animal, desire, ecology, individuation, mythology, psychology, Simondon

Simondon in English: “Two Lessons on Animal and Man”

It is my great delight to help announce the publication of one of the first book-length English translations available of the writings of French philosopher of technology Gilbert Simondon (1924-1989), published by Univocal. The volume is available under the title Two Lessons on Animal and Man and was translated by Drew Burk. The work is composed of a series of lectures intended for undergraduates interested in the humanities, especially philosophy, sociology and psychology.

As the translator puts it, “[f]or many, Gilbert Simondon is an unheard of landscape of philosophical inquiry. For other thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Bernard Stiegler his work on individuation is essential for the task of moving outside anthropocentric conceptions of identity formation and humanity’s relationship to the technical universe.” (Two Lessons on Animal and Man, Translator’s Note) I might merely add that in this text Simondon offers insights that are of vital urgency and interest, especially to those called by this aptly-designated “task.”

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alienation, death drive, Eros, eros and civilzation, freud, herbert marcuse, metaphysics, pleasure, psychology, reality, superego, unconscious

Notes on Eros and Civilization


Notes on Eros and Civilization

In Eros and Civilization, Herbert Marcuse presents Freud at the level of metaphysical psychology. That is: we find Freud engaged in overturning “conventional” metaphysics through psychoanalysis — methodically substituting pleasure and imagination for reason and logic — but paradoxically in so doing he produces a “theoretical” practice which, through its “diagnostic” methodologies and even in its “axiomatic” structure, still reflect profoundly traditional conceptions of humanity. For example, Freud analyzes the principle or essence of being (of organic life) as Eros — in contrast to the traditional understanding of being as Logos. This ontological dimension revealed in psychoanalysis is what allows Freud to interpret Eros as corresponding in a ubiquitous way to the death drive. The erotic instinct and the death drive are fused together in Freud’s interpretation in precisely the same way as the metaphysical principles of being and of non-being.

Freud interprets being in terms of Eros, repeating a formative moment in Plato’s philosophy — a conception of culture not as a repressive sublimation, but as the “free self-development of Eros.” (Marcuse notes that even in Plato this concept presents itself as an archaic-mythical remnant or “residue.”) So being strives for pleasure, which becomes an aim for organic life — human culture in particular: “The erotic impulse to combine living substance into ever larger and more durable units is the instinctual source of civilization.” (125) In short, the sex instincts are life instincts, principles of organic being: “the impulse to preserve and enrich life by mastering nature in accordance with the developing vital needs is originally an erotic impulse.” (125) The struggle for existence is not the unending struggle against death, but originally a struggle for pleasure: “culture begins with the collective implementation of this aim.” The erotic desire is organizational, super-ordinary; but it is only much later that the striving for existence itself becomes organized in order to dominate life.

In this repressive organization the erotic basis of culture is “transformed.” On this point especially, most revisions of Freudianism have meant regression: “The assumption of any special instinct begs the question, but the assumption of a special ‘mastery instinct’ does even more: it destroys the entire structure and dynamic of the ‘mental apparatus’ which Freud has built. Moreover, it obliterates the most repressive features of the performance principle by interpreting them as gratification of an instinctual need.” (219) Perhaps Lacan is guilt of this in particular: labor in general, and especially the “work” of psychoanalysis (transference,) is presented purely and simply as the chief social manifestation of the reality principle.

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aesthetics, beauty, birth, decay, learning, leonardo da vinci, light, noise, parasite, psychology, semiotics, surrealism, truth

The Monstrosity of Dreams: Beauty after Surrealism


If narcissism could in any sense be said to be the basis for a proto-aesthetics, a necessary condition for the production of any aesthetic intervention whatsoever — if not the outer eclipse of the primordial movement of creativity itself… Then this is because beauty captures, absorbs, exhumes. It fascinates. It opens up new distances, illuminates novel depths, original styles. It pierces a depth whose distance is infinite, the absolutely other. Beauty, what else? –but null futurity, the brutal light of the ultimate apocalypse.

Beauty is extinction.

Both a pure white emptiness and a heterogeneous black abyss: beauty, always a grotesque transfiguration. Without Da Vinci this uglier aspect of narcissism would have gone unnoticed even longer. The history of the theory of art has been about drawing this glittering, distracting line, ultimately proving it not indeed to be a line at all, certainly leading nowhere and anyways, not a thin line.

Nor a no-man’s-land.

But rather a discontinuous movement, a gesture: a non-linear, free, undetermined, anonymous gesture, a suffering and powerful movement of expressivity. (Perhaps even a foundational motion, genesis…?) This creation of an uninterruptible channel for the distribution and division of energies –Is beauty but the tool-building hominid’s dream of infinite celerity, of pure mobilities, that is, a total category of absolute transport?

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Anaxagoras, becoming, being, chaos, cosmos, desire, discourse, freedom, infinity, intensity, lacan, morality, morphology, Nietzsche, nous, ontology, phenomenology, psychology, Theory / Philosophy, unconscious

Beyond Desire: Remarks on Nietzsche and Becoming



Topos (biocosm)



In the beginning all things were mixed together; then came understanding and created order.

Anaxagoras [1]

What had to be accomplished in that chaotic pell-mell of primeval conditions, before all motion, so that the world as it now is might come to be, with its times of day and times of year, all conforming to law, with its manifold beauty and order, all without the addition of any new substance or force?

How, in other words, could a chaos become a cosmos?

Friedrich Nietzsche [2]

The true difficulty for psychology is that the field of the unconscious is also the site of the production and interpretation of reality. With the unconscious we encounter thoughts and bodies mixed together heterogeneously, without the clear ontological divisions we tend in other disciplines to take simply for granted.

It is no wonder then why Lacan has suggested the reality of the unconscious is the most difficult subject for philosophers to approach [3] — for there is no ontological method which could aim to find handles on this incorporeal assemblage, on this “body without organs.” In the enfolding of the psychic within the material we discover a phenomenological reality of the unconscious which is necessarily presupposed by any ontological analysis. Continue reading

biology, crystal, cybernetics, form, individuation, knowledge, machine, physics, psychology, Science / Mathematics / Technology, Simondon, structure, technology, tension

Simondon and the Machine: Technology, Individuation, Reality

Fractal Effervescence (2006), David April


Simondon and the Theory of Individuation

There is something eternal in a technical scheme… and it is that which is always present, and can be conserved in a thing.

Gilbert Simondon

Gilbert Simondon’s reformulation of information theory on the basis of a new philosophy of technology has, in comparison to earlier attempts, at least the following major advantages to its credit:

His thought introduces us to an entirely new way of understanding technology. His earliest work investigates the intrinsic nature of the machine. He asks about the conditions of the genesis of machines in the world, the essential nature of their concrescence from an abstract model.

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creativity, culture, geology, Nietzsche, productivity, psychology

Nietzsche and Psychology

Just as the glaciers increase when in the equatorial regions the sun burns down upon the sea with greater heat than before, so it may be that a very strong and aggressive free-spiritedness is evidence that somewhere the heat of sensibility has sustained an extraordinary increase.
Nietzsche (§232, Human, All Too Human)

As Nietzsche develops it, the specifically psychological question is already a social investigation, perhaps even close to the anthropological question. The psychologist asks: what is the specifically cultural essence, or social truth, which is expressing itself in such-and-such a symptom?

Hence in order to explain scientifically the psychological origins of culture, Nietzsche dares to suggest we have need of a truly new kind of science, one finally made capable of analyzing cultural institutions without prejudice, from a perspective both critical and healing at once. In order to maintain its deliberate and fruitful inconsistency, the science of the unconscious must first of all recognize that cultural shifts are like geological changes. Social evolution shifts all potential axes of action and reallocates the coordination of space and time. Cultural transformations can sometimes even involve a shift in cognitive dimension, as in the ‘cusp’ at the apex of a mountain range, born from a complex balancing of counter-movements.

Indeed, we see Nietzsche intervening in the popular account origins of society, of thought – but always in order to point towards a more legitimately scientific and psycho-historical way of diagnosing and re-evaluating specific cultural modalities. For the psychologist, a fable of creation (whether of the universe or a single idea) betrays jealousy and ambition. We ought to understand creativity in a purely immanent sense: not as diverging from being, but rather perceiving that creation functions as the origin of difference, and is not only concerned with temporary variations in dominant modes of consumption or production. The power of the originary impulse is such that it formulates even the second-order coordinations of coordination which all together frame the conditions of any potential change. This is why unrecognized difference is the very beginning of thought.

The dominant patterns of coordination express themselves culturally as a lattice of ontological limitations a people willingly imposes upon its self-creation: an absolute vision, of an absolute goal. Though creativity may fail, though the goal may be forgotten, the path is anachronistically adhered to: this is the meaning of an origin, as the traumatic real which lurks behind every symptom as unitary cause. Over time a people loses their original vision of the world; and when our very principles have been inverted, how could we hope to understand our own origin? Thus the question arises: have we misheard the voice of history? Has reality been misrepresented, or worse – has representation become indiscernible from reality?

The desire to create continually is vulgar and betrays jealousy, envy, ambition. If one is something one really does not need to make anything—and yet one nonetheless does very much. There exists above the ‘productive’ man a yet higher species.
Nietzsche (§210, Human, All Too Human)