17 January 2014


French philosopher François Laruelle
If we take seriously the claims of François Laruelle, the French "non-philosopher",[1] that it is possible to undertake a "non-philosophy", a project that seeks out a "non-philosophical kernel" within a philosophical system, then what would be the implications of what we might call a "non-media"? For example in seeking a "non-Euclidean" Marxism, Laruelle argues that we could uncover, in some sense, the non-philosophical "ingredient", as Galloway (2012: 6) calls it. That is to find the non-Marxist "kernel" which serves as the starting point, both as "symptom and model". Indeed, Laruelle himself undertook such a project in relation to Marxism in Introduction au non-marxisme (2000)where he sought to "'philosophically impoverish' Marxism, with the goal of 'universalising' it through a 'scientific mode of universalisation'" (Galloway 2012: 194). That is, that Laruelle, in Galloway's interpretation, seeks to develop "an ontological platform that, while leaving room for certain kinds of casualty and relation, radically denies exchange in any form whatsoever" (Galloway 2012: 194). Indeed, Galloway argues Laruelle in,
deviating too from 'process philosophers' like Deleuze, who must necessarily endorse exchange at some level, Laruelle advocates a mode of expression that is irreversible. He does this through a number of interconnected concepts, the most important of which being 'determination-in-the-last-instance" (DLI). Having kidnapped the term from its Althusserian Marxist home, Laruelle uses DLI to show how there can exist casualty that is not reciprocal, how a 'relation' can exist that is not at the same time a 'relation of exchange', indeed how a universe might look if it was not already forged implicitly from the mould of market capitalism (Galloway 2012: 195).
That is, the exploration and therefore refusal of exchange at the level of ontology, rather than the level of politics – at what we might call, following Laclau and Mouffe (2001), the political. Laruelle argues that this "philosophical" decision is the target of his critique,
What is probably wounding for philosophers is the fact that, from the point of view I have adopted, I am obliged to posit that there is no principle of choice between a classical type of ontology and the deconstruction of that ontology. There is no reason to choose one rather than the other. This is a problem that I have discussed at great length in my work (Les philosophies de la différence), whether there can be a principle of choice between philosophies. Ultimately, it is the problem of the philosophical decision (Laruelle, quoted in Mackay 2005).
Thus the diagnosis is not the lack of a philosophy at the centre of works, but rather an excess, which results in the subversion of a system of abstraction that in some sense problematically uses exchange as an axiomatic. This is the notion that exchange renders possible the full convertibility of entities as a form of philosophical violence towards the multiplicity of the "real" and which founds a form of thinking that becomes hegemonic as a condition of possibility for thought – even radially anti-captialist thought within philosophy as defined. Instead Laruelle suggests we get the essence of something from the "real", as it were. Indeed, when Derrida asked "Where do [you] get this [essence] from?" Laruelle answered "I get it from the thing itself" (Laruelle, quoted in Mackay 2005). Laruelle argues,
We start from the One, rather than arriving at it. We start from the One, which is to say that if we go anywhere, it will be toward the World, toward Being. And I frequently use a formulation which is obviously shocking to philosophers and particularly those of a Platonist or Plotinian bent: it’s not the One that is beyond Being, it is Being that is beyond the One. It is Being that is the other of the One (Laruelle, quoted in Mackay 2005).
Within this formulation, Galloway argues that there is evidence that Laruelle is a "vulgar determinist and unapologetically so". That is, that for Laruelle,
The infrastructure of the material base is a given-without-givenness because and only because of its ability to condition and determine – unidirectionally, irreversibly, and in the 'last instance' – whatever it might condition and determine, in this case the superstructure. Thus the infrastructure stands as 'given' while still never partaking in 'givenness', neither as a thing having appeared as a result of previous givenness, nor a present givenness engendering the offspring of subsequent givens (Galloway 2012: 199).
There are clear totalitarian implications in this formulation of determinism running from a material base, and the resultant liquidation of the possibility of autonomy as a critical concept. Indeed, the overtones of a kind of scientific Marxism, read through a kind of simplistic Newtonian theorisation of science seems itself limited and regressive. Not only politically, which surrenders self-determination and individuation to the causal first cause, called the "One", to which "clones" are subservient in determinism.  As Srnicek describes,
At the highest level, one ultimately reaches what is called the One – the highest principle from which everything derives. Now there are a number of reasons why this highest level must be one – meaning singular, unified and simple. The first basic reason is that if it weren't simple, then it could be decomposed into its constituent parts. The highest principle of reality must not admit of multiplicity, but must instead be the singular principle that itself explains multiplicity. Now as a simple principle, it must be impossible to predicate anything of it (Srnicek 2011: 2)
Non-philosophy is not just a theory but a practice. It re-writes or re-describes particular philosophies, but in a non-transcendental form—non-aesthetics, non-Spinozism, non-Deleuzianism, and so on. It takes philosophical concepts and subtracts any transcendence from them in order to see them, not as representations, but as parts of the Real or as alongside the Real (Mullarkey: 134). 
An approach to media that incorporates non-philosophy, a "non-media", would then be a rigorous non-philosophical knowledge of the "kernel" of media, the deterministic causality ground in an ontology of media that stresses it unidirectional causality and ultimate status as the ground of possibility. That is, a set of realist claims from a rigorously non-philosophical tradition, seeking to get at the core of media, from the "thing in itself". Indeed, Laruelle himself has talked about the links between philosophy and media, as Thacker outlines,
Near the end of his essay “The Truth According to Hermes,” François Laruelle points out the fundamental link between philosophy and media. All philosophy, says Laruelle, subscribes to the “communicational decision,” that everything that exists can be communicated. In this self-inscribed world, all secrets exist only to be communicated, all that is not-said is simply that which is not-yet-said. One senses that, for Laruelle, the communicational decision is even more insidious than the philosophical decision. It’s one thing to claim that everything that exists, exists for a reason. It’s quite another to claim that everything-that-exists- for-a-reason is immediately and transparently communicable, in its reason for existing. If the philosophical decision is a variant on the principle of sufficient reason, then the communicational decision adds on top of it the communicability of meaning (Thacker 2010: 24).
Hermes was the swift-footed messenger,
trusted ambassador of all the gods,
and conductor of shades to Hades. 
Indeed, Laruelle disdains the communicational, "meaning, always more meaning! Information, always more information! Such is the mantra of hermeto-logical Difference, which mixes together truth and communication, the real and information" (Laruelle, quoted in Thacker 2010: 24). A radically realist non-media would then dismiss the interpretative moment of understanding for the fidelity to the One, the possibility of the source of the communicational in terms of the "material" base from which all causality springs.[2] This would seem to be a step that not only dismisses any possibility of a philosophical or theoretical understanding of media in terms of its materiality, as such, but also the possibility of any agency created as a result of the material or technical a priori of media. In this sense, it is not difficult to share Derrida's repudiation of the possibility of a non-philosophy but also to question its claims to seek to work at the level of ontology, outside of philosophy, but also of interpretation (see Mackay 2005). Instead does such a claim rather represent a totalising moment in thought, an example or claim of a non-mediated experience, devoid of thought itself and therefore of the possibility of critical reason and politic? The "terror" of the real, in such a formulation, represents not a radical break with contemporary thought, here cast as "philosophical", but rather of the real as the horizon of thought and its limit.[3]


[1] Ray Brassier (2003) has described François Laruelle as "the most important unknown philosopher working in Europe today".
[2] It appears that the notion of "material" in this account, increasingly looks less like a historical materialist account and rather as a synchronic metaphysics cast as a "realism" outside of human history as such. Philosophy, history, culture and so forth being merely the epiphenomenon "determined" by the "material" or perhaps better, real, base of the "thing in itself".
[3] It is worth noting the contradiction of a position that claims such an overarching determinism stemming from the One, will inevitably undermine its own claims to veracity by the fact that such determinism would naturally have "caused" Laruelle to have written his books in the first case, and hence providing no possibility of agency to assess the claims made, as the individual agency (such as there is) of the readers and commentators would also be locked into this deterministic structure. Such that, even were one to detect such claims, ones consciousness having been formed from this source, would themselves be tainted by that determinism. 


Brassier, R. (2003) Axiomatic Heresy: The Non-Philosophy of Francois Laruelle, Radical Philosophy 121, Sep/Oct 2003.

Galloway, A. R. (2012) Laruelle, Anti-Capitalist, in Mullarkey, J. and Smith, A. P. (eds.) Laruelle and Non-Philosophy, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. (2001) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, London: Verso Books.

Mackay, R. (2005) Controversy over the Possibility of a Science of Philosophy, La Decision Philosophique No. 5, April 1988, pp62-76, accessed 17/01/2014, http://pervegalit.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/laruelle-derrida.pdf

Mullarkey, J. (2006) Post-continental Philosophy: An Outline, London: Continuum.

Srnicek, N. (2011) François Laruelle, the One and the Non-Philosophical Tradition, Pli: The Warwick Journal Of Philosophy, 22, 2011, p. 187-198, accessed 17/1/2014, https://www.academia.edu/947355/Francois_Laruelle_the_One_and_the_Non-Philosophical_Tradition

Thacker, E. (2010) Mystique of Mysticism, in Galloway, A. R., French Theory Today An Introduction to Possible Futures,  Published by TPSNY/Erudio Editions.

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