“Diagrammatic Metaphilosophy:” Mullarkey and “Post-Continental Philosophy”


One of the central problems throughout Mullarkey’s Post-Continental Philosohy: An Outline is if everything is immanence then it would only make sense that a philosophy of immanence itself would be, well, immanent. After having read Deleuze, Henry and Badiou and showing how each has a blind spot with regards to such an understanding of immanence, error and explanation–Badiou’s pure quantity and Henry’s pure quality supplement each other but end in monism, for one example–Mullarkey turns to examine the “non-philosophy” of Francois Laruelle, a figure whom I’ve never read a word until now (and which vacillates between very interesting/novel and sheer nonsense). This chapter is far more forgiving then the three previous chapters dealing with Deleuze, Henry and Badiou. Here’s Mullarkey quoting Laruelle from an article in Angelaki, “What Can Non-Philosophy do?”:

Non-Philosophy is not an intensified reduplication of philosophy, a meta-philosophy, but rather its simplification. It does not represent a change in scale with respect to philosophy, as though the latter was maintained for smaller elements. It is the “same” structure but in a more concentrated, more focused form (138).

Somewhat reminiscent of Foucault, as Mullarkey suggests, is one of Laruelle’s central claims: all philosophy/philosophical positions are ultimately circular because they rest upon a decision through which its whole structure is given all at once. For Laruelle, all of the terminology, grammar, neologisms etc of a philosophy show themselves all at once tautologically, rather than as an argumentative series. This circularity can only be overcome vis a vis non-philosophy, a move which literally draws out the movement of philosophy all the while “bracketing” philosophy.

Here’s a quick example of how Laruelle’s critique of philosophy “works:”

Philosophical dualities can play games of mutual supplementation of their terms, move in circles ad nauseum, invert their duality, overturn their duality, and so on, but they always perpetuate their duality nonetheless. Philosophy never goes beyond a widened cogito: any putative immanence it might have is limted to a self-reflection or self-affection. To “think of” the Real is to miss it for the representation itself. Decontruction tried to break the mirror of representation by substituting the Other for Being. But the dyadic relation–and the decision–is there.

What are we to do? Mullarkey continues,

A genuine transformation of though, by contrast, will not consist in playing new games with representation, but rather in determining representation through, as Laruelle puts it, “a radically un-representable agency or instance–more precisely, through a without-representation that allows itself to be thought by means of representations which have been reduced to the status of philosophically inert material.” (142)

So there is hope, Mullarkey tells us, and his next move is to take Laruelle’s Non-Philosophy and refract and mutate it in order to develop a “diagrammatic meta-philosophy.” As is well known, Derrida spent a good deal of time dealing with absence/presence, the trace and temporality–immanence is always already inscribed by/with transcendence–which sort of puts the nail in the coffin with regards to any philosophy of immanence. Not so, for Mullarkey mobilizes notion of the diagram as a way to escape this problem.

…Post-Continental philosophy, as a rigorous and productive philosophy of immanence, must invent a new for of expression if it is to be understood. That is, it must concern itself with new media of meaning. Derrida’s grammatology points to just this possibility. We cannot transcend transcendence with words, but we might be able to do so with new images…Our diagrams will replace conventional words and concepts with lines, arrows, shapes and spatial arrangements…as the depiction of the very regress that plays itself out in the paradox of presence, a depiction that both repeats the dilemma and moves it forward; when materialized, regress is a kind of progress (161).

…I want to see the diagram metaphilosophically and immanently, as thinking for itself, relating seemingly disparate philosophies through its intrinsic ability to outline thought (176).

Far out, man ! Take another bong hit! All sarcasm aside, this is all quite interesting, for it allows for philosophy to productively interact and engage with a broad spectrum of concepts, phenomena, and disciplines. Such diagrams of immanence actually do do conceptual work through the expression of their philosophy, it would seem. Really, though, the upshot of all of this, for Mullarkey, is that he pretty much avoids transcendence. As indicated in the quotes above, the diagram is trading in spatial figures not linguistics, so quite properly the diagram has nothing to say about what it is diagramming. In turn, it establishes itself as an immanent philosophy that can self-relate without self-reference.

All in all, I’m just not sure I’m buying all of this, especially (1) the idea that the diagram is a “dynamic monism” and (2) the business of using Actualism as a descriptor (however partial) of what Mullarkey is doing, but it makes for interesting reading. Someday I hope to articulate these problems more fully, but Mullarkey’s tone heightens towards the end of the book. He declares,

This, in broad outline, is the implication of a Post-Continental understanding of philosophy: thoughts which are under conditions that are not of their own making, thoughts that are a shock to the System, thought that are democratized, and thoughts that are affects. Philosophy is not a sovereign state of mind but part of a process immanent to experiences of many kinds (192-93).

I don’t know how controversial (or new) the second statement is, but the intertwining of Deleuze, Badiou and Henry (click here for a diagram), along with the expression of the three vis a vis Laruelle does gesture to new ways of thinking philosophy. Maybe even a breath of fresh air…

Some Resources

An interview with John Mullarkey (click here) and a paper presentation, “Diagrammatic Actualism,” which focuses “on Deleuze’s Diagrammatic Actualism, and discusses two versions of Deleuze that struggle for pre-eminence within Deleuzianism. One is that of the Virtual and the Concept – the other is of the Actual and The Diagram. Naturally, when it comes to Deleuze, such tendencies are always intertwined, but we still need to establish whether the Virtual and the Concept deserve the ontological priority they have hitherto received within Deleuzian scholarship. Perhaps the Actual can be retrieved from its currently derivative status when its ontology is understood diagrammatically. This paper is a first attempt at such a retrieval by looking at the way diagrams work both conceptually and phenomenologically in Deleuze’s work as well as philosophy in general.” Here is an interesting “thinking with” Mullarkey’s “diagrammatology” (click here)

Prior Posts related to Post-Continental Philosophy:

Michel Henry: Radicalizing Phenomenology? More Considerations

Michel Henry: Radicalizing Phenomenology

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