Indication as Concept: Althusser, Spinoza, and the Logic of the “Groupes Althussériens” (1965-1968)

From John Berg­er, Bento’s Sketch­book (New York: Pan­theon Books, 2011).

The prob­lems raised by the Althusser­ian the­o­ry of the “break” between sci­ence and ide­ol­o­gy have been crit­i­cized count­less times. In his Ele­ments of Self-Crit­i­cism (1974), Althuss­er acknowl­edges that it might have con­tributed to what he calls his “the­o­reti­cist devi­a­tion,” start­ing with a spe­cif­ic ratio­nal­ist inter­pre­ta­tion of the break pre­sent­ed in For Marx (1965) and Read­ing Cap­i­tal (1965).1 In the self-crit­i­cal texts of the 1970s, Althuss­er at least par­tial­ly blames his Spin­ozism for being the “cause” of his the­o­reti­cism, and hav­ing led him to “for­get” pol­i­tics: there must be a cri­tique, then, of the “the science/ideology antithe­sis, and the epis­te­mo­log­i­cal break, which Spin­oza, long before Bachelard, insert­ed between his first and sec­ond lev­els of knowl­edge.”2

I would like to brack­et, as it were, the ret­ro­spec­tive view Althuss­er pro­vides of his rela­tion to Spin­oza, so as to grasp Althusser’s Spin­ozism from the traces of its implic­it influ­ence in For Marx. This involves an inquiry into the Spin­ozism under­pin­ning Althusser’s think­ing, but also his rela­tion to his own prac­tice. We can under­stand this rela­tion accord­ing to the Sec­ond Corol­lary of Propo­si­tion 16 in Book II of the Ethics, where Spin­oza affirms:

the ideas which we have of exter­nal bod­ies indi­cate the con­sti­tu­tion of our own body more than the nature of exter­nal bod­ies. This I have explained with many exam­ples in Appen­dix, Part I.3

For Spin­oza, the con­cept of indi­ca­tion plays a key role in the the­o­ry of the pas­sage from the first to the sec­ond type of knowl­edge. I will seek here to under­stand the way in which it is also at work, if implic­it­ly, in Althusser’s think­ing of the rela­tion between sci­ence and ide­ol­o­gy. In For Marx, the adjec­tive indica­tive is repeat­ed – sig­nif­i­cant­ly – on a num­ber of occa­sions, des­ig­nat­ing both the incom­plete char­ac­ter of some of Marx’s ide­o­log­i­cal for­mu­la­tions and the pos­i­tive func­tion they can effect in the process of knowl­edge.4 From this dou­ble func­tion of indi­ca­tion, we will be able to recon­sid­er the divi­sion between sci­ence and ide­ol­o­gy. But the inter­est the notion of indi­ca­tion holds is also con­nect­ed to the term’s recur­rence at the very places in his texts where Althuss­er com­ments on his own the­o­ret­i­cal work. I wager, in fact, that this con­cept – whose the­o­riza­tion is only out­lined in For Marx – can be used to clar­i­fy the way in which phi­los­o­phy was prac­ticed with­in Althusse­ri­an­ism: name­ly, as a prac­tice of col­lec­tive research. Althusser’s Spin­ozism would con­tain, to some degree, the means for the­o­riz­ing the appa­ra­tus of col­lec­tive think­ing the “Althusse­ri­ans” tried to put in place by striv­ing to con­tin­u­ous­ly orga­nize new research groups.

I will refer to Deleuze’s read­ing of Spin­oza through­out this text. Deleuze’s analy­sis is a pri­ori rad­i­cal­ly opposed to that of Althuss­er: while the lat­ter, fas­ci­nat­ed by the sys­tem­atic­i­ty and dog­ma­tism of Spinoza’s thought, is almost exclu­sive­ly inter­est­ed in the “epis­te­mo­log­i­cal Spin­oza,” Deleuze is known for hav­ing empha­sized the eman­ci­pa­to­ry poten­tials con­tained with­in the “eth­i­cal Spin­oza.”5 And while the Deleuz­ian inter­pre­ta­tion, by insist­ing on the fact that “nobody can under­go for us the slow expe­ri­ence of learn­ing what agrees with our nature,” leads to a refusal of a ped­a­gog­i­cal solu­tion, Althusse­ri­an­ism was on the con­trary accused of plac­ing of the Marx­ist philoso­pher in the role of “philoso­pher-edu­ca­tor.”6 The per­spec­tive advanced in this arti­cle allows us to read the gap between Deleuz­ian Spin­ozism and Althusser­ian Spin­ozism with fresh eyes. The notion of indi­ca­tion, impor­tant for both of these read­ers of Spin­oza, in effect allows for a mutu­al dia­logue, if not a rap­proche­ment. In pro­vid­ing a sketch of this encounter with Deleuze’s read­ing, the focus on indi­ca­tion will ulti­mate­ly be a mat­ter of ask­ing whether Althusser’s recourse to Spin­oza effec­tive­ly rein­forces the “Aufk­lär­er” dimen­sion of his own thought, lead­ing him to the­o­rize a rigid break between sci­ence and ide­ol­o­gy, or whether in fact it ren­ders it pos­si­ble to unseat the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Althusse­ri­an­ism as a “ped­a­gogism.”7

Indication: From Spinoza to For Marx

What does Spinoza’s notion of indi­ca­tion refer to in Book II of the Ethics? When, in the imag­i­na­tion, the human mind per­ceives through the affec­tions of the body, that is, through the affec­tions on the body of the encounter of exter­nal bod­ies, the ideas that it pro­duces con­fus­ed­ly envel­op the indi­ca­tions on that body and on the exter­nal bod­ies which affect it. In Expres­sion­ism in Phi­los­o­phy: Spin­oza, Deleuze the­ma­tizes the Spin­ozist notion of indi­ca­tion as fol­lows:

[O]ur ideas of affec­tions indi­cate a state of our body, but do not explain the nature or essence of the exter­nal body. This is to say, the ideas we have are signs, indica­tive images impressed in us, rather than expres­sive ideas formed by us: per­cep­tion or imag­i­na­tion, rather than comprehension…[T]he pri­ma­ry “thing indi­cat­ed” is nev­er our essence, but always a momen­tary state of our chang­ing con­sti­tu­tion; the sec­ondary (or indi­rect) thing indi­cat­ed is nev­er the nature or essence of some exter­nal thing, but is rather an appear­ance that only allows us to rec­og­nize a thing by its effect, to right­ly or wrong­ly assert its mere pres­ence. The fruits of chance and of encoun­ters, serv­ing for recog­ni­tion, pure­ly indica­tive, the ideas we have are inex­pres­sive, that is to say, inad­e­quate.8

Nev­er­the­less, although indica­tive ideas are inad­e­quate, indi­ca­tion does not sole­ly involve a “pri­va­tion” of knowl­edge:

[The inad­e­quate idea] con­tains some­thing pos­i­tive, and so some­thing true…a sort of indi­ca­tion that we can grasp clearly.This is, in fact, how we are able to have some idea of its cause: hav­ing clear­ly grasped the con­di­tions in which we see the sun, we can clear­ly infer that it is an object far enough away to appear small, rather than a small object seen at close range.9

In the ratio­nal knowl­edge that com­mon notions allow us access to, the world is no longer appre­hend­ed from its effects but from its caus­es. By only being inter­est­ed in com­mon things and not in sin­gu­lar things, com­mon notions allow us to avoid the con­fu­sion present in the ideas of affec­tions, and to pos­i­tive­ly uti­lize the indi­ca­tions that are enveloped there.10 From then on, the idea of affec­tion not only has a spe­cif­ic pos­i­tiv­i­ty which makes it not sim­ply a pri­va­tion, but more­over this con­sis­ten­cy can be tak­en as the point of depar­ture for the process of ratio­nal knowl­edge, and takes on a pos­i­tive func­tion for knowl­edge.11 While in the imag­i­na­tion, where the ideas of affec­tions are con­sid­ered as attrib­ut­es of the exter­nal object, the “pos­i­tive func­tion” of ideas of affec­tions can­not be acti­vat­ed, com­mon notions use ideas of affec­tions as indi­ca­tions of the state of the human body and the exter­nal body – indi­ca­tions allow­ing one to ratio­nal­ly know a prop­er­ty com­mon to both the affect­ed body and the affect­ing body, or an aspect of the rela­tion between them. The ideas of affec­tions, there­fore, only effec­tive­ly become indi­ca­tions the moment when they are appre­hend­ed through com­mon notions, the sec­ond type of knowl­edge. This ratio­nal appre­hen­sion is inscribed in anoth­er process of knowl­edge, which takes for an object not the exte­ri­or world as it presents itself to us, but the exter­nal world inso­far as we are a part of it and it con­sti­tutes the cause of our affec­tions and affects. As Deleuze has cogent­ly shown, in this process of knowl­edge – whose object is the total­i­ty of joy­ful and sad affects, good and bad encoun­ters of a body, that is, the sin­gu­lar essence that is the idea of a body and which alone pro­vides access to the third type of knowl­edge – the indi­ca­tions of our body find a dif­fer­ent sense and usage.

These Spin­ozist char­ac­ter­is­tics of indi­ca­tion, fore­ground­ed by Deleuze, will make it pos­si­ble to con­cep­tu­al­ize how Althuss­er makes use of the notion of indi­ca­tion in For Marx. In texts like “On the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic” and “A Com­ple­men­tary Note on ‘Real Human­ism,’” but also “Con­tra­dic­tion and Overde­ter­mi­na­tion,” the notion of indi­ca­tion appears over and over.12 While in the “Note on ‘Real Human­ism’” indi­ca­tions are ide­o­log­i­cal con­cepts that inter­vene in the Marx­i­an process of knowl­edge – just before or dur­ing the break they are said to be indi­ca­tions of – in the two oth­er arti­cles they are knowl­edges in the prac­ti­cal state present in Marx’s sci­en­tif­ic works.13 Recall that the aim of “Con­tra­dic­tion and Overde­ter­mi­na­tion” and “On The Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic” is to state in an explic­it and the­o­ret­i­cal form the prob­lem of the the dif­fer­ence between the mate­ri­al­ist dialec­tic and the Hegelian dialec­tic. Althusser’s argues that the solu­tion to this prob­lem exists in a prac­ti­cal state in Marx­i­an texts:

So to pose and resolve our the­o­ret­i­cal prob­lem ulti­mate­ly means to express the­o­ret­i­cal­ly the “solu­tionexist­ing in the prac­ti­cal state, that Marx­ist prac­tice has found for a real dif­fi­cul­ty it has encoun­tered in its devel­op­ment, whose exis­tence it has not­ed, and, accord­ing to its own sub­mis­sion, set­tled.14

From this per­spec­tive [cadre], an indi­ca­tion is not a form of true knowl­edge: “For the (prac­ti­cal) recog­ni­tion of an exis­tence can­not pass for a knowl­edge (that is, for the­o­ry) except in the impre­ci­sion of a con­fused thought.”15 Knowl­edges in the prac­ti­cal state are thus for the most part defined neg­a­tive­ly. They refer to notions that are not yet sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly reflect­ed in a gen­er­al the­o­ry, and arise implic­it­ly in Marx’s the­o­ret­i­cal prac­tice or Marx­ist polit­i­cal prac­tice.

How­ev­er, these knowl­edges are not defined sole­ly through their lim­i­ta­tion; they also con­tain a cer­tain pos­i­tive func­tion inso­far as they con­sti­tute an indi­ca­tion for knowl­edge spe­cif­ic to the The­o­ry that Althuss­er is attempt­ing to elab­o­rate. This The­o­ry is Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy defined as the mate­ri­al­ist dialec­tic, or the

The­o­ry (with a cap­i­tal T)… of prac­tice in gen­er­al, itself elab­o­rat­ed on the basis of the The­o­ry of exist­ing the­o­ret­i­cal prac­tices (of the sci­ences), which trans­forms into ‘knowl­edges’ (sci­en­tif­ic truths) the ide­o­log­i­cal prod­uct of exist­ing ‘empir­i­cal’ prac­tices (the con­crete activ­i­ty of men).16

This involves pro­duc­ing the the­o­ry of the break that Marx ini­ti­at­ed by trans­form­ing a spe­cif­ic ide­o­log­i­cal prob­lem­at­ic into a sci­en­tif­ic prob­lem­at­ic. Thus, even if knowl­edges in their prac­ti­cal state miss the object that they are intend­ed for, in that they do not pro­vide an ade­quate knowl­edge of it, they can con­sti­tute an indi­ca­tion for anoth­er object than what was ini­tial­ly intend­ed. This def­i­n­i­tion of the indica­tive func­tion finds an echo in the ninth the­sis of Phi­los­o­phy and the Spon­ta­neous Phi­los­o­phy of the Sci­en­tists: “An ide­o­log­i­cal propo­si­tion is a propo­si­tion that, while it is the symp­tom of a real­i­ty oth­er than that of which it speaks, is a false propo­si­tion to the extent that it con­cerns the object of which it speaks.”17 The term symp­tom evokes the symp­to­matic read­ing of Marx’s texts that Althuss­er prac­ticed since For Marx, whose role is pre­cise­ly to view par­tic­u­lar con­cepts as signs of prob­lems and spaces of dis­course, as indi­ca­tions for a pro­gram­mat­ic The­o­ry that would always be in the process of begin­ning. On the oth­er hand, beyond con­tain­ing lessons for a process of knowl­edge yet to come or in the course of being con­struct­ed, indi­ca­tion has anoth­er func­tion: “Marx’s indi­ca­tions can and must pro­voke us into the­o­ry: into as rig­or­ous as pos­si­ble an expres­sion of the prac­ti­cal solu­tion whose exis­tence they indi­cate.”18 Indi­ca­tion can thus be under­stood as the vir­tu­al trig­ger of the process of knowl­edge, in which it finds a new usage. In terms of its indi­ca­tion, a con­cept has two mean­ings: one for the process through which it emerges, and anoth­er for what allows for a cer­tain form of engage­ment. These two “sens­es” or “mean­ings” cor­re­spond to two dif­fer­ent usages. When it was in the process of its emer­gence, which was thus the means by which the true effec­tu­at­ed itself, the con­cept is con­sid­ered as an ade­quate knowl­edge of the object to which it refers or des­ig­nates. After the pas­sage to anoth­er prob­lem­at­ic, the con­cept is no longer the ade­quate knowl­edge of an object; but if it func­tions as an indi­ca­tion, it nonethe­less con­tains a par­tial truth.

The ide­o­log­i­cal con­cepts of “Com­ple­men­tary Note on ‘Real Human­ism’” have a cer­tain pos­i­tive func­tion despite their inad­e­quate nature:

[In the phrase “real human­ism”] the adjec­tive real is indica­tive; it points out that to find the con­tent of this new human­ism you must look in real­i­ty – in soci­ety, the State, etc. So the con­cept of real-human­ism is linked to the con­cept of human­ism as its the­o­ret­i­cal ref­er­ence, but it is opposed to it through its rejec­tion of the latter’s abstract object – and by pro­vid­ing a con­crete, real, object. The word real plays a dual role. It shows up the ide­al­ism and abstrac­tion in the old human­ism (neg­a­tive func­tion of the con­cept of real­i­ty); and at the same time it des­ig­nates the exter­nal real­i­ty (exter­nal to the old human­ism) in which the new human­ism will find its con­tent (pos­i­tive func­tion of the con­cept of real­i­ty). How­ev­er, this pos­i­tive func­tion of the word ‘real’ is not a pos­i­tive func­tion of knowl­edge, it is a pos­i­tive func­tion of prac­ti­cal indi­ca­tion.19

Indi­ca­tions des­ig­nate unbal­anced ide­o­log­i­cal con­cepts that can set the mech­a­nism of the break in motion. Where­as knowl­edges in the prac­ti­cal state pro­voke in order to for­mu­late a Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy, unsta­ble ide­o­log­i­cal con­cepts dri­ve the pas­sage from ide­ol­o­gy to sci­ence. An unsta­ble ide­o­log­i­cal con­cept is a con­cept that most often played the role of a “trig­ger” for Marx’s own process of knowl­edge; it des­ig­nates the remain­ing dis­tance before exit­ing from the ide­o­log­i­cal prob­lem­at­ic, as the direc­tion towards which it leads:

This inad­e­qua­cy man­i­fest­ly des­ig­nates an action to be achieved, a dis­place­ment to be put into effect. It means that to find the real­i­ty allud­ed to by seek­ing abstract man no longer but real man instead, it is nec­es­sary to turn to soci­ety, and to under­take an analy­sis of the ensem­ble of the social rela­tions. In the phrase real-human­ism, in my opin­ion, the con­cept “real” is a prac­ti­cal con­cept, the equiv­a­lent of a sig­nal, of a notice-board [pan­neau indi­ca­teur] that ‘indi­cates’ what move­ment is to be put into effect and in what direc­tion, to what place, must there be dis­place­ment to reach the real earth rather than the heav­en of abstrac­tion. “The real this way!” We fol­low this guide and we come out into soci­ety, the social rela­tions, and the con­di­tions of their real pos­si­bil­i­ty.20

For Althuss­er, the ide­o­log­i­cal con­cepts of the young Marx should not be con­sid­ered as prin­ci­ples which clar­i­fy his sci­en­tif­ic works, but as traces of a process of thought or knowl­edge, show­ing that he start­ed with ide­ol­o­gy and indica­tive that this was an ide­o­log­i­cal­ly deter­mined milieu. In this frame­work, ide­o­log­i­cal con­cepts – main­ly those dat­ing from the peri­od of the break, where the move­ment of extrac­tion is set in motion – are evi­dence of the fact that thought does not take place in the imme­di­a­cy of a bring­ing to light or a tak­ing-hold of con­science; before pro­duc­ing the sci­en­tif­ic con­cepts of dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism, Marx had to make a detour through the “false.” Indi­ca­tion has a dou­ble func­tion for ide­o­log­i­cal con­cepts. As con­stituent traces of Marx’s process of knowl­edge, they are indi­ca­tions of the task Althuss­er sets for him­self; as inad­e­quate and unsta­ble con­cepts, they were prac­ti­cal indi­ca­tions for Marx him­self. Nev­er­the­less, although the inad­e­qua­cy of ide­o­log­i­cal con­cepts caus­es Marx to change ter­rain, all the rea­sons for the trig­ger­ing of the break are not found in the insta­bil­i­ty of ide­o­log­i­cal notions. Here, they con­sti­tute an occa­sion to know, an occa­sion to set a process of knowl­edge in motion; but at this moment, the process of sci­ence can­not take place yet, the occa­sion can­not be seized: “You can stay indef­i­nite­ly at the fron­tier line, cease­less­ly repeat­ing con­crete! con­crete! real! real! This is what Feuer­bach did, and Feuer­bach too, spoke of soci­ety and State[.]”21 The begin­ning of the sci­en­tif­ic process always remains nec­es­sar­i­ly con­tin­gent – which, accord­ing to Althuss­er, is sim­i­lar to the pas­sage from the first to sec­ond kind of knowl­edge.22

If there are unsta­ble ide­o­log­i­cal con­cepts, it is because the exit from ide­ol­o­gy is forced to be expressed in an ide­o­log­i­cal lan­guage. Sci­ence is con­struct­ed in a lan­guage that is not con­ve­nient, which con­tin­u­ous­ly risks mak­ing it indi­cate some­thing oth­er than its objects.

In the gen­er­al con­text of the human devel­op­ment which may be said to make urgent, if not inevitable, all great his­tor­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies, the indi­vid­ual who makes him­self the author of one of them is of neces­si­ty in the para­dox­i­cal sit­u­a­tion of hav­ing to learn the way of say­ing what he is going to dis­cov­er in the very way he must for­get. Per­haps, too, it is this sit­u­a­tion which gives Marx’s Ear­ly Works that trag­ic immi­nence and per­ma­nence, that extreme ten­sion between a begin­ning and an end, between a lan­guage and a mean­ing.23

Whence the prob­lems, dis­crep­an­cies, and imbal­ances of the Marx­i­an process of knowl­edge. If these are under­stood through a cer­tain prob­lem­at­ic, these prob­lems and imbal­ances, which can even­tu­al­ly func­tion as “notice-boards” in Marx, can also be indi­ca­tions for the for­mu­la­tion of Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy.

This ques­tion of the inad­e­qua­cy of ide­o­log­i­cal lan­guage for express­ing the inven­tion of new con­cepts can find an echo in the Ethics. In the pref­ace to Part IV, Spin­oza returns to his approach and the way in which he is forced to adopt the lan­guage of the imag­i­na­tion, even if this vocab­u­lary is tied to sev­er­al prej­u­dices and illu­sions:

As for the terms “good” and “bad,” they like­wise indi­cate noth­ing pos­i­tive in things con­sid­ered in them­selves, and are noth­ing but modes of think­ing, or notions which we form from com­par­ing things with one another…However, although this is so, these terms ought to be retained. For since we desire to form the idea of a man which we may look to as a mod­el of human nature, we shall find it use­ful to keep these terms in the sense I have indi­cat­ed.24

By incor­po­rat­ing them into an extreme­ly rig­or­ous sys­tem of the­ses, propo­si­tions, and demon­stra­tions, Spin­oza pro­vid­ed an incom­plete mean­ing to the­o­log­i­cal or Carte­sian notions such as “God,” “sub­stance,” “attrib­ut­es,” “free­dom,” “good,” or “bad.” Uti­liz­ing the “gen­er­al notions” of the imag­i­na­tion in a sense deter­mined by his project, Spin­oza redi­rects the usage of the exist­ing terms with­in the ide­o­log­i­cal milieu in which he con­struct­ed his thought, in order to alter their mean­ing.25 Defin­ing good and bad start­ing from an exist­ing mod­el, he sets in place mech­a­nisms of détourne­ment estab­lished start­ing from his own prob­lem­at­ic. Con­se­quent­ly, more geo­met­ri­co – the way in which the Spin­ozist sys­tem is con­struct­ed – can be con­sid­ered as the means by which Spin­oza tries to pro­duce a sys­tem­at­ic enter­prise or project of détourne­ment of ide­o­log­i­cal terms. Each of the propo­si­tions dis­cov­ers its mean­ing in rela­tion to oth­ers, the under­stand­ing of each term as well as their usage is grad­u­al­ly rede­fined as the read­er pro­gress­es through the text. The geo­met­ri­cal order thus would have the task of mak­ing the read­er real­ize the detour by which the author must pro­ceed in order to pro­duce these con­cepts. Not that we, the read­er, exact­ly repro­duce Spinoza’s path; rather it entails set­ting in motion a detour through the false, through the unin­tel­li­gi­ble, in order to grad­u­al­ly arrive at under­stand­ing. And pro­gres­sive­ly, ide­o­log­i­cal terms no longer indi­cate what they indi­cat­ed, but some­thing else entire­ly.

Althuss­er, in his fas­ci­na­tion with the great dog­mat­ic sys­tems like those of Spin­oza and Hegel, paid close atten­tion to the the­o­ret­i­cal and polit­i­cal effects that such a the­o­ret­i­cal appa­ra­tus [dis­posi­tif] could pro­duce:

In Spinoza’s antic­i­pa­tion of Hegel we tried to see, and thought that we had suc­ceed­ed in find­ing out, under what con­di­tions a phi­los­o­phy might, in what it said or did not say, and in spite of its form – or on the con­trary, just because of its form, that is, because of the the­o­ret­i­cal appa­ra­tus of its the­ses, in short because of its posi­tions – pro­duce effects use­ful to mate­ri­al­ism.26

Under these con­di­tions, sys­tem­at­ic expo­si­tion in no way con­tra­dicts the philo­soph­i­cal effects pro­duced; on the con­trary, it can, through the rig­or of the chain of its rea­sons, not only con­strict more tight­ly the space it intends to open, but make the con­sis­ten­cy of its own pro­duc­tion infi­nite­ly more rig­or­ous and more sen­si­ble and fruit­ful (in the strong sense) to the free­dom of the mind.27

Can we not say, then, that Althuss­er tried in his own way to set up a dog­mat­ic and sys­tem­at­ic the­o­ret­i­cal appa­ra­tus? For exam­ple, in Phi­los­o­phy and the Spon­ta­neous Phi­los­o­phy of the Sci­en­tists, or “Notes on Phi­los­o­phy” (1967-1968), Althuss­er pro­nounces his the­o­ret­i­cal inter­ven­tions in the form of a dog­mat­ic “sys­tem” of the­ses: one can observe here a means by which to make cer­tain terms indi­cate some­thing oth­er than their ini­tial or usu­al mean­ing – in short, a means of acti­vat­ing their “indica­tive func­tion.”

Neither Aufklärer, Nor Philosopher-King

When describ­ing his own work, Althuss­er repeat­ed­ly deploys the notion of indi­ca­tion:

We must rest con­tent with these schemat­ic ges­tures and not enter into the dialec­tic of this the­o­ret­i­cal labor.28

[O]ur expo­si­tion so far has been mere­ly indica­tive.29

But if this is the case, the fol­low­ing ques­tion is bound to be asked, even in the very sum­ma­ry state of my sug­ges­tions [indi­ca­tions].30

As I have giv­en some very hasty indi­ca­tions of this, through the con­cept of encroach­ment, in my note “Sur la psy­ch­analyse.”31

As an index [indice] which gives a neg­a­tive fore­taste of this absence, a sim­ple remark will do[.]32

The choice of this term does not seem to arise from mere chance, or the feign­ing of pru­dent mod­esty on Althusser’s part, but makes clear ref­er­ence to the con­cept of indi­ca­tion as it func­tioned in For Marx. View­ing these texts or par­tic­u­lar pas­sages as indi­ca­tions leads us to con­sid­er them as marked by a cer­tain incom­plete­ness, and to judge their inter­est not sole­ly on what these frag­ments cur­rent­ly hold, but on the mean­ing they could have tak­en on through oth­er process­es of knowl­edge and oth­er the­o­ret­i­cal inter­ven­tions, and thus start­ing from the effects they can pro­duce.

But we can, I believe, take a step fur­ther. By view­ing his the­o­ret­i­cal inter­ven­tions as indi­ca­tions, Althuss­er sig­nals that he under­stands them as moments of a larg­er process, com­posed of oth­er oth­er researchers, forms of research, and oth­er process­es:

I have not indi­cat­ed these ref­er­ence points because I think I can answer this ques­tion; but because they may per­haps make pos­si­ble, sub­ject to cer­tain sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies in progress, a def­i­n­i­tion of what might have been the role of the Ger­man Ide­ol­o­gy and even of Ger­man ‘spec­u­la­tive phi­los­o­phy’ in Marx’s for­ma­tion.33

[Philo­soph­i­cal] The­ses open the way to a cor­rect posi­tion on the prob­lems of sci­en­tif­ic and polit­i­cal prac­tice, etc. These for­mu­lae remain schemat­ic and much work will be nec­es­sary to com­plete them and ren­der them more pre­cise. But at least they indi­cate an order of research the trace of which may be found in sub­se­quent works.34

All of this already could lead to clar­i­fi­ca­tions, but I do not cur­rent­ly have the time to devel­op them, and they can be indi­cat­ed and fur­ther devel­oped by oth­ers besides myself, in more favor­able con­di­tions.35

In these pas­sages, Althuss­er seems to make ref­er­ence to an exist­ing research group.36 One thus gets a sense of what Althuss­er means by indi­ca­tions: he address­es this group with the goal of out­lin­ing ori­en­ta­tions, sug­gest­ing direc­tions for research, or even set­ting oth­er process­es of knowl­edge in motion. Addi­tion­al­ly, the oth­er “pro­voked” researchers have the task of pro­duc­ing indi­ca­tions them­selves, that can in their turn trig­ger oth­er process­es. Thus, a struc­ture of research would be estab­lished, which would func­tion through a net­work of researchers that ori­ent each oth­er through a sort of unfold­ing sequence of indi­ca­tions.

The func­tion of indi­ca­tion, then, seems able to work best only when it is sup­port­ed by the exis­tence of an effec­tive­ly active research group. There­fore, in order for the­o­ret­i­cal inter­ven­tions to be able act as indi­ca­tions, they must enter into a struc­ture that is not only the­o­ret­i­cal, but also mate­r­i­al and orga­ni­za­tion­al; a more expan­sive sys­tem con­struct­ed around com­mon prob­lems, a struc­ture of research in which a research group devel­ops and orga­nizes a col­lec­tive form of think­ing.37 Start­ing from this prac­tice of research in com­mon, which has indi­ca­tion as one of its tools, it is pos­si­ble to out­line the demand for a form of the trans­mis­sion of knowl­edge where the sep­a­ra­tion between the one who knows and the one who pas­sive­ly receives knowl­edge tends to dis­ap­pear. This would there­fore enable us to over­come the educa­tive mod­el where­in the teacher, sep­a­rat­ed from the stu­dents, is the only one to be in the posi­tion of a crit­i­cal rela­tion to ide­ol­o­gy and thus tru­ly active. This mod­el of “edu­ca­tion” which pro­ceeds by indi­ca­tions and not expli­ca­tions can antic­i­pate or res­onate with with Jacques Rancière’s The Igno­rant School­mas­ter, in which the teacher who pro­ceeds by expla­na­tions as a nec­es­sary inter­me­di­ary between the text and its read­ers is con­trast­ed with the “igno­rant school­mas­ter” who is con­tent to com­pel a stu­dent to think – or if one likes, pro­voke to think – through a rela­tion of one will to anoth­er will.38 In my view, the con­cept of indi­ca­tion con­tains resources for think­ing anoth­er mod­el of the trans­mis­sion of knowl­edge, one very dif­fer­ent than the one often attrib­uted to Althuss­er – in short, a form of trans­mis­sion fol­low­ing from a Kaut­sky­ist-Lenin­ist con­cep­tion of ide­ol­o­gy. This oth­er mod­el nev­er­the­less remains prob­lem­at­ic inso­far as it pri­mar­i­ly con­cerns intel­lec­tu­als – since it can only func­tion with­in a the­o­ret­i­cal and mate­r­i­al struc­ture of research – and does not seem to offer a solu­tion to the ques­tion about the inclu­sion of the mass­es in the process of knowl­edge.

It is only start­ing in the 1970s that Althuss­er inquires as to how the­o­ry can pro­duce effects for the mass­es with­out, how­ev­er, enter­ing into an educa­tive rela­tion which would repro­duce the divi­sion between lead­ers and led. In “Is it Sim­ple to Be a Marx­ist in Phi­los­o­phy?,” Althuss­er aims to elab­o­rate a Marx­ist and mate­ri­al­ist the­o­ry of the effi­ca­cy of the true, rely­ing on the Lenin­ist for­mu­la­tion of bend­ing the stick: in order to cor­rect false idea, a counter-force must be applied. This con­cep­tion of the effi­ca­cy of the true is opposed to that of the Enlight­en­ment:

It fol­lows that if you want to change his­tor­i­cal­ly exist­ing ideas, even in the appar­ent­ly abstract domain called phi­los­o­phy, you can­not con­tent your­self with sim­ply preach­ing the naked truth, and wait­ing for its anatom­i­cal obvi­ous­ness to “enlight­en” minds, as our eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry ances­tors used to say: you are forced, since you want to force a change in ideas, to rec­og­nize the force which is keep­ing them bent, by apply­ing a coun­ter­force capa­ble of destroy­ing this pow­er and bend­ing the stick in the oppo­site direc­tion so as to put the ideas right.39

For Althuss­er, the­o­ry “left to itself” has lit­tle effi­ca­cy since false ideas are anchored in the mate­ri­al­i­ty of social rela­tions – that is to say, in the mate­ri­al­i­ty of ide­ol­o­gy (with Spin­oza). At the end of the 1970s, this reflec­tion will end up giv­ing rise to the the­o­ry of dou­ble inscrip­tion in the topog­ra­phy, where­by in order for ideas to have an effi­ca­cy, they must be sit­u­at­ed not only in the space of the­o­ry, but also among the “ide­o­log­i­cal forms in which men become con­scious of [class] con­flict and fight it out,” among the “mass ide­o­log­i­cal forms.”40 And these ide­o­log­i­cal forms can only exist if they are sup­port­ed by mass orga­ni­za­tions. The effi­ca­cy of ideas on the mass­es there­fore depends on the exis­tence of mass orga­ni­za­tions which, con­trary to the Lenin­ist par­ty, does not repro­duce the divi­sion between lead­ers and led.

In The Future Lasts For­ev­er, Althuss­er approach­es the theme of the effi­ca­cy of the true from the per­spec­tive of the mate­ri­al­i­ty of ide­ol­o­gy, itself under­stood through the The­o­log­i­cal-Polit­i­cal Trea­tise:

The extra­or­di­nary thing is that the peo­ple them­selves, with their self-con­scious­ness and knowl­edge, then explained to these deaf, blind prophets the mean­ing of God’s mes­sage! They explained it to all of them, except that idiot Daniel who not only failed to under­stand what God said to him (the lot of all prophets) but even the expla­na­tion pro­vid­ed for him! This sim­ply proves that ide­ol­o­gy can, in cer­tain cas­es, and maybe nat­u­ral­ly does, remain total­ly impen­e­tra­ble to those sub­ject­ed to it.41

Even if he relates the ques­tion of the effi­ca­cy of the true more through the “polit­i­cal Spin­oza” or to a greater extent, Machi­avel­li and Lenin, than to the “eth­i­cal Spin­oza,” when Althuss­er talks about the resis­tance of ide­ol­o­gy to its clar­i­fi­ca­tion, one can­not help but think of Books III, IV, and V of the Ethics, and specif­i­cal­ly the first propo­si­tion of Book IV, where “No pos­i­tive qual­i­ty pos­sessed by a false idea is removed by the pres­ence of what is true, in virtue of its being true,” and then in its scholi­um:

This propo­si­tion is more clear­ly under­stood from II. xvi. Coroll. ii. For imag­i­na­tion is an idea, which indi­cates rather the present dis­po­si­tion of the human body than the nature of the exter­nal body; not indeed dis­tinct­ly, but con­fus­ed­ly; whence it comes to pass, that the mind is said to err…and sim­i­lar­ly oth­er imag­i­na­tions, where­in the mind is deceived, whether they indi­cate the nat­ur­al dis­po­si­tion of the body, or that its pow­er of activ­i­ty is increased or dimin­ished, are not con­trary to the truth, and do not van­ish at its presence…thus imag­i­na­tions do not van­ish at the pres­ence of the truth, in virtue of its being true, but because oth­er imag­i­na­tions, stronger than the first, super­vene and exclude the present exis­tence of that which we imag­ined[.]42

For Spin­oza, imag­i­na­tions can only van­ish or dimin­ish when they are opposed to oth­er stronger imag­i­na­tions. Con­se­quent­ly, if a the­o­ret­i­cal inter­ven­tion is to pro­duce effects, it is not enough to say the truth or the true: it must mobi­lize imag­i­na­tions. Now, in this pas­sage, imag­i­na­tions are pre­cise­ly “indi­ca­tions,” that is to say, the pos­i­tiv­i­ty of inad­e­quate ideas that is able to be uti­lized in a process of knowl­edge. From this point, we can bet­ter under­stand why for Althuss­er, as for Spin­oza, indica­tive con­cepts play a key role in the trans­mis­sion of knowl­edge.43 But could we not con­sid­er that by qual­i­fy­ing his own the­o­ret­i­cal inter­ven­tions as indi­ca­tions, in his own prac­tice Althuss­er seems to antic­i­pate, in a cer­tain way, the the­o­ry of the topo­log­i­cal dou­ble inscrip­tion that is made explic­it only in “Marx­ism Today” (1978) – even though in the Althusser­ian prac­tice of phi­los­o­phy ini­ti­at­ed in For Marx, this “dou­ble inscrip­tion” would not hap­pen in dif­fer­ent “places,” but oper­ates with­in the same the­o­ret­i­cal inter­ven­tion?44

It is not, how­ev­er, a mat­ter of using indica­tive or metaphor­i­cal for­mu­las in order to vul­gar­ize or ren­der sci­ence and phi­los­o­phy more com­pre­hen­si­ble. Indi­ca­tions are, rather, incom­pre­hen­si­ble for­mu­las, whose lack of expli­ca­tion and frag­men­tary char­ac­ter can pro­voke thought or think­ing. In “Trans­fer­ence and Counter-Trans­fer­ence,” Althuss­er returns to Spinoza’s the­o­ret­i­cal dis­pos­i­tive [dis­posi­tif]:

To enlight­en the read­er, that is, to ren­der the task more dif­fi­cult for him, we adopt­ed an order of expo­si­tion that con­forms, at least in its dis­po­si­tion, to the geo­met­ric order (more geo­met­ri­co), bor­rowed from the only philoso­pher who did so: Spin­oza. This order makes its own proofs. It ren­ders the thought of its author prac­ti­cal­ly unin­tel­li­gi­ble, and at the same time pro­duces sig­nif­i­cant the­o­ret­i­cal (Marx, Mon­tesquieu) and polit­i­cal (anti-reli­gious, rev­o­lu­tion­ary) effects in his­to­ry.45

The read­er thus does not look to be enlight­ened through expli­ca­tions, but rather pro­voked to think and even, indi­rect­ly, to act through con­cepts and for­mu­lae whose incom­pre­hen­si­ble char­ac­ter sets out a prob­lem. This way of con­ceiv­ing the effects of a the­o­ret­i­cal inter­ven­tion can be traced back to indi­ca­tion, to the extent that the lat­ter is pre­cise­ly a form of knowl­edge or con­cept that pos­es a prob­lem. This could poten­tial­ly res­onate with the Deleuz­ian Spin­ozism, and its max­im that “nobody can under­go for us the slow expe­ri­ence of learn­ing what agrees with our nature, the slow effort of dis­cov­er­ing our joys.”46 This makes it impos­si­ble to con­ceive the exit from the imag­i­na­tion as a seiz­ing of con­scious­ness brought in from the out­side by a third par­ty. The use of indica­tive for­mu­lae could then be under­stood as an attempt at giv­ing the read­er the pos­si­bil­i­ty of think­ing for them­selves, to form their own expe­ri­ence – in the man­ner of the Spin­ozist who effec­tu­ates the expe­ri­ence of his own joys – of the detours that thought caus­es to take place and prob­lems posed by the pro­duc­tion of the true. In light of this pas­sage, it is not a ques­tion of direct provo­ca­tion to action, but rather a trig­ger­ing of a process of knowl­edge that can then pro­duce, in an indi­rect man­ner and in a direc­tion the “trans­mit­ter of the indi­ca­tion” can­not con­trol, polit­i­cal, even rev­o­lu­tion­ary, effects. Because the trig­ger­ing of polit­i­cal action requires a detour through a kind of process of knowl­edge, the usage of indica­tive for­mu­lae or the con­sid­er­a­tion of inter­ven­tions as indi­ca­tions does not seek to have the same effect as a “polit­i­cal man­i­festo.” This indi­rect dimen­sion, which caus­es the polit­i­cal effi­ca­cy of the the­o­ret­i­cal inter­ven­tion to be quite frag­ile – improb­a­ble, even – hence­forth elim­i­nates the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a “philoso­pher-king” using such an inscrip­tion of sci­ence in ide­ol­o­gy in order to lead the mass­es.

How­ev­er, in order for Althusser’s texts to have any effi­ca­cy as indi­ca­tions for any read­er what­so­ev­er, and thus poten­tial­ly for the mass­es, the process trig­gered by the indica­tive con­cept needs to have time to be put into effect – seiz­ing the occa­sion is not suf­fi­cient. Read­ers must have the time to them­selves under­go this process anal­o­gous to “the slow expe­ri­ence of learn­ing what agrees with our nature , the slow effort of dis­cov­er­ing our joys.” By repeat­ing the adjec­tive slow, Deleuze insists on the extend­ed tem­po­ral­i­ty of the process by which an indi­vid­ual begins to know. For Spin­oza, the mind does not pass from pas­siv­i­ty to activ­i­ty all at once, but becomes more and more active to the extent that it pro­duces ade­quate ideas. With this con­cep­tion, where the rais­ing of aware­ness or con­scious­ness is not enough, the trans­mis­sion unfolds in a tem­po­ral process that must con­tin­ue through the reflec­tion of the read­er – in the after­ef­fect of the trans­mis­sion. Sim­ple indica­tive or metaphor­i­cal for­mu­lae, even if they con­sti­tute “stronger imag­i­na­tions than inad­e­quate ideas,” can­not be imme­di­ate­ly clar­i­fy­ing, but only indi­rect­ly, to the extent that they enable a trig­ger­ing of a process of knowl­edge. There­fore, the receivers of indi­ca­tions can “seize the occa­sion,” but nev­er real­ly enter this process as long as it is the pas­sive recep­tion from an “enlight­ened mas­ter”; to speak in terms of indi­ca­tions or metaphors is thus not enough to make the mass­es enter into a process of knowl­edge. The ques­tion of free time, which non-know­ers lack, is a clas­sic prob­lem in Marx­ism. To show that the exit from ide­ol­o­gy or the process of knowl­edge needs time comes back to express the neces­si­ty of cre­at­ing a com­mu­nist orga­ni­za­tion of labor, in order for each per­son to be able to under­go their own learn­ing expe­ri­ence. For Ran­cière, an insis­tence on the time required for intel­lec­tu­al activ­i­ty almost inevitably leads to the rea­son­ing that sees the mass­es as not hav­ing time to expe­ri­ence for them­selves this long detour through thought, and that they must be edu­cat­ed by the Par­ty and its intel­lec­tu­als.47 Thus, if the deploy­ment of “incom­pre­hen­si­ble” indi­ca­tions makes it pos­si­ble to estab­lish a rela­tion of trans­mis­sion where­in the edu­cat­ed are active from the first, it does not allow for the imme­di­ate for­ma­tion of such a rela­tion with the mass­es of work­ers.

Toward An Alternative Althusserian Spinozism

In Spin­oza, the process of knowl­edge forms or cre­ates the index sui et fal­si: the false is revealed at the same time as the true.48 We can under­stand what it means to be in ide­ol­o­gy – the mech­a­nisms that pre­vent us from think­ing – only once we have eman­ci­pat­ed our­selves from it. In Essays in Self-Crit­i­cism, Althuss­er empha­sizes the influ­ence this aspect of Spin­ozism had on his con­cep­tion of the process of knowl­edge.49 How can we inter­pret this in light of our prob­lem? In the Trea­tise on the Emen­da­tion of the Intel­lect, the method which allows for dis­tin­guish­ing the true from the false is the reflex­ive idea. Because it always comes after the process of knowl­edge has tak­en place, the method is nev­er defined a pri­ori. The idea of the true idea is above all an expe­ri­ence: the expe­ri­ence of the cer­tain­ty where­by once I know, I know that I know. Because an indi­vid­ual has expe­ri­enced and prac­ticed the process of pro­duc­ing the true, they can pro­duce oth­er true ideas as well as dis­tin­guish between an idea that was active­ly pro­duced by the intel­lect and an idea pas­sive­ly received via the mech­a­nisms of the imag­i­na­tion. In one of his lec­ture cours­es, Deleuze alludes to this “expe­ri­ence” by which the true pro­duces both its own norm and that of the false:

Every­one, every­one, even the most wretched of the wretched has had this expe­ri­ence, even the most idi­ot­ic of morons has missed some­thing that led him to say: but wouldn’t I, wouldn’t I have spent my whole life being mis­tak­en? So we always exit some­what from the first kind of knowl­edge, that is, in Spin­ozist terms, he will have under­stood even this tiny [minis­cule] point; he will have had this intu­ition of some­thing essen­tial, or indeed the intu­ition of an essence, or indeed the under­stand­ing of a rela­tion. We can be very gen­er­ous, there are very few peo­ple who are total idiots. There is always one thing they under­stand. We all have our one small thing.50

In Deleuze’s inter­pre­ta­tion, the kinds or “gen­res” of knowl­edge are not sep­a­rat­ed by a clean break, which only sci­ence could effec­tu­ate. Against this, in the Althusser­ian ver­sion of Spin­ozism – if we fol­low André Tosel – the verum does not cor­re­spond to any kind of idea pro­duced out­side of ide­ol­o­gy, but to Sci­ence, and more exact­ly, Marx­ist Sci­ence.51 The method, or the idea of the idea, would then con­sist in stat­ing, begin­ning from Marx’s the­o­ret­i­cal prac­tice, the pro­ce­dures and dis­pos­i­tives that trans­form Cap­i­tal into a sci­ence. The pro­duc­tion of the true idea, and the idea of the true idea, are not the fact of a sin­gle or same indi­vid­ual. The reflex­ive idea is no longer the expe­ri­ence that can effec­tu­ate an indi­vid­ual when, return­ing to the course of the process through which a true idea is pro­duced, all the ideas that have been pro­duced to that point are declared false. Since only sci­ence pro­duces new con­cepts, the philoso­pher him­self does not pro­duce the true, but is con­tent to declare the break and its con­se­quence; that is, what must be reject­ed in the false and what must be deemed true.52 Because Marx did not state the method by which he pro­duced his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ism and reject­ed the con­cepts pre­vi­ous­ly pro­duced with­in ide­ol­o­gy, it is up the “Marx­ist researchers” fol­low­ing him to ren­der this prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence explic­it in the form of a method. But by above all iden­ti­fy­ing the Spin­ozist method with the The­o­ry through which the sci­en­tifici­ty of Cap­i­tal is defined and mea­sured, Althuss­er seems to neglect the notion of expe­ri­ence. The lat­ter cat­e­go­ry no doubt obscures the bor­der between sci­ence and ide­ol­o­gy too much for Althuss­er to agree to deploy it. There is indeed, then, a cer­tain intel­lec­tu­al­ist or the­o­reti­cist ten­den­cy in Althusser­ian Spin­ozism.

This rais­es the prob­lem of the sta­tus of Althusser’s method, the The­o­ry of the­o­ret­i­cal prac­tice. By fix­ing the expe­ri­ence of cer­tain­ty in a the­o­ry, does not Althuss­er con­sid­er method as a means of guar­an­tee­ing a pri­ori the truth of future Marx­ist prac­tices? When Althuss­er affirms that he wants to artic­u­late Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy because researchers seek­ing to extend the scope of Marx­ism are in need of a “The­o­ry, that is, the mate­ri­al­ist dialec­tic, as the sole method that can antic­i­pate their the­o­ret­i­cal prac­tice by draw­ing up its for­mal con­di­tions,” we would tend to believe him.53 The fol­low­ing pas­sage also seems to move in the same direc­tion:

The exact the­o­ret­i­cal expres­sion of the dialec­tic is rel­e­vant first of all to those prac­tices in which the Marx­ist dialec­tic is active; for these prac­tices (Marx­ist “the­o­ry” and pol­i­tics) need the con­cept of their prac­tice (of the dialec­tic) in their devel­op­ment, if they are not to find them­selves defense­less in the face of qual­i­ta­tive­ly new forms of this devel­op­ment (new sit­u­a­tions, new “prob­lems”) – or to lapse, or relapse, into the var­i­ous forms of oppor­tunism, the­o­ret­i­cal or prac­ti­cal. These “sur­pris­es” and devi­a­tions, attrib­ut­able in the last resort to “ide­o­log­i­cal errors,” that is, to a the­o­ret­i­cal defi­cien­cy, are always cost­ly, and may be very cost­ly.54

These cita­tions could leave one think­ing that the aim of espous­ing Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy is to pro­vide a guar­an­tee for Marx­ist prac­tices. The The­o­ry of the­o­ret­i­cal prac­tice would thus be viewed as the “sci­ence of sci­ence,” that is, as a sci­en­tif­ic method whose duty is to con­trol and guar­an­tee the pro­duc­tion of the true as well as the divide between sci­ence and ide­ol­o­gy.55 How­ev­er, to view the The­o­ry expressed in the wake of Marx’s sci­en­tif­ic process as the a pri­ori method of new process­es of knowl­edge, of which Marx­ist researchers are the bear­ers, enters into con­tra­dic­tion with the Spin­ozist prin­ci­ple – very impor­tant for Althuss­er – that sees the true as being impos­si­ble guar­an­tee a pri­ori. There are, then, in Spinoza’s own think­ing and Althusser’s inter­pre­ta­tion, argu­ments which for­bid such a con­cep­tion of phi­los­o­phy as an a pri­ori method, serv­ing as a guar­an­tee for the thought-process­es of Marx­ist researchers:

No the­o­ry of knowl­edge (that is, no the­o­ry of an a pri­ori guar­an­tee of truth and its sci­en­tif­ic, social, moral, and polit­i­cal effects) in Spin­oza, no the­o­ry of knowl­edge in Hegel, either, where­as Descartes presents in the form of a divine guar­an­tee a the­o­ry of the guar­an­tee of every truth and, there­fore, of every knowl­edge.56

The pas­sages from For Marx need to be read in a dif­fer­ent light, where it is a ques­tion of the rela­tion­ship between phi­los­o­phy and Marx­ist researchers. In my view, the notion of indi­ca­tion can play a role in pro­vid­ing a dif­fer­ent mean­ing. In Spin­oza, although the con­di­tions for the process of knowl­edge are col­lec­tive – to the extent that the more a mode is affect­ed by oth­er modes, the more it pro­duces ideas – the process lead­ing toward the third type of knowl­edge is still indi­vid­ual. If one con­sid­ers the process of knowl­edge as an indi­vid­ual, then the lat­ter – hav­ing expe­ri­enced cer­tain­ty first­hand and the verum index sui et fal­si – has no need to express the method allow­ing for the pro­duc­tion of the true: if it has pro­duced the true, then it already is mak­ing use of it. The indi­vid­ual can then con­tin­ue the process of knowl­edge with­out pass­ing to the stage of ren­der­ing its method explic­it. That Althuss­er wants to express phi­los­o­phy as method could thus sig­nal, not that he turns sci­ence into a dog­ma that indi­vid­u­als pas­sive­ly receive through a third par­ty, but rather that he tries to “over­come” or “sur­pass” the indi­vid­ual nature of the Spin­ozist process of knowl­edge. If we con­sid­er, with Althuss­er, Marx’s approach to not be that of an indi­vid­ual, but that of sci­ence as a “process with­out a sub­ject,” then Marx­ist researchers, hav­ing as a goal the expres­sion of Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy, will not make Marx’s The­o­ry of the­o­ret­i­cal prac­tice into the a pri­ori method of their par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­ual process­es, but pro­long the asub­jec­tive process of sci­ence. And since this “process with­out a sub­ject” becomes an effec­tive­ly col­lec­tive process, research must be col­lec­tive­ly orga­nized through set­ting in place spe­cif­ic struc­tures and appa­ra­tus­es.

On the oth­er hand, in light of the role that the notion of indi­ca­tion plays in Althusser’s work, we can say that for him, express­ing a method does not con­sist in set­ting rules to fol­low in order to pro­duce the truth with­out risk of error, but rather in con­struct­ing the sys­tem in which indi­ca­tions pro­duced by dif­fer­ent “Marx­ist researchers” find their mean­ing and func­tion; the struc­ture in which prob­lems can serve as “notice-boards,” trig­gers, and points of ref­er­ence. Estab­lish­ing this method would mean putting the con­di­tions in place for trig­ger­ing a rup­ture with ide­ol­o­gy with­out at the same time guar­an­tee­ing the impos­si­bil­i­ty of a “fall-back” into it. Phi­los­o­phy would not be a guide inso­far as it pro­vides ref­er­ence points. It is not a sci­en­tif­ic method but one which, in declar­ing the rup­ture or break, pro­vides indi­ca­tions. On this point, it seems pos­si­ble to give a polit­i­cal direc­tion or sense to the almost exclu­sive­ly gnose­o­log­i­cal char­ac­ter of Althusser’s Spin­ozism, and demon­strate that this lat­ter is not hope­less­ly dat­ed by its loca­tion in a past con­junc­ture. I have indeed tried to sug­gest here that Althusser’s Spin­ozism, to the extent that it allows, through the con­cept of indi­ca­tion, to relay, bring togeth­er, and com­mu­ni­cate between texts so as to make them part of a larg­er struc­ture of research, makes it pos­si­ble to out­line a the­o­ry of appa­ra­tus­es of research [dis­posi­tifs de recherche]. And as long as one still sees the ques­tion of the orga­ni­za­tion of col­lec­tive research to be a tan­gi­ble demand in the present, Althusser’s Spin­oza evinces a cer­tain actu­al­i­ty, indeed a polit­i­cal actu­al­i­ty.

– Trans­lat­ed by Patrick King

This arti­cle is part of a dossier enti­tled “A Strug­gle With­out End”: Althusser’s Inter­ven­tions.

  1. Louis Althuss­er, For Marx, trans. Ben Brew­ster (New York: New Left Books, 1970); Louis Althuss­er and Éti­enne Bal­ibar, Read­ing Cap­i­tal, trans. Ben Brew­ster (New York: Ver­so, 2009 [1970]). Ele­ments of Self-Crit­i­cism (Elé­ments d’Autocritique), orig­i­nal­ly released as a book in France, was trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish as part of the 1976 col­lec­tion, Essays in Self-Crit­i­cism;:see Louis Althuss­er, “Ele­ments of Self-Crit­i­cism,” trans. Gra­hame Lock, in Essays in Self-Crit­i­cism (Lon­don: New Left Books, 1976), 105-50. 

  2. Louis Althuss­er, “Is It Sim­ple to Be a Marx­ist in Phi­los­o­phy?,” trans. Gra­hame Lock, in Essays in Self-Crit­i­cism, 190. 

  3. Ethics, IIP16, C2. The trans­la­tion is from Baruch Spin­oza, The Ethics and Select­ed Let­ters, trans. Samuel Shirley, ed. Sey­mour Feld­man (Indi­anapo­lis: Hack­ett, 1982). 

  4. Translator’s note: In his author­i­ta­tive trans­la­tions of Althuss­er, but espe­cial­ly in For Marx, Brew­ster has ren­dered the French indi­ca­tion or indi­catif as ges­ture or ges­tur­al, respec­tive­ly. In cer­tain places, like in note 12 but also in the main body of the text, I have slight­ly mod­i­fied Brewster’s trans­la­tion to align with Mancuso’s care­ful trac­ing of this Spin­ozist con­cep­tu­al vocab­u­lary. 

  5. Cf. in par­tic­u­lar the way in which André Tosel con­trasts Deleuze and Alexan­dre Matheron’s Spin­oza with that of Althuss­er: “Althusser’s Spin­oza lost any sort of ethico-polit­i­cal dimension…It is symp­to­matic that the pos­i­tive aspect of Spin­oza, the “pars con­stru­ens,” the the­o­ry of the process of eth­i­cal­iza­tion [procès d’éthisation], the lib­er­a­tion of the joy­ful pas­sions, the demo­c­ra­t­ic com­po­si­tion of mul­ti­ple cona­tus, empha­sized by French his­to­ri­ans and philoso­phers – Math­eron, Deleuze – is nev­er men­tioned.” André Tosel, Du matéri­al­isme de Spin­oza (Paris: Kimé, 1994), 210. 

  6. Gilles Deleuze, Expres­sion­ism in Phi­los­o­phy: Spin­oza, trans. Mar­tin Jouphin (New York: Zone Books, 1992), 262; Jacques Rancière, Althusser’s Les­son, trans. Emil­iano Bat­tista (New York: Con­tin­u­um Books, 2011). 

  7. Translator’s note: this terms refer to Rancière’s basic cri­tique of Althuss­er in his Althusser’s Les­son, that the latter’s under­stand­ing of the­o­ry – and ide­ol­o­gy – implied a strict divi­sion between between intel­lec­tu­als and work­ers (as well as stu­dents), and thus rein­forced hier­ar­chi­cal forms of the trans­mis­sion of knowl­edge. The “ped­a­gog­ic rela­tion” was thus framed in a top-down man­ner, and polit­i­cal prac­tice, con­trary to oth­er places in Althusser’s work, became depen­dent on the con­tent of instruc­tion and the dis­pen­sa­tion of cor­rect the­o­ry. For more on this point, cf. War­ren Mon­tag, “Intro­duc­tion to Althusser’s ‘Stu­dent Prob­lems,’” Rad­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy 170 (Novem­ber 2011), 8-10; also Peter Hall­ward, “Intro­duc­tion: The­o­ret­i­cal Train­ing,” in Con­cept and Form: Key Texts from the Cahiers pour l’Analyse, Vol­ume One, ed. Peter Hall­ward and Knox Peden (New York: Ver­so, 2011), 1-55. 

  8. Deleuze, Expres­sion­ism in Phi­los­o­phy: Spin­oza, 147-48. 

  9. Ibid., 149-50. 

  10. In his Intro­duc­tion à l’Ethique, Pierre Macherey explains that “by not relat­ing to any par­tic­u­lar thing, such an idea, a com­mon notion, by virtue of its very nature, does not in any way cur­tail the risk to indi­cate or con­sid­er anoth­er thing than that of which it is the idea.” Pierre Macherey, Intro­duc­tion à l’Ethique de Spin­oza, la deux­ième par­tie: la réal­ité men­tale (Paris: PUF, 1997), 287 (my empha­sis). 

  11. Spin­oza effec­tive­ly allows Althuss­er to con­ceive ide­ol­o­gy in its mate­r­i­al dimen­sions, and not mere­ly as an effect of a mate­r­i­al struc­ture. Accord­ing to Althuss­er in Essays in Self-Crit­i­cism, the Spin­ozist the­o­ry of the imag­i­na­tion cor­re­sponds to the the­o­ry of ide­ol­o­gy Marx tried to estab­lish in The Ger­man Ide­ol­o­gy with­out ful­ly doing so, remain­ing caught in a ratio­nal­ist con­cep­tion and turn­ing it into the Marx­ist under­stand­ing of ide­ol­o­gy as error, a sim­ple illu­sion to be destroyed. “Spinoza’s ‘the­o­ry’ reject­ed every illu­sion about ide­ol­o­gy, and espe­cial­ly about the num­ber one ide­ol­o­gy of that time, reli­gion, by iden­ti­fy­ing it as imag­i­nary. But at the same time it refused to treat ide­ol­o­gy as a sim­ple error, or as naked igno­rance, because it based the sys­tem of this imag­i­nary phe­nom­e­non on the rela­tion of men to the world ‘expressed’ by the state of their bod­ies. This mate­ri­al­ism of the imag­i­nary opened the way to a sur­pris­ing con­cep­tion of the First Lev­el of Knowl­edge: not at all, in fact, as a ‘piece of knowl­edge,’ but as the mate­r­i­al world of men as they live it, that of their con­crete and his­tor­i­cal exis­tence.” See Althuss­er, “Ele­ments of Self-Crit­i­cism,” 136. The con­cep­tion of ide­ol­o­gy sketched in For Marx owes much to Althusser’s inter­pre­ta­tion of the Spin­ozist con­cep­tion of the imag­i­na­tion as con­crete exis­tence. See also Louis Althuss­er, Psy­ch­analyse et sci­ences humaines (Paris: LGF, 1996),114. 

  12. Some exam­ples: “this “turn­ing right side up again” is mere­ly indica­tive, even metaphor­i­cal,” from “Con­tra­dic­tion and Overde­ter­mi­na­tion,” in For Marx, 89-90; “Of course, even this impre­ci­sion may cor­re­spond to a cer­tain degree of real­i­ty and as such be endowed with a cer­tain prac­ti­cal mean­ing, serv­ing as a ref­er­ence point or indi­ca­tion,” from “On the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic,” in For Marx, 172; “So they did not, could not – except in extreme­ly gen­er­al expo­si­tions or in his­tor­i­cal­ly defined sit­u­a­tions of the­o­ret­i­cal urgency – con­fuse the indi­ca­tion with which Marx sig­nalled that he had set­tled his rela­tions with Hegel with the knowl­edge of this solu­tion, that is, with the the­o­ry of this solu­tion,” from “On the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic,” 175; “Marx’s “indi­ca­tions” as to the “inver­sion” might well serve as ref­er­ence points where­by we can sit­u­ate and ori­ent our­selves in the ide­o­log­i­cal domain: they do rep­re­sent an indi­ca­tion towards, a prac­ti­cal recog­ni­tion of the exis­tence of the solu­tion, but they do not rep­re­sent a rig­or­ous knowl­edge of it,” from “on the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic,” 175; “That is why Marx’s indi­ca­tions can and must pro­voke us into the­o­ry: into as rig­or­ous as pos­si­ble an expres­sion of the prac­ti­cal solu­tion whose exis­tence they indi­cate, “ from “On the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic,” 175; “The adjec­tive real is indica­tive; it points out that to find the con­tent of this new human­ism you must look in real­i­ty – in soci­ety, the State, etc.,” from “Marx­ism and Human­ism,” in For Marx, 242; “How­ev­er, this pos­i­tive func­tion of the word ‘real’ is not a pos­i­tive func­tion of knowl­edge, it is a pos­i­tive func­tion of prac­ti­cal indi­ca­tion,” from “Marx­ism and Human­ism,” 242; “Real human­ism may today be…in the best of cas­es a prac­ti­cal signal…the indi­ca­tion towards a beyond, a real­i­ty which is still beyond, which is not yet tru­ly real­ized, but only hoped for, the pro­gramme of an aspi­ra­tion to be brought to life,” from “Marx­ism and Human­ism,” 247. 

  13. The con­cept of the break appeared for the first time in “On the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic”: “The the­o­ret­i­cal prac­tice of a sci­ence is always com­plete­ly dis­tinct from the ide­o­log­i­cal the­o­ret­i­cal prac­tice of its pre­his­to­ry: this dis­tinc­tion takes the form of a ‘qual­i­ta­tive’ the­o­ret­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal dis­con­ti­nu­ity which I shall fol­low Bachelard in call­ing an ‘epis­te­mo­log­i­cal break’”; see Althuss­er, “On the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic,” 167. In the pref­ace to For Marx, Althuss­er deploys the con­cept of the “break” in order to divide Marx’s work into sev­er­al peri­ods. The chief dis­tinc­tion sep­a­rates “the ‘ide­o­log­i­cal’ peri­od before, and the sci­en­tif­ic peri­od after, the break in 1845.” Cf. “Intro­duc­tion: Today,” in For Marx, 31-39. 

  14. Althuss­er, “On the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic,” 165. 

  15. Ibid., 166. Deleuze, when com­par­ing Spin­oza and Descartes, also explains the Spin­ozist con­cept of indi­ca­tion as a sim­ple recog­ni­tion, dis­tin­guish­able from true knowl­edge. 

  16. Ibid., 169. 

  17. Louis Althuss­er, “Phi­los­o­phy and the Spon­ta­neous Phi­los­o­phy of the Sci­en­tists,” trans. James Kavanagh, in Phi­los­o­phy and the Spon­ta­neous Phi­los­o­phy of the Sci­en­tists and Oth­er Essays. ed. Gre­go­ry Elliott, (Lon­don: Ver­so. 1990), 79. 

  18. Althuss­er, “On the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic,” 175. 

  19. Althuss­er, “Marx­ism and Human­ism,” 242. This text, added to For Marx as an appen­dix to the arti­cle “Marx­ism and Human­ism,” ana­lyzes the role played by the con­cept of “Real Human­ism” in Marx­ist the­o­ret­i­cal prac­tice. This expres­sion comes from an arti­cle by Jorge Sem­prún, which out­lines this con­cept bor­rowed from Marx’s ear­ly writ­ings. See Jorge Sem­prún, “L’humanisme social­iste en ques­tion,” Clarté, no. 58, Jan­u­ary 1965, reprint­ed in La Nou­velle Cri­tique, no. 164 (March 1965): 122-31. See “Marx­ism and Human­ism,” 242-47. 

  20. Ibid., 243. 

  21. Ibid., 244. 

  22. Cf. Althuss­er in his 1982 unfin­ished man­u­script, “The Under­ground Cur­rent of the Mate­ri­al­ism of the Encounter”: “for man could well remain at the lev­el of hearsay, and the thoughts of the first kind might not ‘take hold’ with those of the second…That is just how it is. One can remain at the lev­el of the first kind or not. There is not, as there is in Descartes, an imma­nent neces­si­ty that brings about the tran­si­tion from con­fused think­ing to clear and dis­tinct think­ing. There is no sub­ject, no cog­i­to, no nec­es­sary moment of reflec­tion guar­an­tee­ing this tran­si­tion. It may take place or it may not. And expe­ri­ence shows that, as a gen­er­al rule, it does not, except in a phi­los­o­phy which is aware that it is noth­ing.” Louis Althuss­er, “The Under­ground Cur­rent of the Mate­ri­al­ism of the Encounter,” in The Phi­los­o­phy of the Encounter: Lat­er Writ­ings; 1978-1987, trans. G.M. Gosh­gar­i­an, ed. Olivi­er Cor­pet and François Math­eron (New York: Ver­so, 2006), 178. 

  23. Althuss­er “On the Young Marx,” in For Marx, 83. 

  24. Spin­oza, Ethics, IV Pref. 

  25. Éti­enne Bal­ibar alludes to this process in Spin­oza and Pol­i­tics: “The ratio­nal knowl­edge pro­vid­ed by the last two gen­res does not, how­ev­er, lead us away from this com­mon ele­ment of lan­guage and into an incom­mu­ni­ca­ble ‘vision,’ though Spin­oza still uses the old term intu­itive knowl­edge to refer to the expla­na­tion of sin­gu­lar objects by their imma­nent caus­es. Rather, a form of intel­lec­tu­al work enables pri­ma­ry usage to be cor­rect­ed, so that the sequence of words accu­rate­ly reflects rela­tion­ships of nat­ur­al neces­si­ty (IIP18S; VP1). By this process, words come to refer to com­mon notions.” Éti­enne Bal­ibar, Spin­oza and Pol­i­tics, trans. Peter Snow­den (New York: Ver­so, 1998), 97-98. 

  26. Althuss­er, “Ele­ments of Self-Crit­i­cism,” 134-35. 

  27. Louis Althuss­er, “The Only Mate­ri­al­ist Tra­di­tion, Part I: Spin­oza,” trans. Ted Stolze in The New Spin­oza, ed. War­ren Mon­tag and Ted Stolze (Min­neapo­lis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, 2008), 4-5. 

  28. Althuss­er, “On the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic,” 185. 

  29. Althuss­er, “Con­tra­dic­tion and Overde­ter­mi­na­tion,” 113. 

  30. Louis Althuss­er, “Ide­ol­o­gy and Ide­o­log­i­cal State Appa­ra­tus­es,” trans. Ben Brew­ster, in Lenin and Phi­los­o­phy and Oth­er Essays (New York: Month­ly Review Press, 1971), 148. 

  31. Louis Althuss­er, “Trans­fert et con­tre-trans­fert,” in Écrits sur la psy­ch­analyse: Freud et Lacan (Paris: Stock/IMEC, 1996), 165. 

  32. Althuss­er and Bal­ibar, Read­ing Cap­i­tal, 88. 

  33. Althuss­er, For Marx, 85. 

  34. Althuss­er, “The Spon­ta­neous Phi­los­o­phy of the Sci­en­tists,” 72. 

  35. Althuss­er, “Trans­fert et con­tre-trans­fert,” 117-18. 

  36. One that cer­tain­ly cor­re­sponds to the group formed by Althuss­er and sev­er­al of his stu­dents, includ­ing Pierre Macherey, Éti­enne Bal­ibar, Yves Duroux, and Alain Badiou, and which result­ed in the Read­ing Cap­i­tal sem­i­nar, as well as “Three Notes on the The­o­ry of Dis­cours­es,” and “Notes on Phi­los­o­phy.” We know in fact that Althuss­er orga­nized sev­er­al research groups dur­ing the 1960s, main­ly with his (for­mer) stu­dents but also with Badiou, who was nev­er his stu­dent. The first research group, which includ­ed Pierre Macherey, Yves Duroux, and Éti­enne Bal­ibar, was in charge of the col­lec­tive orga­ni­za­tion of the Read­ing Cap­i­tal sem­i­nar at the ENS in 1965. We also find the trace of these col­lec­tive exper­i­men­ta­tions in Althusser’s “Three Notes on the The­o­ry of Dis­cours­es” (1966) and “Notes on Phi­los­o­phy” (1967-68), which start­ed through a series of cor­re­spon­dences with Badiou, Macherey, Bal­ibar, and Duroux. It is also known that in 1967 Althuss­er orga­nized a secret the­o­ret­i­cal for­ma­tion, com­posed of more or less of the same mem­bers: the “Groupe Spin­oza.” 

  37. This con­cep­tion finds an echo in Bour­dieu: “The log­ic of research is this inter­mesh­ing of prob­lems in which the researcher is caught up and which drags him along, often despite him­self. Leib­niz con­stant­ly com­plained to Descartes in his Ani­mad­ver­siones that he expect­ed too much of intu­ition, insight and intel­li­gence and did not rely enough on the automa­tisms of ‘blind thought’ (he was think­ing of alge­bra, which would make up for the inter­mis­sions of intel­li­gence). What is not under­stood in France, the land of the bril­liant essay, the cult of orig­i­nal­i­ty and intel­li­gence, is that method and the col­lec­tive orga­ni­za­tion of research work can pro­duce intel­li­gence, inter­mesh­ings of prob­lems and meth­ods that are more intel­li­gent than the researchers…To be sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly intel­li­gent is to place one­self in a sit­u­a­tion that gen­er­ates real prob­lems and real dif­fi­cul­ties. That is what I have tried to do with the research group that I run. A research group that works is a social­ly insti­tut­ed inter­lock­ing of prob­lems and ways of solv­ing them, a net­work of cross­checks, and, at the same time, a whole set of pro­duc­tions which, with­out any impo­si­tion of norms or any the­o­ret­i­cal or polit­i­cal ortho­doxy, have a fam­i­ly resem­blance.” Pierre Bour­dieu, Soci­ol­o­gy in Ques­tion, trans. Richard Nice (Lon­don: Sage, 1995), 29-30. Bour­dieu refers to Leib­niz, but a “blind thought that is more intel­li­gent than the researchers” could also con­nect to Spin­oza and the ques­tion of spir­i­tu­al automa­tism so impor­tant to Deleuze. 

  38. This rela­tion of will to will is a rela­tion of sub­jec­tion sep­a­rat­ing “dirigeant from exé­cu­tant,” but it only exists at the lev­el of will and not of intel­li­gences. If we want to link them togeth­er, this rela­tion of will to will can be traced back to the struc­ture of research put in place by Althuss­er. As any rela­tion of will, the col­lec­tive struc­ture which sup­ports or under­girds indi­ca­tion is that which push­es, forces, or pro­vokes think­ing. 

  39. Louis Althuss­er, “Is it Sim­ple to be a Marx­ist in Phi­los­o­phy?,” 171. 

  40. Ibid. 

  41. Louis Althuss­er, The Future Lasts For­ev­er, ed. Olivi­er Cor­pet and Yann Mouli­er Boutang, trans. Richard Veasey (New York: The New Press, 1993), 216-17. 

  42. Spin­oza, Ethics. IVP1S. 

  43. It can be duly not­ed that in “Con­tra­dic­tion and Overde­ter­mi­na­tion” – where he tries to expand his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ism (sci­ence) as well as for­mu­late dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism (phi­los­o­phy) – Althuss­er, while want­i­ng to “over­come” the metaphor of the rever­sal, mobi­lizes anoth­er indica­tive, even metaphor­i­cal, for­mu­la: that of the last instance. 

  44. Louis Althuss­er, “Marx­ism Today,” trans. James H. Kavanagh, in The Spon­ta­neous Phi­los­o­phy of the Sci­ences and Oth­er Essays, 267-80. 

  45. Louis Althuss­er, “Trans­fert et con­tre-trans­fert,” 177. 

  46. Deleuze, Expres­sion­ism in Phi­los­o­phy: Spin­oza, 262. 

  47. In The Philoso­pher and His Poor, Ran­cière denounces the “arti­fice of the absence of time” char­ac­ter­is­tic of a “Pla­ton­ism denied, that is, soci­ol­o­gized,” and keeps the work­er in his place because of the eter­nal fatigue con­sti­tu­tive of his being (131). He cri­tiques the rea­son­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly present in Sartre, which pre­sup­pos­es that work­ers do not speak because, since they are “too tired,” they “do not have the time,” lead­ing to the con­clu­sion: “Fatigue demands that the work­ers be repre­sented by a par­ty.” Jacques Ran­cière, The Philoso­pher and His Poor, trans. Andrew Park­er, Corinne Oster, and John Drury (Durham, NC: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2004), 131, 140. In Pro­le­tar­i­an Nights, Ran­cière stud­ies, through the per­spec­tive of his archival work on 19th cen­tu­ry labor his­to­ry, the moments of “stolen time” tak­en in the evening hours, dur­ing which work­ers decide to learn them­selves, to write prose, poems, and jour­nals, or orga­nize labor insti­tu­tions that they would not nor­mal­ly have had the time to keep run­ning. Jacques Ran­cière, Pro­le­tar­i­an Nights: The Work­ers’ Dream in Nine­teenth-Cen­tu­ry France, trans. John Drury (Lon­don: Ver­so, 2012). 

  48. “For truth reveals both itself and the false.” Baruch Spin­oza, Ep76 [Spin­oza to Burgh, Decem­ber 1675], in The Let­ters, trans. Samuel Shirley (Indi­anapo­lis: Hack­ett, 1995), 342. Truth could also be ren­dered as the true here. 

  49. Althuss­er, “Ele­ments of Self-Crit­i­cism,” 121-22, 132-42. 

  50. Gilles Deleuze, “Cours de 17/3/81.” 

  51. The true idea des­ig­nates here the the­o­ret­i­cal con­struc­tion of the con­cept ade­quate to the con­cept of knowl­edge, which can be rep­re­sent­ed by the struc­ture of Cap­i­tal itself. It is a mat­ter of reflect­ing it, of form­ing an idea of it, the idea of the idea, against two inad­e­quate rep­re­sen­ta­tions, spec­u­lar­ly inverse to each oth­er [invers­es spécu­laires l’une de l’autre], empiricism/idealism.” Tosel, Du matéri­al­isme de Spin­oza, op. cit., 206. 

  52. “[P]hilosophy does not pro­duce knowl­edges but states The­ses, etc.” Althuss­er, The Spon­ta­neous Phi­los­o­phy of the Sci­en­tists,” 72. 

  53. Althuss­er, “On the Mate­ri­al­ist Dialec­tic,” 170. 

  54. Ibid. 

  55. Ran­cière, Althusser’s Les­son, 23. 

  56. Althuss­er, “The Only Mate­ri­al­ist Tra­di­tion,” 5. 

Author of the article

is a doctoral student in Philosophy at the University of Liège.