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Non-philosophy (French: non-philosophie) is a concept developed by French Continental philosopher François Laruelle (formerly of the Collège international de philosophie and the University of Paris X: Nanterre).
Non-philosophy according to Laruelle
Laruelle argues that all forms of philosophy (from ancient philosophy to analytic philosophy to deconstruction and so on) are structured around a prior decision, and remain constitutively blind to this decision. The 'decision' that Laruelle is concerned with here is the dialectical splitting of the world in order to grasp the world philosophically. Examples from the history of philosophy include Immanuel Kant's distinction between the synthesis of manifold impressions and the faculties of the understanding; Martin Heidegger's split between the ontic and the ontological; and Jacques Derrida's notion of différance/presence. The reason Laruelle finds this decision interesting and problematic is because the decision itself cannot be grasped (philosophically grasped, that is) without introducing some further scission.
Laruelle further argues that the decisional structure of philosophy can only be grasped non-philosophically. In this sense, non-philosophy is a science of philosophy. Non-philosophy is not metaphilosophy because, as Laruelle scholar Ray Brassier notes, "philosophy is already metaphilosophical through its constitutive reflexivity". Brassier also defines non-philosophy as the "theoretical practice of philosophy proceeding by way of transcendental axioms and producing theorems which are philosophically uninterpretable". The reason why the axioms and theorems of non-philosophy are philosophically uninterpretable is because, as explained, philosophy cannot grasp its decisional structure in the way that non-philosophy can.
Laruelle's non-philosophy, he claims, should be considered to philosophy what non-Euclidean geometry is to the work of Euclid. It stands in particular opposition to philosophical heirs of Jacques Lacan such as Alain Badiou.
Role of the subject
The decisional structure of philosophy is grasped by the subject of non-philosophy. Laruelle's concept of "the subject" here is not the same as the subject-matter, nor does it have anything to do with the traditional philosophical notion of subjectivity. It is, instead, a function along the same lines as a mathematical function.
The concept of performativity (taken from speech act theory) is central to the idea of the subject of non-philosophy. Laruelle believes that both philosophy and non-philosophy are performative. However, philosophy merely performatively legitimates the decisional structure which, as already noted, it is unable to fully grasp, in contrast to non-philosophy which collapses the distinction (present in philosophy) between theory and action. In this sense, non-philosophy is radically performative because the theorems deployed in accordance with its method constitute fully-fledged scientific actions. Non-philosophy, then, is conceived as a rigorous and scholarly discipline.
The radically performative character of the subject of non-philosophy would be meaningless without the concept of radical immanence. The philosophical doctrine of immanence is generally defined as any philosophical belief or argument which resists transcendent separation between the world and some other principle or force (such as a creator deity). According to Laruelle, the decisional character of philosophy makes immanence impossible for it, as some ungraspable splitting is always taking place within. By contrast, non-philosophy axiomatically deploys immanence as being endlessly conceptualizable by the subject of non-philosophy. This is what Laruelle means by "radical immanence". The actual work of the subject of non-philosophy is to apply its methods to the decisional resistance to radical immanence which is found in philosophy.
In "A New Presentation of Non-Philosophy" (2004), François Laruelle states:
"I see non-philosophers in several different ways. I see them, inevitably, as subjects of the university, as is required by worldly life, but above all as related to three fundamental human types. They are related to the analyst and the political militant, obviously, since non-philosophy is close to psychoanalysis and Marxism — it transforms the subject by transforming instances of philosophy. But they are also related to what I would call the ‘spiritual′ type — which it is imperative not to confuse with ‘spiritualist′. The spiritual are not spiritualists. They are the great destroyers of the forces of philosophy and the state, which band together in the name of order and conformity. The spiritual haunt the margins of philosophy, Gnosticism, mysticism, and even of institutional religion and politics. The spiritual are not just abstract, quietist mystics; they are for the world. This is why a quiet discipline is not sufficient, because man is implicated in the world as the presupposed that determines it. Thus, non-philosophy is also related to Gnosticism and science-fiction; it answers their fundamental question — which is not at all philosophy's primary concern — ‘Should humanity be saved? And how?’ And it is also close to spiritual revolutionaries such as Müntzer and certain mystics who skirted heresy. When all is said and done, is non-philosophy anything other than the chance for an effective utopia?"
Numbered amongst the early members or sympathizers of sans-philosophie ("without philosophy") are those included in a collection published in 2005 by L’Harmattan: François Laruelle, Jason Barker, Ray Brassier, Laurent Carraz, Hugues Choplin, Jacques Colette, Nathalie Depraz, Oliver Feltham, Gilles Grelet, Jean-Pierre Faye, Gilbert Hottois, Jean-Luc Rannou, Pierre A. Riffard, Sandrine Roux and Jordanco Sekulovski. Since then, a slew of translations and new introductions have appeared from John Ó Maoilearca (Mullarkey), Anthony Paul Smith, Rocco Gangle, Katerina Kolozova, and Alexander Galloway.
Adam Karl August von Eschenmayer also developed an approach to philosophy called non-philosophy.
He defined it as a kind of mystical illumination by which was obtained a belief in God that could not be reached by mere intellectual effort. He carried this tendency to mysticism into his physical researches, and was led by it to take a deep interest in the phenomena of animal magnetism. He ultimately became a devout believer in demoniacal and spiritual possession; and his later writings are all strongly impregnated with supernaturalism.
Laruelle sees Eschenmayer's doctrine as a "break with philosophy and its systematic aspect in the name of passion, faith, and feeling".
- Ray Brassier, 'Axiomatic Heresy: The Non-Philosophy of Francois Laruelle', Radical Philosophy Archived 2008-01-05 at the Wayback Machine 121, Sep/Oct 2003. p. 25
- "A New Presentation of Non-Philosophy"
- Gilles Grelet (ed.), Théorie-rébellion. Un ultimatum, Paris: L’Harmattan, coll. « Nous, les sans-philosophie », 2005, p. 159.
- Jean-Luc Rannou, La non-philosophie, simplement. Une introduction synthétique, 2005, p. 238
- Höffding, H., Hist. of Mod. Phil., Eng. trans. vol. 2, 1900, p. 170.
- François Laruelle, "The Generic as Predicate and Constant (Non-Philosophy and Materialism)." in: Bryant, Levi, Graham Harman, and Nick Srnicek (eds.). 2011. The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism. Melbourne: Re-Press. p. 237.
- Brassier, Ray, 'Axiomatic Heresy: The Non-Philosophy of Francois Laruelle', Radical Philosophy 121, Sep/Oct 2003.
- Brassier, Ray, Nihil Unbound. Enlightenment and Extinction. Edinburgh University Press, 2007.
- Galloway, Alexander, Laruelle: Against the Digital. University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
- Gangle, Rocco. François Laruelle’s Philosophies of Difference: A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013.
- James, Ian. The New French Philosophy. Cambridge: Polity, 2012.
- Kolozova, Katerina. Cut of the Real: Subjectivity in Poststructuralist Philosophy. Columbia University Press, 2014.
- Kolozova, Katerina. The Lived Revolution: Solidarity with the Body in Pain as the New Political Universal. Evro-Balkan Press, 2010.
- Laruelle, François, 'A Summary of Non-Philosophy' in Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 8. Philosophies of Nature, 1999.
- Laruelle, François , 'Identity and Event' in Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 9. Parallel Processes, 2000.
- Mullarkey, John. Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline. Continuum Press, 2006.
- Mullarkey, John, and Anthony Paul Smith, eds. Laruelle and Non-Philosophy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012.
- Ó Maoilearca, John, All Thoughts are Equal: Laruelle and Nonhuman Philosophy, University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
- Smith, Anthony Paul. Francois Laruelle's Principles of Non Philosophy: A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh University Press, 2015.
- Smith, Anthony Paul. Laruelle: A Stranger Thought. Polity Press, 2016.
- Controversy over the Possibility of a Science of Philosophy (pdf) a debate between Laruelle and Derrida (from La Décision Philosophique, No. 5, April 1988, pp. 62–76) translated by Robin Mackay
- Frequently Asked Questions at Organisation Non-Philosophique Internationale (ONPhI) (
- Organisation Non-Philosophique Internationale
- A New Presentation of Non-Philosophy by François Laruelle at Organisation Non-Philosophique Internationale (ONPhI)