sbimagesThis is more a random thought than anything else, but the more I understand what Laruelle is up to with his non-philosophy, the more I feel his thought has a profound affinity with the work of Niklas Luhmann.  Put very crudely, Laruelle begins from the premise that all philosophy begins with a decision that allows it to observe the world philosophically, but to which it is constitutively blind.  The point, if I understand it, is that the decision arises not from the world, but rather from the philosophy.  The non-philosopher, as it were, attempts to observe these decisions to investigate how they structure the “world” investigated by the philosophy.

Proceeding from Spencer-Browns calculus of forms, this is exactly where Luhmann begins in his “sociology”.  All observation, Spencer-Brown argues, requires a distinction to be possible.  Here it’s important to be careful.  “Observation”, for Spencer-Brown and Luhmann is not an empirical terms referring to the five senses and measurements, but is a formal and functional structure.  Spencer-Brown begins his Laws of Form with the imperative “first draw a distinction”, which is a structure similar to Laruelle’s theory of decision.  With the drawing of a distinction, a space is cleaved in two.  This space cleaved in two is what Spencer-Brown calls a “form” and is the unity of a marked space and an unmarked space.  With the distinction it now becomes possible to observe or indicate what falls under the unmarked space, e.g., white males (marked space) vs everything else (unmarked space).

blindspot-940x625The key point for Luhmann is that the distinction itself is always invisible for the observer that uses the distinction to observe because of its functional nature.  One can observe a marked space through a distinction or observe a form/distinction, but cannot observe through a distinction and observe the distinction one uses to observe or make indications.  And, of course, if one opts to observe a distinction, they must make yet another distinction to observe that distinction which will itself be invisible to the observer and have its own unmarked space.  At any rate, Luhmann refers to the distinction that allows an observer to observe a marked state as the blind spot of the observer.  Every observation implies a blind spot, a withdrawn distinction from which indications are made, that is not visible to the observer the observes.  The eye cannot see itself seeing.

Despite the formal and highly abstract nature of his work, if Luhmann calls himself a sociologist rather than a philosopher, then this is because his aim, like Laruelle’s,  is to “observe the observer”.  “Observing the observer” consists in investigating how observers draw distinctions to bring a world into relief and make indications.  Were, for example, Luhmann to investigate philosophy from a “sociological” perspective, his aim wouldn’t be to determine whether Deleuze or Rawls or Habermas, etc., was right.  Rather, he would investigate the distinctions they draw to bring the world into relief in particular ways unique to their philosophy.  In other words, he would investigate the various “decisional structures” upon which these various ways of observing are based.

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