72. IBP: Non-Philosophy with John Ó Maoilearca

In an attempt to make more sense of non-Philosophy, and therefore non-Buddhism, I interview Irish philosopher and academic John Ó Maoilearca, the author of All Thoughts Are Equal, an exceptionally accessible introduction to the work of that pesky French philosopher Francois Laruelle, who we’ve been name dropping on the podcast for quite some time.

Laruelle’s work navigates an interesting paradox. On the one hand it can be incredibly straightforward, perhaps more so for those who have not been indoctrinated into philosophical thought. On the other, it presents a wide range of challenges to established philosophy and systematic modes of thought, including those found in Buddhism.

We talk about non-philosophy as a heuristic in this regard, therefore as a kind of practice that people can engage in, and experience certain kinds of liberation through. A practice, I would argue, that compliments Buddhist ideals and fits perfectly well into the practicing life for those intrigued by post-traditional explorations of Buddhist materials, notions and practice techniques.

In part, this episode acts as a preparation for grappling with non-Philosophy and so we unpack three of its most important concepts.

Topics include;

  • What makes Laruelle’s non-Philosophy so radical and so intriguing for the world we live in today?
  • The Democracy of Thought.
  • What are we to make of the democratization in an age of alternative facts, and the difficulty of distinguishing narrative and reality in polarized times?
  • Decision, sufficiency, and The Real.
  • The most important contribution John’s book makes to Laurellian thought.  
  • Where non-philosophy is heading.
  • Henri Bergson & Mysticism.

7 thoughts on “72. IBP: Non-Philosophy with John Ó Maoilearca

  1. I have listened with great interest to the podcast and have to confess that I hoped to get an answer on what it really means that all things are equal. I have to say that it still sounds to me like a relativism of sorts. Maybe I wasn’t able to decipher this part of the show.

    As I’ve written elsewhere (entailing one of my hot topics, namely theism and atheism):

    “Relating beyond the dome, both theism and atheism are made relative. But within the immanent grounding of the arena, we have immanent tools (like rational, critical discourse) that obviously give us the possibility to choose between the one or the other view. Another example would be the diverging views of naturalism and creationism. By looking at my experience of the world, I simply cannot make sense of a transcendental designer. What I am seeing and experiencing can best be explained by evolution.
    So yes, I am taking sides, but in a disempowered style. I am open to new findings, arguments, experiences, observations, always expecting to be surprised at what may break into the immanence of my thoughts.”

    My answer (and question) to this is the following:

    “Is it inappropriate for a lived non-philosophy to (maybe lightly) be more convinced by certain philosophical views? My answer would be that only in the last instance, all views are equal. No view has a sole access to the Real. But in the instances before the last instance, where the great feast happens, it is imperative to have different views, and this entails that some views/models (philosophical or otherwise) convince us more than others.”

    Source: https://speculativenonbuddhism.com/2020/09/23/the-arena-under-the-dome/

    I would be happy to read some of your thoughts on this.

    Like

  2. Matthew,
    apposite to the comment above, you raise the topic of ‘alternative facts’ in the course of the show. I think that this conundrum is not satisfactorily answered by John.
    I’m thinking of Donald Trump, hopefully not the coming president of the United States, and his take on climate change.
    What does a performer of non-standard-philosophy think about the denial of climate change? Which stance does she take up?
    Are Trumps’ thoughts about climate change equal to those of the scientists who are envisaging serious problems for humanity here?
    Hopefully not. Performing the equalizing of thoughts in my view simply cannot mean that Trumps’ thoughts on climate change should receive equivalent attention compared to what serious scientists have to say on this topic.
    Maybe Ian James in his ‘the technique of thought’ has an answer on this:
    “Nonstandard philosophy, being a realism-of-the-last-instance, could arguably and easily admit that, within the restricted sphere of scientific experimentation, there might come a day when both modeling and empirical results (i.e. scientific objects as Unilateralities caused by the real) would allow some kind of choice be made between the two camps (realist and instrumentalist) and for, say, the multiverse thesis to be disqualified or retained. […] So disputes and debates can resolve themselves within their restricted experimental spheres so that one model might be preferred over another on the basis of the Unilateralities or complex objects that have been modeled, even though the resulting implied metaphysical-philosophical positions will remain equal to any other position whatsoever, but in-the-last-instance only.”
    I think the same could apply for climate change as another example.

    Like

    1. Hi Matthias,
      I am happy to share some thoughts as an intellectual lightweight. If you have low expectations, I may have something to share.
      I think it is more than understandable to view the notion of ‘all thoughts are equal’ as a form of relativism, but one has to keep in mind that it plays a role in a heuristic, and is not an epistemological claim, but rather a stance or proposition to engage with philosophy, or thought more broadly, differently. To take a stance in which you view all thought as equal is not to lay onto that thought philosophical categories, which then become relativised, but engage in a practice. From this perspective it’s, as I keep claiming, a practice that allows certain possibilities to emerge, and certain intellectual or philosophical traps to be avoided, or at least navigated better. Remember that non-Philosophy is an attempt to think differently, therefore not merely reproduce a philosophical practice, such as relativism.
      This practice is also a precursor to the democracy of thought, or Great Feast as Glenn prefers to call it. It is not thus a new metaphysics, or ontological claim, but rather a mode of thought or practice that allows you to act in certain ways, and ultimately, for Laruelle, not merely produce more circular thinking in service to philosophy (or Buddhism) and therefore the attempt to define and capture the world once and for all. It is thus not the job of non-philosophy to take over the role of determining what is true or not true, but rather a means that could be used to think about truth and fiction differently.
      “Is it inappropriate for a lived non-philosophy to (maybe lightly) be more convinced by certain philosophical views? My answer would be that only in the last instance, all views are equal. No view has a sole access to the Real. But in the instances before the last instance, where the great feast happens, it is imperative to have different views, and this entails that some views/models (philosophical or otherwise) convince us more than others.”
      If I’ve understood this correctly, my response would be that not all views are equal within the category of truth, or reality, but rather each can and should exist or be allowed to exist because it already does. The game of non-practice is simply not to try and dominate, conquer or decimate another field of thought, or view, but rather think anew alongside existing thought in ways that may produce something new, rather than merely reproduce the same old thing in a new guise. In this sense it is not a replacement for philosophy, which can, in some of its guises, help us determine the difference between fake news, bullshit, and facts.
      It might be helpful to consider the idea that non-philosophy is not designed to be an improvement on standard philosophy, but act as a method to avoid decision, sufficiency, ideological entrapment, and all those other goodies that world conquering ideologies tend to bring about.
      Any clearer?
      Matthew

      Like

  3. Hi Matthew,

    I have to confess that I had to look up the German translation for ‚intellectual lightweight‘. It is ‚geistiger Dünnbrettbohrer‘. What a wonderful expression. Even if I often think of myself as being such a ‚Dünnbrettbohrer‘, too, one point in performing the non-philosophical gesture is to abandon such categorizations, I think. As you say, every thought „…can and should exist or be allowed to exist because it already does.“

    Your last sentence summarizes nicely in where I see the liberation non-standard philosophy brings about: „It might be helpful to consider the idea that non-philosophy is not designed to be an improvement on standard philosophy, but act as a method to avoid decision, sufficiency, ideological entrapment, and all those other goodies that world conquering ideologies tend to bring about.“

    I think it would help to avoid talking about philosophy as a discipline in this context and juxtapose it in opposition with non-standard philosophy. I would rather talk about a philosophical gesture and a scientific (non-standard) gesture. The philosophical gesture is marked by a certain manner of thinking, a thinking that entails, as you say, decision, sufficiency, and ideological entrapment. The scientific gesture on the other hand shows features that are absent in the philosophical gesture. The scientific gesture is marked by an openness towards renewal and revision. It is open towards empirical observations, an openness that lets those empirical observations do their own work, meaning that those empirical observations are not sufficiently flooded with transcendental decisions.

    This means that the academic philosopher working in the academic discipline called philosophy is of course able to perform the scientific gesture as outlined above, even in the discipline called philosophy. Ditto (conversely) for the scientist working in the academic discipline titled say physics. I’m thinking here of Stephen Hawking mentioned in the podcast. He clearly performed the philosophical gesture in searching for his ‚theory of everything‘.

    So performing the philosophical (standard) or the scientific (non-standard) gesture is not a matter of discipline, it is a style of thinking that can be present or absent in every nook and cranny where people think. And people always think.

    So I think that in performing the scientific gesture, we can give people hope that there is a way to deal with actual problems (or should I say catastrophes) such as climate change, world hunger, and who knows what else.

    And we are all able to give this hope: scientists, poets, philosophers, musicians, artists of all sorts. That is indeed the good news of non-standard philosophy and its scientific gesture.

    Like

    1. Hi, Though I don’t speak German, that second word is fantastic. Does the first part of Dünnbrettbohrer have any relation to the word dumb…or am I just being dumb? Just out of interest Matthias, where are you going with this kind of thinking? Are you a philosopher or academic yourself? Are you applying this kind of thought in your own work or life? I hear a utopian gesture in your comment, which is nice, and I do agree that non-standard thought has incredible potential but I figure as with most innovative ideas, it’ll either emerge like a virus and infect some fields of culture, most likely the arts, or remain an elitist enterprise, as it appears to be at present.

      Like

  4. Dear Matthew,

    there’s no relation to the word dumb in ‘Dünnbrettbohrer’. A ‘Dünnbrettbohrer’ is someone who only drills holes through thin wood. In contrast, the heavyweight drills through thick wood.

    The rest of what you are asking demands an extensive answer, on which I’ working. For now I disclose that I am neither a philosopher nor an academic. Each and every thought I am thinking I try to apply in my life (which entails my work, too). I am an ordinary man, a kind of vagabond.

    Elitism is no option for me. Non-standard thinking, very briefly, is an idea with which I’m experimenting in my thinking. No more, no less.

    And of course, like most people, I want to safe the world.

    As I said in the beginning, there’s more to come. Promise! I’m short of time these days.

    Like

    1. You’re not the only one Matthias. I am happy to admit that I’m happy few people comment here as I prefer an actual conversation with anyone one to one over these abstract digital exchanges. Feel free not to respond.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s