François Laurelle — Le principe de minorité — Foreword [In English]
by Ed Kazarian
Originally published in 1981, Le principe de minorité, the title of which can be translated as The Minority Principle, is the first in the series of works that Laurelle would eventually designate ‘Philosophy II.’
The following short foreword, subtitled “The Immediate Givens of Multiplicities,” lays out the general plan of the work and announces its major aims. The first of these is a critique and of the major theoretical treatments of “the contemporary problem of Difference, that is to say of continuous and relative multiplicities that it still inscribes in the hypostasis of Being, or of minorities that it still implants in the body of the State—hypostases that it only causes to stretch without daring to break them.” Evidently, the text anticipates important elements of the extended critique that Laruelle would level against Nietzsche, Deleuze, Derrida, and Heidegger in Philosophies of Difference—though here his announced targets are Nietzsche, Bergson, and Heidegger.
But Laruelle also aims to present an alternative to these inadequate approaches, which he figures under the sign of a type of multiplicity that he distinguishes from two others: the ‘discrete or arithmetic’ type and the ‘continuous’ type, which he associates with the philosophers of difference. The third type, which Laruelle proposes here, are “dispersive, Unary Multiplicities or Minorities, which” he goes on to say, “are the absolute concept or the essence of multiplicities.” It is this notion which sets him over and against the traditional global categories that are typically held to encompass differences of various sorts: “Being, the Idea, the State, History, etc.” Against these, he argues for “the absolute, non-relative autonomy of parts, differences, minorities, beings [étant], events, singularities, etc.” And from here, he will proceed to argue that in treating these dispersed elements as absolutes, as ‘immediate givens,’ we shall be led to reconcile “a thought of the multiple and of becoming [. . . ] and a thought of the absolute, but of the Absolute as such, a thought of the One, but of the One without unity, beyond the Idea, Logos, Being itself [l’Etre même].” It is in this ‘One without unity,’ this absolute One beyond Being, that, Laruelle contends, we shall find the genuinely “immediate givens” to which the philosophies of Difference ultimately failed to keep its promises at both a theoretical and a political level. And again, readers familiar with the general outlines of Laruelle’s oeuvre will see in all of this an early formulation of themes that remain central to his more recent thought, including texts like Future Christ and its companion, Mystique non-philosophique à l’usage des contemporains.
Textual Notes and Acknowledgements
This translation is a draft. It has not been reviewed by Laruelle. Please do not publish it without permission. I would also appreciate prior notice if you intend to quote from it or cite it.
I have generally hewed fairly closely to Laruelle’s syntax, and left the original French in brackets where it seemed to me that his meaning might be subject to various readings, or where the original French terms had resonances that were difficult to render adequately in English. Two sentences, especially, proved very difficult to translate and I have supplied the original French in footnotes, which readers are invited to consult.
Finally, this translation has benefitted enormously from a careful review by Tyler Harper. He made a number of excellent suggestions for revisions, many of which I have incorporated in what follows. All mistakes and infelicities are, of course, my own.
The translation follows after the break, or can be downloaded in .pdf form here.
The Minority Principle
Foreword: The Immediate Givens of Multiplicities
This essay poses problems of a special type and strives to give them a theoretical solution [solution de principe] of which the philosophical impact must touch on the fundamental questions of more traditional thought and perhaps partially appeals to them. They have the following general form: can one define parts before the Whole and independently of the Whole? differences before their repetition and independently of the Idea, of Logos, of Being? minorities before the State and independently of the State? becoming before Being and independently of Being? can one think events before their place in history , subjects before objects and lacking objectivity? a time without temporality? singularities or multiplicities before any universal and independently of a universal? etc. One does not respond to each of these questions in particular, one strives to elaborate a matrix which applies [vaut] to questions of this type and a matrix of responses that philosophy can hope to give to them. It is then a matter of establishing a theory of the essence of multiplicities, in the strict sense of these terms, and, in this way [par là], of taking up again on new bases the very old problems of truth, being, the absolute and the relative, transcendence, the method of philosophical thinking, etc.
Despite the variety of domains where they are usually formulated, all these problems are of the same type. We thought it possible give them an identical solution the form of which is sketched, touched up [reprise] and deepened in each of the five sections.
The first section introduces the transcendental problematic within which [à l’intérieur de laquelle] these problems will henceforth be posed and their solution prepared. It distinguishes it as much as possible from classical and idealist transcendental philosophy and strives to make understood anew the imperishable demand [exigence] of the veritas transcendentalis.
The second shows the grand phases of the technology of thought which endeavors to think in view of the veritas transcendentalis. It sets out the practical rules which hold [valent] equally [à la fois] for the classical use of the transcendental method, for its destruction, and for its new usage elaborated under the title of “dispersion” or “dispersivity.”
The third broadens the field of analysis and critiques, under the name of “Difference” or “Continuous Multiplicities,” the contemporary, Greco-contemporary, concept of multiplicities. The goal of this essay is to distinguish between two or three types of multiplicities: discrete or arithmetic, of which we say nothing here; continuous, identical to the modern concept of Difference; and finally dispersive, Unary Multiplicities or Minorities, which are the absolute concept or the essence of multiplicities. The third section is thus the description and the “destruction” of the modern and contemporary problematic which, after Hegel, with Nietzsche, Heidegger and those who follow them, that is to say most of our contemporaries, substituted for the “negative” dialectic the positive dialectic of Difference and, rediscovering [retrouvant] the most original tradition, inscribed the essence of multiplicities in the old chain [chaîne] of the unity of contraries and made of Difference or the multiple a new form of ontico-ontological mixture.
The fourth elaborates, this time systematically, the dispersive, unary or minoritarian concept of multiplicities, their essence conforming to the veritas transcendentalis, that is to say their absolute essence. It attempts to give to the problem of the absolute, non-relative autonomy of parts, differences, minorities, beings [étant], events, singularities, etc.—a general and positive response, according to a certain Minority Principle which is forced [contraint] to seek the possibility of multiplicities beyond Being, the Idea, the State, History, etc.
The fifth section returns to all these themes in order to broaden their scope and their philosophical implications. The title of “Technique and Mysticism” gives the general sense of this essay, its paradox, its wager perhaps. In the notion of essence of Multiplicities is reconciled, to speak in a way that is superficial [extérieure] and a bit imprudent, a thought of the multiple and of becoming, of the dispersion and the dissemination which carry the contemporary hopes for an overflow [débord] of Greco-occidental Representation, and a thought of the absolute, but of the Absolute as such, a thought of the One, but of the One without unity, beyond the Idea, Logos, Being itself [l’Etre même]. Individuals are the ultimate constituents of reality, before Being, before the World, History and the State—that there are, to speak in classical terms, monads absolutely dispersed and deprived [dépourvus] of a monadology, a reason or a universal, this thesis only has sense if there exist immediate givens of multiplicities beyond the possible [éventuelles] techniques of their production. To render this thesis, if not credible, then at least plausible and arguable [discutable], it was necessary to accept as inevitable the irruption, in the general thematic, of the Absolute, and leap with as little fear and trembling as is possible in these circumstances, over the “not beyond” of Being, the Idea, the State, [to reach a] beyond filled by [au-delà rempli par] the Principle of Minority. It then became necessary to sacrifice the tutelary geniuses Nietzsche, Bergson, Heidegger, too tutelary perhaps not to abandon us at the moment when we would have wished to go beyond their horizon in their company. Inevitable also to renounce all at once, without soliciting and working it any further in order to make it produce what it cannot by all evidence give and as one had struggled there in vain during the first researches, the contemporary problem of Difference, that is to say of continuous and relative multiplicities that it still inscribes in the hypostasis of Being, or of minorities that it still implants in the body of the State—hypostases that it only causes to stretch without daring to break them.
An attempt of which the means, goals and results are only apparently theoretical, not enveloping solely various emotions. It is itself an emotion right through [de part en part], it is always born of an encounter, an encounter between a disappointment [déception] and a still unknown demand [exigence] that the emotion envelops like a certitude higher than itself, which it retains [garde] and causes to linger. But is it only a matter of an encounter, was it not necessary that the Absolute be itself already manifested [se soit déjà manifesté] in its own mode these “immediate givens” for which contemporary philosophy bluntly proves [s’avère brutalement] so deceptive, so violent, voluntarist and activist, so [comme] incapable of keeping its promise? Will it keep its promise of breaking Representation in elaborating a concept of becoming, of difference, of multiplicities beyond presence? Or rather will it be contented one more time, one time which is the very custom, the Greco-contemporary tradition, of subordinating these multiplicities to the so little non-present essence of presence and of simply adjusting [d’aménager] the old violence of reason? To keep this promise, this hope, perhaps it was necessary to agree to let oneself be persuaded by the Absolute, to let oneself be seized and transfixed, not to resist the powerlessness [l’impouvoir] of this emotion. To agree to recognize that this part of contemporary thought was betrayed in the search for multiplicities by its excess of will and by the theoretical means of which it had disposed or which had disposed of it. To consent finally to the One as that which retains multiplicities beyond Being itself, as minorities beyond the State.
Translated by Edward Kazarian
 TN: In French, this clause is: ‘sans la solliciter et la travaille advantage pour lui faire render ce qu’elle ne peut de toute evidence donner et comme l’on s’y était acharné en vain dans de premières recherches.’
 TN: The French here is: ‘Un tentative don’t les moyens, les buts et les résultats ne sont apparemment que théoriques, n’enveloppe pas seulement des emotions diverses.’