Laruelle on Science and Technology

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In his fairly recent book Laruelle: Against the Digital, Alexander Galloway surmises the idiosyncratic non-philosopher’s views on science as “elevating it to such a degree that it becomes synonymouswith non -standard philosophy overall.” (pg. 134) I can appreciate this approach, particularly in an age where this “realm of discovery, axiomatics, and theory” provides crucial insight into a world where our politics, ecologies, philosophies, and modes of living that we previously held in such high esteem have been found utterly destabilized, yanked right out from under our feet. It’s a way out from the trap that seemed to have been laid in Deleuze and Guattari’s What is Philosophy?, where forms of thought such as art and science find themselves somewhat subordinated to the philosophical act. And indeed, Laruelle reacted negatively when he found passing references to his emerging non-philosophy in What is Philosophy.

Yet while Laruelle piles the accolades on science, he vigorously dismisses technological artifacts and forces, charging them with being accomplices in philosophy’s endeavor: “…philosophy is the ultimate technology, because philosophy is the ultimate vehicle of transit, and philosophers the ultimate mailmen. Philosophy is all technology wrapped into one, for it is at once mirror, conveyance, energizer, and processor.” (Pg. 134) And again: “So forget your rocket ships and rocket cars. Leave behind the scaffolding of reflection and alternation. ‘Do not think technology first;’ Laruelle commands. ‘Think science first.’”

My question is: how does one begin to think ‘with science’ if one is not thinking ‘with technology’, or even more properly, ‘through technology’? If we turn to the history of science, we find easily that the scientific emerges from the technological – and not simply in that the pursuit of scientific knowledge leverages technological artifacts (the various instruments and modeling techniques necessary for climate science, or the computerized databases that allow genome mapping, for two examples). Often the scientific has emerged as a by-product of the technological. Where would the first and second laws of thermodynamics be had there not been a concerted effort to maximize the efficiency of steam engines? Or the state of neuroscience without the reams of computer engineers and communication theorists who, by near chance, encountered biologists and psychologists working on the human brain?

It seems to me that in order to “think science” means to think not only the ‘final product’ of scientific processes, but to think through scientific processes a kind of labor, an arrangement in which technology in various guises always plays a role. Such an approach foregrounds the messy, entangled aspects of knowledge’s production, which while something that appears far from Laruelle’s intended purpose cannot be avoided by drawing off sharp boundaries. In this respect, does Laruelle not tend close to falling to the same conceit that he accuses philosophy of – that of cutting itself off from the conditions of the world in a discursive circularity?

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