Academic journal article New Formations

Antagonism and Technicity: Bernard Stiegler on Eris, Stasis and Polemos

Academic journal article New Formations

Antagonism and Technicity: Bernard Stiegler on Eris, Stasis and Polemos

Article excerpt

AN AN-ARCHIC ONTOLOGY OF TECHNICITY

Bernard Stiegler's work stands as a truly original and important contribution to what may be considered an an-archic current within contemporary postfoundational thought--'anarchic' not necessarily understood in the political sense of the term, but in a more ontological or quasi-transcendental sense. When Reiner Schurmann in his landmark study on being and acting in Heidegger advocated a paradoxical 'anarchy principle' (the book was originally entitled Le Principe d'anarchie), he did not refer to a particular 'ontic' program of action, he referred to the quasi-transcendental structure of being as it provides the 'ground' for all acting. Anarchy, in this sense, designates the withering away of 'the rule always to seek a first from which the world becomes intelligible and masterable, the rule of scire per causas, of establishing "principles" for thinking and doing'. (1) Such withering away of first principles, however, must not be mistaken for the disappearance of all principles, what it designates is the destructive weakening of their status. And what is more, such an anarchic process of undermining their status as 'first' principles will in turn assume the paradoxical function of a principle, the principle of the withering away of principles: 'Still a principle, but a principle of anarchy'. This paradox of an anarchy principle, as Schurmann continues, is dazzling, 'because in two words it points within and beyond the closure of metaphysics, thus exhibiting the boundary line of that closure itself' (p6).

Stiegler's work, as much as the work of other ontological an-archists such as Jacques Ranciere (to whom Stiegler often refers in his more political writings) or Miguel Abensour, is located on this boundary line. Yet with Stiegler, new light is shed on debates in an-archic or post-foundational thought. Like few other contemporary philosophers, Stiegler has devoted his work to the philosophical re-foundation of the question of technics or technicity. The absence of an ultimate ground for action, or in Heidegger's terms, the intertwining between ground and abyss, is re-conceptualised in terms of an originary technicity premised upon what Stiegler defines as an originary default of all origin. It goes without saying that such a paradoxical approach is only comprehensible as long as we accept to apply a philosophical perspective to the question of technics. And indeed, to the extent that the 'anarchic principle' of being is philosophically framed in terms of an originary technicity, our framing will inherit the problematic of ontology as a prima philosophia--a theory of the structures of all being, i.e. of being-qua-being-- even though, given that no 'first' principle is ultimately available, such ontology will amount to nothing more than what Derrida ingeniously called 'hauntology': a prime philosophy haunted by the absence of any ultimate principle. (2)

For Stiegler, the name of this absence is technics or technicity; and to describe his thought as an ontology of technicity--a theory of all being-qua-technics--is certainly justified by the fact that he deliberately seeks to circumvent any clear demarcation line between philosophical disciplines. Drawing such a line would constitute the philosophy of technology as simply one among many disciplines or 'regional ontologies', such as aesthetics, moral philosophy or political philosophy. To the extent, however, that his thinking of technics cuts across disciplinary boundaries it is described by Stiegler himself as hyperphilosophical: 'I pose the question of technics as the philosophical question, and from this point of view I am into hyperphilosophy. I try to re- elaborate the philosophical question in an integral way, and hence to revisit the founding concepts of philosophical thought in its entirety in their greatest generality, but always on the basis of the question of technics--as the forgotten origin of all questions, and also as a question of what I call the default of origin [le defaute d'origine]'. …

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