François Laruelle, trans. Sylvia

from: Introduction aux sciences génériques, Paris, Petra, 2008, pp. 9-18.

            This book calls “generic” a type of sciences or knowledges [connaissances] that are sufficiently neutral and deprived of particularity to be able to append themselves to other more determined ones and co-operate with them, transforming them without destroying them or denying their scientific character. They are susceptible to being added to other ones acquired in a more “classical” manner without perturbing them from holding their domain of object or legality, i.e., transforming the knowledge without philosophically destroying it. These definitions remain too general, but one sees that it already entails a radical critique of the passe-partout notion of the “miscegenation” [« métissage »] of knowledges, and neighboring but slightly more elaborated notions, those of their “transference”, of their de- and re-territorialization or even more skillfully of their “interference”, a part of what makes up the “epistemological soup”. All these notions that seems to function well and maintain a consensus full of hope are in reality either unthought like “miscegenation” and simply endorsed like the habitual confusions of the human sciences or drawn in a fuzzy manner from contemporary philosophical systems. However precise they may sometimes be, philosophy entertains surroundings or margins permitting every amphibology or confusion.

            Nevertheless, this here is only a symptom of a more profound problem—philosophy is perhaps never the best means to think whichever knowledge and game of knowledges, perhaps there has been an epistemological abuse, an abuse of power by philosophy over the sciences and not only over the sciences? This is exactly the interest of the present emergence of “generic sciences”, whose concept is still very problematic, to oblige philosophers to reconsider their two classical relations to sciences (“epistemology” and “philosophy of sciences”), more exactly to reevaluate their reciprocal usage.

           In reality, it is never truly, really reciprocal, philosophical sufficiency is very profound and insidious. It is too facile to get rid of it “by learning” indeed “by practicing” a science as the Classicals did. These exigencies, acceptable on the part of historians of sciences, often serve one or the other to take up the oldest cliches of the philosophical tradition again without much conceptual analysis. The philosophers as well have their “spontaneous philosophy” that is even twice spontaneous, and we would like to substitute for these facilities the program of a veritable “philosophical research” that would have its origin “in the spirit of science” rather than, like metaphysics, in the spirit of theater or music—thought the first in no way excludes the second. Not a “philosophy as rigorous science” but indeed, if such a reversal is possible, a “science as rigorous philosophy”. In reality such a project, that has already aroused vain positivist hopes here and there, is not as simple as a reversal and we should use this occasion of “generic sciences” to come to it. In any event, it is this axiom of a reciprocity of science and philosophy that lives again under a mediocre form in miscegenation and a very elaborated form in Husserl, it is the oldest western tradition and perhaps the most contestable, the most damaging for both parties. Reciprocity is philosophy’s cunning politeness, the best means to subjugate science or interpellate it as a subjugated “subject”. But as difficult as it may be to contest it as being only a ruse, this becomes possible if one gives oneself the trouble of elaborating the concept of “generic science” by respecting the two essential symptoms, a certain neutrality of the generic and its additional if not additive usage to already acquired sciences.

            In reality there are two risks to this notion. A problem of excess proper to the generic that should nonetheless not be a sub-product of the transcendence of the Idea and philosophy. For example, computer programming can create generic functions or algorithms, independent of their implementation, in languages that are not “objects”. Nevertheless, the generic as formalization and generalization is a relatively trivial concept, we define it rather as of a universality inferior to totality which is the philosophical norm, therefore rather as “under” than as “over”. But then the risk is that of the median situation, neither singularity nor totality, that risks being confounded with a golden mean or a common generality, with a sub-product of the All or Whole [Tout]. It is by guarding oneself from this confusion with a deficient All that, phenomenologically, on the basis of invariant traits, we orient ourselves towards this idea that the generic, as a factor = X that appends itself to an already existent knowing [savoir] or product, intervenes here to liberate it from a limitation, change the destination of its puissance and orient it as a function of its adequation to man or the “subject”, this would be the best means to liberate itself from the horizon of totality. Some call such a transformation that does not destroy a knowledge but re-orients the destination as a function of the subject a “truth”. For our part, we will say a “minimal evil” or “harm” that may immediately be a positive good, the only good that is no longer vicious and does not turn into an evil again. While it is, like it is here, about philosophical power, the harm done to epistemology is of removing [lever] its sufficiency or the abuse of a transcendental origin on the real. The generic is not opposed to the philosophical term-by-term, it is emancipated or liberated by the minimal evil that it does to it. It appends or adds itself to knowledges as a factor that removes every anti-human abuse.

            What is important in the epistemological conjuncture from the theoretical point of view is the rise in power [montée en puissance] of this notion of generic knowings that seem, at first appearance, to fill the holes on the map of classical knowings. An emergence that is still without concept that should perhaps in a certain manner remain so, risking having to mourn not philosophy but what we call its “sufficiency”. Giving their “concept” to sciences that are not born under its good auspices and that hesitate to receive it is a problematic task, scientific as much as philosophical and supposing a probably unprecedented combination of these two strains. The most surprising effect will doubtlessly be within a new, non-epistemological, distribution of scientific “operators” and philosophical “substances” that will compose the generic.

            We will have to operate two great passages, 1. From the banal usage of the generic as predicate said of certain knowledges, to sciences and therefore perforce to an epistemology, 2. Then the passage to just as inevitable project of a generic thought-science as such destined to append science and philosophy to one another without denying or limiting them reciprocally, if not the sciences in their positivity and the philosophies in their spontaneous sufficiency. Now, in these passages, the generic refusal to deny or limit the knowledges in which one invests it is extended to the generic knowing itself that refuses to be affected in return by these knowledges. One will have to analyze this “reversal” or “upheaval” [« renversement »] that touches the notion of this additional factor = X that, appended to existent knowledges, contributes to redefining their power and their destination without denying them, what could be said to be “transforming” them, and without being affected by them itself. It will entail making the generic pass from the state of a dispersed predicate at the discretion of objects and operations of which it is said, to the state of a veritable scientifico-philosophical constant necessary to rigorously found the human sciences and, while they are not directly “human”, to bring them all back in-last-instance within the sphere of determination operated by man and its subject. The generic operator will then contain in action the radical critique of the famous “miscegenation”, of this biologico-colonialist notion, falsely egalitarian, of which one can say that it does not respire shame and that believes to posses a theoretical value of that which it posses a superficially descriptive one.

            Certain confusions should be immediately pointed out as to the place of such sciences on an epistemological atlas. A generic science is an apparently intermediary discipline between philosophy and the positive sciences and is capable, because of its “neutrality”, of intervening within several of these without perturbing them as sciences (if not in their pre-epistemological positivity that prepares them to be seized by the All). From this point of view, it would in reality be very exactly an intermediary between, on the one hand, the identity of philosophy, which is not altogether the generality of “thephilosophy” of which the philosophers speak, and on the other hand, all the positive or spontaneous disciplines, whether it entails sciences or philosophical systems. We suspect that the problem is to define this “intermediary” and to rid it of its objective appearance as median [moyen] but also as synthesis and mediation. The generic is conquered exactly by the radical critique of intermediaries and blends, a generic science is nothing of a “golden mean” [« juste milieu »] (if this is not as a factor of justice and democracy-of-last-instance) even if it can intervene in a multiplicity of theoretical “milieus”. The stakes are quite different, of the constitution of a discipline that is neither science nor philosophy on the model of those that are already constituted and exist separately, as an epistemological synthesis or a corpus of knowings would want, but that is identically albeit unilaterally science-and-philosophy, constituting itself as only a human posture from their transformation. Generic then signifies if not whatever [quelconque] or ordinary, at least sufficiently neutral as a discipline, neutral and general exactly within the limits of the generic, to integrate the Ideal of science and the Ideal of philosophy. The Ideal? It evidently entails the “Ideal of science” opposed to alleged “ideal sciences” as some of the positive sciences are. As for the Ideal of philosophy, a formula that in reality exists even less than the previous one, it entails avoiding philosophical systems, such a system as an alleged “ideal philosophy”, and to put in the service of sciences philosophy’s whatever tools collected from different systems of thought. In these two cases the Ideal is especially not the Idea, even less a perfect and total science or thought. It is still better to think of the Freudian distinction of the Ideal of the Ego and the Ideal Ego. A thought-science here owes some of its impulses to psychoanalysis but not only to it.

            Taking up one of the great ideas sketched gropingly by Marx, Freud, and Lacan again, and relaunched otherwise by non-philosophy under the term of “unified theory”, our objective is therefore to work out [mettre au point] this concept of “generic sciences”, emergent everywhere, to at least elaborate the principle under the form of a science of the generic that is a “thought-science”. The only and greatest adversary here is double, epistemology in its premature and sufficient, i.e., philosophical, forms, relations of thought and science, and the positivism that raises the positivity of the sciences to the state of philosophy. The philosophies of sciences like the epistemologies have contented themselves with commenting on already achieved scientific knowledges. We do not hope in an insensitive manner to put an end to “the age of epistemology” but to put it in front of its appearance since we are more than ever in “the age of sufficient epistemology”. It is another conception of the relations of sciences and philosophies that we sketch, another hypothesis destined to emancipate from the fundamental authority of philosophy, if not from philosophy itself, the numerous disciplines in the course of creation or renewal and that do not find adequate lieu in the classical relationships of science and philosophy. This hypothesis does not pretend any further to substitute for the positive sciences “new sciences” that would necessarily have to do with philosophy. But constituting a generic “paradigmatic” science that only integrates philosophy to deprive it of its spontaneism as much as it would deprive the positive sciences that would be included there of their positivity. It entails fixing a sort of generic imperative for all the disciplines. If a discipline wants to present itself as human and not only posses a subject, then it should determine itself as a function of the generic constant. The “if” in reality fixes the necessary existence of a thought-science = X of another order than these disciplines, a science intervening and transforming in a minimal manner. We give an example here, maybe not more, of generic science constructed on the basis of a scientific property, the essential being the non-epistemological combination that it tolerates of itself with philosophical material. This example could eventually be imitated by the recourse to other knowledges and by the same usage that consists of treating every scientific knowledge not as first in the place of philosophy but as “before-first” and thus determining in-last-instance the philosophy that it transforms. Nevertheless, it is surer for the instant to be content with this example and to experience its generic or “weak” force of interaction within existing knowings.

            The first chapter proposes, against the all-too-circularly questioning research of spontaneously exercised philosophy, to define research that is of the scientific type or is solving [solutionnante] within philosophy, capable of transforming its conservative activity. It is a very general chapter that does not yet pose the generic.

           Chapter II poses the problematic of the generic under several angles, as symptom and concept, as predicate and then as a constant proper to every science or philosophy that would present itself as human in-last-instance. Under the names of logical or idempotent addition and unilaterality, it details the duality of properties that together form the generic constant.

            Chapter III distinguishes epistemology and non-epistemology as a function of the generic constant and its components. It proposes two notions that respond to objectives posed in the first chapter, that of clandestine science and that of a real democracy within the sciences.

            Chapter IV examines the distinction between Man-in-person, the ultimate condition of every generic science, and the subject of this science. An imperative distinction if one would like to honor the two notions of chapter III and initiate a generic politics of thought.

            Chapter V makes precise several uses and functions of the generic within philosophy, outside of it, and in its margins (materialism), eventually within ethics. It more directly enters into the withdrawn foundations of philosophy and presents some difficulties for scientists that are not trained in philosophy’s basic language.

            This essay, which owes as much information as it does suggestions to Anne-Françoise Schmid, is destined to scientists just as much as it is to philosophers since it presents a new, non-epistemological but in no way anti-epistemological, idea of their possible relations. It calls the scientists to use philosophy otherwise than ideologically and only within its oldest cliches, and the philosophers to abandon the “sufficiency” in principle that structures their thought. But it is also a preface to Nouveaux Principes de la non-philosophie[1] that will present this under the form of a science of philosophy.


[1] Eventually published two years later as Philosophie non-standard. Générique, quantique, philo-fiction, Paris, Kimé, 2010. English translation forthcoming. — Trans.