Review: Le Principe de minorité by François Laruelle

Serge Valdinoci, trans. Sylvia

from: Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, 89e Année, No. 2 (Avril-Juin 1984), pp. 268-70

Le principe de minorité, by François Laruelle, Aubier, Paris, Collection « Analyse et raisons », 1981.
            This essay, written with force but finesse, firstly resonates in a certainly strange manner. The title announces the intentions: against the philosophical principle of majority which reigns and forms the “Greco-occidental style”, the author wanted to form the thought of the after-philosophy, or the thought of the One against that of the relative. It proceeds to speak properly of a de-marche out of the marches, whatever the level of the latter; thus, idealism, materialism, criticism, phenomenologicism, hermeneuticism, Nietzscheanism, differentialism are sent back-to-back by the high tribunal of a still unprecedented transcendental. The strangeness of a discourse that refuses the discursive style of philosophy, and that otherwise extracts the concept of minority from its usual emplacement, politics, to pose—in its sudden philosophical brilliance—atop the peak of the One or Absolute, which then refuses to let it be placed, to relate itself to anything that relativizes (the conscious subject, history, etc.).
            However, F. Laruelle vigorously tries to curb false interrogations from the start, all that which in sum makes the philosophical manner resurface. It is in the eyes of an idealist thought that the minoritarian point [propos] will seem strange and finally displaced, or situated in a negative out-field. The first section proclaims the exigency of transcendental truth which is an abyss at the heart of all philosophical reasons, and which is deaf to its “transcendental background noise” (p. 30). The out-field is here the positive center of a thought of unilaterality: the purified minoritarian subject is no longer the decal [décalque] of experience, what still remains the Kantian and Husserlian subjects. The author, in the second section, poses rules whose aim is not only to destroy, to negatively critique—what the "moderns" Nietzsche and Heidegger do—but to disperse (p. 38) absolutely. The true break, or unary transcendental reduction, steps away from the duplicity of all the breaks practiced in philosophy, which lets the “transcendent-transcendental” (Rule 2, p. 41) and “ontico-ontological” (Rule 3, p. 42) mixeds subsist. The necessity of a “break supplement [supplément de coupure]” destroys the principle of unity of experience (p. 55) which remains relative to experience. The supplementary break, the true transcendental reduction in sum, we situate beyond Idea and Being; it no longer passes between the real and the ideal in view of a future synthesis, but it is the real itself (p. 62) and consecrates the primacy of being [l'étant] as such. With the acquisition of this theoretical advance, the author assures—in the third section—a right of scrutiny over the moderns, notably Nietzsche and Heidegger. Their “superrationalism of difference” (p. 69) is only the purified Greco-occidental style that is, so to speak, achieved: the repetition of difference integrates the latter into a totalizing Same which is also the Idea (that of the eternal return of the same, Being), and consequently a resurrection of Unity. In this surrationalism is the technology which totalizes differences. On the contrary, the Device leads to the One against Being, to petition against repetition (p. 90), to the thesis against the synthesis. There exists an alterity of the Absolute (p. 103). The fourth and fifth sections perfect these still aggressive and definitively unprecedented acquisitions. Transcendental essence is “the a priori of the apriori” (p. 116), but this surpassing is not an “ideal overcoming”, it remains unilateral, so that the necessity is imposed to extract the One from the burying [enfouissante] problematic of Being (p. 124) and of unity. The One is minority, zenith of immanence, or multiple and without complement; the One is “supplement of the One” (p. 145), in semantic excess and without notional identity. Neither ipseity, nor syn-thetic activity (p. 174), the transcendental “dispersed” (p. 168) arises from an absolute passivity without reason (p. 177). No passive synthesis of the Husserlian type troubles the impassibility (p. 179) of the "absolute residue" (p. 178). That is why time is not temporality, just as the condition is "otherwise" than the conditioned (p. 192); this is also why the unary break is not given to a consciousness but touches it without falling reflexively under it. Such is the transcendental resistance (p. 198), of the order of mystique and which thus liquidates in the Absolute the possibility of technological syntheses of philosophy. In these terms is formulated this unlimiting and multiplying unary mystique, whose pertinence is to pour beyond the limits of ideality and of the concept, which separate the one and the multiple in order to conjoin them problematically in discourse or relation.
            These fundamental elements liberate forces which resound [retentissent] on "technological" philosophy. First, they fix its style from the exterior, which is the occidental ontico-ontological a priori or reign of the mixed. This exteriority then authorizes to think “otherwise”, and to beg the positive unary, the unilateral Resistant which does not separate from itself, does not oppose itself within its differences, and then escapes its auto-problematization. The dispersive background noise is still an il-logical and constitutive silence within the absolute. Here the noisy transcendental problematic of the conditions of possibility which reigns since Kant in philosophy is replaced within its sub-order, but which equally works on the epistemology of the exact sciences and the human sciences. Laruelle pushes us to take a qualitative step.
           However, Laruelle still remains a debtor of philosophical technology: his path is traced in view of the history of philosophy. His thought, which is pointed, eliminates, radicalizes, disperses finally. It concentrates however on concepts such as “residue”, “passivity”, which, for being proclaimed asynthetic, still form a Husserlian reverse, and therefore relate to a philosophical reference. The il-logical works with remains of logic and thus technologizes the residue (for ex.). Let us note, among others, the terminological—and therefore semantic—weight of essence: is not essence the invariant (the One) distinguished from the multiple, but forming a relation with it? The terminology therefore imposes its logic, despite the vigor of the denials of thought. This is why Laruelle's essay should be ably confirmed in a philosophy of dispersion, totally in-different, and which tends towards historical non-reflexivity, towards an anti-problematic of the One—which therefore surpasses the problematic organization of the same (even terminological) across differences—. It would go to the breaking which only breaks itself, which leaves nothing which was available for a new synthesis.
           In this underlying context, we perfectly explain that Laruelle accentuates the absolutely straight path, triumphantly oblivious to problematizing technologies: such is the recourse to a mystique, which founds, by a petition which does not repeat. But, anew, the terminological weight of certain terms semantically engenders certainly pseudosynthesizable couples but asymptotically in formation of synthesis. And certain parallels are surprising; passive syntheses emerge between unary mystique and traditional mystique: the One, the dispersed, the absolute relates tendentially to the positive Theos; to unilaterize is to attain the condition which does not conserve the relation with the conditioned; but  isn't mystically offering oneself to God touching what is never affected, in whom then only the conditions are reflected? Likewise, the resistant One is not without evoking the "active Night" or night of Sense in John of the Cross. What is more, the transitions between the One/God are not without analogies: the gap in relation to ideas, in Le Principe de minorité, is not indifferent to the mystical abandonment of the senses, then the ideas or "distinct apprehensions" in John of the Cross. Better yet, the fact of relegating the self, the world, temporality within the mixeds resonates with the night of the senses, of the world, of the self and of time within the experience of John of the Cross. The rules whose function is anti-ideality make dream of spiritual exercises or prayers which help to detach from fallacious mixeds. Finally, the termination of the course, the passive Unary where the One equals the multiple does not enter into a tendential relation with the passive mystical Union, where the multiple soul is in a God-One? Such is the weight of terminology in Laruelle, that he imposes the quasi-idea of a synthesis between the two valences of mystique. In this way, with Laruelle, we quit the discursive edge—but not quite —and we touch the cursive edge of traditional mysticism (the accelerated arrow which breaks and is not concerned with the world and the self in which it breaks)—but only tendentially.

            We commenced by noting that the book seemed strange. In fact, it is a stranger book. The least we can say is that the work is courageous, harassed by bogging-downs [enlisements] and enveloping supports, but he prepares to invent a type of thought as active escape, positive and unilateral, which vertiginously places the One and the multiple in the same camp, against all occidental habits. Consequently, the work really merits being approached with respect and absolute patience since it itself attempts a difficult and absolute intellectual enterprise.