Philosophy of Simondon

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* Book: La philosophie de Simondon. Pascal Chabot. Vrin, 2003


The description notice, in French, is moved to the bottom.


Reading notes from Michel Bauwens, 2006:

Simondon, was (is?) a philosopher of technology which was the favourite of Deleuze, and engaged with the thought of Carl Gustav Jung.

Chapter 1

The first chapter talks about concretization. Technology is not a rationally planned process to solve problems. That may be the trigger, but an invention always brings more:

   - "l'invention charge la structure d'une pluralité de fonctions … La concrétisation apporte des fonctions non-recherchée, sur-abondante.”

He distinguishes abstract objects, which are artifices, made by man, from 'concrete' objects, which surpass human intentions.

   - "L’objet technique concret se rapproche du mode d’existence des objets naturels."

Next he talks about invention and time. Traditional people did not invent, but re-iterated foundational myths. They lived an eternal present. Historical consciousness was a radical break with this. This new concept also gave freedom to craftsmen and artists. The inventor no longer wants to adapt to nature (for example accepting cold water), but want to change it (inventing the heater). Invention, such as that of the new accounting methods in Sumeria, allows to integrate previously separate elements at a higher level of unity. The invention creates a new more complete world by integration. Simondon is always looking for more coherence.

Chapter II - Technical 'Encyclopedism'

Traditional technique was sacred, transmitted in communities by repetition. It was highly dependent on nature, localities, and all kinds of constraints. This state of 'technical infancy' would change with the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert, and is the start of a technical maturity.

Technique in its infancy was private, local, locked in rivalries, with jealously guarded secrets. The Encyclopedia brings them into the open, and connects them to each other. Technology becomes One!

Simondon says that the West has known 'three systemic eras':

   - 1) that of language, basis of the Greek City
   - 2) that of religion, basis of medieval order
   - 3) that of technique, of which the Enligthenment saw the start of its globalization.

The trend is towards simplification and primitivisation, because that allows for a great expansion, and a greater commonality (religion is more primitive and common than language as well): "a system with simple codes can diffuse itself with greater facility".

While certain historians such as B. Gilles, say that the Enligthenment had no notion of progress, Simondon disagrees. While it ignored radical discontinuous change (such as the steam engine would bring), it did see everything get better and smoother, i.e it saw continuous and ongoing small progress. They didn't see any opposition between technology and nature. Nature was mechanistic, artisans copied it, and this led to gentle progress and perfection. They made the reasoning error that machines copy nature, not seeing that the way they interpreted nature, was the result of these machines. Simondon saw this naivety, but wanted to retain their optimism, the reflection of a happy period. He aims for a new humanism, not based on rethinking nature, but on a new vision of technique.

In the 19th cy though, humans become a servant to technique, in the form of 'technical individuals' (machines doing their own thing, and displacing humans).


1. From the publisher:

In French:

- Ce livre étudie la philosophie de la technique de Gilbert Simondon (1924-1989) et sa pensée de l’individuation. À travers les grands moments de l’histoire des techniques (tradition, révolution industrielle, cybernétique), il interroge les notions de progrès, d’aliénation et de mémoire. Il analyse aussi le concept d’individuation et l’impact du devenir sur les organismes et le psychisme. Enfin, il met en lumière plusieurs aspects méconnus de la pensée de Simondon : son rapport à la psychologie des profondeurs, au sacré et à la « technoesthétique ». Les techniques ont transfomé les sociétés. Elles sont le bras armé d’une imagination nouvelle qui s’est donné les moyens de concrétiser ses désirs. Les interrogations sont nombreuses : quelles individuations valoriser, quelles techniques faut-il défendre et quelles autres réprouver? À partir de confrontation avec Diderot, Bergson, Jung, Eliade ou Jankélévitch, la __philosophie de Simondon__ occupe une place centrale dans ce débat.

2. From the author:

In French:

- L’ouvrage est une version condensée de la thèse de doctorat de l’auteur : « **Processus technique et processus d’individuation dans la philosophie de Gilbert Simondon** », qui fut la première thèse universitaire consacrée à ce penseur majeur, sous la direction du Pr. Gilbert Hottois  (Jury : Anne Fagot-Largeault, Isabelle Stengers, Jean-Noël Missa, Maurice Weyenberg). L’ouvrage propose une initiation à la philosophie de Simondon, en explicitant les concepts d’individuation, de devenir, de concrétisation et de transduction. Il explore le rapport de la philosophiesimondonienne à Bergson, Marx et Jung, et montre son intérêt irremplaçable pour la compréhension de notre époque.