Draft Translation of an Interview with François Laruelle from Actu Philosophia

I was having a bit of writer’s bloc the other day and in an attempt to break it I decided to translate a recent interview conducted with François Laruelle by Florian Forestier for Actu Philososphia. I have posted that draft translation for you below and have compiled this as a PDF for those who prefer to read the interview that way. This is a once through translation, so some rough patches and bits I may have missed, but generally I like translating Laruelle’s interviews as I feel less constrained to retain the syntax of his writing for which there are good theoretical reasons but often frustrating English formulations. Anyway, I would not use this for citation purposes, but feel free to share.

Interview with François Laruelle: Author of Christo-Fiction

By Florian Forestier

Saturday, January 17th 2015


Draft translation by Anthony Paul Smith

Longtime professor at the University of Paris-X Nanterre, François Laruelle is behind a difficult and abundant oeuvre, boasting more than twenty books, amongst which Le Principe de minorité, Une biographie de l’homme ordinaire, Philosophies of Difference, En tant qu’Un. La « non-philosophie » expliquée aux philosophes, Principles of Non-Philosophy, Future Christ: A Lesson in Heresy, Introduction aux sciences génériques, Philosophie non-standard: générique, quantique, philo-fiction, and more recently Christo-fiction, a book we will explore in detail. His recognition internationally grows strongly, as shown by the colloquium La philosophie non-standard de François Laruelle held at Cerisy in September 2014 and bringing together researchers coming from different disciplines and different countries, form Russia to the United States and as far as Taiwan

If this recent rediscovery of François Laruelle’s work is in particular due to the vitality of what is commonly called speculative realism (regardless of the precision of this term), the perspectives and preoccupations of which François Laruelle is indirectly associated, it is necessary nevertheless to examine his thought in its particularity, a thought which, with the risky term non-philosophy, attempts to set up a new use for philosophy and a new use for what Laruelle characterizes as philosophical material. In an article published in 2003, Ray Brassier described François Laruelle as the most important unknown European philosophy, in that he develops not an original thesis on this or that classical object of philosophy, but a way of thinking and appropriating philosophy.

According to the formulation offered in the Cerisy colloquium announcement, non-philosophy or “non-standard philosophy” develops a new theory and new practice of the philosophical act, outside of its traditional norms of self-modeling. It puts variables that can be conjugated to work together, a traditional philosophical structure like the transcendental structure and a kernel of thought extracted from quantum physics. It is not, however, concerned with a philosophy of science but rather with an association in equal parts of philosophy and current [actuelle] science.

My thanks to François Laruelle for his receptiveness and generosity during the interview he granted me. Read the rest of this entry »

Working Group on Contemporary Materialism Book Event

Readers of the blog may be interested in a book event on Davis Hankins’ recent ‘The Book of Job and the Immanent Genesis of Transcendence’ that’s currently taking place over at the Working Group on Contemporary Materialism blog. An introductory post by Hankins is already up, along with an initial response by me; more posts from Thomas Lynch and APS are to follow over the next couple of weeks.

Villanova Philosophy Conference: New Encounters in French and Italian Thought

Philly-area people may be interested in the upcoming Villanova Philosophy Conference taking place on March 13th and 14th. The schedule and other relevant information may be found on the flyer.

Villanova conference

Subverting the Norm 3: Call for Papers and Conference Announcement

The Subverting the Norm conference series is unique in bringing theologians, philosophers, and religious studies scholars together with religious practitioners to encourage collaborative conversations about how continental philosophy can both inspire radical theologies within the academy and energize contemporary Christian discourse and practice. The third Subverting the Norm conference will specifically examine this intersection of theology, philosophy and lived religion in the light of contemporary political questions, both theoretical and practical. In particular, we hope to bring to the fore issues of race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity – issues that have too often been eclipsed or marginalized in postmodern, political and postsecular theological discourse and church practice.

We would like to invite proposals for 1) individual papers, 2) panels of papers or workshop sessions, and 3) performance/art pieces (including transformance art/worship events, poetry/prose readings, art exhibitions, etc.) related to the conference theme. We are especially interested in presenters who can bridge the gap between the academy and the church, and whose presentations are accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike. Preference will be given to presentations that connect not only with the academic community but with church audiences as well.

About Subverting the Norm III
Keynote speakers include Catherine Keller, J. Kameron Carter, John D. Caputo, Sarah Morice Brubaker, Sandhya Jha, Namsoon Kang, Peter Rollins, and more TBA

Read the rest of this entry »

Political Theology CFP Reminder

A reminder that the call for papers for The Association for Continental Philosophy of Religion’s conference ‘Political Theology: The Liberation of the Postsecular’ closes at the end of February. The conference takes place at Liverpool Hope University, UK, from July 10-12. Keynotes are Saba Mahmood, Catherine Keller, Katharine Sarah Moody and Richard Seymour.

More information at http://www.hope.ac.uk/acpr under the ‘Events’ tab.

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Radical Orthodoxy’s Cure for Misogyny

Call me nostalgic, but sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of Radical Orthodoxy.

I’ve recently been writing on the controversy between John Milbank and Slavoj Žižek in The Monstrosity of Christ (my specific interest is how they disagree about the importance of Kierkegaard and the nature of paradox). In the process of reading the book again, I was stopped short by Milbank’s accusation that that Žižek ‘favors essentially gnostic thinkers (Boehme, Hegel and Schelling) for whom birth implies alienation and the involvement of evil, thinkers for whom birth must be painful, through ontological necessity and not mere ontological lapse. But it is just such metaphysical misogyny which Catholic orthodoxy alone has always challenged’ (194; my emphasis).

The implication is clear: Milbank accepts the literal sense of Genesis 3, in which childbirth is only painful because of the Fall. Originally, ‘in the (unreachable and untraceable) prelapsarian golden age . . . in which human beings took full part’ (171) there was no such pain. For Milbank, to argue otherwise is to give in to ‘metaphysical misogyny’, to present an ontology in which pain during childbirth is fixed in the nature of things.

This is a fascinating exercise in contemporary Catholic apologetics. It outbids feminism by claiming a higher form of feminism. In this ‘higher form’, all trauma and pain can only be seen as alien, and ultimately empty, intrusions of irrational evil. Ontologically, the only reality is a peaceful and harmonious one, in which women have babies without murmur. To suggest otherwise is to inscribe ‘hatred’ of women into the nature of things.

This is bizarre on a number of levels. First, it depends upon the pure fantasy of an Arcadian golden age, which stands in wilful denial of human evolution. Secondly, it attributes pain in childbirth to an ‘ontological lapse’ – to sin, basically. Rescuing us from the supposed spectre of a woman-hating pagan nature, it delivers us into the comforting thought that ‘if it hurts, it’s your own fault really’.

Finally, it ties in with a general orientation of this kind of thinking: secular feminism, it asserts, is predicated on the war of the sexes, upon the need to fight a positive evil. The radically orthodox feminist, by contrast, sees salvation in recalling the world back to a proper, harmonious ordering of things. In other words, this ‘higher’ feminism denounces fighting feminism as a symptom of the problem it seeks to cure, one which further fragments and traumatises the world. This is the line of Sarah Palin: secular feminism turns women into whining victims.The only alternative, then, is to remain within the hierarchical structures of family and church and to reorient them to their proper calling. A woman’s salvation can only lie in and through a restored patriarchal order. And, if we look beyond childbirth to issues of domestic violence and rape, we might wonder how this differs from the recommendation that an abused woman sticks with the abusive partner in the hope of redemption. The logical extension of this perspective is that the solution to women being made to feel like victims is to deny the process of victimisation exists. If you say rape is a reality, you are ontologising rape, and you are therefore a misogynist!

I am not attributing this kind of absurdity to Milbank. However, the logical structure of it is not far from what he actually says about childbirth. And I am tempted to see in this not merely an unfortunate symptom of contemporary conservative apologetics, but its constitutive core. Peace is proclaimed, but only via the myth of the pure, Edenic virginal mother who never was; the finite material world is celebrated, but only by dematerialising the female body; creation is liberated and healed, but only in and through women who keep their place – in silence.

The Cloud of Unknowing and the Stone of Stumbling – Cloud of the Impossible Book Event

We thought we had successfully disenchanted the world, had exorcised the last sprite and fairy, thrown away our spellbooks and our alchemical paraphernalia, given up on the quest for the true language and the philosopher’s stone, and gotten past our dependence on priests. And barely had theology begun the work of mourning for this lost cosmos than it began to transpire that a strange new magic had crept into the world. Instead of miracles, we have keyhole surgery and 3D printed body parts; instead of witch’s brooms, increasingly mysterious automobiles; instead of covens, we have twitter mobs. Instead of the hocus pocus of hoc est corpus, we have the curious grace by which our words of desire can be transfigured into digits and back again so that, separated almost as far as the heavens are from the earth, the lover can render her beloved faint with love: this is my body, sexted to you. No wonder that, despite the best efforts of theologians, God is not (yet) dead.

In Cloud of the Impossible Keller reworks the myth of Moses’ ascent up Mount Zion, so beloved by mystical theologians, for this strange new era of materialist magic. No longer are we to separate ourselves from the crowds and leave behind the accoutrements of vulgar materialist religion as we ascend the holy mountain to meet with God. What we move away from are not concrete things but ‘abstractions mistaken for the concrete (an individual through time, countable economic units, etc.)’ which ‘conceal the constituent relationality’ (262). What we discover on the mountaintop is that, despite appearances, the move from the solid ground to the dazzling darkness – from Newtonian to quantum physics, from the ordinary solidity and stability of the bodies we touch to the paradoxical nothingness of subatomic structures – is not a move away from matter but a move towards it. We are not to abandon our relationships with others for a solitary mystical encounter with God but to enter instead into a mysterious cloud in which we discover ourselves to be constituted precisely by our relationships with all manner of others. Read the rest of this entry »


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