Laruelle - Le principe de minorité, pp. 9-13
Of Transcendental Truth
- The ultimately and truly Absolute
Each wave of history and philosophy brings to the solitude of the thinker his lot of objects and of theories, of themes and of theses. Each of these cycles, each destined missive denudes these objects a bit more and grants them the sort of eternity tolerated by history, the sort of essence to which they confess little by little, and in which their motion congeals into a new stasis. This suspense, our own, in which the entire history of thought seems to pull itself together before our eyes, becomes an essence, exhausts its combinatorial possibilities, and does not appear in any way other than this: progressively stripped—by its own proper movement—of particular historic forms and representational contents. Philosophical objects and theories, themes and theses are nothing but the technology of thought. A true techno-logy, not simply an arbitrary collection of techniques, since these techniques also affect the knowledge we have of them and thus form with them the indissociable complex of a techno-logos.
It is not certain, however, that its technology exhausts the essence of thought. The contemporary reduction of the entire history of thought to a technology that admits its own sterility, its relativity, while its endless reiteration [ressassement] more than ever makes it necessary to assign thought to an object beyond objects, a theme or thesis beyond themes and theses—the Absolute itself. Philosophy is the discipline—an open collection of techniques of thought—that has for ‘object’ the Absolute as veritas transcendentalis insofar as it distinguishes itself, in an absolutely autonomous fashion, from scientific, moral, artistic, political, religious, etc. forms of truth that are, as defined by their proper strengths and weaknesses, relative. Philosophical technology is thus transcendental in the last instance, since it is the unlimited collection, although inventoried as such, of processes that have for object to think the truth in the ‘transcendental’ mode’, and of which the classic and rationalist ‘transcendental method’, Kant or Husserl’s, is a modality constrained to the conditions of reason in general when these are only specific historic forms.
Can we relieve the anxiety that has filled the theoretical and political vacancy of the Dialectic, of Structure, of Difference perhaps, by a new usage of this ‘method’ without the neo-Kantian epistemology of the 19th century, nor the paleo-Kantian ethics that is attempted today? Provided with new techniques and a new object, the Absolute beyond reason, having undergone non-Kantian and non-Husserlian mutations, could it become this new ‘form of order’ that we all seek, capable of taking up with fresh pains the modern problems, possibly political and revolutionary, now in escheat, but also the classical ones: what is Being? What is thinking? What is speaking? Above all, is it capable of re-unifying the two questions in a program that would modify their style, limits, and powers? Is it possible to develop specific technologies dedicated to the ‘production’ and care of the veritas transcendentalis?
Perhaps there is a conjuncture of transcendental thought in general and the ‘return to Kant’ in particular: each collapses into a totalitarian doctrine. What is a totalitarian doctrine? Maybe not what simply claims to reabsorb the sense of what is in a totality, but what claims to reabsorb the Absolute in a totality of theoretical sense (Hegel), practical sense (Marx), or theoretical and practical sense (Nietzsche). That which claims to uproot the All from its merely relative autonomy and to fix the identity of the All, that is of the Same, to the Absolute. Yet, perhaps there are many ways to expose this confusion and protect the rights of the Absolute against the All, Logos, or Being, in particular a way that limits the very project of a ‘return to’ Kant and to Husserl, of a repetition in general: is the Absolute necessarily attained by something like a ‘repetition’? Is not such a philosophical operation already pledged to Being, programmed by the whole of tradition as tradition-of-Being, that is to say as the ‘Same’?
The most constant sense attributable to the classical transcendental method is the claim that thought, in exceeding a being, exceeds it towards its being. Not only towards its a priori ideals, but towards the unconditioned All or the One of its a priori. It is thus the ideality of the a priori that exceeds itself not only towards but as the unconditioned all of the conditions of the being. This superior exceeding, which constitutes the unified All or the Absolute, is already the work of the Idea, of Reason, of Logos. Such is the custom, the wandering that defines the rationalist usage of method in Kant and Husserl, and its ‘sur-rationalist’ usage in Nietzsche and Heidegger: that which transcends par excellence, the Idea, again serves to define in the last instance the non-instance of the Absolute as that which has become-itself, has exceeded itself towards itself, ‘turned’ and re-turned to itself. The Absolute, object of this movement of exceeding, is always included in the All anew, at best in the ‘Same’, itself always impregnated with ideality, so much so that it usurps the power of the anhypothetical and the functions of the unconditioned.
It is not surprising that the ‘return to Kant’—that compelling Cohen, Nietzsche, or Heidegger—is always ambivalent, a mix, always a good and an evil in varied proportion. Flight and inertia, at times the return of archaic and moral forces beneath the mask of ethics and rights and at others the return of logic. Or rather a true recurrence, a production in view of the future, a step/not beyond circumstances and also of historical Kantianism. The first return to Kant, that of the second half of the 19th century, masks the abyss of the collapse of Hegelianism by grounding the power of transcending in mathematical physics, like a science coding the transcendental into objectivated beings. The ‘second’ return, the current one, masks the abyss of the collapse of Marxism with ethics and the natural rights of man, out of a fear that politics include being in any way and the battle against this fantasm. But Nietzsche and Heidegger, through a creative repetition, excavate the abyss of transcendence, the former destroyed its moral coding, the latter its epistemological coding, they thus destroy Kant, but in the name of the transcendental itself, their return is an unlimited but positive destruction, different from the condemnation brought by the old forces of morality and religion in search of a bulwark against Hegel and against Marx. The transcendental is an instrument of which Kant and Fichte have celebrated the power and plasticity, but is still yet to experience its most beautiful metamorphoses and unexpected masks. It animates the Nietzschean ‘hammer’ as it does Heideggerian ‘ontological destruction’ and until recently it allowed one to ask, almost without the least bit of naivety or theological afterthought, the problem of Being as the problem of the destruction of Being.
But such a use—with which we begin—still remains locked in a ‘repetition’, in a paralogism of greco-occidental thought: the confusion of the All, or of this differentiated all that is the Same, with the Absolute. Not only to transcend ‘towards’ the Absolute following the continuous path of the Idea, the All, Being, but the reduction of the Absolute to the ideal or to the ontological operation par excellence that is the ‘to transcend’. It is this conception of the transcendental that we must put an end to.
Illuminated still crudely, raw being basks in the absence of traditional sense and its goals and values. Modern Being—as Reason sufficient to keep a blind and submissive subject in its orbit—raises itself up at the same time as it falls away, able to resolve the contradiction of its movement only by sinking into the very ground we tread upon. It must, at once, conceal and reveal the destitution of the earth delivered of the very meanings and local horizons that it itself has assigned to them. And while these games perpetuate themselves in the revolving door of history, another demand beckons—the irrepressible demand of the Absolute. Against Being, whose cruel and oppressive light pursues it, comes the demand of a night proper to the real, a reticence, an unknown resistance with neither a place in Being nor in a simple withdrawal still shining with the infinity of light. If we must again philosophize the subject, which subject will this be? The one who has lost everything—psychology, morality and politics, science and logic—in the revolving door of Being and History and who has been, accordingly, thrown to the barbarism of psychology or morality, of politics or science? Or rather another subject, without a place in Being, without place in general, who thus cannot be deprived of anything? A subject who no longer experiences a totality of theoretical and practical meaning nor its relative-absolute limit, but who would be an absolute limit for this very totality? Who unbinds herself from this totality without thus depending upon it, who remains below the limit of the Same and repetition, and who does not thus pass into a being or subject? A limit that would no longer be one that relates Being, the All, or the Idea to themselves, but one that limits this relation to itself and the games it favors? A subject without a place in the positions of Being or the Idea—that is the new goal and value for which, with a slightly transformed transcendental “method,” we hunt: from a subject-totality or totalitarian subject to the minority subject. We call finite in general the subject in Being or the subject who becomes confused with a relative-absolute limit; infinite the subject as Being or the subject who becomes confused with a relative-absolute limit in which we recognize an infinite positive power; but minority the subject who is neither finite nor infinite, who has her essence beyond Being, multiple and dispersed, anterior to the Idea, to Reason, to the World, to History… Absolute.
How can we doubt that this subject, without ‘transcendence’ yet still ‘transcendental’ in a new sense to be determined, without objects forming a horizon of objectivity, wouldn’t simply be this “ultimately and truly absolute,” for which Husserl searched where he couldn’t find it: in the sphere of consciousness, indeed of the ego, that is to say of Being? Is the transcendental condition, if it must be ‘absolute’, that is to say real, condemned to a basis, a seat distinct from itself, to a seat in general, Being always impregnated with ideality? Can it at all tolerate the reality of Being, the consciousness of an ego, a cogito in general? A site in general, a place, a position, a plane of immanence or of consistence putting Being into play? If there is an ultimately and truly absolute, joining with the veritas transcendentalis, we will only find and keep it with special ‘technologies’, proper to minority thought, beyond ontological ideality, there were its essence is no longer at risk of being one of these avatars of Being, Ideas, Logos, the Same with which thought typically deals.
— François Laruelle - Le principe de minorité, pp. 9-13 (trans. Jesse Newberg)