[Note: After actually reading Laruelle, I disavow everything written in this post. It completely misses Laruelle’s point, and I’m only leaving this post up to let it serve as a bad example.]
The responses by An Und Für Sich to Graham Harman’s review of Laruelle have reminded me of an old argument I had against his ‘Non-Philosophy’. My argument centres around a single aspect of Non-Philosophy―namely, the notion of ‘The One’―largely because my exposure to Laruelle has been limited to Anthony Paul Smith’s “Introduction to Non-Philosophy” (notes) and Alexander Galloway’s “François Laruelle, or The Secret.” Nevertheless, I feel that it adequately situates Laruelle within the tradition of Continental philosophy; to make it more accessible, however, I will preface it with in-depth background information.
[These are my notes for a presentation I made on Structuralism a couple years ago for an assignment on schools of thought related to literature, though I admittedly don’t dwell on literature at all. The presentation is about as accessible as I could make it, though many of my classmates found it overly complicated. Most of the material is from the book European Intellectual History Since 1789 by N. Roland Stromberg, the “Structuralism” entry in the Colliers Encyclopedia, and some websites that I have since forgotten. For a magnificent & extremely accessible comparison of structuralism to poststructuralism (the best I have read on the topic), I direct the reader to John Lye’s essay Some Post-Structural Assumptions here.]
What Is Structuralism?
- Philosophy/Sociology/Anthropology movement rising to prominence in the late 1950s-early 1960s (especially in France), reaching a peak in the later 1960s.
- Successor to existentialism as a fashion in French ideas. Provided a cool, detached, objective, antihistorical view.
- Specialized in the linguistic analysis of social ‘codes’, versus the frenetic subjectivism & romanticism of the existentialists.
- Though roots were in linguistics, it became a mode/method of thought that could be used almost anywhere, thus transcending specialization.
- Applied to such fields as anthropology (myth, kinship systems), literary criticism, sociology, & psychology.
How Does It Work?
- Analysis of patterns in language & media, taking into account the structure + the human faculties of comprehension.
- Antihumanism: the abolishment of the individual. The boundaries of language force speakers to think in certain ways, thus is it so irrational to assume that these boundaries affect action as well?
- Determinism: People are prisoners of language and cannot escape, no more than a physicist can find an observation point outside of nature.
- Consideration of clothing, etiquette, myth, gesture, etc., as ‘languages’; less focus on content, more on patterns & structure.
- However, offered a new principle of certainty, a “science of the permanent” (Claude Lévi-Strauss).
- Johannes Weissinger marked this as one of the most extraordinary of modern intellectual trends, describing it as “the penetration of mathematics, mathematical methods, and above all the mathematical way of thinking, into areas which previously appeared to be closed to it.”
I find it remarkable how a conceptual system as empirically reliable as Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages has not been adopted into mainstream pedagogy. I can only appeal to my own experience (as well as the many case studies by Chapman), and for the purposes of this essay take its empirical validity as a premise. In doing so, I hope to explain the significance of this theory, to explain how it is distinguished from other intellectual theories, and to call such correct but ‘unproved’ conceptual systems ‘proletarian science’.
Dr. Chapman is not a typical intellectual. Rather than working in academia, he developed his conceptual system on the field during his practice of marriage counselling (in a situation similar to that of Freud), in order to explain the goings-on and oft-repeated explanations of why a spouse felt that their partner no longer loved them. Chapman eventually discovered a limited number of categories for a person’s manner of expressing affection, and found that each person tended toward one (sometimes two: ‘bilingualism’) of these categories at the exclusion of the others. However, because the predominant category became entrenched in each spouse’s behaviour (and because this choice was entirely unconscious), many spouses did not know how to extend their methods of expressing affection so as to address the other person’s category. Thus, marriage problems resulted: the behaviours which had once occurred naturally during courtship (e.g. buying flowers, taking walks) no longer occurred, and each spouse felt that the other no longer loved them.