5.7 Determination in the last instance
The real qua being-nothing is no object, but unobjectifiable essence of the object. So ‘objectivity’ in essence is quite independent of the object, and it indexes what subsists independently of conditions of objectification such as those specified by transcendent subjectivity, Dasein, Life, the Ego, or otherwise (basically the whole repertoire of correlationist transcendental agents). Brassier esteems Laruelle as having defined conditions for thought under which it mimes the real foreclosed to objectification: what he calls determination-in-the-last-instance (henceforth DILI), in thought’s identity with the real. But Laruelle defines DILI as a causality, of the object indissociable with cognition as real, thereby suspending the dialectical mediation between transcendent subject and its object. In the end DILI stipulates that the object as much as the subject are within the cognitive determination as the real, where the distinction between thinking and being disappears, so that in the end “what is foreclosed to thought in the object coincides (albeit non-synthetically) to what is foreclosed to the object in thought.” [Pg: 139]. Having disposed of the auto-positional status of representation, thinking mobilizes the causality of a real that is without intuition; DILI renounces intellectual intuition as much as objectifying representation.
The object is not apprehended or reflected; thought coincides with what is not an object in the object itself, the unobjectifiable, unconstituted, being-nothing of the real. The identity-in-the-last instance obtains between thought and being:
being-foreclosed to the object in thought = being foreclosed to thought in the object.
being-nothing as the real
Thought is what remains of the object X as being-nothing, just as being-nothing is the remainder of thought in the object. This putative indiscernibility in the last instance Laruelle calls ‘unilateral duality’. The duality of thought and object is not unified synthetically; it is without unification and thus axiomatic. Because of this the duality remains non-conceptually defined, but immanently transparent. Being and thought are conterminous in-the-last-instance, as being-nothing. This presumably avoids the idealist reincorporation of the real to the ideal, or object to thought, insofar as the object is not given to thought, but the latter is in the end determined as mimicking itself with the subsisting unobjectifiable essence. The object thus cognizes-in-itself, the latter which occassions its own thought and own object at the same time, cause and patient, i.e. realism is possible insofar as the essence of the object coincides with cognitive mimicking of being-nothing as occassioned by the object. The subject is not transcendental, or constituted; the disjunction between thought and being is non transcendental. Cognition can be both its own subject and object insofar as both thought and object coincide with the real in the last instance, insofar as they remain non-correlationally determining themselves.
“The old problem of the possibility of knowledge is not resolved by invoking a transcendental subject or foundation but by the real’s being-foreclosed to knowledge, or by every object’s being-foreclosed to its own cognition; a being-foreclosed which does not render knowledge possible but rather determines it.” (Laruelle 2000: 48–9)
The object in this way ‘cognizes’ itself, since it is as much its own subject as its own object; qua the essential remainder of the real. Thought’s miming activity, the objectifiable essence coincide insofar as they are as being-foreclosed to the real. We can thereby see the intuitive appeal for Laruelle’s insight: it doesn’t provide an ontological architectonic, but axiomatically defines the subtractive determination which renders the object of thought immune to transcendental constitution, thereby unbinding the correlationist auto-positional mediation between an a priori tethered to symbolic/subjective determination (as consciousness, Dasein, Life, absolute subject, or any other correlationist variant). The disappearance of the a priori qua subversion of the empirical/formal domain is enforced by an absolute where thought and being coincide in the last instance: as real, thought is reduced to the real determination which prohibits the auto-positional correlationist logic of synthetic reflexivity.
But it should be noted that thus far Laruelle has not given an account of change, subjective life, or the determination of the non-essential objectifiable ‘something’ from which being-nothing is but the unobjectifiable essence. It only tells us thought effectuated the unobjectifiable identity-in-the-last instance between thought and being, being-foreclosed and the real, not how or why in ‘every other instance’ the object’s being-nothing is given: and it does not show yet how this gap can be filled without the necessity of thought’s decisional activity. When Brassier writes that 'thought effectuates identity in the last instance' what exactly precribes this effectuation outside the object? Why must thought mimick the unobjectifiable remainder? Thought's effectuation appears ambiguous between dualist apprehension and idealist constitution. It remains that the precise role of objectification is only uninterestingly excluded from the real, as being-foreclosed. This ‘foreclosure’ indexing being to the real ‘in the last instance’ drives Brassier and Laruelle’s account through something of a ‘monistic axiomatic’, where the ‘real’ is strategically assumed to constitute the remainder of both thought and being, an ontological minimalism in which every-thing, every occassion of the object as determined, can be safely precluded from reality insofar being and thought are in-the-last-instance determined, as an overarching nothingness or being’s foreclosure. Furthermore, this gesture is one in which the putative identity can finally exhume scientific realism insofar as philosophy’s old inventory of categories no longer serve to mediate reality in a constituting auto-positional manner; ontology’s deliverance of thought to the nothingness of the void or the real, levels the object and its cognition. Objective stratification does not supervene on philosophical correlational mediation, or any transcendental operator of auto-positional decision.
However, this makes the status of the axiomatic particularly difficult, since it must remain foreclosed necessarily to the philosophical decision; the non-decisional suspension which posits the axiomatic cannot be characterized as emerging from a subjective non-ontological decision or anything of the sort; since this would be to blatantly reintroduce a transcendental operator which Brassier finds in Badiou’s discursive figure of subjective intervention. But then what is the precise status of the axiomatic as such in Laruelle’s work? What exactly conditions axiomatic idealization once dispensed of the decision? Laruelle’s idea that the axiomatic is non-auto-positional by effecting the identity-in-the-last-instance of thought and being makes this ‘last-instance’ rather mysterious. For it cannot be in the last instance for thought alone, but also as being; the un-determination of the real finally operates like the inscription of a primitive disjunction between the ideal and the identity in the last-instance between thought/reality, such that thought is subtractive from the ideal. But what is the precise status of this non-ontological ‘ideality’ which operates througha 'minimum given of objectification' within the axiomatic? Doesn't this 'minimum of objectivity' merely reinstate something of a Heideggerean 'opening of being', with the additional difference that it is here the object itself which occassions its determination in thought as ideal cause. What governs the requirement to equate thought/being as being-foreclosed and which regulates the difference between immanence’s real causality and the occasional causality of objectification? Perhaps for this we need to see more clearly what ‘causal’ status this real is presumed to obtain within Laruelle’s system.
5.8 The thinking object
Laruelle fuses two causalities in his notion of delimitation in the last instance: immanence as real cause, and objectifying transcendence as occasional cause. Here the real shows itself as unilateralizing force: being-nothing does not distinguish itself from being, but the latter distinguishes itself from the former. In order for the real to determine the object in its identity to the real as immanent cause, it must be caused by objectification. That being-nothing is foreclosed to thought means the latter presupposes a minimum of objectification. Since this unilateralization is not reflexively determined (not transcendentally given to thought) it is also non-positional. But Brassier’s gloss here is unavoidable when he evokes unilateralization’s non-thetic effectuation. How exactly are we to understand thought's (non-interventional) effectuation, without making it a mediation between the object as occassional transcendent cause and the real as immanent cause identical to the object in the last instance?
The disjunctive unilateral duality ‘effectuates’ this disjunction by positing the ideality of the occasional objectifying cause as ultimately the one reified element in the whole sequence. So we move from the minimum of objectivity given to thought to posit the real immanent cause retroactively as separating the ideality of objectification from the being-nothing of the real, with which thought finally identifies itself, as well as the essence of the object. But of course this seems to dangerously approach something like a Lacanian variant of the correlational idealism, whereby objectification is the mere 'imaginary unity' given to thought, to which finally thought subtracts itself. For this ultimate indiscernibility between the object as occassional cause and its essential unobjectification is nonetheless not on the side of the real: thought effectuates the equation of being/thought as real, and the distinction between unobjectifiable immanence and objectifiable transcendence as a free-floating duality 'given' to thought from nothingness. For in the end it is only the real which is mimicked by thought; while being-nothing is the only essential determination of the object and of thought in its identity with the real. It is also unclear why the form of the object must assume the form of transcendence as occasional cause. We can stipulate this allows the retroactive disassociation of the object’s consistency with the immanent real cause in the last instance, but it is not clearly stated in this account. It is particularly unclear why or how is thought able to operate in order to obtain this objectification, unless one somehow reintroduces something akin to the imaginary in objectification. The unilateral movement of thought’s effectuation finally makes the object coincide with its own subject and agent, thought as real immanence, as the real cause.
“Thus determination in-the-last-instance requires objectifying transcendence even as it modifies it. And it modifies it by bequeathing the unilateralizing force of the last-instance to the object which has been transcendently given or objectified: instead of being objectively manifest as the correlate of an objectifying act, the object becomes the subject which determines its own objective manifestation; it is taken up in and as the agent of thinking which unilateralizes its own transcendent objectification. Determination-in-the-last-instance thus converts the object qua agent of the occasional cause into a subject qua patient of the real cause.” [Pg: 140]
It is the real’s equation with being-foreclosed which provides the object the capacity to forever distinguish itself from its own objectifying transcendence, even if it is occasionally ‘caused’ by it: it is in thought’s effectuation of the last-instance which gives unilateralization the capacity to relegate constitution by its thought. The object distinguishes itself from being-nothing, not the other way around. Since no synthetic operation is possible, the identity in the last instance and the difference triggered by the object is irreducible, since the object is simultaneously the disjunction between its real and objective (non) being, and the ultimate identity between being-nothing as being-foreclosed, it is indifferent to their difference. It turns thought into a thing as the unilateral identity of known object and its known subject and the difference between the object and its objectification. Non-reflexive effectuation is ideally occasioned by objectifying transcendence, but the retrospective determination in the last instance is not synthetically reflected bilaterally, it makes the last instance of the real coincide with the object, the object becomes the subject which determines its own manifestation as real immanent cause, “in and as agent of thinking”. The object is thus the stand-in for the cause in the last instance qua real.
So there’s two moments: the objectification of difference between object and being-nothing, and the unilateralizing identity of being-nothing with the essential being-foreclosed of the object. No ‘objectifying thought’ surveils this movement, and so it remains irreducible. This means that even though the unilateralizing movement begins as thought’s relational disassociation of the object from the real essence it mimics, this unbinding is not elevates on the side of the subject, but immanently attributed to the object as its own subject: thought can mimic this real cause, but cannot identify itself with objectification since it is without distinction. This is difficult, dense and provocative material which Brassier needs to explain more thoroughly.
5.9 Transcendental unbinding
Here things turn even more confusing. Let us stay close to Brassier, and hope paraphrasing leads into clarification. Unilateralization restrains dialectics structurally. Unilateral duality composes non-relation (the objective essence qua identity between being-foreclosed and being-nothing) and the relation of relation and non-relation: objectifying thought distinguishes between the identical aspect (real…) and differential objectified condition, identity and difference. So objectification is a one sided duality with the two moments: the side of objectification as difference split between the object as immanently caused identical to the real, and as the relation between itself and its objectifying condition. So instead of dialectically attributing the relation between relation-non-relation to reflexivity, unilateralization shows the non-relation of relation, and non-relation. The side of objectifying transcendence is thereby split in its separation from the identical immanent real cause and its objectification, which makes it subject, and so avoids its dialectical reinscription.
“Unlike every variety of reflection, whether transcendental or dialectical, determination-in-the-last-instance effectuates a unilateral duality with only one side – the side of objectifying transcendence. Since the latter is always two sided, i.e. dialectical, determination-in-the-last-instance effectively unilateralizes dialectics. Thus unilateralization cannot be dialectically re-inscribed.” [Pg: 142]
Here is where the problems really begin. Any soul capable of shedding light into this will be appreciated. Brassier claims that at the ‘deepest level’ of Laruelle’s analysis we get the separation between dyadic objectification (objectifiable/non-objectifiable) from already-manifest unilateral duality separating the objectification of this dyad from its unobjectifiable duality. The idea seems to be that this last ‘unobjectifiability’ is the banning of the transcendental synthesis, insofar as it forbids thinking the two sides of the dyad as given unitarily to reflection. The disjunction in the dyad is not only unilaterally given on the side of the differential of objectifying transcendence. More crucially still, this disjunction and the indifference of the real as thinking determines-in-the-last instance the real’s foreclosure to objectification as the being-foreclosed of the object. This is what Laruelle calls axiomatic ultimation which enacts the identity-in-the-last-instance between the object as transcendentally given occasion and the immanence as real cause without synthesizing them. But this means that DILI is the transcendental operation which renders objectification in the object and so difference ultimately indifferent to the real immanence, which is why the unilateralization comes after as a meta-transcendental level determining determination [Ibid]. So the transcendental determination of disjunctive ideal and real objectivity as in turn determined from the unilateral duality of unobjectifiable identity and objectifiable difference.
5.10 Absolute and relative autonomy
Let’s proceed to some technical clarifications. Unilateralization qua ‘determination of determination’ conjoins two causes: the immanent real cause as necessary but non-sufficient (necessary), and the ideal as supposedly sufficient cause (relative). The former is always-already given determining the conjunction, the latter is determinable: the objectification is given as occasional cause and is then determined by the real cause in-the-last-instance; a duality enacted ‘in and as’ thought. The real cause becomes effective for thought as occasioned by the ideal cause; the objectified singularity which turns its objectifiable identity into the real agent as being-foreclosed of the being-nothing which determined. This is why the self-sufficiency of the objectified occasional cause it remains relative to the real as being-nothing. The real which is already-given is retroactively posited as determining unilaterally the relativity of the transcendental objectification. The radical autonomous last instance allows thus the synthesis of object and objectification, before the unilateralization then determines the determination:
“Real immanence neither absorbs nor annihilates transcendence, it is not opposed to it, but is capable of ‘receiving’ it and of determining it as a relative autonomy. Real immanence is so radical – rather than absolute – that it does not reduce the transcendence of the world – whether philosophically or phenomenologically – it does not deny or limit it but on the contrary gives it – albeit in accordance with its own modality: as that being-given-without givenness of transcendence which, whilst remaining ‘absolute’ or auto-positional in its own register, acquires a relative autonomy with regard to the real.” (Laruelle 2000: 50–1)
Ontological objectifying transcendence is never autonomous ‘in-itself’, in accordance to the dyad of objectifiable transcendence / unobjectifiable immanence. Rather, it is given not relatively to a constituting subject, a polar reflexivity, but to the real immanent cause as already-given. It is thereby not autonomous, not self-positing, not given to any reflexive outside gaze, but readied for the unilateralizing dyadic split of identity and difference as relativized to the real. Transcendent givenness-without-givenness is not phenomenal, but is still given-to-thought as sufficient and yet relative to the immanence of the real, which causally determines it immanently, apart of all external subjective constitution, “an occasional but non-determining cause to be determined-in-the-last-instance by the real qua necessary but in-sufficient cause.” [Brassier 2007: 144] This putative identity between known object and the object of knowledge seems to reinstate the correlational coding insofar as it bilaterally determines through the real the identity of thought and being, real and ideal.
However, Brassier insists in that this move is not correlationally encoded in Laruelle’s work. The real’s foreclosure from objectifying synthesis is not given conceptually, it is ‘separate-without-separation’, writes Brassier. The real is not ‘unthinkable’ but its foreclosure implies its indiscernibility from objectification in-the-last-instance; it knows neither opposition nor negation. Objective opposition is finally the occasional cause which identifies in the last instance the foreclosure of being-nothing and the foreclosure of objectification in unilateralization. In the end, there is only one ‘thing’: objectifying transcendence as occasional cause: “Between’ the real’s foreclosure to objectification and determination-in-the-last-instance’s foreclosure to objectification there is neither identity nor difference but only an identity-of-the-last instance occasioned by objectification itself.” [Ibid: Pg 145] The real can be foreclosed insofar as it is occasioned by objectification’s synthetic unity of object and objectification which causes its own determination in unilateralization.
5.11 Non dialectical negativity
The real’s necessary autonomy empowers it to determine rather than cancel the alleged sufficiency of transcendence. The latter ultimately presupposes real immanence. Transcendence simultaneously defers and necessitates being-nothing, which allows transcendence to be given-without-givenness, without ‘receptor’. The real however can only assume this autonomy as occasioned in the last-instance by transcendence. So this last-instance of the real remains necessary but insufficient, and this requires the intervention of thought to untie objectification in turning itself into the thing. Via determination-in-the-last instance the negativity of the real’s sufficiency transmits to objectification to which it then becomes identical in its essential being-foreclosed to the real. So this last instance suspends the autonomy of synthesis but disjoins it by unilateralization so annulling the correlational bilaterality, and its givenness to reflexivity. This Brassier calls a ‘positive negativity’; a dismembering of the synthesis in the last instance, which is the real’s unilateralizing force.
And once the dichotomy between philosophy/non-philosophy is recast as the separation between correlationism/non-correlationism the real’s positive negativity can be deployed intra-philosophically without being encumbered to the banning of decision, this time understood only as outline for correlationism. This is what sustains Brassier’s commitment to deploy the non-contradictory coincidence of the real’s positivity with its negativity as non-dialectical negation, as it suspends and disjoins synthetic unity. Once the real assumes the power to unbind that which supplements its negativity as unobjectifiable, which in unilateralization allows in the last instance to become a positive power to effectuate a non-dialectical splitting:
“This is precisely what unilateralization means: not just the suspension of thetic reflexivity and the generation of new concepts which somehow ‘float’ above philosophical discourse, supposedly irreducible to the element from which they are generated (as Laruelle seems to assume), but rather a surgical intervention upon the body of transcendental synthesis, severing terms from relations, amputating reciprocity, and sharpening one-sidedness. Every synthesis is double-edged and hence reversible, but to unilateralize synthesis means to endow it with a capacity for achieving an irreversible, one-sided cut.” [Pg: 147]
In this sense Laruelle’s account seems to continue along the lines of subtractive ontology proposed by Badiou, offering a transcendental rather than ontological version via the decision to place being-nothing as real presupposition determining ontological discourse, avoiding the recourse to the signifier of the void since it is identified as being-nothing irrespective of discursive specificity. It can thereby dispense of all the equation of ontology with mathematics, since the real of being-nothing is not the void to which ontology is sutured, but the undetermined immanence intractable to discursive presentation (not even within the deployment of the inconsistently multiple). This way Laruelle also avoid having to ratify the ontological register with meta-ontological suture of the real to being-nothing, so philosophy can no longer mediate between discourse and world, science and reality. So to supplement Badiou, Brassier thinks the transcendental hypothesis in Laruelle: identity-in-the-last-instance between the foreclosure of being-nothing and the being-foreclosed of thought. Badiou stipulates being is nothing, from Laruelle we thereby draw that through determination-in-the-last-instance philosophy itself to nothing to effect the unilateralizing duality of being-nothing as being-foreclosed of being and thought: the two of the void is unilateralized as the zero level of being-nothing: “Non-dialectical negation is this ‘voiding’ and the logic of its effectuation is that of the unilateral duality, the irreversible cut.” [Pg: 148]
5.12 The identity of space-time
Laruelle’s singular breakthrough is to provide a formal alternative to Hegel’s dialectical logic. This logic allows us to think through the diachronicity of what Meillassoux designated as ‘absolute time’, where the latter risked a reintroduction of correlational synthesis by his invocation of intellectual intuition. Instead, Brassier proposes non-correlational objectivity is explainable in terms of the asymmetry of the unilateralizing duality. Laruelle challenges the correlationist critiques to metaphysical realism by proposing a transcendental realism where the object is a cut in ontological synthesis: the object forces thought or occasions thought to think it in unilateral duality where the object thinks itself through the subject. It is this power which is proper to diachronicity, expressing the identity of space-time in the identity of the object with thought, instead of the correlationist surrendering of space by duration of temporal ekstasis. So Brassier will develop the diachronic autonomy of the object without resort to such ontological temporalization of space, but solely rooted in the “voiding” of being-nothing itself. This will occupy us next.