In the midst of finishing an article on Laruelle’s non-philosophy in relation to thinking the Absolute I was revisiting the remarks of Quentin Meillassoux concerning Laruelle at the Speculative Realism event transcribed in Collapse III. In addition to making me nostalgic for a time when the very phrase “speculative realism” didn’t also signify “self-aggrandizing marketing tool-being”, but actually introduced me to three thinkers whose work I found extremely interesting, challenging, and productive of thought (two as enemies and one as an ally, and a forth whose work failed to capture my attention), it also served to remind me of the occasional series here about philosophers not understanding Laruelle.
When I first opened the text again I had the vague memory of finding Meillassoux’s criticisms annoying, but reading them again I was genuinely taken aback by the force of his more cogent remarks (which I try to respond to in the forthcoming article). The annoyance stems in part from a criticism Meillassoux makes regarding the axiomatic nature of Laruelle’s Real beyond or indifferent to thought, Being, Alterity, and all other forms of authoritarian transcendence (within theory). Meillassoux essentially says that, unlike his own proof that allows him to radicalize the correlationist circle, Laruelle can only posit a Real beyond thought. When a philosopher than comes along and tries to challenge this non-philosophical axiom Laruelle can only claim that this is philosophical resistance arising from the underlying structure of decision and so, of course, the philosopher will not understand non-philosophy. Whereas, Meillassoux claims, he enters into the debate and performs a kind of immanent critique (not his words, but it suffices).
I suppose one could find this tendency in Laruelle, or at least feel frustrated by his indifference to the conventions of philosophical debate, but Meillassoux’s attempt to show this to be the case still rings of a misunderstanding that can only arise from a resistance (despite his annoyance at this term!) that twists the very identity of non-philosophy and, in so doing, obscures (at least it did for me) the more cogent and interesting criticisms in his remarks. In short, he completely misreads the name of non-philosophy. He said,
“Non-philosophy is supposed to think the relation of thinking with a Real which precedes philosophy, but the name ‘non-philosophy’ can only be constructed from the name ‘philosophy’ together with a negation. Philosophy precedes non-philosophy in nomination, as in the acts of thinking. Hence we have the first and manifest pragmatic contradiciton between what Laruelle says about the Real and what he does when elaborating this notion (p. 419).”
Yet, Laruelle (and Brassier, whose synthetic reading Meillassoux is partly responding to) is clear in every article and book of non-philosophy that the name does not refer to a negation of philosophy, but is analogous to non-euclidean geometry and is a science of philosophy (hence the theory of the philosophical decision) and subsequent mutation via a different set of axioms (thus his reworking of philosophical material like Being and Alterity from the vision-in-One). Meillassoux says that this axiomatic stating of the Real is “something that can be neither demonstrated nor discussed”. Yes, axioms are starting points that are assumed to be true (and in non-philosophy this takes the form of a number of “as if”, i.e. “as if One”), and their veracity stands on the strength of the theorems developed from them (though not deduced from them), which is why you have different mutations of non-philosophy depending on the axioms posited (so Serge Valdinoci has developed his own mutation that he calls europanalyse and my own non-philosophical work with ecology takes a very different form than Laruelle’s (non-)humanism). In fact, though Meillassoux’s own realism is said by Badiou to be a proof, his own thought rests on certain unacknowledged axioms regarding primary and secondary qualities.
The real difference between the two philosophers has to do with the order of the Real as such (and I’m refusing here the difference Meillassoux tries to set up between the Real and realism) in relation to thought. For Meillassoux it is necessary to point to some ancestral moment prior to thought to break from subjective metaphysics, or what Laruelle calls the melange of thought and the Real, and what that ultimately means is that one must think a time preceding any possible thought or manifestation. Brassier flips this and instead of thinking from a time prior to thought attempts to breaks the circle through a radicalized nihilism that thinks a time posterior to all thought in the extinction of the universe. Laruelle’s theory of time can be said to refuse these two empirical theories and instead posits a determination-in-the-last-instance of thought by the Real. This determination does not posit a time prior or after to thought, but instead marks a unilateral determination of thought by the Real in each moment, thought is Real but the Real is not, as such, related to thought. This, in my view, is preferable to either the arche-fossil of Meillassoux or the nihilism of Brassier, because it passes the extensity test in thinking both the human and the Real without the need to rid itself of one to think the other.