Non-Theology in the Pigsty (A Non-Philosophcal Theory of Nature Book Event)

As surprising as it may seem to those of us who consider ourselves, despite it all, theologians, Anthony Paul Smith comes in peace. ‘Ultimately’, he writes, ‘this non-philosophical and non-theological practice, with all its constitutive parts, declares peace to all – the philosophers, the theologians, and the ecologists’ (p62). What sort of peace does he offer? Not the colonial peace of the Radically Orthodox, for whom reconciliation is possible only on condition of the unconditional surrender of all things to Christ the king and theology his queen; nor the hippy peace of certain sorts of green thinking for which we join hands around the world to live in harmony with Nature; nor even (not quite, not exactly) the democratic peace of weak theology, in which we are all as wrong as each other and the real task to cultivate a multiculturalism within which the only thing which will not be tolerated is intolerance. Rather, this is the peace of ecology, a nature red in tooth and claw, the circle of life within which all things interact with one another, a peace which is a matter of indifference to the grass, joy for the lion, but not quite so much fun for the antelope.

The problem with theology, Anthony says, is its incorrigible bossiness. It can’t stop telling nature what it ought to be like, and insofar as it engages with scientific accounts of nature it does so only to demonstrate that they have failed to wash behind their ears, or to hold them up, squirming with embarrassment, as a shining example for everybody else. Theology knows that cleanliness is next to godliness, that good girls wouldn’t ever; theology will take over your country because the poor savages need somebodyto tell them what to do, and it will drag you up kicking and screaming into some semblance of a civilised human being, just as long as it doesn’t murder you first. Read the rest of this entry »

No, really, what does Christian theology want from philosophy?

Back in 2009 I asked the question, “what does (certain) contemporary Christian theology want from philosophy?” No one from among the “certain” Christian theologians answered the question. Hardly surprising, as they rarely do answer questions, or engage outside of their own very closed circles. Perhaps it has to do with something about pearls before swine or, just maybe, something about cockroaches scattering when you turn the light on them (I’ll allow the reader to choose their preferred speciesist insult). Without anyone willing to answer, I still have the question rattling around. Recently a few friends and acquaintances on Facebook have been raving about David Bentley Hart’s recent The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss and exchanging Christian high-fives about how Hart has really given it to those stupid, incoherent (new?) atheist materialists. I admit it, something about Christian triumphalism in a world bleeding under Christian knives means I couldn’t help but make a few jokes and ask a few aggressive questions. Now, I have never enjoyed reading Hart (his prose so often praised by other Christian theologians has struck me as bloated and pompously overblown, typical of an aggressive 16 year-old overachiever) and I haven’t touched his most recent books (after trudging through the burnt husk of a body that was his reading of Deleuze in The Beauty of the Infinite I had used up all the charity I had for his work), but this question is not really one about Hart in general. Rather, the question has to do with the kind of general condition of the kind of contemporary Christian theology that Hart and others do. When I see a book like The Experience of God or a recent article in Modern Theology by Aaron Riches called “Christology and Anti-Humanism” I cannot help but wonder, who are they writing for? Read the rest of this entry »

New Issue of Political Theology

The newest issue of Political Theology is now available. I bring this to your attention as it contains excellent articles by some of our own — see Brad Johnson’s “Doing Justice to Justice” and Anthony Paul Smith’s “The Judgment of God and the Immeasurable.” Check them out.

François Laruelle’s Non-Philosophy: A One-Day Conference

We’ve finalized all the details for the Nottingham Laruelle event on March 5th. If you do want to attend, please register by emailing me at anthonypaul[dot]smith[at]gmail[dot]com. The event is free, but we’re providing a light lunch and need to know the correct numbers in order to provide the correct level of catering.

Please circulate this information and post on your blogs.

Badiou on not understanding Laruelle.

Ben Woodard, student at the EGS and specualtive realist partisan, has scored an interview with Alain Badiou. I’m glad Badiou is feeling better as he was unable to attend the Film-Philosophy conference at Dundee and I’m also pleased to hear that he is is apparently not currently on a mountain in the middle of France as he, allegedly, always is, or at least that’s what the email explaining he had a very violent bladder infection said. Anyway, comedy aside, it is interesting in that it gets one of the great living philosophers to comment on a new, popular philosophical trend. Ben, after Badiou says something about the Real in relation to Meillassoux, asks Badiou about his thoughts on Laruelle.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Man-in-person: Critique of the Trinity”: Selection from Laruelle’s Le Christ futur

Below is a translation of a section entitled “Man-in-person: Critique of the Trinity” from Laruelle’s Le Christ futur. I’ve posted it for two groups of people – the theologians and philosophy of religion types who may be interested in another, very different Continental philosophy of religion and for the Speculative Heresy group that may find this section interesting in so far as it illuminates what Laruelle means by Man-in-person. Reading Laruelle on the Trinity I can’t help but be nagged by the same question I’ve had since I started getting interested in him – is he genius or just insane? You will note that there is no footnotes in the book at all and he rarely shows his learning in these matters. Those wanting a bit more context for this should consult this set of definitions translated by Taylor Adkins at Speculative Heresy. There are some other translations there and a list of pdfs in the resources section for those with even more interest.

In so far as Ray Brassier has been the main, nearly sole, English-language progeny of Laruelle’s work most have tended to focus on the realist and materialist aspects of Laruelle’s philosophy. In so far as Laruelle has engaged quite a bit now with religious ideas, and largely though the mystical tradition of Christianity (in its theological and philosophical forms), I wonder if such a view should be modified in some way. Does Laruelle truly shorn matter from any constituent relation of thought in a way that could be recognized in the old style? Or does his obvious interest in religion (of the particularly weird and fucked up variety) not point to some kind of other realism and some other matter? Do not be lead on; I don’t pretend to have an answer to that.

From François Laruelle, Le Christ futur. Une Leçon d’hérésie (Paris: Exils, 2002). 40-42. Original translation Anthony Paul Smith, 2008

Man-in-person: Critique of the Trinity

Christianity, but more so gnosis, indicates to us Man-in-person as final identity for a theory of religious experience. Read the rest of this entry »

God-without-Being: A Definition from Laruelle’s Dictionnaire de la non-philosophie

In the comments to the post on the principle of sufficient theology indiefaith asked me what relation there was, if any, between Laruelle and the phenomenology of Marion. I just got Laruelle’s Dictionnaire de la non-philosophie and was surprised to see that it contained an entry on God-without-Being. I thought it might be “fun” to translate it and as it may be of interest to other I’ve posted it below. Taylor Adkins at Speculative Heresy has posted quite a few of these and interested parties should see those translations (I’m sure his translation of this particular entry will be much clearer than my own amateur attempt here).

A quick word on the structure. The first part in italics is the short definition of the term, the second part indebted from the first sets the term in its philosophical history in terms of what is more significant for its non-philosophical use, and the final section is the non-philosophical use of and evasion of the philosophical decision.

God-without-Being

First name for the identity (of) “God”, human identity in-the last-instance of a simple onto-theo-logical material. Necessary symbol for a non-theology or a unified theory of philosophy and religious faith.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Principle of Sufficient Theology

François Laruelle begins his initiation of non-philosophy by taking issue with the Principle of Sufficient Philosophy. Such a principle, Laruelle tells us, lies further at the core of philosophy than any other philosophical principle (such as the principle of sufficient reason) and is, in itself, not a philosophical principle at all. The Principle of Sufficient Philosophy lies outside of philosophy’s vision much in the same way that Narcissus does not see the pool which reflects his image back to him and it is thus only non-philosophy’s refusal of this principle (which is, of course, prefigured in other figures and methods) which brings it into vision. The Principle of Sufficient Philosophy can be summed up in the belief that everything is philosophisable. In this way philosophy gives itself a fundamental or necessary status in the discourses in which it shares (philosophy of art, political philosophy, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, etc.). As Laruelle’s project begins to be written about it will be said over and over in every single piece (at least for a time) that Laruelle’s project is not created to overcome or destroy philosophy. The Principle of Sufficient Philosophy is merely located as a fact about philosophy which may explain its many failures and which may be used in other ways as well. It is, as such, simple material.

Laruelle attempts to use this material while thinking according to what he terms the Real. According to and not about the Real and in this way the Real itself takes on a quasi-divine character. I’m still unsure how to understand this Real, which is described in a variety of ways through axioms scattered throughout his work. The nature of an axiom, however, is that it is fundamental for some system but cannot itself be proven. One must simply decide that it is and work out the system from it. In this way non-philosophy actually refuses the philosophical de-cision through its own decision for particularizing its own work according to what is not strictly particular – the Real. Via its method of axiomatization it does not decide and it does not think according to the Principle of Sufficient Philosophy – non-philosophy has and recognizes its limits (indeed, this is one of the most refreshing aspects of Laruelle’s passage from Philosophie I to III – the up-front recognition of his own works’ failures and inadequacies). Yet, and this perhaps is always the philosophical temptation, who can think according to the Real and not ask about the nature of the Real itself? Such is a temptation to heresy itself, but also to orthodox codification; that is, it is a temptation to theology. Laruelle’s axioms become, as is suggested in his Futur Christ: Une leçon d’hérésie, a form of unlearned knowledge [savoir indocte] (which he quickly differentiates, in fact far too hastily and without enough pedagogical comment, from Nicholas of Cusa’s learned ignorance) that reminds me of Bergson’s description of mystics in his Two Sources. Not mystical obfuscation, but the unlearned knowledge of the Real from which one proceeds. Something of this is deeply unsatisfactory, as it is Bergson, and yet, of course, I find myself drawn to it quite strongly.

There is a relationship one may draw between non-philosophy’s method and theology. Theology has its own self-sufficient problem analogous to philosophy’s: that of the Principle of Sufficient Theology. This is a bit different from philosophy’s narcissism and may find some elucidation by a comparison with the other figure in that myth, the nymph Echo. The history of all hitherto theology has been that of the interplay between echo and control (the figure of Hera). Theology, it is often said, has no object proper. It is at once simply in the service of the central event of the faith, for Christianity the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, claiming to merely echo that event while, at the same time, its complex task has been to codify the truth of that event into some sort of doctrine. The Creeds perform this function of theological determination brilliantly as a perfect instance of learned ignorance. The Creeds respond to the historical heresies, and one may generalize about heresy by claiming that, in contradistinction to orthodoxy, they always say too much and perform a sort of learned knowing (Laruelle himself locates this difference between his unlearned knowledge and the Principle of Sufficient Heresy). At the same time the Creeds go on to say quite a bit, all of it very learned, which is to say, with Laruelle, all very Greek, but all of it quite ignorant. Echo and control – learned ignorance.

Non-philosophy appears to mimic theology in its thinking from the Real and not of it. Rather than the Real we find the name God. Theology thinks from God and not of God in the same way that philosophy would think of God. Theology cannot think of God without first thinking from God and in this way theology is an axiomatic practice like non-philosophy. Yet it is this very axiomatic aspect of theology’s practice that underlies its Principle of Sufficient Theology where everything is theologisable because theology’s non-object, God, is related or even meta-related to everything that is. In non-philosophy’s methodological cloning of theology how does it avoid its own self-sufficiency? The Principle of Sufficient Theology is clearly in a different register than the-philosophy’s self-sufficiency principle in that it does not claim to have privileged place in the thinking of everything self-sufficiently, but as auto-donation of Divine sufficiency from its own notion of the Real. Laruelle suggests in Futur Christ that it is the figure of the heretic which must be taken up and that Christ is a model of heresy. Yet, Christ himself wanted to draw all things unto himself and Laruelle wants to use this universal salvation in his presentation of what non-Christianity can do. Can one still have this sort of theological universal, even as cloned in non-religion (whatever that may come to really look like), and avoid theology’s Principle of Sufficient Theology? Does not, then, non-philosophy  need to be unified with non-theology in order then to overcome this principle?

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