Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library

Laruelle: Against the Digital

Alexander R. Galloway
Series: Posthumanities
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Laruelleis one of the first books in English to undertake in an extended critical survey of the work of the idiosyncratic French thinker François Laruelle, the promulgator of non-standard philosophy. Laruelle, who was born in 1937, has recently gained widespread recognition, and Alexander R. Galloway suggests that readers may benefit from colliding Laruelle's concept of the One with its binary counterpart, the Zero, to explore more fully the relationship between philosophy and the digital.

    InLaruelle, Galloway argues that the digital is a philosophical concept and not simply a technical one, employing a detailed analysis of Laruelle to build this case while referencing other thinkers in the French and Continental traditions, including Alain Badiou, Gilles Deleuze, Martin Heidegger, and Immanuel Kant. In order to explain clearly Laruelle's concepts such as the philosophical decision and the principle of sufficient philosophy, Galloway lays a broad foundation with his discussions of "the One" as it has developed in continental philosophy, the standard model of philosophy, and how philosophers view "the digital."

    Digital machines dominate today's world, while so-called digital thinking-that is, binary thinking such as presence and absence or self and world-is often synonymous with what it means to think at all. In examining Laruelle and digitality together, Galloway shows how Laruelle remains a profoundly non-digital thinker-perhaps the only non-digital thinker today-and engages in an extensive discussion on the interconnections between media, philosophy, and technology.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4287-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. introduction The Oldest Prejudice
    (pp. xvii-xxxvi)

    “Inebriated and bastardized by Plato, liquified and cogitated into concentrate by Descartes, moralized by Kant, whipped by Sade, devoured by Hegel, disgorged by Stirner, conscripted by Husserl, chewed out by Nietzsche, down the wrong pipe of Derrida, turned over by Heidegger, crapped out by Deleuze, thrown up by Laruelle. And it would ask for more if we let it!”¹

    With this litany, François Laruelle recounts the many crimes of the philosophers caught in the clutches of their depraved profession. Philosophy is “the oldest prejudice.”² To do philosophy means to harbor a secret stance toward the world—pursuing it, eating and...

  5. Part I. Laruelle and the Digital

    • one The One Divides in Two
      (pp. 3-23)

      It should be taken quite seriously that the ‘one’ is a number,” wrote Badiou inBeing and Event, only partially in jest.¹ Indeed, the one is a number, and as a number it has something to say about how things are. Things are one, or things are not one. And if things are more than one they are a multiplicity. To say somethingisis to say it isas one. To utterexists, as Parmenides does in his poem, means implicitly to cryexists as one!

      Indeed, Badiou begins his treatise on the one and the multiple by returning...

    • two The Standard Model
      (pp. 25-49)

      Hang gliding, bungie jumping, ice climbing. Hulk Hogan, Tony Hawk, John Rambo. In a world of extreme sports and extreme weather, of supersized portions and long tails, is anyone really surprised by the advent of “extreme philosophy”? Laruelle has arrived in America, but couldn’t we see this coming? Like when the CIA funded the Afghani mujahideen during the Cold War only to have it come back to haunt them, we funded post-structuralism in the 1970s and ’80s and are today engulfed in the ultimate blowback.¹ You planted the seeds of destruction, and Western metaphysics was shaken to its core. But...

    • three The Digital
      (pp. 51-71)

      Despite being the object of much discussion today, the digital does not often appear in the writings of philosophers, except perhaps when it arrives unwittingly under the aegis of another name. The world of business consultancy has accepted it, as has the popular and folk culture, consumer society, telecommunications, medicine, the arts, and, of course, the spheres of electrical engineering and information processing, where it plays a special role. But is there an ontology of the digital, or even a philosophy of it?¹

      The goal of this chapter is not so much to answer such questions but to draw up...

    • four Events
      (pp. 73-90)

      What is an event? The question is typically answered in one of two ways: events are relations, or events are decisions. Depending on context, events often appear as either relations or decisions. In one sense, an event is a relation between two moments in time, or between two states of affairs. Likewise a relation is only a relation by virtue of being able to be actualized into an event.

      Yet in another sense, an event is a decision. As a more or less conscious action, it must be willed into existence by someone or some kind of catalyzing agent. Following...

  6. Part II. Withdrawing from the Standard Model

    • five Computers
      (pp. 93-113)

      To launch Part II, let me pause briefly and recapitulate the overall trajectory. Arguments often gain their impetus through opposition to some sort of conventional wisdom, in the hope of amending, modifying, or even reversing it. Conventional wisdom today defines the digital in terms of zeros and ones. This is not entirely false, and indeed completely true for that particular mode of digitality known as binary or base-two numerical notation. But binary mathematics is a relatively small subset of digitality in general, which has many avatars across the fields of ontology, political theory, aesthetics, and beyond. Even for binary mathematics,...

    • six Capitalism
      (pp. 115-131)

      Don’t look at Part I, put it aside. Or so goes Althusser’s warning to first-time readers of Marx’sCapital. It is important to skip Part I of the treatise, Althusser advised, at least on the first couple of reads. Only when the truth ofCapitalis fully internalized, its scientific intervention into the “new continent” of history, one may “begin to read Part I (Commodities and Money) with infinite caution, knowing that it will always be extremely difficult to understand, even after several readings of the other Parts, without the help of a certain number of deeper explanations.”¹

      After all,...

    • seven The Black Universe
      (pp. 133-151)

      Part II began the process of withdrawing from the standard model. Relying first on Deleuze and Marx, we saw the difficulties of actually existing digitality. With the infrastructure of the world understood as essentially digital and computational, a number of alternative logics and conditions become important, among them the irreversibility of relation and the generic determination of the material base.

      Several areas remain to be explored. Because if the event and the prevent operate on being as apparently “political” forces, the one bent on transforming it internally and the other on rendering it determined and impersonal, the exact nature of...

    • eight Art and Utopia
      (pp. 153-175)

      In the early 1990s Laruelle wrote an essay on the artist James Turrell titled “A Light Odyssey: The Discovery of Light as a Theoretical and Aesthetic Problem.”¹ Although it briefly mentions Turrell’s Roden Crater and is cognizant of his other work, the essay focuses on a series of twenty aquatint etchings made by Turrell calledFirst Light(1989–90). Designed to stand alone as fine art prints,First Lightnevertheless acts as a kind of backward glance revisiting and meditating on earlier corner light projections made by Turrell in the late 1960s, in particular works likeAfrum-Pronto(1967).

      For the...

    • nine Ethics
      (pp. 177-193)

      From sufficient subjectivity to insufficient personhood. Rekindling a theme that had occupied his writing for several years, Laruelle’s recent bookA General Theory of the Victimaddresses the question of victims and victimhood, from slavery to the Holocaust, from the persecution of Christ on the cross to modern genocides and crimes against humanity.¹ In the book Laruelle elaborates a theory of the victim, rooting it in a generic humanity, with the ultimate goal of freeing the victim from a received dogma that would bind it within an endless persecution.

      While admittedly dissimilar in both its method and outcomes, Laruelle’s book...

    • ten The Generic
      (pp. 195-216)

      The termsanalysisandsynthesishave been at play already in the previous chapters. They were used primarily to discuss digitality and the two moments of the dialectic, analysis as “one dividing in two” and synthesis as “two combining as one.”

      But the analytic/synthetic distinction is at best only partially applicable to Laruelle. As we have seen, the synthetic, defined by Kant as a judgment containing an additive predicate, is roundly refused by Laruelle. There are few concepts more antonymic to non-philosophy than synthesis. Laruelle endlessly stresses the nonsynthetic nature of the clone, or the irreversible logic of unilaterial duality,...

  7. conclusion From Digitality to Destiny
    (pp. 217-222)

    The basic claims of this book can be summarized using the one, the two, and the multiple. Various combinations and contrasts between these different modes constitute the universe both known and unknown.

    As prevent, being is insufficient, indistinct, indecisive, and is thus one. But the one is not one out of nostalgia for wholeness or the longing for an origin. The one is not simply a code word for spirit or essence. The one is described as it is through contrast to the known world: because the known world is defined through distinction, the one as non-world is understood as...

  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 223-226)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 227-266)
  10. Index
    (pp. 267-280)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-283)