been somewhat captivated by him, just to match your own personal testimony regarding Derrida, is the brilliance of his conceptual construction. I feel like he’s able to see things differently than I have seen things and I find that vision very compelling, even if my own vision might still differ from his at the end of this conversation. I will point out, also, that Derrida was very much misunderstood for at least a few decades and so I hold out hope that after Laruelle’s work becomes discussed (if it becomes discussed) the helpful and interesting aspects of it will float to the top.

    As to the “stop doing philosophy at all” comment, well, yes, in a sense. His non-philosophy is not an anti-philosophy, he is at pains through the Heidegger chapter especially to bring out what is happening in philosophy not only to show where it dead ends, but because in its own fragmentary way it is saying something about the Real which he hopes to think from.

    I think I disagree with you on Derrida’s literary skills, but that is something I’ve recently come to hold. Regardless, we both agree about Dick at least.

  3. I’ll keep an open mind about Laruelle. I appreciate your efforts at making him more accessible to us all. I also, once again, recommend Michel Serres’ The Five Senses to you for what I think is an effort to do philosophy in a different way, somewhat in the vein of Laruelle’s return to vision-in-the-One.

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