Direct Tangent 4.28: What can I say ? Part 1.

Its about time I get to the point. I have spent plenty of time talking around the issue. I have talked about Bad Faith and mentioned the issue, I’ve talked about aspects of the issue and indicated that all this has to do with the reason why Laruelle seems bogged down in jargon. I feel i have explored the elements of the issue, i myself have even begun to get sucked into speaking the ‘high speak’ and leaving many of the ideas to linger, un-de-mystified, contrary to my intentions i came out with at the beginning. so now its about time i clear up the weed garden: what, for crying out loud, is the issue?

The issue is what we deal with in philosophy: duality, what is it, what does it mean, but more so, the issue pertains to everyone in that everyone deals with and come to terms with duality in some way. The problem has to do with the fact that every philosopher is dealing with the same issue, basically saying the same thing, but are taken and understood as saying something different. Because there has to be a separation of things in order for there to be an observed thing, philosophy cant rightly analyze itself, so Laruelle proposes an analysis of this feature of philosophy, that he calls non-philosophy. Generally speaking ,I say that he is in bad faith because he proposes the issue then denies it in the act of developing a positive discourse about it, because the issue implies what we can call the negative as well. I will explain and address the repercussions of this later.

The crazy thing is, it is absurd: the content of the issue is not real. Again, this is why I say that Laruelle is in Bad Faith all the while agreeing with what he is saying; it is the contradiction involved in the working out of what bad faith actually is that establishes what is true.

See, in order to find truth one cannot stand in what one believes. A belief is conditioned by relativity. A person would not need to assert what s/he believes if everyone believed it; a belief only has validity if someone else believes something else. It is as I have already said: one must doubt everything. One must doubt his own beliefs, and then turn and doubt not only the result of doubting, but the very idea that one must doubt or is capable of doubting, including doubting if there was anything to doubt to begin with. Where one does not doubt, there exactly does s/he stand in faith. So, it can be said that where one doubts, one is in bad faith because he is not seeing faith as a good thing in that case, at least so far in the endeavor for truth. But also, and this seems paradoxical, where one has questioned and doubted and come to a truth of a matter, where he stands in that truth he is in faith, but it is bad because he has not doubted everything, but only some things. Yet, if a person has indeed doubted everything (if this is possible) then he is in an odd sort of position, and this position has to do what what he says about it.

* [NOTE: Please try to ignore the obnoxious underlining that has occurred in much of this text. I do not know why it has formatted this way. ]

The issue has to do with what can be spoken about :
The question at hand can be said to have to do with what is real and what exists. What is actual might also be said to be involved, but the significant issue has to do with definition and many authors and thinkers have offered various terms in various ways of definition to make their point. Perhaps I am no different I this way, but, if you will bare with me, I will make my point after I give you here a definition of ‘real’ and ‘exist’ from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

Definition of REAL

: of or relating to fixed, permanent, or immovable things (as lands or tenements)
a : not artificial, fraudulent, or illusory : genuine ; also : being precisely what the name implies
b (1) : occurring or existing in actuality
(2) : of or relating to practical or everyday concerns or activities (3) : existing as a physical entity and having properties that deviate from an ideal, law, or standard — compare ideal 3b
c : having objective independent existence
d : fundamental, essential
e (1) : belonging to or having elements or components that belong to the set of real numbers
(2) : concerned with or containing real numbers (3) : real-valued

May I draw your attention to definition 2b(1), which refers to ‘existing’. This definition seems to equate ‘occurring’ with ‘existing’ and that something real thus occurs and/or exists. Also def. 2b(3), here the definition implies that something real already exists.

And so…

Definition of EXIST

a : to have real being whether material or spiritual
b : to have being in a specified place or with respect to understood limitations or conditions
: to continue to be
a : to have life or the functions of vitality
b : to live at an inferior level or under adverse circumstances

Strangely, def. 1a. refers to something ‘real’. Here, though, what is real has to do with ‘be-ing’.

Of course, we use these ideas interchangeably and freely given various circumstances that often lie outside of these definitions, but usually if pressed we will come to a distinction between them, and a bit of time and philosophical rhetoric has been spent on finding some truth through the defining and situating of meanings of ‘real’, ‘exist’ and ‘actual’. If we attempt to find a ground or basis for a true meaning through using these definitions, we would come to something like:

1. occurring or having real being whether material or spiritual, in actuality, not artificial, etc.;

2. To have being in a specified place or with respect to understood limitations or conditions as a physical entity and having properties that deviate from an ideal, law, or standard, not artificial, etc. –

– or any number of like configurations that derive from replacing the various definitional clauses in place of the term within the definition we are looking at. As it is, the extended definitions seem to be saying something sure, but what it is exactly is still rather vague. If I were to continue to search for truth in this way, through definitions, I would have to look up ‘being’ and ‘actual’ and a bunch of other words, I would spin in a festering cycle of endless looking-up, but I would inevitably find definition that use the terms ‘actual’, ‘real’ or ‘exist’ and like-meaning terms – well here you go:

Definition of BEING

a : the quality or state of having existence
b (1) : something conceivable as existing (2) : something that actually exists (3) : the totality of existing things
c : conscious existence : life
: the qualities that constitute an existent thing : essence; especially : personality
: a living thing; especially : person

So what we find, at least in this dictionary, is a certain redundancy where, extrapolated, terms also refer only to other terms which redouble back upon their proposed meaning.

But of course the righteous will clamor, “we’ll it depends on context”, or “such definitions are only an attempt to describe usage”, or “it’s only referential; a dictionary is not supposed to, nor should be assumed to, define actual life or existence”. And I then have to ask: “what do you mean?” And they will give me a further elaboration of what they mean – and of course often never stopping to realize that I know what they are talking about, because they have missed the point entirely.

I am looking for the truth. It is not foreign to any intelligent person of our modern civilized societies to refer to a dictionary, or even get into philosophy, for truth.

And they (albeit unknowingly) quote Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” Meaning, truth is relative.

And I will ask, “how do you know this?”


The point here is not so much about what is real as it is about what is not real. How does one talk about what is not real? Well, someone could say that Pegasus is not real, it is mythological. And I would have to ask them to define what ‘real’ is. But more significantly I would have to ask them that if Pegasus is not real, then how is it that it is effecting their life? How are you able to describe features of a Pegasus if it is not real? For, if something is not real, it should not be having anything to do with your idea of what is real, by the bare fact that it is not real. But indeed, here we have something which is proported to be not real influencing and effecting what is being discussed, eliciting and causing various ideas to be spoken and elaborated upon, inherently forcing certain thought patterns and drawing expressions and behaviors. We can only say then that what is not real is conditioned by what is real and that these ideas do not come about independently, that is, without the other idea formed simultaneously, intact for what we can possibly know as real. The anthropoloist/theorist Claude Levi Strauss (if i am correct) developed his Structuralism on this very fact: that realities are conceptual structures that hinge upon binary formulations of meaning developed and supported by culture, but because of this cultural component we cannot say that such structures are true, but only relatively true; this is where we get the contemporary notion of Cultural Relativism where we need understand that people have different realities. ( I do not believe that Strauss came up with cultural relativity though.)

Yet, if such relativism is true, and not relatively true, then it somehow must be something that is not cultural. It’s truth must reside somewhere outside the relativity of cultures. But this is not the case: cultural relativism is a culturally encoded truth that is, right at this moment, giving us truth that is not relative: it is a culturally developed idea of truth that does not conform to the relativistic maxim. This idea is known as contradiction in action. This idea too must not be true. It is this type of ‘non-truth’ upon which Laruelle bases his non-philosophical critique of philosophy.

As well, I myself am a product of the culture into which I was born and continue to live, so the concepts that I am thinking, the categories by which I come to know reality must be culturally produced and not inherently developed by anything that can be said to be of my own, since even these categories by which I know myself have been developed and determined before I exist.

Nevertheless, As I continue to live, it is proposed in modern critical thought that I am not determined entirely by culture but have an ability to negotiate the given categories and develop my own sense of my self, the world and reality; in this way reality is a negotiation of conscious individuals, agents, living their lives.

Hence, in so much as I may be only partially conditioned by culture, I should ask from where or what does the other part of myself, or likewise reality, come from? This is also the issue: how do I speak of that which informs reality but is not determined by the known elements that establish reality, for as soon as I speak about it, I have effectively nullified that it indeed was or is part of the aspect informing reality that is not contained in knowledge, as soon as i speak about it, i am conforming what is not known into the cultural condition of discourse that functions by the implicit philosophical cision. This possibility, as i see Laruelle – to paraphrase the 19th century philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, is allowing the concept to come into existence through the phenomenon. We will get more into this aspect of the issue later.


There are many ideas and discourses that develop in this way I have described above; in fact, Laruelle suggests as much of Philosophy. (Note: The meaningful critiques that precipitate from such discourse do so along vectors that indicate necessary results; results that can be seen to be described or presented in the activities of various thinkers: Paulo Freire, particularly of his book “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”; Jean-Francois Lyotard, in his book “The Differend”; Francois Laruelle and his Non-Philosophy ((the topic of these Direct Tangents)); Slavoj Zizek’s whole demeanor and presentations; as well, others. See my other essays in Constructive Undoing.) The point is that the fundamental, or basic, distinction precipitates from this situation, the point I describe: such discursive, structural, cultural truths are indeed real. Such a reality is a suspension of truth; it grants truth through holding at bay the fact that what is understood as true is in fact not really true, but only true in reality. So, in truth, what is real and not real comprises the truth in reality; the composite reality that is of relative cultures’ realities, but is not contained by them, is thereby the really real, big-R, reality. This way of logic indicates, but has not yet come upon, the non-philosophical project.

Now, I cannot say this unless I have been dismissed from such (cultural real and not real) reality so much that I can understand it. I cannot understand this if such reality is all there is; if reality and the discourse and discussion about reality is indicating and arising from what is actually true, and this is to say that existence and reality are one in the same as revealed by and to knowledge, then I cannot say that the truth of reality is that there is a sort of ‘extended’ cultural relativism (one that determines what is real and not real) without suspending what I know about cultural relativism for the particular case of truth that is my knowing. This, my friends – the suspending of truth for the sake of justifying ones own idea of truth – is what is known as faith. I call the reality of faith “conventional“.


I will come back to the necessary ideas that follow. For now, it is well enough to say that we have outlined the problem of what is not real; again, the only way I can say this is if I have encountered something that is not real, which is to say, not of conventional reality. Now, if reality is comprised of concepts based upon binary formulations, it would seem I am delusional or lying, because then whatever I may think is not real is really already contained in reality as its binary counterpart. This is indeed the case, but in a way that is absurd. The issue is no longer a describing of the truth of the particular matters of reality, of things or objects, of a synthesis of real things, true things, that are conveyed into or by terms for knowledge; reality thwarts such a production that moves beyond an immediate presence: truth is manifest, so it is rather a situating of terms: the issue is how to speak of it.

Laruelle has coined the conscious precipitate of this situation by his term “radical immanence”, by which he proposes a ‘crazy’ idea, an idea which departs from the typical rhetoric of self/other, or real/ideal/not real, or human/god, or any of many other discourses that ignore the binary confinement of their conceptions; he attempts to by introducing the “radical” element.

* *

I have been informed that Laruelle’s question is more correctly translated as “should humanity be saved”, And not, as i supposed earlier, “can” it be saved. This question can only stem from a sense that somehow humanity is in a precarious position. Such a question rightly framed must take from a position that has the possibility of saving within it: “should” propses that humanity can be saved- but should it ? It is useless and patronizing, if not downright theological, to pose such a question and not already have the potential to save within. The question thus naturally arises: “should it be?” ( more on this, also, later.)

But the ‘saving’ will not be excersized on the small scale; as he rightly notes, his is a displacing of conventional rhetoric, a radicalizing of the traditional base of binary conceptualizations, a decentering of real value. The value that is being displaced is that value that works toward its own destruction. But indeed, it is this value that only exists in reality, and not in truth. The question of “Should humanity be saved” already displaces the “humanity can be saved, if only…” rhetoric; but indeed the Real, as L might put it, answer is ‘maybe’, whereas the true, as i would put it, answer, the answer that has not yet been reached – evidenced by the effort in bad faith – is, ‘humanity cannot be saved’. This last is the ironic.

The fact that I might have come upon Laruelle emphasizes such a displacement.
But though L might say that this indicates the Real, I simply say that such a discourse is not real; It merely exists.

* * *

With that, I retire to the smoking room ( the outside) and ponder my next move.

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