Flush Thoughts: On Laruelle’s Gnosticism

These are quick observations. There’s an interesting exchange happening at terenceblake.wordpress.com regarding, in part, Laruelle’s possible intervention in today’s philosophical debates. See http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/pluralist-critique-of-critique-vs-naive-lacanianism/#comments

I think Laruelle is also not afraid to reduce, in a nonphilosophical way, all forms of knowledge quest as gnostic in principle. Zizek is close to intuiting this same Laruellean gnosis in his parallax, and yet, due to his ambivalent commitment, his politically Lacanised non-committal to realism, his conception of the real remains otherwise committed to Kantianism which in the great Western tradition established a formalistic conception of gnosis in the sense of a problematic as outside of thought.

The gnostic requirement of knowing is not new to non-West but perhaps stranger to Western episteme, which proves problematic for it. The Oriental philosophical scriptures abound in such gnostic preconditions. This requirement is rather unproblematic for most of the Oriental scriptures from the pre-Vedic to the Vedas and to their pragmatic appropriations in Chinese philosophy. (Even the gnosis of things is relatively unproblematic for the Orient).

What the West has contributed to the exposition of the ‘unlearned’, the gnosis, is to codify it in such a way as to master the unlearned and put it to use, which formally inaugurates “the-philosophy” that incidentally Laruelle criticizes. Here, Plato is a good example of learning the gnostic requirement from non-Western scriptures that kicked off the formal philosophical preoccupation of the West, not without the political motivation to spread the new Gospel, in Laruellean terms–that everything is philosophisable. Before Laruelle thematized this use of philosophy, Boeder, a student of Heidegger who had a falling out with his master, argued that philosophy is always about the quest to establish its difference, both as a discipline in the formal sense and as a proper subject of existence, that is to say, from nonphilosophical alterities. Here, alterities roughly mean the nonphilosophical (person and conviction) that generally endorsed the doxa that all is One, with varying homological interpretations, proof of the tenacity of the Homeric culture then. To counter this Homeric doxa Plato established the Academy.

Unsurprisingly, the putting-to-use (the techne) of the unlearned, the gnosis, has justifiably conditioned the kind of Western preoccupation with truth as that which stands apart, the differential, the ecstatic, that which is cut off from thought which fair enough establishes the ‘cut’, the scission, the chora of the great Western speculation, the rush to justify that the World is really not what it seems (the non-All of the World, but also, not discounting the psychoanalytic incursions of Lacan, the non-All of the Real, the World, or the Void that seduces the philosopher to measure his existence against, or the non-All of the subject which encourages it to turn to things and objects). This already illustrates that the Western episteme is preconditioned by its own discovered immanence, its gnosis, that of the dualism of the Real. (The-philosophy is of course a Western invention, much like ”truth” is, which Aristotle successfully established by placing Plato secondary to truth, amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas).

In the contemporary, Badiou’s Cartesianism is the finest example of stipulating the dualistic gnosis in his appropriation of belonging and inclusion in set theory. The gnostic in this appropriation is the rarity of the Event itself as the paradoxicality of belonging and inclusion informs the ambivalence and the paradoxicality of this Event, which only a mathematical subject can decide to punctuate by disengaging from a certain predictability of the situation in which the subject belongs yet is also ‘included’ in another unpresentable situation in such a way that it provokes a crisis of membership and exposes subsequently the anomaly of the situation itself.

Badiou positions this subject within a historical context where the Western episteme is greatly challenged both from within (against which Badiou re-affirms the commitment of philosophy to Truth) and from the non-West (its taken for granted alterity that is now becoming like it). It is precisely at this strange time for the West that most of its vocal thinkers today are pursuing a more sophisticated concealment of its gnosis under the pretext that previous speculations on the Real can no longer hold up or remain the same vis-a-vis the changing times, especially in the post-colonial era where the global presence of the West is increasingly becoming superfluous to the point that the West has become too everyday for its non-Western imitators (courtesy of the culture industry), too accessible for a deleuzean reterritorialization. The West has unduly exposed its gnosis, the various speculative orientations of the ‘subject’ toward the Real that Derrida summed up as ‘presence’, the tele-visibility of its operations, its kenotypes, at the risk of exposing the secret of its gnostic claim to universality, but also, and most importantly, its claim to absolute contingency.

We are liberally extrapolating this Meillasouxian concept of absolute contingency but not without a significant warranty. Meillasoux cannot represent the entire World (hence, the contingency value). This I take from Laruelle’s notion of the World as already philosophical, Western in the beginning on the level of historical representation. Still, Meillasoux typically desires vis-a-vis his predecessors (one is free to interpret it psychoanalytically) to represent that World by differentially invoking the same purity, which also means its absolute irreplaceability as a specific outcome of the throw of the dice of Time that the West has historically taken advantage of.

In the meantime, one can notice how Meillasoux takes great pain to hide the gnosis of the Real in the paradoxical manner of re-instituting the privilege of its absolute contingency (the-philosophy or the-West) against the background of its banalization, the tele-transparency of its jouissance (no longer restricted to the Master’s bedroom), at the same time making an excellent case for its reader to be convinced that the gnosis, any gnosis, all forms of gnosticism existing in the planet, is axiomatically transparent. Meillasoux panders to this paradox, referring to the trajectory of his own speculations on the meaningless sign, the kenotype:

“The new puzzle that appears before us is the following: how can a meaningless sign allow us to describe the world, without becoming again a meaningful sign, and thereby capable of referring to a world outside of it?”

(NB: Steven Hickman has a link to Meillasoux’s article bits of which I quoted above. See http://darkecologies.com/2012/12/21/meillassoux-problematique-factial-speculation/)

Where does this lead us? Certainly, to the absolute contingency of the Western gnosis, to protect it from being duplicated anew, but more than this, to the substratum of the argument of the kenotype which is familiarly Kantian, namely, the confidence that the human (no less the Western subject) will survive His own mistake of making the Real meaningful. The trick is to discourage meaning:

“Resolving one problem, we find within it yet another, which seems more difficult than that which preceded it. Such is the philosophical journey par excellence. ‘where thinking we had reached port, we are carried back into the open sea.”

One cannot help wondering if Meillasoux sincerely desires a solution. But that is not where the problem lies. In Laruellean terms this is of course the heart of the decisional structure of philosophy. As if summarizing the essence of the philosophically immanent Figures of Meillasoux, in Laruellean terms, read: DLI or simply cloning the Real (Figures however are simply deutero-absolute for Meillasoux, meaning, not the-last-instance determination of Man, rather the only absolute but secondary resolution Man can have of the Real that must not cease being meaningless, perhaps, it is simply a matter of forcing the Real to remain meaningless, the ‘transcendent’ value that Meillasoux invokes of the Real), Laruelle offers the following observation: “The One… is tolerant of any material, any particular doctrinal position whatsoever”(Non-Philosophy Project, 31).

Let’s just say, the One (Western Continental Real) is tolerant of her post-Derridean disseminatory flush. But what is it for the non-West? Shall I say, among its voyeuristic pastimes, anticipating a Laruellean end to the Greekness of its rebellion? But, given its disposition, having attained a certain level of indifference to the-philosophy and the-World, this is no longer the non-West that the-philosophy has annexed to the-World.

Perhaps a stranger-subject of the non-world.

3 thoughts on “Flush Thoughts: On Laruelle’s Gnosticism”

  1. The only problem I have with a use of gnosis is that this religious concept had specific and affective use within those ancient gnostic texts: they centered on the notion of a more than rational knowledge of that a-Cosmic God beyond all positive knowledge. It was the negation of all things and all knowledge as positive…

    This appropriation of a concept from such religious use seems to do both philosophy and that ancient experiential practice (closer to forms of both Sufic and Buddhistic forms) than anything I can think of. I know these edgy philosophers are grasping for neologism and metaphors, a new rhetoric’s of thinking and conceptuality to somehow grasp the impossible objects that know cannot be caught within the net of linguistic theory or practice, but why not admit that language is a tool, a supreme fiction, a mask that will never reveal the order of nature… only a approximation… that is all it will ever have…. a close approximation.

    Everytime I see the word Real capitalized .. I ask myself what is the Mask hiding? In that sense I agree with those that tell us that we can on infer never describe the world behind the screen…. poetry still comes closer… but, then again, I’m prejudiced in favor of poetry and the poets… Plato would throw me out of the gates… 🙂

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