I was one of the participants at a 3+ hour workshop on Francois Laruelle held by Incite Seminars. The workshop was facilitated by Glenn Wallis who opened the session with a personal note about how he had first encountered Laruelle’s work and how that encounter has influenced his own projects, most notably (thus far) his book, The Critique of Western Buddhism. Glenn’s presentation and the general atmosphere of the workshop–co-created by the wonderful participants–were centered around the spirit of critique and skepticism, as well as the depotentialization and dismantlement of ideological frames/Worlds. These are consistent with Laruelle and non-philosophy but I wanted to write about another aspect of non-philosophy and its impact, which has over time become more important to me. This is what makes me go back to reading (struggling with) Laruelle. Why do I want the continuing companionship of Laruelle? Why do I want to continue practicing the balance, the ongoing resistance, the ongoing renewal that he attempts to embody in his writing.
To hint at it very briefly, my theme has to do with a non-depression that Laruelle’s texts–and my conversations about Laruelle with Glenn, since June–slowly instigated. The questions that Laruelle’s work addresses for me include, not only the question of disillusionment with authority, but also the question of activity: What is left to do? After going through Psychology, x-psychology, discovering the authority/decision of psychology, the empty promises of psychology, I went through a phase in which I was disoriented and (more importantly for the present discussion) disheartened and discouraged. Psychology wasn’t what I had expected it to be. And it wasn’t what it had claimed to be.
After my disorientation phase (2014-2016), came an active critical phase (2016-2019), where I wrote my book Experimental Psychology & Human Agency and 3 related articles that illustrated the same problem: The over-reach and over-promising character of experimental psychology. The bait-and-switch of experimental psychology. My book (despite all its shortcomings and flaws) is, in my own view, full of life and energy. It is full of hope, playfulness, and critique. But after its publication, I went through a second period of disorientation. I lost my ability to transform my despair to playful (occasionally delightful) critique. I was disheartened again, especially because it had dawned on me that Psychology (due to its structure/identity as a self-preserving discipline) cannot and will not respond to my critique. The unresponsiveness of psychology to those issues was, after all, the foundation of my critique. Now I think that my conversion to heresy wasn’t yet completed. It was as if had “prayed” (a layer of prayer laying under my critique) to the gods of Psychology and I wanted them to respond and prove me wrong.
I started seeing a few citations to my book, all of which took the distant and evasive form of “There may be problems here, which are beyond our present scope, but for a critical discussion, see Gozli (2019)…” (these came from a few friends and colleagues who decided not to completely ignore my project). Such distant references keep the critique at an arm’s length, preventing a real encounter, and re-affirm the position, authority, (empty) promise, and sufficiency of experimental psychology.
The next phase came with finding Laruelle (through Glenn) and then finding Glenn (through Laruelle). What is important here isn’t primarily the discovery of a new intellectual position, but an orientation for the heart. It is about finding a new way to engage, to carry on, to affirm the Real, the Human, the Mystery, and Chaos. Laruelle’s fellowship–and, indeed, Glenn’s fellowship–is teaching me to be joyful again. I have gone back to reading psychological literature (now as material for experimentation). I think this comes from what/HOW Laruelle himself affirms, axiomatically, and where he directs his faith and loyalty. There is a loyalty to the One and to the inalienable Human. There is also a loyalty to the force-(of)-thought. That force-(of)-thought can be betrayed is an important clue.
It is possible to continue with/despite the empty promises of philosophy and psychology. In fact, we actively empty both philosophy and psychology from their (already empty) promises and discover HOW we ought to continue according-to-the-One precisely without the promise/harassment of an authority. We see what remains once these disciplines (now material) are emptied of their promises, from their teleology, from their doctrines of predestination. We see what remains to be discovered, what remains to be done, in the ruins.
The depression of disillusionment, in this way, slowly turns into a non-depression of (non)illusions, which seems inevitable with a continued loyalty to the force-(of)-thought. It is impossible for me to describe this transition in terms of an algorithmic. The more I write, the more I realize that the most significant parts are escaping my grasp. Do we become heretics following algorithms? Or do we first sense something that is off (seen-in-One) and then find a way of affirming it, say, by calling it heresy?
What is important to me is Laruelle’s demonstration that the (non)World of a heretic is not a barren desert. It is not a world of despair, a world of nothing-but-irony. It is, on the contrary, a rich and abundant world. It is a world where taking delight in lived experience, in being alive and being engaged with something (whatever/x/-…) doesn’t require the permission or instructions of a master, within a Master Discourse. The possibility of taking delight is simply there, simply given, though seeing it requires an initial non-seeing (or seeing the non-).
Let me end with a paragraph from Philosophy & Non-Philosophy (Laruelle, 1989 translated by T. Adkins, 2013, p. 27). This paragraph is helpful in dissociating the spirit of non-philosophy from that of deconstruction, as well as hinting at the “aim” of non-philosophy.
Whereas deconstructions work out and moderate philosophical critique, but still practice it and claim to know an author better than he knows himself; whereas they practice the gentle war of suspicion, of the “destructive ordeal,” of crafty interpretation, the violence of placing-in-structure and sometimes in series; whereas they detect presuppositions, the unthought, the unsaid and turn this critique into the dominant part of their activity, non-philosophy no longer utilizes critique as its main activity. It treats philosophy in the most positive and most actual way possible, undoubtedly as simple material deprived of authority over itself, as sterile chaos, but without resentment or interminable strategy and in the actuality of its accomplished exhibition. If non-philosophy still has a “goal,” it is immanent, i.e. to produce non-philosophical possibilities within philosophy. It is a question of “extracting” them directly from the material itself, of making this material serve as their production or manifestation. This is a creative task, an activity which is open by definition rather than by accident or supplementarity.