The Color of Philosophy

John Ó Maoilearca (aka John Mullarkey) has just published a review of my book at the Los Angeles Review of Books. The review is quite thoughtful and generous. He uses the review to speak about Laruelle's significance today, and does so in clear and plain language, no easy task to be sure.

He also stresses the performative/active aspect of Laruelle's method, something that I've neglected to mention overtly. But it strikes me as absolutely crucial. Not a kind of praxis or process theory, non-philosophy nevertheless is a question of use.

His mention of art and sound reminds me of one of the most memorable quotations in Laruelle. It has to do with color and the way in which each individual mode of thought carries a unique color:

“We obtain such color via the superposition of philosophical styles. . . . The signature claims of a given philosophy have a certain wave-length with a determined propagation frequency or period, and this distinguishes them from the same claims made by other authors while still allowing one to be superpositioned on top of another. This is how we acquire a certain color of thought from out of the pile of individual concepts -- but not merely a new thought system or rigid doctrine, never just a Marxist color, a zen color, or a phenomenology color. Thought is a prism first, a spectrum of radiation. Only ‘later’ is it a system” (Laruelle, Philosophie non-standard, 478).

It's a passing remark, apparently unconnected to the rest of his project. But I think it captures the non-standard method quite nicely. Laruelle is fascinated by waves, and the way in which waves superimpose on each other. The prism metaphor nicely describes his approach, particularly as it has changed in the most recent writings. Like a kind of synesthesia of pure reason, philosophy radiates its own particular color. Every philosophy contains a signature hue, a special “color of thought,” that differentiates it from others around it. The “use” of such color resides in the superposition of each color within the generic “spectrum of radiation.”

The Inverse Spaceship Paradox

(I read this text last Thursday night at a reading for "Open Sessions 3" at the Drawing Center, New York, on the invitation of Jina Valentine.)

In this article I propose what I call the inverse spaceship paradox.

According to what I call the Negative View, Nietzsche thinks science should be reconceived (or superseded) by another discourse -- such as art -- because it is nihilistic.

I give primary attention in this paper to what I call “personal space.”

I defend what I call the “continuity thesis” according to which at least part of the rationale for doing corrective justice is to mitigate one's wrongs, including one's torts. Continue reading

To What Question is The Image an Answer?

Computers are very good at putting things to work. So it's no surprise that images have been activated by the computer, the erstwhile passivity of all renderings now made active and useful. Still, what's interesting is not so much that an image can furnish useful answers, but that an image can be a question, and a good question at that. Shall we not wonder what sort of question is asked by the image? Or the reverse, to what question is the image an answer? Continue reading

One, Two, Three, Four

What are the most philosophically important numbers? Heidegger evokes the fourfold; Deleuze and Guattari a thousand (but it could have been more). For Badiou, the multiple plays its role, as does infinity. For Hegel the triad and the operation of the negative. For Irigaray it is sometimes two, and sometimes not one. For others the binary. For others still the key numerical concept is simply nothing. Only two numerical concepts are necessary for Laruelle: the one and the dual.

As Laruelle explains, there is no synthesis or dialectic of the world, only the one and its various identities: “In immanence, one no longer distinguishes between the One and the Multiple, there is no longer anything but n=1, and the Multiple-without-All. No manifold watched over by a horizon, in flight or in progress: everywhere a true chaos of floating or inconsistent determinations . . . between Identity and Multiplicity, no synthesis by a third term.” Continue reading

Hacking Feminism -- May 9-10

Very honored to be participating as a respondent during the Hacking Feminism conference upcoming in a few weeks. An amazing roster of speakers including Luciana Parisi, Jasbir Puar, Margret Grebowicz, and many others.

hacking feminism

A two-day symposium on Saturday May 9, and Sunday May 10, 2015, The New School (NYC)

Hosted by CTM The Center for Transformative Media (Parsons, New School) and co-sponsored by CTM, The Graduate Center (CUNY) and Punctum Books.  Co-organized by Patricia Clough (CUNY), Nandita Biswas Mellamphy (Western), Dan Mellamphy (Western), Svitlana Matviyenko (Western) and Ed Keller (CTM).

Why I'm a Vulgar Determinist

I ended a recent post on cheating with a reference to necessity. But necessity is such a miserable concept these days, mocked and condemned by almost everyone. It's worth exploring the concept a bit further, which I'll do here by way of a related term -- determination -- equally scorned and dismissed in contemporary theory.

In the physical sciences the “standard” model of determination goes something like this: (A) there are deterministic systems, Laplacian systems with known laws that calculate and predict behavior. and (B) complex or non-linear systems -- think of a coin toss or the famous example of the double pendulum -- such systems are still subject to known laws, but due to minute variations below the threshold of observation they appear chaotic or unpredictable. (A coin toss does not randomize the laws of physics; nevertheless it produces a seemingly random outcome within deterministic laws.) Finally, (C) systems that are genuinely non-deterministic, and which truly deviate from the Laplacian model. Quantum mechanics is probably the best example of such indeterminate phenomena.

Indeed the physical sciences have inspired certain currents in recent theory, with someone like Karen Barad using the “weird indeterminancy” of quantum mechanics as a way to locate queerness in the very atoms and particles of the physical world, or others in the materialist tradition, be they Deleuzian or otherwise, finding inspiration in so-called “aleatory” matter. (And, in fact, Laruelle's most recent writings from the last decade refer frequently to quantum theory.) Continue reading


A number of people have asked about the illustration titled RSG-FORK-5.1 that appears at the beginning of chapter three in Laruelle: Against the Digital. Part of an ongoing series of text pieces, some of which were also published at various places in The Exploit, the project uses code to produce unpredictable, recombinant patterns of text. These scripts were originally inspired by the work of Jaromil, whose :(){ :|:& };: fork bomb is particularly elegant and concise, along with Alex McLean and others experimenting with such recursive loops. Following the kind of idiom evident in the work of Jodi (particularly their email experiments from the late 1990s), the project also draws inspiration from Carl Andre's typewriter pieces, the musical notation of Conlon Nancarrow and Gerhard Rühm, and the Bauhaus typewriter and textile patterns by Hajo Rose, textiles being some of humanity's oldest forms of digital encoding. Continue reading

What Does it Mean to Cheat?

A huge question, we might limit it to the following: What does it mean to cheat in digital and virtual worlds?

To begin, cheating refers to the exploitation of necessary form (for the garnering of some advantage). The exploitation of form may be expansive or reductive in nature, either boosting or curtailing the architecture of the thing. When exploitation stems from the short circuiting of necessary form, it is called circumvention. But exploitation may appear in any number of other ways not strictly covered by the short circuit.

The form in question may be temporal, spatial, logical, or otherwise. A jimmied door exploits spatial form, while a wrinkle in time exploits temporal form, and a computer bug exploits logical form. In popular parlance, cheating means “breaking the rules”; but here we say form instead of rule in order to avoid connotations of imaginary abstraction or inconsequential artifice. Rule suggests a detached or notional space; form includes both abstract spaces (computational or logical spaces) as well as physical spaces (bodies, societies). Continue reading

The Analog: Legato and Quiescent

The “One-as-Multiple” of Continuous Being

Differential and dialectical being are both rooted in the transcendental. As such they appeal to the law, either in the form of a moral imperative or a political dynamic. Across these realms is found the Father and the Prince, the law and the commandment. These realms have been incredibly powerful historically, yet have changed in recent years because of sustained critiques of the transcendental. Such critiques have come from both the left and the right; they target things like hierarchy, repression, and social exclusion, as well as more exotic maladies such as logocentrism and ontotheology.

So now leave the realm of the transcendental and enter the realm of immanence. The One-as-Multiple achieves immanence by way of multiplicity and continuity. It is best understood as a “natural” immanence, or an “immanence of everything.” Shunning the repressive laws of difference, continuous being affirms any and all entities as participants and grants them an open invitation to the multiplicity of the world. Continue reading

The Digital: Staccato and Harmonic

The “One Two” of Differential Being

In the opening pages of Principles of Non-Philosophy, Laruelle defines the philosophical decision in terms of what he calls a “2/3 matrix.” In such a matrix two terms come together to form a third synthetic term. For this reason philosophy is fundamentally “in a state of lack with itself,” because it must come face to face with something else that exists in opposition or counterdistinction to it. Self and world make 2, establishing a relation of solicitude or orientation, which in turn is synonymous with the philosophical decision as 3. Or in an equivalent but inverted sense, philosophy will also tend to adopt a 3/2 matrix, because of its own irrepressible vanity, wherein philosophy begins “in excess of itself ” as 3, and thus insinuates relationships of representation (the 2) into every nook and cranny.

Such is the classic definition of metaphysics, not simply any old investigation into first principles, but a very specific stance on the construction of the universe in which the cleaving of the one is reorganized around an essential twoness rooted in difference. This is true just as much for Plato as it is for Heidegger, Derrida, or Badiou. The twoness of difference might be as simple as adjudicating the authentic and the inauthentic life. It might refer to the difference between self and world, or self and other. Continue reading