Academic journal article New Formations

Bernard Stiegler: 'A Rational Theory of Miracles: On Pharmacology and Transindividuation'

Academic journal article New Formations

Bernard Stiegler: 'A Rational Theory of Miracles: On Pharmacology and Transindividuation'

Article excerpt

BS Certainly. I'll try to do that. I've worked for nearly thirty years on the concept of memory. The starting point for my work is the question of memory in Plato; more precisely, in what Plato calls 'anamnesis', that strange memory recalling a time that has not been lived by my body. This is also a way of posing the fundamental transcendental question, because in the end Plato's concept of anamnesis is in a certain sense the concept of the origin of the transcendental. At the same time, I was asking this question as it had already been broached by Derrida. I was thus also interrogating the relation between anamnesis and hypomnesis; that is, between artificial memory and writing. In fact in the beginning I wasn't studying philosophy, but linguistics and poetics.

And then progressively things evolved rather quickly, in fact very quickly, because I started to read Leroi-Gourhan's work, which Derrida talks about in Of Grammatology. I read Leroi-Gourhan's theories very attentively, very deeply and I arrived at this deep conviction: that the problem needed to be rethought from the opposite pole from Plato's understanding of anamnesis (that is, from the very constitution of philosophy, since anamnesis is the basis of philosophy). What was needed was a return toward philosophical anthropology, a philosophical technology really: not only anthropology but technology, which Leroi-Gourhan proposes in a certain way even if, after Gesture and Speech [Le Geste et La Parole] he disclaims, disowning that book. (1) I don't know if you knew this, but after Gesture and Speech he said to his students 'Don't read that, it's madness, it's the work of a philosopher! We need to do prehistory!' (Not really, I'm just speculating!). But the question of memory became the question of technics, because Leroi-Gourhan's conclusion (it's the last part of Gesture and Speech--the first note of the last section) is that what constitutes the phenomenon of hominisation is the exteriorisation of memory, and that every technical object is a memory-object.

This was the point of departure for me, and from there I reread Derrida himself and I began to consider the issue of writing, which I had always found to be somewhat problematic. Derrida's idea of 'arche-writing' is a fundamental concept for me, but it had always slightly embarrassed me. A bit like Deleuzian concepts, such as 'the abstract machine', all these concepts are always for me in fact philosophemes that return us to Plato's anamnesis. When Plato says 'the soul lived another time', Derrida says 'arche-writing, but it is not writing' ... in the end what does that change? That didn't seem obvious to me. In reading Leroi-Gourhan, on the other hand, it appeared to me that there we were dealing with empiricity, empiricity posing truly philosophical questions; that is, posing questions about what I am calling 'consistence'; that is, things which don't exist, which aren't empirical but which nevertheless could be thought on the basis of the empirical, in the empirical. So I then tried to abandon Derrida, to reinterpret all of Derrida: but from a point of view that was less that of an arche-writing than that of a techne or an originary default of origin. That's what I called it: an original default of origin. Because technics is the (de)fault (defaut) of the living being: fundamentally, before anything else, it's that. It is incarnated into this or that technical object but it is at first not transcendental, but simultaneously something that doesn't exist. When it transcends, the default doesn't exist. On the other hand, it gives rise to things that do exist.

After that I tried to reinterpret Heidegger's Being and Time and to revisit, or really to re-think, phenomenological concepts. So I began to develop the concept of tertiary retention in utilising the late Husserl against the early Husserl, as well as using Husserl in order to move away from Derrida. I published an essay in England (I don't remember the title any longer; in any case it was in English) where I try to show how the problem with Derrida begins with Speech and Phenomena, when he says that the difference Husserl posits between primary and secondary retention is a metaphysical illusion. …

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