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A Biography of Ordinary Man: On Authorities and Minorities

Francois Laruelle, Jessie Hock (Translator), Alex Dubilet (Translator)
ISBN: 978-1-5095-0996-6
260 pages
January 2018, Polity
A Biography of Ordinary Man: On Authorities and Minorities (1509509968) cover image


A Biography of Ordinary Man is a foundational text for our understanding of François Laruelle, one of France's leading thinkers, whose ideas have emerged as an important touchstone for contemporary theoretical discussions across multiple disciplines.

One of Laruelle's earliest systematic elaborations of his ethical and "non-philosophical" thought, this critical dialogue with some of the dominant voices of continental philosophy, including Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Deleuze, and Derrida, offers a rigorous science of individuals as minorities or as separated from the World, History, and Philosophy. Through novel theorizations of finitude and determination in the last instance, Laruelle develops a thought "of the One" as a "minoritarian" paradigm that resists those paradigms that foreground difference as the conceptual matrix for understanding the status of the minority. The critique of the "unitary illusion" of philosophy developed here stands at the foundation of Laruelle's approach to "uni-lateralizing" the power of philosophy and the universals with which it has always thought, and thereby acts as a basis for his subsequent investigations of victims, mysticism, and Gnosticism.

This book will appeal to the many students and scholars interested in Continental Philosophy and in the development of Laruelle’s thought, as well as to students and scholars in the philosophy of religion, ethics, aesthetics and cultural theory.

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Table of Contents

  • Translators Introduction
  • Foreword
  • Introduction: A Rigorous Science of Man
  • 1) From the Sciences of Man to the Science of Men
  • Five human theorems. The Sciences of Man are not sciences and man is not their object. Heterogeneous sciences, not specific, not theoretically justified, and devoid of humanity. Critique of difference and of anthropo-logical parallelism. The essence of man is theoretical, not anthropo-logical.
  • 2) Man as Finite or Ordinary Individual
  • Man is not visible within the horizon of Greek ontological presuppositions. Man is really distinct from the World and from the All. Man as finite transcendental experience of the One. The finite subject, without universal or authoritarian predicates. Human Solitudes. Man is out (of) the question.
  • 3) From Philosophy to Theory: the Science of Ordinary Man
  • The characteristics of the science of men and what distinguishes it from philosophy: 1) na´ve and not reflexive; 2) real or absolute and not hypothetical; 3) essentially theoretical and not practical or technical; 4) descriptive and not constructive; 5) human rather than anthropological.
  • 4) The Scientific and Positive Meaning of Transcendental NaivetÚ
  • Thinking outside of all representation or ob-jectivation. Finite individuals are absolutely invisible to unitary philosophy, though thinkable. The unitary field and its two parameters. Man outside-the-field and his radically immanent essence that is non-positional (of) itself. The minoritarian is not the micro-. No example of minorities. Rigorous science of the invisible. Against the fantasy of philo-centrism.
  • 5) Towards a Critique of (Political, etc.) Reason
  • Ordinary man and his precedence over the new logics. A possible political version of minorities. Critique of the stato-minoritarian concept of the individual. Transcendental and real criteria of minorities. From the statist hypothesis on minorities to the minoritarian thesis on the State. Political forgetting and non-forgetting of the essence of the State
  • CHAPTER I: Who Are Minorities?
  • 6) The Two Sources of Minoritarian Thought
  • The stato-minoritarian or effective minorities as difference. The properly minoritarian or the real individual before the World and the State. How minorities determine Authorities in the last instance. Determination in the last instance: irreversible or uni-lateral causality of the individual. The One rather than Being: real foundation of the minoritarian individual.
  • 7) How to Think Individuals?
  • Individuals are not modes of transcendence or of the beyond (of power), margins or remainders, or the Other of history. The individual is not beyond the World; it is the World that is beyond the individual. Minorities do not fall under the human and social sciences. Conditions of a radical thought of individuals (term, object of immediate experience before any relation; real or unreflective rather than remainder of exteriority). Apriori of the individual and of the multiple. Two criteria of the individual (its essence or the One; its causality as unilateralization of the World).
  • 8) Theory of Uni-laterality
  • Real uni-laterality is not a difference or a logical asymmetry, a relation in general, but precedes any relation (of predication, of power, etc.). Uni-lateral: a single side, a primitive asymmetry induced by the One. The One is not unilateral but affects the World with a unilateriality or determines it in the last instance. Uni-lateral: the specific form of order of the real and the non-philosophical. Uni-lateral and unitary forms of order: the relational, the transversal, the differential, the logo-centric. Specific causality of ordinary or finite man.
  • 9) The Essence of the One or of the Finite Subject
  • The forgetting of the essence of the One is not the forgetting of Being. The experience (of) indivision precedes that of division or transcendence. It is given (to) itself in a mode that is non-positional (of) itself, in an unreflective experience. The difference between the One and Unity: The One does not divide into two or synthesize a manifold. The real is not dialectical, but determines the dialectic in the last instance. The One is the element of the mystical and grounds an ordinary mysticism.
  • 10) Minorities and Authorities
  • Minority: unreflective transcendental experience, real phenomenal content of techno-political universals. Individual and individuel. Individual and relation. Against the equation: minoritarian = relative, minoritarian = different. Individuals are invisible in the unitary horizon. Uncountable and politically and ontologically unspeakable. They refuse to be compatibilized in the revolutionary calculation.
  • CHAPTER II: Who Are Authorities?
  • 11) Individuals and the World
  • The finite subject, without ob-jets, is the real critique of the Copernican Revolution. Contingent experience of the World and Authorities. The One does not negate the World but lets it affect man from its unilaterality. Authoritarian denial of the One. Experience of being remote-in-Theworld and what distinguishes it from being-in-the-world.
  • 12) The Absolute Science of the World and of Authorities
  • The mystical and its effect, the As It Is, precede unitary existence or Being. Individuals are the absolute science of the World and Authorities because they do not objectivate them. Absolute science of Wholes or Mixtures as they are.
  • 13) On Authority as Individuel Causality
  • Authority: political concept and ontological concept. Authorities, aprioristic structures of all experience in the World. From ontological concept to individual experience. Individuel or universal causality, individual or finite causality. Authority: transcendent form of human causality. Its two complementary forms. The authoritarian mixture precedes its terms and is not created by the One, which it follows as a second principle. Authorities, irreducible and non-deficient mode of reality. The One does not alienate itself in the World: autonomy of the World.
  • CHAPTER III: Ordinary Mysticism
  • SECTION I: The Unitary Illusion
  • 14) The Possibility of a Unitary Illusion
  • The dual, the order of successive givenness of the One, the World, and the (non-)One, is not a new unity. Unitary falsification and denial of the One by the World. The two aspects of the Unitary Illusion or of the authoritarian resistance to individuals.
  • 15) The Transcendental Nature of the Unitary Illusion
  • Unitary mechanism and transcendental meaning of the illusion. Confusion of the real and the logico-real. Positivity of the mixture: uncreatable from the One and anterior to its components. The dual against the unitary experience of the fall. The law of the real: neither alienation, nor procession, nor topology, but determination in the last instance.
  • 16) On Illusion as Hallucination
  • The type of reality of the illusion in relation to the World and the One. How the forgetting of the One is different from the forgetting of Being. Content of the illusion: belief that the One is object of forgetting or real repression, like an unconscious. Unitary resistance: hallucination and magic rather than symptom.
  • SECTION II: Finite Topics
  • 17) The Finite Subject and the Critique of the Copernican Revolution
  • Finite man without vis-Ó-vis or neighborhood. The World is neither an ob-ject nor an objectivation. Dualyzation as destruction of the Copernican Revolution. Irreversible or real thought, circular or philosophical thought.
  • 18) The Chora In the Transcendental Sense
  • The (non-)One: de-distancing or indifference without proximity; primitive and unique place that em-places the World. Exteriority or the chora in their real phenomenal content and as correlate of the One. Chora: without opening, distance or jection; without horizon; as non-positional site.
  • 19) Critique of Topology (Logic of Places and Logic of Forces)
  • Dialectical and topological forgetting of the primitive place and of its essence. Unitary place as topological and positional continuum. Western topo-logical amphibology. Logic of places and its complement: the logic of forces. Finite place and infinite force. Confusion of force and real. Critique of topological distance: the World is not the great Neighbor of man. Irreversible de-distancing or uni-laterality of the World.
  • 20) The Phenomenal Content of Uni-laterality
  • Laterality and positionality. Phenomenal content of uni-laterality. Brushing aside with the back of the hand; opposing an end of non-receiving to affection by the World. Passivity without reception. The true outside-without-inside: what the One determines in the last instance. Finitude as Occam s razor. Human philosophy and the ordinary as irreversible order. Irreversibility and remoteness. The ordinary and the principles of reason.
  • SECTION III: Determination in the Last Instance and the (Non-)One
  • 21) Thinking the (non-)One
  • Transcendental truth of the (non-)One, content of determination in the last instance. The (non-)One as immediate given excluding transcendence. Dual, element of the (non-)One.
  • 22) The Causality of the Last Instance or of Finitude
  • Neither absent cause nor present cause. Exclusion of the four metaphysical causes and the causality of the Other. Specific causality of finitude. Sufficiency and non-alienation (in action) as that which determines in the last instance.
  • 23) Transcendental Deduction of the (Non-)One or of the Chora
  • The (non-)One is required by the finitude of the One to determine the World. The non- of the (non-)One: indifference or defense a priori. Positivity of the non-. Indifference that is not passive but through passivity.
  • SECTION IV: Real Critique and Philosophical Critique
  • 24) The Affect of Real Critique
  • Real critique: passage from the real to the illusion. What distinguishes philosophical critique: as unilateralization rather than as limitation. The affect of critique is the affect of the chora. Real and transcendental meaning of the dual. Dual as non-unitary element of critique. The dual and the World in itself.
  • 25) The Positivity of Real Critique
  • Real critique is not a philosophical operation (reduction, nihilation, limitation, destruction). Nor an operation of the Other. A priori indifference of the One and contingency of the World. Its em-placement as it is. The symptom, unitary concept. From the symptom to the hallucination. Real critique eliminates unitary philosophy s resentment against the World. Real critique has no stakes: the real is not at stake.
  • SECTION V: The Science of the World and of Authorities
  • 26) The Reality of an Absolutely Subjective Science of the World
  • The idea of absolute science. Philosophy is only a relative-absolute science, the finite subject is an absolute science of the World. The World is not an ob-jet. Philosophy has ob-jects, but science does not, or is not a part of its objects. It excludes the unitary circle. Absolute science is contemplation of the in itself. It excludes temporality.
  • 27) The Absolute Science of Mixtures or of Postdicates
  • The content of science: the As It Is rather than the As Such. The World unilateralized or the contingency of the too-much. The ante-predicative to the postdicative: The World, Language, etc. as postdicates. Absolute Science of mixtures, totalities, and universals. Absolute and relative science. Absolute science belongs to ordinary man rather than to the philosopher.
  • 28) Critique of the Unitary Transcendental Deduction
  • The Unitary Operation of the Deduction is a supposition of the real, an auto-requirement of the logico-real mixture. Illusory character of the problem of representation and of its juridico-rational form. Unthought essence of transcendental Unity. Real right of the Deduction. Mysticism and Pragmatics as real content of the Deduction.
  • CHAPTER IV: Ordinary Pragmatics
  • SECTION I: Critique of Pragmatic Reason
  • 29) Pragmatics as Real Critique of Philosophy
  • The pragmatic critique of philosophy presumes a non-philosophical experience of pragmatics as finite or real. Language games, vicious and shameful critique of philosophy. Unitary pragmatics: residual and substituve. Dissociating the logico-pragmatic mixture, dissolving the linguistic image of use and of the ordinary, returning them to their individual or finite structures.
  • 30) Use as Apriori of Pragmatics
  • Use, concrete a priori of pragmatics; the ordinary, concrete a priori of philosophy. Use, real rather than possible, excludes language, the transcendence of rules and their application (surjectivation), and the models of production of logico-linguistic meaning. Essence of use: unthought of pragmatic philosophy. Transcendental truth of the ordinary or the finite-real.
  • 31) Philosophical Pragmatics and Real Pragmatics
  • Real distinction of use and the World. Finite or inalienable use: an individual or immanent causality. Non-Copernican subjectivity of action. Four extensions of the concept of performativity.
  • SECTION II: The Essence of Pragmatic Causality
  • 32) From the Mystical to the Pragmatic
  • Pragmatic causality, concept acquired a priori starting from the finite subject. Subjective order: essence precedes existent, existent precedes existence. Pragmatics, the recognition of the reality of the World.
  • 33) The Finitude of Pragmatics
  • Distinction between (unitary) autonomy and finitude. Effective sterility of finite pragmatics that does not transform raw material. Breaking the pragmateia/pragmata parallelism. Non-positional (of) itself use and its immanent givens: neither continuous nor alienated in the World. Unitary falsification of operativity (obscurity, unconscious). Positive interpretation of practical obscurity as unreflective.
  • 34) The Essence of Pragmatics: 1) The Finite Drive
  • Acting is not a scission, it attains the World without transcending towards it as towards an ob-ject. Finite or indivisible non-thetic drive of action. Agito: I act, I exist. Unitary falsification of the drive into an unconscious. Absolute practice: without ob-ject, but with occasional material.
  • 35) The Essence of Pragmatics: 2) The Immediate Givenness of the Other
  • Real correlate of use: not pragmata, but a non-thetic Other. Unitary forgetting of the essence of the Other, its philosophical requisition against philosophy. Immediate givenness of the Other and its phenomenal givens. The drive reveals a Transcendent towards which it does not transcend.
  • 36) The Essence of Pragmatics: 3) The Other, The Signal, and The Pragmatic Foundation of Communication
  • The Other: a priori or real resistance, not a posteriori or possible resistance. The finite Other does not limit the World, it proceeds neither by Reversal nor by Displacement, but rather uni-lateralizes according to the mode of the Support or the Signal. Pragmatic foundation of communication. Meaning/Signal system: real phenomenal givens of all possible communication. Dual and dualism: genesis of duality. Finitude of terms or their autonomy before the Unity-of-Contraries. The Other partially legitimates the Unitary Illusion.
  • 37) Meaning and the Rigorous Science of the Unitary Structures of the World
  • Breaking the parallelism of meaning and logico-linguistic signification. The pragmatic and the symbolic. The scientific criteria of the unitary and the philosophical cannot be unitary or philosophical. From the unitary to the expanded: non-thetic meaning as expanded criterion of the unitary. Authorities, legitimated as object of rigorous science of man.
  • Notes
  • Index
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Author Information

François Laruelle is Professor Emeritus at the University of Paris X (Nanterre).
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"What would it mean to craft a rigorous science of humanity based on minority rather than authority? In one of his earliest complete expressions of non-philosophy, Laruelle offers a compelling formula for generic humanity - dubbed here ordinary man - rooted not in philosophical or social difference but in real, ordinary identity, the identity of minority. The result is a form of life without authority, without state, without world, in other words, truly glorious."
Alexander R. Galloway, New York University

"Of the various other names for the Real in Laruelle's non-philosophy ('One', 'Vision-in-One', 'Victim-in-Person'), perhaps it is the name 'Man' that is the most revealing. Too often mistaken for a humanism, Laruelle's Ordinary Man is precisely what resists humanism, or any other philosophical position. By introducing us to its key concepts, A Biography of the Ordinary Man shows how non-philosophy can be understood as the ongoing discovery of the human, of the ordinary, and of the lived, without recourse to the 'totalitarian spirit' of authoritarian thought. This is a science of the ordinary life that undoes what we think we know about the human."
John Ó Maoilearca, Kingston University, London
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