I have been recently trying to explore to what degree Levi-Strauss’s method of structural anthropology, more specifically his structural study of myths, can be incorporated into a Laruellian or Non-Philosophical framework. I think the set of formal analogies or isomorphisms one can come up with respect to the two theories is convincing, but at this point, I need to determine to what degree these comparisons add up to some kind of substantial theoretical discovery, rather than just a mere comparative enterprise or even the kind of disciplinary eclecticism that Non-Philosophy can appear to be.
First, the correspondences: according to Laruelle, Philosophy involves the attempt to move from the two the one, and misunderstands the immanence of the One as a form of synthesis. Philosophy is only the recombination of the original analytic divisions it makes in thought and thus internal to the activity of thinking, “missing” the autonomy of the One’s independent reality. It continually repeats this gesture so long as it cannot develop a thinking that is in line with the independence of the Real from thought or its essential “impossibility” with regards to the ruses of synthetic recombination.
Levi-Strauss also affirms that the structure of myth is one of mediation and that it attempts to move from the two to the one. It is clear too, from his analysis of the Oedipus myth, that this is not only about moving from two terms to one term which unifies the two, but also about moving from “the one” and “the two” each as the two terms to be unified. This corresponds to Laruelle’s assertion that philosophy aims to “mix” Being and Other. Also, Levi-Strauss had one foot in science and the other in mythology as the discourse on signification, as is evidenced by his claim that the science of myth would be a sort of “myth of myth.” Levi-Strauss gestures to something like a “unified theory” in the Laruellian sense.
The comparison only really links the terms if it is justifiable at the level of content, i.e if mythology and philosophy can actually be assimilated. This is what I attempted to do in my Masters thesis, in which I attempted to begin to develop a transcendental logic of mythology, building off of Husserl’s genetic phenomenology. I needed to develop a transcendental logic of mythology because Laruelle’s claims about mediation apply to the transcendental mediation that philosophy effects between Thought and Being and is not simply a repudiation of all discursive mediation in general.
This project can be taken up through analyzing how “mythic thought” in Levi-Strauss’s terms encodes propositions, and I took as my starting point the attempt to make Levi-Strauss’ claim that it does so explicit. I rejected a directly Kantian approach for the same reason Husserl does, for it does not show the conditions of possibility of logic but assumes the legitimacy of Aristotle’s term logic at the beginning. This is the same problem with many contemporary transcendental accounts that simply accept the current results of science: the latter can be used as “clues,” but the specific form of evidence that applies to logical formations needs to itself be clarified and built up only from the structures of immanent manifestation.
However, this thesis was clearly an experiment more than a goal, for I am not ultimately interested in simply a transcendental logic but a thinking rooted in a Real irreducible to logic, which is how Laruelle proceeds: this is the only way to achieve an anthropological and mytho-poetic thinking that would be both “materialist” and rooted in something like science.
But my thesis led me to the next problem: psychologism. Levi-Strauss aims to do two things that are antinomical philosophically: first, show mythic thought to be encodable in the form of propositions and to enact logical operations; second, to show that its patterning is in line with that of natural forms and objects. The second thesis contravenes the first since natural events and objects do not possess the specific “normativity” of logical values, i.e they reduce to the de jure relations of logical inference to de facto accounts of what occurs. In addition, the conceptuality of “naturalism” has come under attack in anthropology itself, and there is a desire to liberate a whole field of “conceptual worlds” irreducible to the very concept of “nature.”
My framework would then be productive in conceiving the latter as relatively autonomous transcendentals, preserving their irreducibility to western categories, and mythology would be a direct entrance point to these transcendental worlds, and we would have a method at least somewhat developed to study mythologies in just this way (Levi-Strauss’s). I have an inkling that Laruelle has already implicitly solved the problem of psychologism, but this needs to be made explicit, without falling into the philosophical traps of much of the epistemology that Laruelle has warned against.