Laruelle’s “seeming closeness to speculative realism”

November 29, 2012

This comes from a description of an upcoming Anthony Paul Smith lecture in Dublin:

“Interest in François Laruelle’s project of non-philosophy continues to grow, in part because the seeming closeness of his project to that of speculative realism. In this talk Anthony Paul Smith aims to introduce the basic contours of Laruelle’s works in relation to those of speculative realism.”

I’m not trying to pick a fight with Anthony Paul here. There needs to be a lot of room given in philosophy to experiment and to non-standard claims.

At the same time, I feel the need to say that the lecture description is misleading. It makes it sounds like of course everyone knows that Laruelle is close to speculative realism. But that would be a dishonest claim. This is a highly controversial statement, and that controversy ought, in my opinion, to be inscribed in the lecture description itself. I and Meillassoux (see his footnote about Brassier in Meillassoux’s Berlin lecture, and my review of Laruelle in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews) are both on record as saying that we just don’t get what Brassier sees in Laruelle.

So, the “seeming closeness” of Laruelle to Speculative Realism at this point really just means “the seeming closeness of Laruelle to Brassier,” and of course, that’s more than a seeming. It’s a longstanding engagement.

In short, I think a more honest rewrite of the lecture description would go something like this, assuming this is what AP Smith means: “Interest in François Laruelle’s project of non-philosophy continues to grow, in part because of his obvious links with the variant of speculative realism developed by Ray Brassier. Despite the vehement objections of Harman and Meillassoux to any claims of a link with Laruelle, Anthony Paul Smith will try to show in this lecture that there are important links nonetheless.”

This description would be better because it would educate the reader in less biased fashion. The current description implies an obvious line of ancestry between Laruelle and all of speculative realism that Smith fully knows to be false. Then again, Smith has wagered his whole career on being “the Laruelle guy,” and I guess he has a vested interested in airbrushing any nuance out of the picture.

I for one remain completely unmoved by Laruelle as a thinker, though maybe I could be persuaded otherwise. So far, all I really see is a maddening sort of Derridean self-reflexivity added to a weird sort of narcissism that feels nothing less than crazy.

And let’s not pretend that that’s my reaction alone. A heck of a lot of people have the same reaction, and that reaction needs to be intellectually addressed in ways that go beyond Twitter and Facebook screams at specific individuals who call Laruelle out in public.


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