Reblog > Being and Space

Over on the technophilia blog, my former colleague and friend Patrick Crogan has written a really insightful piece in response to the general reading of Stiegler I offer in my recent paper The Matter of ‘Virtual’ Geographies. Following on from my rather quick explanation of Stiegler’s use of the concept of technicity, Patrick brings a nuanced gloss on Stiegler’s reading of Heidegger in Technics and Time 1 – please read on below.

I would like to note, as I did in the acknowledgements of the article, that my own engagement with Stiegler’s work and the broader (post)phenomenological understandings of the human-technology relation comes from sustained, very rewarding, discussions with Patrick, whose own insightful work, expertise and translations have been invaluable.

Being and Space

Sam Kinsley, former colleague and technophilia, now at Exeter Uni, recently published ‘The Matter of “Virtual” Geography’ in Progress in Human Geography. It gives a comprehensive overview of the history of formulations of virtual spaces and realities since the heady days of the 1990s articulations of cyberspace, up to recent approaches to ideas of coded and networked spatialities. Sam perceptively mobilises Stiegler’s work including his use of Simondon and Heidegger to propose a way of describing and analysing digitally enabled spatial and temporal refigurations of contemporary existence and sociality.

I wanted to add a gloss on this mobilisation of Stiegler’s notion of technicity, as a point that seemed to me to touch on an important element in Stiegler’s critical adoption of Heidegger’s Being and Time – hence the ‘Being and Space’ title. Sam has this to say about Stiegler’s positioning of humans as always already preceded by technics in a way:

“Culture”, he writes, “can accordingly be thought of as metastable systems of retention, of exteriorized thought: ‘A new born child arrives into a world in which tertiary retention [data, images, writing and so on] both precedes and awaits it, and which, precisely, constitutes the world as world’ (Stiegler, 2010a: 9, original emphasis). The ongoing creation of shared knowledge, and thus a shared memory and history, is in large part mediated by technology (with the notable exceptions of practices of oral history and storytelling).”

Absolutely, and here Stiegler’s take on and taking from Heidegger’ notion of Dasein’s ‘throwness’ is evident. Dasein, the being for whom its being is a question, ‘falls’ into time, and encounters a facticity already there. This paradoxical futurity of what precedes Dasein in a sense programmes (though this word is evocative much more of Stiegler’s Heidegger than Heidegger) the questioning of being that characterises Dasein, along with the tension between an intratemporal business with everyday things seeking to avoid the question and an authentic encounter with it via (in Heidegger) an assuming of the heritage of the collective past as pro-genitor and horizon of Dasein’s future possibilities.

In the latter part of Technics and Time 1 Stiegler ‘deals with’ Heidegger, identifying this notion of a throwness into an already existent facticity as his major insight, while also identifying quite precisely the point in Being and Time  (at a certain moment in the famous chapter on historicality and temporality) where Heidegger turns away from the implications of this constitutive factical technicity of Dasein and towards the more problematic notion of a history of being as expressed in the community of the volk  – the community – thought separately as a spiritual continuity, somehow transcendent from a facticity now relegated to the status of intratemporal covering over of the former. For Stiegler, as Sam’s account indicates, technics is an irreducible dimension of individual and collective being and any ‘authentic’ reflection or encounter with the question of one’s being, or of being in general (in philosophy, religion, politics etc) develops on the basis of and out of conditions that are factical, that pre-exist s/he reflecting, and that also make possible the transmission and communication of that reflecting to others to come after.

One more note: the oral history and storytelling that is part of the the “ongoing creation of shared knowledge” Sam describes is also mediated technically, if not ‘technologically’ (but perhaps today few instances of mediation passes completely to one side of the pervasive electronic media milieu). Oral transmission is always part of a linguistic technicity; it is always undertaken in conjunction with certain rituals and gestures associated with the cultural event of story recital; and often these will include the production of graphics of various kinds, rupestral, sand-painting, bodily inscription and so forth. That minds retain these forms and conventions and rites testifies to the profound interdependence of organic and non-organic spatial memory supports in the maintenance and evolution of individual and cultural identity.

The membrane as a limit in processes of individuation

I stumbled across a piece, in French, in the Cahiers Simondon by Baptiste Mozirot in which he offers an interesting analysis about the locus of the limit between the internal and the external in processes of individuation–something that Bernard Stiegler situates as an aporia of origin in relation to technics–which he interrogates through Gilbert Simondon’s concept of the membrane. I thought the following passage was of particular interest because, for me, it resonates with Deleuze’s understanding of singularities as the fold between the actual and the virtual, constituting a present in the folding together of the potentialities of past and future. It is perhaps interesting to think about this in relation to Stiegler’s interpretation of trans-individuation…

As usual, clarifications or explanations are in square brackets.

“The chance constraint as a modality of individuation”.

From p. 28:

Experience constitutes – in the active and processual sense of the word – a coding which is neither abstract nor neutral, which is not the ordering of the thematic arrangement according to a homogeneous and conventional order, but a vital configuration that integrates the experiences of the present in the interpretive codings of future experience. This coding is operated precisely by the membrane as defined by Simondon: the membrane is the generic organ which interfaces the interior with the exterior, the past and the future, in the dual mode of the qualification / interpretation of the future by the past and the future integration of past codings. It is through this perspective that we can apply the model of the membrane to think the integration of singularities in individual structurings, where a posteriori becomes a priori. The membrane is the the topological locus in which are knitted together the playing out of memory and compatability in the process of the constitution of individual structures that are individuation.

We can therefore make explicit the horizon affected by this theorectical development: it consists in applying nodal formulae, which Simondon implements in MEOT [Du Mode de l’Existence des Objet Techniques] to think living memory, to the theory of individuation. The first of these theses is formulated as follows: “the living is that in which the a posteriori becomes a priori“. This formula precisely describes the modality of individuation in which the structures of individuation are the product of chance encounters (which are unfinished), which organise future aleatory encounters by selectivity and compatability. The result is that a chance intervention into individuation is always something of a chance constraint, objectively by the content of the milieu of individuation, subjectively through the compatability of the individual in relation to the encounters to come; a compatability developed historically according to the structurings induced by prior encounters.


L’expérience constitue – au sens actif et processuel de ce verbe – un codage qui n’est ni abstrait ni neutre, qui n’est pas l’ordre du rangement thématique selon un ordre homogène et conventionel, mais une configuration vitale qui intègre les expériences présentes dans le code d’interprétation des expériences futures. L’operateur de ce codage, c’est précisément la membrane telle qu’elle est définie par Simondon: la membrane est l’organe générique qui fait communiquer l’intérieur avec l’extérieur, le passé et le futur sur le double mode de la qualification / interprétation du futur par le passé et de l’intégration du futur au codage passé. C’est dans cette perspective que l’on peut appliquer le modèle de la membrane pour penser l’intégration des singularités dans le structuration individuelle, où l’a posteriori devient a priori. La membrane est le lieu topologique où se noue le jeu de la rencontre et de la compatibilité dans le processus de constitution des structures individuelles qu’est l’individuation.

On peut dès maintenant explicitier l’horizon atteint par cette élaboration théoretique: il consiste à appliquer à la théorie de l’individuation les formules nodales que Simondon met en place pour penser la mémoire vivante dans MEOT. La première de ces thèses se formule ainsi: «le vivant est ce en quoi l’a posteriori devient a priori.» Cette formule qualifie avec précision la modalité de l’individuation suivant laquelle les structures d’individuation sont des produits de rencontres de hasard (non finalisées), qui vont /organiser/ par selectivité et compatabilité les rencontres aléatoires futures. De sorte que l’intervention du hasard dans l’individuation est toujours celle d’un hasard /contraint/, objectivement par le contenu du milieu d’individuation, subjectivement par la /compatibilité/ de l’individu à l’égard des rencontres à venir, compatabilité élaborée historiquement suivant les structurations induites par les rencontres antérieures.


Morizot, B. 2012 «Le hasard contraint comme modalité de l’individuation» in Barthelemy, J-H. ed. Cahiers Simondon 4, Edition L’Harmattan, pp. 9-32.

Simondon – the technical object and the transindividual

Following on from the excellent biography of the philosopher Gilbert Simondon to which I linked recently, here he is, in his own words, in a short interview:

I came to this thanks to the Politics and Matter research group (Geographical Science, University of Bristol) blog.

In the interview, the subject of individuation is touched upon and briefly articulated. This is central to Simondon’s philosophical project as a theorisation of a metastable and pre-individual “more-than-one”, as explained in the aforementioned biography.

Muriel Combes excellent introduction to Simondon’s work “Gilbert Simondon and the philosophy of the transindividual“, recently translated for MIT Press, has been reviewed by David Scott on NDPR. It is a detailed and useful review and offers some insights into Simondon’s work in its own regard, well worth a read if you’re interested.

“Save the technical object” – Gilbert Simondon interview, 1983

Andrew Iliadis has translated what seems like a really interesting interview with Simondon from 1983, originally in the magazine Esprit. Simondon covers creativity, novelty, alienation (in technics as the originary relation of the human-technical) and invention. There are, as one might expect, obvious resonances with Stiegler’s work, e.g.:

“Technics are never completely and forever in the past. They contain a power that is schematic, inalienable, and that deserves to be conserved and preserved.”

I recommend reading it.

Gilbert Simondon biography

Jussi Parikka has highlighted the translation of a biography of the philosopher Gilbert Simondon [the original was written by Nathalie Simondon], who was a key influence, of course, on the work of Bernard Stiegler and also Gilles Deleuze. In his post, Parikka highlights the hands-on nature of Simondon’s practice – the fact that he built a television in the basement of his school – and the resonances with Friedrich Kittler’s building of a synthesiser. This is also a link, as Phillipe Petit highlights in his introduction to the book of interviews Économie de l’hypermatériel et psychopouvoir, with Bernard Stiegler, whose father worked for Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, the French national broadcaster between 1939-64, and built their first TV. Parikka picks out the neologism of ‘thinkerer’ (commingling ‘tinkerer’ and ‘thinker’) coined by Erkki Huhtamo to describe Simondon, a term that might also be applied to Stiegler for his various means of practising philosophy.

The biography demonstrates what an extraordinary, and, sadly, relatively short, career Simondon had, including a fairly meteoric rise from teaching at a lycée in Tours (1953-55) to being appointed Chair of Psychology B at the Sorbonne (1965). Simondon worked with Barchelard and Hyppolite, as a postgraduate, and his thesis was examined by Jean Hyppolite, Raymond Aron, Georges Canguilhem, Paul Ricoeur and Paul Fraisse. Quite something!

The biography also includes very interesting quotes from letters to Bachelard and Hyppolite as well as fantastic summaries of Simondon’s key works. The experimental spirit of Simondon’s work is strongly evoked throughout, with a clear commitment to a collaborative methodology (across and between science and philosophy):

[He] chose a path of reflection where philosophy might inform science. Such collaboration between science and philosophy, he wrote in 1954 to his future supervisor [Hyppolite], must be carried out not in the results, which would be “an invasion of thought by unworthy followers, as shown in scientistic time,” but in the method: “At the level of method, science is never a feudal lord ruling over a vassal philosophy; rather, it is a relation between the spontaneous and the reflective. The spontaneous governs the reflective, as in scientism, only when the reflective activity is not contemporaneous with the spontaneous activity.”

The biography makes for essential reading for those interested not only in the philosophy of technology and technics, but also for those with a broader interest in the history of ideas, in particular related to the development of what we call continental philosophy.