All we are saying is give war a chance; Or, the strange peace of an ecology of thought: A Response to James Stanescu (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)

When Scu says that he doesn’t know anything about Laruelle or theology, I want to say, with him, “but here you are!” My hope and my fear is that this book doesn’t really fit comfortably into any disciplinary mold so one shouldn’t need to know anything about Laruelle (because the book isn’t a book on Laruelle properly) or theology (because the book isn’t a book of theology properly) or any of the other disciplines engaged with (ecology, philosophy) in order to engage and spend time with the text itself. And I love what Scu says about the lattice structure of first philosophies becoming second philosophies and think that this vision of the book fits well with that description. There is really nothing in Scu’s post that I don’t resonate with and so in my response I will pull a little bit from our short discussion in the comments where certain aspects of a self-criticism emerged.

Scu picks up on a part of the book I wrote later in its development, the discussion of Laruelle and ecology. This fits within a general section where I am trying to attend to certain differences between Laruelle’s own deployment of non-philosophy and my own use. So, Laruelle, for example, expresses a clear suspicion regarding ecology because of the way it may be used to harass man and the ways in which its metaphysics has remained unexamined. I try to show in this discussion of the undulatory wave that ecosystems are far more “wave-like” than “particle-like” when you understand them from the perspective of the ecosystem instead of the more macroscopic question of species (though, species too are “wave-like” when understand from a certain timescale, something I try to engage with in the book when discussing biodiversity). When Laruelle is modified in this way I think he gives us a better sense than Latour or Morton for how philosophy/theology/theory can engage with science and particularly the science of ecology when it comes to the question of nature. But this discussion of the ocean brings us again to the question of the relation between a peace and the non-normative figures so often invoked in the book and to which Scu adds the figure of the pirate.

So, once again we have to ask about the question of peace. One of the more creative and heretical students of Laruelle is Gilles Grelet. Grelet’s own work eschews any calls to peace and in a reversal of John Lennon’s anthem instead invites us to “give war a chance”. Grelet is picking up this notion of war from the gnostics and Maoists and for him the figure of the sea is the figure of true revolutionary theory. One goes to the sea to escape the dialectic of the World (of the living and the dead) one goes to the sea.

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Laruelle takes up and attempts to respond to the challenge Grelet puts to him in Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy, and we see there a certain hedging of non-philosophy so that the war and “theorrism” of Grelet’s “anti-philosophical gnosis” is separated from the fundamental peaceableness of Laruelle’s non-philosophy. Here I have to take a short biographical detour to explain how some of my ideas regarding peaceableness changed over the course of my writing the book. The book was finished in the midst of some deep personal strife. Due to some vagaries written into immigration law by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in the UK I was being forced to leave the country by the end of July 2011. This all happened around the same time I made some serious forays into gnostic literature (properly so-called and that kind of gnosticism found in ultra-left movements in the 20th Century). I began to see the beauty, for example, of a certain hatred for the World as Laruelle and then Grelet understood it. I began to, in some sense, give war a chance. For, as the man says, “There is a war“. And if I was going to take seriously the challenge of a unified theory of philosophical theology and ecology then the violence of nature couldn’t simply be waved away through vague and empty appeals to the transcendence of some final telos. That conception of nature is, as Agata Bielek-Robson taught me, a kind of fascism. The erasing of the suffering of singular individuals for the “greater good” of the whole.

So what is the peace of an ecology of thought? Well, part of what I wanted to get at in the text was that the peace of a democracy or a communism of thought should look very different from the false peace of liberalism. That’s a peace only in the sense that those who suffer are silenced. In a certain sense attempts to make sense of the violence that is a part of ecosystem functioning have also suffered the silence of singular voices of suffering. What I have hoped to do by not allowing ecology or philosophy/theology to be the “first philosophy” of the text is to find a way to undercut that tendency in ecological thinking. To instead turn to the way that peaceableness may relate to the “going to the sea” of niche creation. The way in which niche’s, places of extreme violence, can be read through the protest of Job instead of through the metaphysical and ethical assumptions uninterrogated within ecology. Perhaps, though, we have moved so far from an understanding of peace because such a peace isn’t possible within the World and so we have to give war a chance to end it.

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