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Bernard Stiegler: from Technics and Time to The Automatic Society

Lecturer: Amélie Berger Soraruff

Originally Taught: Winter School 2016

This course will introduce and outline the entire scope of Bernard Stiegler's work, from Technics and Time to The Automatic Society. Stiegler is one of the most influential contemporary thinkers in continental philosophy, whose project may be broadly described as "technics, apprehended as the horizon of all possibility to come and of all possibility of a future." (Stiegler, Technics and Time, prefix p.ix)  In the context of the ever-increasing industrial production and exploitation characteristic of modernity, he argues, there is a pressing need to rethink technics. Despite the fact that this concept has been the subject of much debate in contemporary Western Philosophy (for example, in the works of Heidegger, Habermas, and Simondon), Stiegler argues that it has in fact never been adequately thought, claiming that "at its very origin and up until now, philosophy has repressed technics as an object of thought. Technics is the unthought." (Stiegler, Technics and Time, prefix p.ix)   According to Stiegler, since Plato technics has been starkly opposed to the figure of man as a being capable of knowledge. He contests this tradition by drawing on the work of the anthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan, according to whom the origin of the human is dependent on the tool (and therefore technics). Stiegler uses Derrida’s concept of differance to articulate his thought on the relation between knowledge and technics, in order to produce a theory of ‘originary technicity’ which is philosophical, and not just anthropological, in character.

Though technics participates in the individual’s formation, Stiegler considers that the computerization of society gives little place for humans to be creative and productive (which is one the first sense ascribed to technics as poiesis). Industrialisation sees the decrease of craftsmanship, the organic relationship with the tool, and leads to a society of services in which everything is ready-to-hand, thus substituting desire for consumption. Stiegler does not directly incriminate technics, but fears the dynamic of production/consumption/waste (what he refers to a war of speed) having a negative impact in our use of new technologies, therefore affecting the individual. Stiegler introduces the concept of Pharmakos to define technics, showing that technicity acts both as a remedy and as a poison. Technologies should not be repressed or banned, but it is our responsibility to learn how to use them.

Level:  Beginners. The course is an introduction to Bernard Stiegler’s thought. Some previous study of continental philosophy might be an advantage.

Lecture 1: Technics and Time: On Prometheus and Epimetheus.

The lecture will focus on Stiegler’s first major work, Technics and Time: the Fault of Epimetheus. In this book Stiegler discusses various occurrences of the myth of Prometheus and Epimetheus as tropes for the origin of man and the rise of technics.

Lecture 2: Technics and différance.

The lecture will focus on the relation between knowledge and technics. Stiegler uses the work of the anthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan and Derrida’s concept of différance to explain how technics and knowledge compose each other rather than being opposed.

Lecture 3: Taking care of youth and the generations: being responsible.

In Taking Care of Youth and the Generations, Stiegler explains that the emergence of capitalism leads to hyper-industrialization and hyper-consumerism, both affecting knowledge and desire.

Lecture 4: Care and psychopower.

In Taking Care of Youth and the Generations and What Makes Life Worth Living, Stiegler transforms Foucault’s concept of bio-power into his own concept of psycho-power and utilizes his research on the care of the self. He argues that society due to the wide automatization has become care-less and menaces the autonomy of the subject.  

Lecture 5: Re-enchanting the world: thinking the future of the automatic society.

According to Stiegler, the role given to computers and robots leaves increasingly little place for humans. Work, trust and freedom progressively disappear. How to fight exploitation? In his book La société automatique (not yet translated), Stiegler calls for a re-appropriation of the digital environment.

Essential Readings:

  • Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time vol. 2: Disorientation, trans. Stephen Barker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009) (Introduction)
  • Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time vol. 3: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise, trans. Stephen Barker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011) (Introduction)
  • Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control” October, 59, 3-7 (1992) Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/778828

Video:

Man and Technics: Stiegler interview on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymtnUDAOEWc

Further Readings:

  • Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time vol. 1: The Fault of Epimetheus, translated by Richard Beardsworth and Georges Collins, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).
  • Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time vol. 2: Disorientation, trans. Stephen Barker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009).
  • Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time vol. 3: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise, trans. Stephen Barker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011).
  • Bernard Stiegler, The Re-enchantment of the World: the Value of Spirit against Industrial Populism, trans. Trevor Arthur (London, New Delhi, New York, Sidney: Bloomsbury 2014)
  • Bernard Stiegler, What Makes Life Worth Living: on Pharmacology, trans. Daniel Ross (Cambridge: Polity Press 2013)
  • Bernard Stiegler, Taking Care of Youth and the Generations, trans. Stephen Barker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010)
  • Bernard Stiegler, Symbolic Misery: The Hyperindustrial Epoch, trans. Barnaby Norman (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013)
  • Bernard Stiegler, Acting Out, trans. David Barison, Daniel Ross and Patrick Grogan (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009)