affectivity, allagmatic, becoming, Disparation, emotivity, ensemble, form, hylemorphism, individualization, individuation, information, metastability, milieu, model, modularity, ontogenesis, potential, preindividual, signal, signification, Simondon, subject, system, Transduction, transindividual

A Short List of Gilbert Simondon’s Vocabulary


1. Affectivity -This term designates a relation between an individualized being and the pre-individual milieu; it is thus heterogeneous to individualized reality. This is why Simondon claims that affectivity, more than perception, indicates a spirituality that is greater than the individualized being (the Sublime) because perception is merely the functions of the structures interior to this being (L’Individuation psychique et collective, p. 108–hereafter cited as IPC). Simondon writes that affectivity is the ground of emotion, as perception is the ground of action (107).

2. Allagmatic – The Greek word allagma can mean change or vicissitude, but it can also mean that which can be given or taken in exchange, which more genuinely captures the idea of energy exchange in Simondon’s usage.

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Bachelard, Barthélémy, becoming, bergson, communication, complexity, French Translation, individuation, ontogenesis, ontology, philosophy of science, physiology, Simondon, singularities, Teildhard de Chardin, transindividual, Untranslated Theory

Translation: Jean-Hugues Barthélémy on Simondon, Bergson and Teilhard de Chardin


The following is the first half of chapter 1 from Jean-Hugues Barthélémy’s book Penser l’individuation: Simondon et la philosophie de la nature. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2005. p. 37-48. Original translation by Taylor Adkins on 10/22/07.

Chapter 1

The concept of object and the concept of subject, in the same virtue of their origin, are limits that philosophical thought must overcome. –Gilbert Simondon

1. Ontology and ontogenesis: from Bergson to Simondon

The philosophically fundamental watchword of all Simondian thought undoubtedly resides in the idea according to: the process of individuation cannot be ob-jectified by knowledge, since the former is produced by the latter if the knowledge of individuation is itself the individuation of knowledge. This is why the principal introduction of his thesis ends with these lines:

We cannot, in the usual sense of the term, know the individuation; we can only individuate, individuate ourselves, and individuate in ourselves; this seizure is thus, in the margin of knowledge properly stated, an analogy between two operations, which is a certain mode of communication. The individuation of the real exterior to the subject is seized by the subject thanks to the analogical individuation of knowledge in the subject; but it is through the individuation of knowledge and not by knowledge alone that the individuation of (non-subject) beings is seized. Beings can be known by the knowledge of the subject, but the individuation of beings can be seized only by the individuation of the knowledge of the subject.[1]

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abstract machine, assemblage, autopoeisis, becoming, being, change, communication, complexity, differentiation, Disparation, formalization, French Translation, individuation, information, materiality, metastability, model, modularity, morphogenesis, morphology, ontogenesis, ontology, philosophy of science, production, self-actualization, Simondon, singularities, structure, system, technology, Untranslated Theory

Translation: Simondon, Completion of Section I, Chapter 1, The Individual and Its Physico-Biological Genesis


In the first place, singularities-events correspond to heterogeneous series which are organized into a system which is neither stable nor unstable, but rather ‘metastable,’ endowed with a potential energy wherein the differences between series are distributed. (Potential energy is the energy of the pure event, whereas forms of actualization correspond to the realization of the event). In the second place, singularities posses a process of auto-unification, always mobile and displaced to the extent that a paradoxical element traverses the series and makes them resonate, enveloping the corresponding singular points in a single aleatory point and all the emissions, all dice throws, in a single cast. In the third place, singularities or potentials haunt the surface. Everything happens at the surface in a crystal which develops only on the edges. Undoubtedly, an organism is not developed in the same manner. An organism does not cease to contract in an interior space and to expand in an exterior space–to assimilate and to externalize. But membranes are no less important, for they carry potentials and regenerate polarities. They place internal and external spaces into contact without regard to distance. The internal and external, depth and height, have biological value only through this topological surface of contact. Thus, even biologically, it is necessary to understand that ‘the deepest is the skin.’ The skin has as its disposal a vital and properly superficial potential energy. And just as events do not occupy the surface but rather frequent it, superficial energy is not localized at the surface, but is rather bound to its formation. Gilbert Simondon has expressed this very well: the living lives at the limit of itself, on its limit… The characteristic polarity of life is at the level of the membrane; it is here that life exists in an essential manner, as an aspect of a dynamic topology which itself maintains the metastability by which it exists… The entire content of internal space is topologically in contact with the content of external space at the limits of the living; there is, in fact, no distance in topology; the entire mass of living matter contained in the internal space is actively present to the external world at the limit of the living… To belong to interiority does not mean only to ‘be inside,’ but to be on the ‘in-side’ of the limit… At the level of the polarized membrane, internal past and external future face one another. [Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense. Trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. New York: Columbia, 1990. p. 103-104.]

Gilbert Simondon, L’individu et sa genese physico-biologique (Paris: P.U.F., 1964), pp. 260-264. This entire book, it seems to us, has special importance, since it p Continue reading

abstraction, French Translation, individuation, metastability, morphology, ontogenesis, ontology, Simondon

Translation: Simondon and the Physico-Biological Genesis of the Individual

Simondon, Gilbert. L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique. Paris : Presses Universitaires de France, 1964. Original Translation by Taylor Adkins.


Chapter One: Form and Matter

Section I—Foundations of the Hylemorphic Model: Technology of the Capture of Form

1. The Conditions of Individuation: pp. 27-39.

The notions of form and matter can help solve the problem of individuation only if they are first compared to its position. So if by the contrast it was discovered that the hylemorphic system expresses and contains the problem of individuation, it would be necessary, under pain of locking ourselves [sous peine de s’enfermer] into begging the question, to regard the research of the principle of individuation as logically anterior to the definition of matter and form.

It is difficult to consider the notions of form and matter as innate ideas. However, at the moment when one would be tempted to assign a technological origin to them, one is arrested by the remarkable capacity of generalization which these notions have. It is not only the clay and the brick, the marble and the statue which can be thought according to the hylemorphic model, but also a great number of formal, genetic and compositional actualities, in the living world and the psychic domain. The logical force of this model is such that Aristotle could use it to support a universal system of classification which applies itself to reality by following a logical path as well as a physical path, by ensuring the agreement of the logical order and the physical order, and by authorizing inductive knowledge. Even the ratio of the soul and the body can be thought according to the hylemorphic model.

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becoming, being, biology, equilibrium, flux, individuation, metastability, ontogenesis, ontology, Simondon, singularities

A Sketch of Gilbert Simondon


Simondon, Gilbert. “The Genesis of the Individual.” Trans. Mark Cohen and Sanford Kwinter. Incorporations. Ed. Jonathan Crary. New York: Zone, 1992. 296-319.

At the same time that a quantity of potential energy (the necessary condition for a higher order of magnitude) is actualized, a portion of matter is organized and distributed (the necessary condition for a lower order of magnitude) into structured individuals of a middle order of magnitude, developing by a mediate process of amplification (304).

Simondon’s chapter in the Incorporations volume constitutes the introduction to his L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique. In his review on that book, Deleuze stresses that Simondon articulates a rigorous distinction between individuality and singularity due to an examination of the principle of individuation. Simondon begins with the problem of inferring a principle of individuation because current schools of thought tend to view the individual as a given. This confers an ontological privilege to an already constructed individual. But Simondon sees this view as a backwards approach, or what he terms reverse ontogenesis. In fact, because Simondon believes that individuation is merely one stage in the becoming of a being and thus is not the totality of a being, individuality falsely attributes a unity and identity to a heterogeneous milieu of forces from which the pre-individual nature of a being enters into communication with another order of magnitude. Thus, instead of focusing on the individual in order to infer the principle of individuation, Simondon asserts from the beginning that his project is to understand the individual in terms of individuation, which can be considered now as ontogenesis itself.

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