ideas phd readings

Black on Black — Eugene Thacker (2013)



Black on Black

  • The Metaphysical, Physical, and Technical History of the Two Worlds, the Major as well as the Minor.
  • Fludd published his work between 1617 and 1621
  • Et sic in infinitum — ‘And so on to infinity…’
  • “the nothingness prior to all existence” / “un-creation prior to all creation”
  • “a box meant to indicate boundlessness”
  • “neither a fullness nor an emptiness”

Robert Fludd

  • The state prior to creation (pre-individual) as ‘the mist and darkness of this hitherto shapeless and obscured region’, in which the ‘impure, dark, and dense part of the abyss’s substance’ is dramatically transformed by divine light.’



  • If we keep the eyes open in a totally dark place, a certain sense of privation is experienced. The organ is abandoned to itself; it retires into itself. That stimulating and grateful contact is wanting by means of which it is connected with the external world…iii 

“Perhaps, and maybe this is being generous to Schopenhauer’s text, there is a retinal pessimism that secretly underlies colour theory, encapsulated in the notion of black as privation (Goethe), black as retinal inactivity (Schopenhauer), black as that which precedes the very existence of light itself (Fludd).”

 ‘On the Black Universe’ — François Laruelle 

  • ‘Black prior to light is the substance of the Universe, what escaped from the World before the World was born into the World.’
  •  ‘As opposed to the black objectified in the spectrum, Black is already manifested, before any process of manifestation.’
ideas readings

The Concept of Infrastructure – Harman

Graham Harman — The Concept of Infrastructure

Heidegger’s Tool Analysis 

  • Theories about things are always not the things 
  • Things are not exhausted 
  • This is not a distinction between theory and practice — it is a distinction between humans and objects. It is not pragmatism — our relations to things comes through our use of them. This has nothing to do with consciousness and unconsciousness. Theory and practice both distort the thing – as it withdraws. 
    • Derrida comes out of Heidegger — trying to push against onto-theology
  • It’s not just that human’s can’t get the thing 
  • Islamic philosophy — fire burning cotton 
  • Any two things are not going to be able to make exhaustive contact with one another (from the black into the black – Fludd)
  • The trick of German idealism — you can’t think the unthought because it turns it into a thought
  • Noumenon / Phenomena is actually internal to the phenomena

Objections — Against Objects

  • Undermining — by going downward to its pieces (atomism)  — cannot account for emergence. We can speak of things that are able to exist with their composite elements changing. (Emergence: When sum have some retroactive effect on its parts)
  • Overmining — More common in modern and post modern philosophy. Everything is language, socially constructed, power, event, effects… No substances. You cannot explain change this way: the real must be different from the actual. 
  • Latour — there is nothing hiding behind things — everything is relations (Whitehead, Dewey) 
    • Unformatted mass with no articulation … committed to the idea that things are determined by their relations
    • Industrial metaphor of truth — the ‘circulating reference’ between a line of actors which translate differences from one actor to the next.  Usable truth…
    • Occasionalism
    • Pandora’s Hope — Jolio links politics and neutrons — 
  • Tristan Garcia
    • The difference between the constituent and its effects is the thing
  • Harman
    • The thing is between constituent and its effects is the thing
    • The Third Table — Eddington
    • Artwork is not reducible to its physical constituents
    • The artwork is also not how it makes you feel 
    • Even when you create the object itself — 
    • The aesthetic works are better guides than the science — as they exist between undermining and over mining philosophies

Other Object Philosophies

  • Aristotle / Liebnitz 
    • Not good at dealing with nature / machines … complex elements 
    • Liebnitz — man is a substance, but a circle of men is not?
  • Kant
    • Tragedy of ‘not being able to access’
  • Latour / Whitehead tradition
    • Being able to talk about anything of any size 
    • Objects last instantaneously — the is no durability
  • Phenomenology 
    • Brentano (Freud’s Prof) — any mental act has a object, immanent objectivity ()
    • Kasimir Tardovski (Poland) — double up realities: copy in the mind and a real thing outside the mind
    • Husserl — didn’t like Tardovski’s mapping, as he wanted absolute knowledge. He kept Tardovski’s dualism but he pushed it all into experience (phenomena) 
  • Hume / Kant — they give the mind the notion of causation instead of God
  • Latour — secular ‘mediators’ allow — Frederick Jolio and the connection of neutrons and politics. There are different kinds of 
  • Not tearing things down — food criticism — Daniel Dennett makes fun of wine tasters — you need to get at things elusively in order to capture the spirit of things
  • Naive epistemology? No – relations. (Pan-psychic?)
    • Kant’s epistemological problem is a badly formulated ontological problem
    • Epistemology should be the rift between two relations, not a human problem
    • There should be one relation between entities – a general causal problem
    • Epistemology assumes that people and things is a radical rift
    • Just because I’m human and I have more access to the interactions between myself and objects, doesn’t mean I can’t access 
  • Latour’s politics
    • Latours a Hobsian
    • Never any court of appeal outside of the network 
    • Human society is mediated more by non-human entities than human ones (institutions, materials)
    • Carl Schmidt — there is no transcendence 
    • Publics emerge on an issue by issue  
events ideas

Reza Negarestani — Speculations on Anonymous Materials

Symposium: Speculations on Anonymous Materials – Reza Negarestani

  • Understanding of systems has changed 
  • The new understanding of a system… You do not need to understand the system by way of factoring in … a certain form of essence. All you need is two things, the behaviour and functional organisation. Technical understanding of a function is that functions are abstractly realisable entities.
  • Functions allows for an understanding of the system that is no longer chained to the idea of constitution. System is understood as a functional integration with stabilised causal components that are inferentially linked
  • System of functions, and properties that need to be amplified in order to be detected
    • “…the totality of the system is an illusion, all there is in an integration of functions”
    • This is the program of ethics – i.e.: “know thyself” – the experimental or interventionist tendency in philosophy. The self is a substance, that needs to be ‘worked on’
  • Defining explanation by the invention of causation 
    • invariance
    • ‘explaning’ the shadow requires dealing with it’s cause
  • Manipulation becomes constitution – intervention 
  • Simondon: Orders of Magnitude (reminds here of the different scales of materiality)
  • Foucault: The aesthetics of existence
  • The new understanding of a system… You do not need to understand the system by way of factoring in … a certain form of essence. All you need is two things, the behaviour and functional organisation. Technical understanding of a function is that functions are abstractly realisable entities. 
  • Functions allows for an understanding of the system that is no longer chained to the idea of constitution. This is functional organisation. System is understood… as a functional integration. A system has stabilised causal components that are inferentially linked by way of functions. This is navigation between causally stabilised components, mechanisms of the systems, in order to escape from the constitution it was supposed to belong to.
  • Understanding of behaviours is directly linked to what function is, in a technical sense. Behaviours are linked to tendencies — abstract properties that are responsible for the behaviour of the system… And you cannot identify them unless you amplify them. So there is a certain form of ‘intervention’ involved.
  • “Manipulation becomes the very understanding of constitution” – making sense of ontology means tampering with ontology 
  • There are different ways of generating epistemology and ontology at the same time as it’s dealing with experiential knowledge that the perceiver is implicated in. The technologies of the self … are very different (letter writing, dream analysis, etc.). There’s a difference between a practice and intelligibly… There is experience that the perceiver is implicated in
    • Seneca / Foucault — ethics as a design of conduct that manipulates self 
    • In art, you don’t have intelligibility — you have material inferences, but you do have a form of refinement… 
    • Art has multi-modality — but these things are of course implicated in the design, engineering worlds…
  • To know yourself – epistemic ethic — fallibility of materials 
    • System of functions, and properties that need to be amplified in order to be detected
    • “…the totality of the system is an illusion, all there is in an integration of functions”
    • This is the program of ethics – i.e.: “know thyself” – the experimental or interventionist tendency in philosophy. The self is a substance, that needs to be ‘worked on’

After the Media… — Zielinski (2013)

“But even if we managed to promote not only heterogeneity, but diversity articulated into a mesh- work, that still would not be a perfect solution. After all, meshworks grow by drift and they may drift to places where we do not want to go. The goal-directedness of hierarchies is the kind of property that we may desire to keep at least for certain institutions. Hence, demonizing centralization and glorifying decentralization as the solu­ tion to all our problems would be wrong. An open and experimental attitude toward the question of different hybrids and mixtures is what the complexity of reality itself seems to call for.” — De Landa (1997), available online at: meshwork.htm. – p. 196

Not all pro­ cesses of centralization inevitably lead to dictatorship. “Hence, demonizing centralization and glorifying decen­ tralization as the solution to all our problems would be wrong.”154  — p. 211

The theoreticians from the USA’s East Coast differ markedly from the one-time computer hippies of the West Coast who with their metaphysics of telecommu­ nication, their strange theologies of absence of the body while at the same time propagating hedonism and drug use, dominated the 1960s and 1970s and to a large ex­ tent also made Silicon Valley possible.

Once again, allegories and metaphors of living organisms have to serve as technological products. Organismic analogies surface at regular intervals in the­ oretical discourse at junctures where things threaten to get seriously unclear. Life serves as a concept for harmonization — is not nature the model realm which is full of differences and at once identical with itself in its heteroge­neity? 

Clouds & Twitter

The techno-imaginary clouds, as linked offerings of computer hardware and software resources, do not fos­ ter cloudiness but instead its opposite: the transparency of the actions that take place in its environment.

In the same way birdsong (Twitter) is a singularly inappropriate com­ parison for an activity and a service in which online ac­ tivists consent to the compilation of statistics about what they like to talk about the most, their political and cultural interests, what they spend their money on, and so on. In a popular variant this concept of a collective culture of databases, generated by swarm like superorganisms, disas­ trously draws from a model of society which was believed to exist among ants. p.199 

Social and cultural daily life is now replete with fractures, fragmentation, and discontinuities. It is high time to considUer NdiffIeVreOnt fiCguAreLs of therapy.

Artistic processes or media works do not really interest the aforementioned French authors in contrast to Derrida or Deleuze. In his profound study of the painter Francis Bacon, The Logic of Sensation (1995), and in his treatment of individual photographs or philosophical thoughts on time and cinema, Deleuze has written an exquisite and implicit theory of art and media. The only explanation that occurs to me as to why aesthetics, as a vague field of activity, has become so en vogue for certain thinkers is that, above all, art is again being celebrated as a refuge in which insurrection can still take place and unfold. Nan­ cy’s concept of vestigium, of “residue,” in which possibly Rancière’s “undecidability” finds itself, corroborates this assumption.159 

For now one is certain with a curious determination of one thing; namely, the breakup of all dependabilities, gravitas, consistencies — especially with regard to the subject. Although it has lost “its last bastion, namely, to be the fundament of knowing” at the latest with “the objectification of German idealism.”160 Self-disempower­ ment and self-flagellation. 


His formulation “pure means,” as the “inviolate place of expression,” we could substitute with the notion of pure media — with­ out causing any epistemic break — which determine the “new condition of objects.”  

“What hampers communica­ tion is communicability itself.”169 Agamben refers to the ongoing work of separation of artificial connections in his later text on the dispositif as a process of “desubjec­ tification.” This is now so far advanced that the prob­ lem with dispositifs cannot be “reduced to the question of their correct use.”170 Those who argue that it can merely reveal they are the products of the media dispositif in which they are captured. 

An Exact Philology of Precise Things

We are thus sketching the concept of a philology of precise things that is as exact as possible. To the extent in which it already exists as a practice in the concrete form, our philology did not come out of nowhere. Our philology maintains certain indispensable links to the tradition of individual elements in this edifice of ideas, which I have outlined above for approximately the last fifty years. A very basic idea is the notion that language can also be understood as an artifact and that artifacts themselves are eloquent. Things thing, as Heidegger says, including technical things. Depending on their degree of complexity, technical devices of communication can speak volumes. That was one of the basic ideas that was always floating around in the Berlin Institute for Language in the Technological Age. A Steenbeck was not just a film editing suite for 16mm and 35mm film, but also an aggregate for complex narratives. In the course of discovering Structuralism, the idea that technical things can be “read” arose; not as an ideology but as a source of ideas for a basic method of working. The intense in­ terplay between the act of taking apart and putting back together again is not merely a possibility to make linguis­ tic systems transparent and transformable. If we master this technique it can help us to understand “the game of generating new knowledge” upon which “experimental systems” [the systems in which experiments are con­ ducted]174 are based, which in a variety of disciplines are referred to as research. Naturally, the arts that take up the challenge of experimenting are included here. 

For then we find ourselves in the midst of a cultura experimentalis, whose components are technological media.

In the course of discovering Structuralism, the idea that technical things can be “read” arose; not as an ideology but as a source of ideas for a basic method of working. The intense in­ terplay between the act of taking apart and putting back together again is not merely a possibility to make linguis­ tic systems transparent and transformable. If we master this technique it can help us to understand “the game of generating new knowledge” upon which “experimental systems” [the systems in which experiments are con­ ducted] are based, which in a variety of disciplines are referred to as research. Naturally, the arts that take up the challenge of experimenting are included here.

I advocate a philology as exact as possible of nonperfect precise things, which will be devised and developed to support communications with others, to facilitate them, to make them a sensational, even perhaps scandalous happening. This philology is not interested in the systemic function of things.

Heiner Goebbels used them as the springboard for his production Stifters Dinge (Stifter’s things) of 2007.

Coro Spezzato: The Future Lasts One Day (2009) the Sicilian artist Rosa Barba 

Yunchul Kim — Epiphoria

Yunchul Kim — OK

Borelli — astrolabe — mathematical, technical, philosophical aspects… 

It is above all Rheinberger’s achieve­ ment that an expanded conception of what science un­ derstands by an experiment has been developed at this institute. The research projects that the biologist and translator of Derrida’s Grammatology into German has initiated and implemented revolve around an idea that makes all the difference. Here the experiment is like a “search engine” that facilitates what could be described as a fortuitous finding. Starting from the premise that at the beginning of a project “one doesn’t know exactly what one doesn’t know” (otherwise one wouldn’t need to do the research anyway), Rheinberger sets up the lab­ oratory as an open and adventurous space of possibilities where provision is made “for producing unpredictable events.” By following a specific plan, differences or vari­ able aspects, are produced.

The idea of a space of possibilities where both the inputs and out­ comes are not unequivocally defined is as far as possible from a policy of cybernetic short-circuiting that distin­ guishes the cultural technique of testing. 

A history of science and technology that is open, via the culture of experiment, for issues of communication and aesthetics, is one of the possibilities in the immedi­ ate future to advance theories of the media. Perhaps the proponents of such implicit media theories will not be accredited historians of science, but is that important? For whom would it be important? 

David Link — Scrambling T-R-U-T-H

Today media technol­ ogy pervades nearly all scientific processes on a massive scale, particularly experiments, as well as other prerequi­ sites for producing, evaluating, and disseminating scien­ tific findings. To know one’s way around at the interface with media conditionality is no more scandalous today than it was to engage seriously, as a philologist-to-be, with Spaghetti Westerns, comics, or audiovisual maga­zines in the 1960s and 1970s.

Such an envisaged expansion can also have effects in the opposite direction. Media theory that is not only open to the history of science and technology but also deploys its philological expertise within these fields will likely be in a better position to understand communi­ cative processes and much more. For centuries, science and technology have played a pivotal role in these pro­ cesses. Media theory can also provide communicative processes with thought-provoking input and particular­ ities that are valuable additions in an age of undecid­ ed identities, of horizontal vagueness, of over-colorful and blatant spectacles. With regard to technical things of communication they could also be understood from the perspective that the best way to critique a book that has been written is always to write a better one. 

Jake & Dinos Chapman — If Hitler Had Been a Hippy How Happy Would We Be 

The Media Have Become Superfluous*

Detlef B. Linke, professor of clinical neuro- physiology and neurosurgery rehabilitation, whose life was, with tragic irony, cut short in 2005 by a brain tumor, said that criticism is no longer effec- tive because people are far too occupied with surviving the crisis. However, I am quite willing to accept its relative ineffectiveness, by which I also acknowledge my powerlessness. The position from which I believe it is still or is again possible to formulate criticism is located on the periphery, not in the center. This position can be found every- where new ideas have been developed, before they are celebrated as fashions and trends in the metropolises and centers, before they are matured as products and marketed as commodities or services. Let’s take a chance and try to reactivate a profoundly dislocated point of view again.


Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transinidividual – Combes (2012)


  • Three (3) Simondon works have been published 
    • L’individu et sa genèse physicobiologique
    • L’individuation psychique et collective
    • Du mode d’existence des objets techniques 
  • “Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transinidividual” originally published as Simondon Individu et Collectivite
  • Philosophy of Individuation is treated in this book
    • Largely overlooked for his work on technics — allowing us to “discover something other than cultural pedagogy”
    • The collective and the individual — prindividual to transindividual “by way of a renewal of the philosophy of relation” 

On Being and the Status of the One: From the Relativity of the Real to the Reality of Relation

  • Two kinds of being oft confused: “being is being as such” & “being is being insofar as it is individuated”
  • Critique of hylomorphism / atomism — they don’t approach reality prior to individuation
    • hylomorphism presumes that the individuated “form” and “matter” are always already
    • atomism obviously presumes the existence of atoms, acting to form assemblies
  • Being as being is not one
  • Individuation
    • Passage from preindividual to individual — unfolding, sweeping, ontogenesis
    • Being is more than one “can be taken as more than unity and more than identity”
    • Thermodynamics metaphor — meta-stability
    • Metastability refers to  the state and where the least purity impurity suffices to turn things or change the system drastically
    • “Dephasing” is a process “which is relative to other aspects resulting from other individuations”
    • not the appearance relative to an observer (phases of the moon) 
    • not the temporal movement of ‘progress’ (Hegel) 
    • but an “aspect that is the result of a doubling of being”
    • the example of cosmic (sun) and molecular (salts and soil) —> plant
    • the example of clay (colloidal) and a mold (parallelepiped)  —> brick
    • in each case form is wrought, the “irreversible direction in which individuation operates” is ‘information’   
    • “being always simultaneously gives birth to an individual mediating two orders of magnitude and to a milieu at the same level of being” p.4 
    • note this process is not exhaustive –  in each phase of becoming  individuals remain more than one
  • Transduction
    • mode of unity of being
    • specific method
    • mode of relation obtaining between thought and being
    • grounded in the structuration of a domain
    • “physical, biological, mental, or social operation through which an activity propagates from point to point within a domain, while grounding this propagation in the structuration of the domain, which is operated from place to place: each region of the constituted structure serves as a principle of constitution for the next region” 
    • crystals in aqueous solution 
    • individuation is always in operation
    • Immanuel Kant  epistemology does not function as operation as the knowing subject is also in the process of individuation
    • dyad: energetic condition/structuring seed
    • “thought itself is nothing more than one of the phases of becoming because the operation of individuation does not admit of an already constituted observer”
    • transduction is “a procedure of the mind as it discovers. This procedure consists in following being in its genesis, in carrying out the genesis of thought at the same time as the genesis of the object is carried out.”
    • for Immanuel Kant epistemology was about defining conditions and limits for knowledge, for Simondon  knowledge is accompaniment of individuated beings as they individuate
    • here is something of an account of a practice theory divide – “philosophy having forgotten to take into account the operation of the real constitution of individuals, thus focuses attention on the ideal constitution of the object of knowledge.”
    •  Also here is something of an account of the object subject to divide: “if knowledge rediscovers the lines that allow for interpreting the world according to stable laws, it is not because there exists in the subject a priori forms of sensibility, whose coherence [Latour: correspondence?] with brute facts coming from the world would be inexplicable;  it is because being as subject and being as object arise from the same primitive reality, and the thought that now appears to institute an inexplicable relation between object and subject in fact prolongs this initial individuation; the conditions of possibility of knowledge are in fact the causes of existence of the individuated being”
      • “We ca and him him him him him himnnot individual sense of the term no individuation we can only individuate individually ourselves individually within ourselves” 
      • “In transduction metaphysics and logics merge”
      •  “being in thinking… Are two sides of individuation in Simondon”
      •   “individuation between the real exterior and the subject is grasped by the subject due to the analogical individuation of knowledge in the subject” (how knowledge occurs)
      • the resolution of this procedure – that is the quality of the analogy is what “guarantees the legitimacy of the method” and “the adequacy of the description to reality.” 
      •  the
    • Transduction is largely analogical – i.e.: it presupposes that we can have “correspondence” between two self-individuating entities.
    • Simondon was critical of the cybernetic mode of analogy of his time – which just ‘maps’ topological structure from one domain to the other, whereas analogy only works if, “the transfer of a logical operation is the transfer of an operation that reproduces the operative schema of the being known.”
    •  “this is why see Mono specifies that the analytical method, which posits the autonomy of operations in relation to their terms,  is valid only in so far as it sticks to an ontological postulate stipulating that structures must be known by the operations that energise them and not the inverse”
    • “we may speak of co-individuation of thinking and beings thus known, whereby the method gains in immediate legitimacy” page 10
    • Oposing structuralism and bad analogy: “structures must be known by the operations that energise them and not the inverse”
    • Note that analogy here as a method stems from the analogy of a crystal in aqueous solution (individuation of the milieu and the individual in correspondence) — which gives us  a kind of recursion where a “physical analogy” explains the procedure of things: “this circle of the physical and noetic”
      • Latour – AIME – p. 86:
        “And now, finally, we can talk about correspond- ence again, but this “co-response” is no longer the one between the “human mind” and the “world.” No, we now have a tense, difficult, rhythmic corre- spondence, full of surprises and suspense, between the risk taken by existents in order to repeat themselves throughout the series of their transformations on the one hand and the risk taken by the constants in order to maintain themselves throughout another no less dizzying series of transformations on the other. Do the two series some- times respond to each other? Yes. Do they always do so? No. If it is true that it takes two to tango, it is equally true that it is meaningless to speak of co-responding unless there are two movements in the first place, each of which will respond to the other—often multiplying their missteps. What the canonical idea of objective knowledge never takes into account are the countless failures of this choreography.”

Gilbert Simondon — L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique (Adkins Translation)

The following is subsections 2 and 3 of section 1 of chapter 1 of Gilbert Simondon’s L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1964. pp. 39-50.

Original translation by Taylor Adkins 10/19/07.

2. Validity of the hylemorphic model; the obscure zone of the hylemorphic model; generalization of the notion of the capture of form; modeling, molding, modulation

The technical operation of the capture of form can thus be used as a paradigm provided that one asks this operation to indicate the true relations which it institutes. However, these relations are not established between the raw material and the pure form, but between the prepared matter and materialized forms: the operation of the capture of form does not suppose only raw material and form, but also energy; the materialized form is a form that can act as a limit, as a topological border of a system. The prepared matter is that which can transport the potential energy which charges it in the technical manipulation. The pure form, playing a role in the technical operation, must become a system of points of application corresponding to the reactive forces, while the raw material becomes a homogeneous vehicle of potential energy. The capture of form is a common operation of the form and matter in a system: the condition of energy is essential, and it is not furnished by the form alone; it is the whole system that is the focus of potential energy, precisely because the capture of form is an in-depth operation throughout the entire mass, in consequence of an energy state of reciprocity of the matter in relation to itself. It is the distribution of the energy which is determining in the capture of form, and the mutual suitability of the matter and the form is related to the possibility of existence and the characters of this energy system. The matter is what transports this energy and the form what modulates the distribution of this same energy. The unity matter-form, at the time of the capture of form, is in the field of energy.

The hylemorphic model retains only the ends from these two half-chains that the technical operation elaborates; the schematics of the operation itself is veiled, been ignored. There is a hole in the hylemorphic representation, making the true mediation disappear, the operation itself which attaches one to the other both half-chains by instituting an energy system, a state that has evolved and must indeed exist so that an object appears with its haecceity. The hylemorphic model corresponds to the knowledge of a man who remains outside the workshop and considers only what enters there and what is done there; to know the true hylemorphic relation, it is not enough even to penetrate inside the workshop and to work with the craftsman: one would need to penetrate inside the mold itself to follow the operation of the capture of form to the various levels of the dimensions of physical reality.

Seizure in itself, the operation of the capture of form can effectuate itself in many ways, according to various methods apparently very different from each other. The true technicality of the operation of the capture of form largely exceeds the conventional limits which separate trades and the fields of work. Thus, it becomes possible, by the study of the energy field of the capture of form, to bring closer the molding of a brick to the operation of an electronic relay. In an electron tube of the triode type, the “matter” (vehicle of potential energy which actualizes itself) is the cloud of electrons leaving the cathode in the circuit cathode-anode-effector-generator. The “form” is what limits this actualization of potential energy in reserve in the generator, i.e. the electric field created by the potential difference between the grid of order and the cathode, which is opposed to the cathode-anode field, created by the generator itself; this counter-field is a limit to the actualization of the potential energy, as the walls of the mold are a limit to the actualization of the potential energy of the system clay-mold, transported by the clay in its displacement. The difference between the two cases lies in the fact that, for clay, the operation of the capture of form is finished in time: it tends, rather slowly (in a few seconds) towards a state of equilibrium, until the brick is taken from the mold; one uses the state of equilibrium while un-molding when it is reached. In the electron tube, one employs a support of energy (the cloud of electrons in a field) of a very weak inertia, so that the state of equilibrium (adequacy between the distribution of the electrons and the gradient of the electric field) is obtained in an extremely rapid time compared to the preceding (some billionths of a second in a tube of greater dimensions, some tenth of a billionth of a second in the smaller tubes). 

Under these conditions, the potential of the grid of order is used as a variable mold; the distribution of the support of energy according to this mold is so fast that it is carried out within the smallest minimum time for the majority of the applications: the variable mold is then used to vary in time the actualization of the potential energy of a source; one has stopped not when equilibrium is reached, one continues by modifying the mold, i.e. the grid voltage; actualization is almost instantaneous, there is no end to its release from the mold, because the circulation of the support of energy is equivalent to a permanent release from the mold; a modulator is a continuous temporal mold. The “matter” is there almost only as the support of potential energy; it however always preserves a defined inertia, which prevents the modulator from being infinitely fast. In the case of the clay mold, that which, on the contrary, is technically used as the state of balance that one can preserve while un-molding: one then accepts a rather large viscosity of clay so that the form is conserved during the release from the mold, although this viscosity slows down the capture of form. In a modulator of energy, because one does not seek to preserve the state of balance after the conditions of equilibrium have been met: it is easier to modulate energy carried by compressed air. The mold and the modulator are extreme cases, but the essential operation of the capture of form is achieved there in the same way; it consists of the establishment of energy, durable or not. To mold is to modulate in a final way; to modulate is to mold in a continuous and perpetually variable way.


A great number of technical operations use a capture of form that has intermediate characters between the modulation and the molding; thus, a spinneret, a rolling mill, are molds in a continuous mode, creating by successive stages (master keys) a final profile; the release from the mold is continuous there, as in a modulator. One could design a rolling mill which would really modulate the matter, and would manufacture, for example, a crenulated or dented bar; rolling mills that produce corrugated sheet iron modulate the matter, while a rolling mill smoothes only a model. Molding and modulation are the two borderline cases whose modeling is the average case.


We would like to show that the technological paradigm is not deprived of value, and that it is possible up to a certain point to think the genesis of individuated beings, but under the express condition that one retains as an essential model the relation of the matter in the form through the energy system of the capture of form. Matter and form must be seized during the capture of form, at the moment when the unity of the becoming of an energy system constitutes this relation on the level of the homogeneity of forces between the matter and the form. What is essential and central, is the operation of energy, supposing energy potentiality and a limit of actualization. The initiative of the genesis of substance returns neither to the raw material as passive nor to the form as pure: it is the complete system that generates, and it generates because it is a system of actualization of potential energy, joining together in an active mediation two realities, of different orders of magnitude, in an intermediate order.


Individuation, in the classical sense of the term, cannot have its principle in the matter or the form; neither form nor matter is enough with the capture of form. The true principle of individuation is the genesis itself taking place, i.e. the system in becoming, as its energy self-actualizes. The true principle of individuation can neither be sought in what exists before the individuation occurs, nor in what remains after the individuation is accomplished; it is the system of energy that is individuating insofar as it realizes in the individual this internal resonance of the matter taking form and a mediation between orders of magnitude. The principle of individuation is the single way in which the internal resonance of this matter is established taking this form. The principle of individuation is an operation. With the result that a being is itself, different from all the others; it is neither its matter nor its form, but it is the operation by which its matter took form in a certain system of internal resonance. The principle of individuation of brick is not the clay, nor the mold: this heap of clay and this mold will leave other bricks than this one, each one having its own haecceity, but it is the operation by which the clay, at a given time, in an energy system which included the finest details of the mold as the smallest components of this wet dirt took form, under such pressure, thus left again, thus diffused, thus self-actualized: a moment ago when the energy was thoroughly transmitted in all directions from each molecule to all the others, of the clay to the walls and the walls to the clay: the principle of individuation is the operation that carries out an energy exchange between the matter and the form, until the unity leads to a state of equilibrium. One could say that the principle of individuation is the common allagmatic operation of the matter and form through the actualization of potential energy. This energy is energy of a system; it can produce effects in all the points of the system in an equal way, it is available and is communicated. This operation rests on the singularity or the singularities of the concrete here and now; it envelops them and amplifies them.

3. Limits of the hylemorphic model

However, one cannot extend in a purely analogical way the technological paradigm to the genesis of all beings. The technical operation is complete in a limited time; after actualization, it leaves a partially individuated, more or less stable being which draws its haecceity from this operation of individuation having constituted its genesis in a very short time; the brick, at the end of a few years or several thousand years, again becomes dust. The individuation is complete in one stroke; the individuated being is never individuated more perfectly than when it leaves the hands of the craftsman. There thus exists a certain externality of the operation of individuation compared to its result. Quite to the contrary, in the living being, the individuation is not produced by only one operation, limited by time; the living being is in itself partially its own principle of individuation; it continues its individuation, and the result of a first operation of individuation, instead of being only one result which gradually degrades, becomes the principle of a later individuation. The individuating operation and the individuated being are not in the same relation except in the product of the technical effort.

To become a living being, instead of being a becoming following individuation, is always to become between two individuations; individuating and individuated are in the living being in a prolonged allagmatic relation. In the technical object, this allagmatic relation exists only for a moment, when both half-chains are connected one to the other, i.e. when the matter takes form: in this moment, individuated and individuating are coincident; when this operation is finished, they separate; the brick does not carry its mold, and it is detached from the workman or the machine that pressed it. The living being, after being begun, continues individuating itself; as time individuates the system and partial results of individuation. A new mode of internal resonance is instituted in the living being whose technology does not provide the paradigm: a resonance through time, created by the recurrence of the results going up towards the principle and becoming the principle in its turn. As in the technical individuation, a permanent internal resonance constitutes the unity of the organism. But, moreover, with this simultaneous resonance a successive resonance is superimposed, a temporal allagmatic. The principle of individuation of the living is always an operation, like the capture of technical Form, but this operation is of two dimensions, that of simultaneity, and that of succession, through an ontogenesis supported by memory and instinct.

One can then wonder whether the true principle of individuation is not indicated better by the living than by the technical operation, and if the technical operation could be known as individuating without the implicit paradigm of the life exists in us, that knows the technical operation and practices it with our body diagram, our practices, and our memory. This question is of a wide philosophical range, because it results in wondering whether a true individuation can exist apart from life. For knowledge, it is not the technical, anthropomorphic and consequently zoomorphic operation that is necessary to study, but the natural processes of formation of the basic unities that nature presents apart from the domain defined as the living.

Thus, the hylemorphic model, departing from technology, is insufficient under its usual species, because it is even unaware of the center of the technical operation of the capture of form, and led in this direction to be unaware of the role played by the conditions of energy in the capture of form. Moreover, even restored and completed in the form of the triad matter-form-energy, the hylemorphic model is likely to wrongly objectify a contribution of the living in the technical operation; it is this fabricated intention which constitutes the system thanks to which the energy exchange is established between matter and energy in the capture of form; this system does not form part of the individuated object; however, the individuated object is thought by mankind as having an individuality as a manufactured object, by reference to the manufacture. The haecceity of this brick as brick is not an absolute haecceity, it is not the haecceity of this preexistent object due to the fact that it is a brick. It is the haecceity of the object as a brick: it comprises a reference for use and, through it, to the fabricated intention, therefore with the human gesture which constituted the two half-chains joined together in a system for the operation of the capture of form.


In this semse, the hylemorphic model is perhaps only apparently technological: it is the reflection of the vital processes in an abstractly known operation and draws its consistency of what it is made by a living being for living beings. This would explain the very great paradigmatic capacity of the hylemorphic model: coming from the living, it goes back there and applies to it, but with a deficiency owing to the fact that the awakening which has clarified it seizes it through the wrongly simplified particular case of the technical capture of form; it seizes types more than individuals, specimens of a model more than of realities. The dualism matter-form, seizing only the extreme terms of that which is larger and smaller than the individual, obscures the reality that is of the same order of magnitude that produced the individual, and without which the extreme terms would remain separate: an allagmatic operation spreading itself starting from a singularity.

However, it is not enough to criticize the hylemorphic model and to restore a more exact relation in the course of the technical capture of form to discover the true principle of individuation. It is also not enough to suppose in the knowledge that one takes from the technical operation a paradigm initially biological: even if the relation matter-form in the technical capture of form is easily known (adequately or inadequately) thanks to the fact that we are living beings, it is not more important than the reference to the technical field that makes it necessary for us to clarify, explicate, and objectify this implicit concept that the subject carries with it. If testing the vital is the condition of the represented technique, the represented technique becomes in its turn the condition of the knowledge of the vital. One is thus returned from one order to another, so that the hylemorphic model seems to owe its universality mainly to the fact that it institutes reciprocity between the vital domain and the technical field. Besides, the model is not the only example of a similar correlation: the automatism to penetrate the functions of the living by means of representations resulting from technology, from Descartes to current cybernetics. However, an important difficulty emerges in the hylemorphic use of the model: it does not indicate what is the principle of individuation of the living, precisely because it grants to the two terms an existence prior to the relation which links them, or at least because it cannot make it possible to think this relation clearly; it can represent only the mixture, or attachment part by part; the way in which the form informs the matter is not enough for the hylemorphic model. To use the hylemorphic model is to suppose that the principle of individuation is in the form or in the matter, but not in the relation of both. The dualism of substances–soul and body–is in the seed of the hylemorphic model, and one can wonder whether this dualism will leave the technique in good condition.

In order to look further into this examination, it is necessary to consider all the conditions that surround a notional capture of consciousness. If there were only the living individual being and the technical operation, the hylemorphic model perhaps could not be constituted. In fact, it seems well that the middle term between the living field and the technical field was, at the hylemorphic origin of the model, social life. What the hylemorphic model reflects initially is a socialized representation of work and a representation also socialized of the individual living being; the coincidence between these two representations is the foundation common to the extension of the diagram from one field to the other, and the guarantor of its validity in a given culture. The technical operation which imposes a form on a passive and unspecified matter is not only an operation considered abstractly by the spectator who sees between the workshop and what is produced without knowing the development properly stated. It is primarily the operation commanded by the free man and executed by the slave; the free man chooses matter, unspecified because it is generically enough to the designer under the name of substance, without seeing it, without handling it, without preparing it: the object will be made of wood, or iron, or out of the earth. Truthfully, the passivity of matter is its availability abstracted behind the given order that others will carry out. Passivity is that of the human mediation which will retrieve the matter. The form corresponds to that which the man who commands has thought by himself and which he must express in a positive way to whom he gives his orders: the form is thus of the order of the expressible; it is eminently active because it is what one imposes on those who will handle the matter; it is the same contents of the order, that through which it governs. The active character of the form and the passive character of the matter answer the conditions of the transmission of the order which supposes social hierarchy: it is in the contents of the order that the indication of matter is undetermined and at the same time form is determination, expressible and logical. It is through social conditioning that the soul is opposed to the body; it is not through the body that the individual is citizen, participating in collective judgments, common beliefs, surviving in the memory of his fellow citizens: the soul is distinguished from the body as the citizen from the human living being. The distinction between form and matter, the soul and the body, reflects a city that contains citizens in opposition to the slaves. One must notice however that the two designs, technological and civic, if the citizens agree to distinguish the two terms, do not assign to them the same role in the two couples: the soul is not pure activity, full determination, whereas the body would be passivity and indetermination. The citizen is individuated as a body, but he or she is also individuated as a soul.

The vicissitudes of the hylemorphic model owes to the fact that it is neither directly technological nor directly vital: it is a technological operation and a vital reality mediated by the social, i.e. by the conditions already given—in inter-individual communication—from an effective reception of information, in the species the order of fabrication. This communication between two social realities, this operation of reception which is the condition of the technical operation, masks what, within the technical operation, allows two extreme terms—form and matter—to enter into interactive communication: information, the singularity of the “here and now” of the operation, pure event in the dimension of the appearing individual.


Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam

Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam – Latour

  • Military metaphor of being ‘late for every war’ — are the tools of critique no longer working? 
  • Climate change debate — Latour expresses worry that the arguments he made regarding the ‘lack of scientific certainty’ in one sense are now being ‘used by the enemy’ 
    • “Of course conspiracy theories are an absurd deformation of our own arguments, but, like weapons smuggled through a fuzzy border to the wrong party, these are our weapons nonetheless. In spite of all the defor- mations, it is easy to recognize, still burnt in the steel, our trademark: Made in Criticalland.”
  • Instant revisionism — conspiracy theories 
  • Scientia est potentia — DARPA slogan
  • “What if explanations resorting automatically to power, society, dis- course had outlived their usefulness and deteriorated to the point of now feeding the most gullible sort of critique.”
  • “Is it an another case of the famed power of capitalism for recycling everything aimed at its destruction?… the new spirit of capitalism has put to good use the artistic critique that was supposed to destroy it.”
  • The project of contructivism was never to show that the construction of truth was relative: “The question was never to get away from facts but closer to them, not fighting empiricism but, on the con- trary, renewing empiricism.” The idea was to understand how facts work in order to allow people to trust them more.
  • Critique should be a ‘new empiricism’ that looks in the world to reduce the gaps between theory and practice by analysing and reopening questions — questions of representation, questions of language: Media as first-philosophy. 
  • The enlightenment used ‘facts’ to get us out of the trap of ‘beliefs’. Now ‘beliefs’ are again being used ‘against fact’.
  • Can we design a descriptive tool that adds to reality instead of subtracting?
  • But “when we accompany them back to their gathering, we always appear to weaken them, not to strengthen their claim to reality.” 
  • Critique of critique in social science, as it exists now, is a pharmakon (a cure and a illness in Stiegler, recall) — self-satisfying: 
    • First the object of the naive society’s fetish is revealed to be something who’s power is only projected by the society itself
    • Second, the origin of the fetish is explained in terms of some external ‘fact’ – “social domination, race, class, and gender, maybe throwing in some neurobiology, evolutionary psychology”
    • Also — the ‘realism’ of the critic’s life is reserved for passionate interests
  • “We explain the objects we don’t approve of by treating them as fetishes; we account for behaviors we don’t like by disci- pline whose makeup we don’t examine; and we concentrate our passionate interest on only those things that are for us worthwhile matters of concern.”
  • “critique is also useless when it be- gins to use the results of one science uncritically, be it sociology itself, or economics, or postimperialism, to account for the behavior of people”
  • “a multifarious inquiry launched with the tools of anthropology, philosophy, metaphysics, history, sociology to detect how many participants are gathered in a thing to make it exist and to maintain its existence. Objects are simply a gathering that has failed—a fact that has not been assembled according to due process.”
  • “The critic is not the one who debunks, but the one who assembles. The critic is not the one who lifts the rugs from under the feet of the na ̈ıve believers, but the one who offers the participants arenas in which to gather. The critic is not the one who alternates haphazardly be- tween antifetishism and positivism like the drunk iconoclast drawn by Goya, but the one for whom, if something is constructed, then it means it is fragile and thus in great need of care and caution.”

“Machines take me by surprise with great frequency. This is largely because I do not do sufficient calculation to decide what to expect them to do, or rather because, although I do a calculation, I do it in a hurried, slipshod fashion, taking risks. Perhaps I say to myself, “I suppose the voltage here ought to be the same as there: anyway let’s assume it is.” Naturally I am often wrong, and the result is a surprise for me for by the time the experiment is done these assumptions have been forgotten. These admissions lay me open to lectures on the subject of my vicious ways, but do not throw any doubt on my credibility when I testify to the surprises I experience.” - Computing Machinery and IntelligenceAuthor(s): Alan Turing — Source: Mind, New Series, Vol. 59, No. 236 (Oct., 1950), pp. 433-460


Michel Serres & Bruno LaTour – Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time

“A unique style cornes from the gesture, the project, the itinerary, the risk-indeed, from the acceptance of a specific solitude. While using the same board, no surfer ever takes the wave in the same way, but each one accepts the eventuality of crashing beneath that unfurling wall of water or of drowning un- der its rolling. Repetition of content or method entails no risk, whereas style reflects in its mirror the nature of the danger. In venturing as far as possible toward nonrecognition, style runs the risk even of autism.” — M. Serres, Conversations on Science, Culture and Time, p. 94


An Inquiry into Modes of Existence – Latour (2013)

The Modes of Existence Project 


  • Story about the scientist being questioned about his authority regarding global warming – and resorting to explaining ‘how science works’ as his defense
  • “If people don’t trust the institution of science, we’re in serious trouble”
  • Latour takes this “appeal to trust,” this shared “concern for a fragile and delicate institution 
  • It is concern for the institution, not belief in, that sustains it 
  • Trust arrises through transparency – through being ‘honest’ about the processes, materialities and encumbrances that go on ‘behind the scenes’
    • This is what Latour was trying to do with STS – not ‘relativise’ science, but render the values there more transparent, so people could trust science
    • After all, “we have the same enemies and we have to respond to the same emergencies”
  • Certainty versus trust / science versus Science (capital ’S’)
    • “When have you pleaded loud and log that scientific practice must be understood as a fragile institution that has to be carefully maintained if people are to trust the sciences?”
    • But Latour and STS have been “poor diplomats” – “The very worlds “network” and “fabrication” are sometimes enough to shock our interlocutors”
  • This is an example where the “values that people are seeking to defend” have been separated from the “account that has been given of them throughout history”
  • The project overall is: 
    • sketching out how the Moderns should present themselves to the rest of the world, knowing what they are
    • the “West” seeing itself — becomes accessible to others 
  • Method: Inquiry into the “category mistakes” bearing on “modes of existence”
    • “By comparing conflicts of values in pairs — scientific versus religious, for example, or legal versus political… — we shall observe very quickly that a large proportion of the tensions stem from the fact that the veracity of one mode is judged in terms of the conditions of verification of a different mode.”
    • Pluralism of modes 
  • Similar to the ‘Felicity’ and ‘Infelicity’ conditions of speech at theory — i.e.: the context / support / infrastructure that must exist for a speech act to work
  • Occam’s razor should be more delicate — a small wooden box full of little surgeons tools, not Alexander slicing through the Gordian Knot
  • Modes of existence allows for a real diversity of cultures, a new look at the division between words and things, language and being
  • Rearranging – re-designing – “In other words why not transform this whole business of recalling modernity into a grand question of design?”
  • Economy to Ecology —> How will we present ourselves to Gaia?
Chapter 1 — Defining the Object of Inquiry
  • An anthropologies in search of the moderns, discovers ANT and realises that ‘network’ in he sense of a material infrastructure is the “belated result of the ‘network’ in the sense that interests our investigator.”
  • “We must be careful not to confuse what circulates once everything is in place with the setups involving the heterogeneous set of elements that allow circulation to occur” (Kittler’s horse, McLuhan’s medium)
  • The real network is a Le Carre style novel, not a technical infrastructure
  • This is noticed when something falls apart or fails — the ‘material’ network and the ‘network network’ converge when there is a crisis or breakdown
  • This is always a surprise - that the discontinuous series of heterogenous elements is always behind the continuous circulation of something else 
  • ANT follows the principle of irreduction
  • ANT allows the investigator the same freedom of movement that the informants have
  • A user experience study in reverse — “the notions of surprise and trial, if we shift them slightly in time, can also serve to define how the informants themselves have had to learn, in their turn, through what elements they too had to pass in order to prolong the existence of their projects.”
  • Surprise as fundamental to research… but things are always surprising in the same way
  • [NET] for network — the technical sense of network as in actor network theory
    • Networks shock and surprise in the same way — and seem to extend to inherent boundaries
    • These inherent boundaries appear to correspond to domains — but this must be because of values of the actants within them because “fields don’t organise themselves into contiguous domains”
    • The values which constitute this internal domain resilience is difficult to study. Something “has something scientific about it”, or “sounds religious” — all “je ne sais quoi” of the domain
    • There is also another “internal boundary” that can’t be explained by domains — a “fluid”, a “pass” a “connection”, an “association” that we have to learn to qualify
    • There is “something legal” in Law, “something scientific” in Science
  • Boundaries are all treated as [NET]s and a list is created of all the associated, mobilised, enrolled, translated and participating beings
    • the ESSENCE of a situation arises from the list of other beings that allow it to endure, prolong, maintain, extend
    • the TRIAL is a reconstitution of a network: the investigation, the innovation (intervention?), the crisis
  • Why is it that the values of a domain are so difficult to uncover? What do appeals to institutions avoid
    • “In short, why is theory so far removed rom practice among the Moderns?” 
    • Theory is not just a “thin veil” over practice — there is a relation — if is not just “false consciousness” of ideology 
  • We arrive at a method:
    • Network analysis [NET]
    • The detection of values [PRE]
    • Accounting for the fluctuating relation between the values and the institutions which are supposed to be harbouring them
    • + Diplomacy: It is difficult to learn to speak well to someone about something that really matters to that person
Chapter 2 — Collecting Documents for Inquiry
  • Differentiation between first (observational, sensed, ‘des sense’) mistakes and second order (direction, value, ‘de sens’) 
    • 1st order: of the senses 
    • 2nd order: of ‘sense’ (as in orientation) 
  • Category mistake example: Law is not formulated for the resolution of psychological/emotional resolution, but people expect a ‘successful’ legal decision to provide this for them. There are differences between “legal truth”, “objective truth,” “scientific proof,” “intimate reparations” (emotional truth), “fairness” (social truth)
  • What we try to distinguish here are internal mistakes to the ‘path’ (of, say, LAW, or SCIENCE) and 2nd degree mistakes which “produce hesitation about the path it would be appropriate to follow. It is sort of like “what do we expect from Law?”:
    • Felicity conditions (speech act theory) will be used to designate the verification conditions that must be met to avoid “mistakes of law,” “mistakes of the senses”, etc
    • Preposition mark the position-taking that comes before a proposition is stated — what constitutes its ‘interpretive key’. These are a little like “genres” of books (memoirs, essays, etc.,) that ‘colour’ the reading of a book. It would be a ‘category mistake’ to read a ‘document’ as a ‘novel’.  The key signature of a score ~ interpretive key of a story, account, fact, document, etc. = preposition.  The pre-position.
  • On categories… “Before designating rather banally, a type of division that the human mind, without specifying any interlocutor, carves at will out of the seamless fabric of the world’s data, kata-agorein is first of all “How to talk about or agains something or someone in public””
    • p.58 — “Let us recall that in “category” there is always the agora that was so essential to the Greeks.” – i.e.: “kata-agorein”
  • Early concern for the ‘fluctuations in the relations that the different modes have maintained amongst themselves” is exampled through [REL] and [LAW] — as each of these has “resisted the test of modernism” in different ways. Religion is mocked and scorned, and Law (although often made fun of) is still “Dura lex sed lex
  • Situations can be grasped 
    1. in the [NET] mode  —> as an unfolding of the network of associations (as far as necessary?) <— this gives the ethnographer the same freedom to manoeuvre that its objects of study do
    2. in the [PRE] mode —> as a set of qualifications of the type of connections that allow extension <— this is a recognition / respect for the values that informants cling to strongly
  • [NET] · [PRE] is a crossing that authorises the entire inquiry — from [NET] all networks are the same, but [PRE] gives us the pre-position from which to examine values which allow extension of a [NET]
  • Actor Network Theory retains some of the limitations of critical thought – it cannot distinguish the value to which informants cling 
  • The intent of linking [NET] and [PRE] is to be able to ’speak well’ to the informants:
    • To describe network in the [NET] <—> TEST: faithfulness: is it factual and empirical?
    • To verify with actors that the [NET] is accurate <—> TEST: restitution — have we made ourselves understood by those we have shocked?
    • To explore the gap between the description and the account of actors <—> TEST: historical and speculative: Have we accounted for the historical fluctuations between value and network?
    • To propose a formulation between PRACTICE and THEORY that closes the gap between them and redesigns institutions that harbour the real values of the Moderns <—> TEST: diplomacy, architecture and design: are the future inhabitants more conferrable than they were before?
  • On Reason
    • “Each mode has its networks that Reason does not know” — so Reason (capital ‘R’) can only be known as designating the verification mechanism proper to any network
    • Rationality becomes the step-by-step tracing of a network, with a trajectory of veridiction and malediction, with a separate preposition.
      • “To understand rationally any situation whatsoever is at once to unfold its network and definite its preposition, the interpretative key in whicht has to be grasped”
    • Logos: Originally a word meaning “a ground”, “a plea”, “an opinion”, “an expectation”, “word”, “speech”, “account”, “to reason”
    • This transformation of Reason is perhaps why descriptions of networks are so funny / shocking / fetishised – as they defy ‘normal reason’. ‘Normal reason’ of modernism is upended the moment we look at the actual networks — but normal reason part of this strange decoupling of ‘what we do’ and ‘what we think we do’ of the moderns.  I.e.: You mean there are actually ‘cables’ under the sea? 
Chapter 3
  • Focus on “the assurance that scientific results do not depend on the humans who nevertheless produce these results at great cost”
  • Correspondence – p. 71
    • adequatio rei et intellectus — Truth is the conformity of the intellect to the things
    • Reality and truth — the world and statements about the world
    • “Scientific” as a mode of verification (amongst others) 
    • Inherent contradiction to the claims of science:
      • It’s methods are ‘outside of nature’ — objective and relating as a ‘mind relates to a thing 
      • It’s results are correspondent to nature
  • “Practice will always stay in the foreground rather than disappearing mysteriously along the way.”
  • What does adequatio rei et intellects “reveal (as a symptom) and conceals (as a theory)”
  • Inquiry bears on the identification of a type of trajectory whose seeming continuity was actually obtained by a particular leap over discontinuity (with its [PRE], values or prepositions)
    • It is precisely because the map does not resemble the territory that we are able to ‘know’ anything: 
      “It is precisely because the map does not resemble the signposts, which do not in any respect resemble the prominent features, which in no way resemble the cliff of Mont Aiguille, but because all of them refer to the previous and sub sequential items by remaining constant across the abyss of the material dissimilarities, that I benefit from the comfort of this network.” 
  • Differentiate between…
    • Reference (mediated ‘knowledge of’) — [REF]
      • “The work of reference, as we now know, relies on the establishment of a series of transformations that ensure the discovery and the maintenance of constants: continuity of access depends on discontinuities.” – p. 107
    • Reproduction (existence, self-sustaining) — [REP]
    • the attempts to solve the question of reference (adequatio rei et intellects) through maximising the two simultaneous requirements of mobility () and immutability (objective truth, unchangeable over time)
    • This is a vaguely derogatory term for Latour – an immutable mobile is something which covers over (like barnacles, obscuring knowledge) the CHAINS OF REFERENCE he seeks to uncover
    • “An object capable of being transported across distances without changing its shape. Immutable mobiles can be found in many forms: as inscriptions, machines, apparatuses or sometimes as people who have been trained to carry out a predictable sequence of actions.” – Glossary, “Latour: Hybrid thoughts in a hybrid world”
    • Perhaps like ‘prototypes’ or ‘stereotypes’ in Flusser
  • “No question: to refer, as etymology tells us, is thus always to report, to bring back.” p. 79
  • “Even the splendid view that one embraces from the Vercors plateau fascinates me less, in the end, than the humble effectiveness of map 3237 OT.”
  • Correspondence then is the production of the subject and the production of the object – which both arise simultaneously through the extension of networks, the identification of immutable mobiles 
    • “Don’t we associate snakes with knowledge? — whose heads and tails grow further and further apart as their bodies grow longer and stouter.”
  • p. 81″Is there a mode of description that will allow us to consider existents and the map at one and the same time?” 
    • We know that ‘maps’ are changeable and as such establish continuity through their discontinuity with the thing itself, but is there a way of allowing the ‘existents’ (the presumed ‘reality’) also “as a particular manner of establishing continuity through discontinuities.”
    • [REP] Repetition — existents maintaining themselves
    • “Not at all because the known ‘eludes’ knowledge in principle and resides in a world “of its own,” forever inaccessible, but quite simply because existents themselves are also going somewhere, but elsewhere, at a different pace, with a different rhythm and an entirely different demeanour. Things are not “things in themselves,” they belong “to themselves” — a different matter altogether.”
  • p. 85 — “The ethnologist finds something almost comic in the endless complaint invented by critique:
    • ‘Since we accede to known things by way of a path, this means that these things are inaccessible and unknowable in themselves.’
      She would like to answer back: ‘But what are you complaining about, since you have access to them?’
      ‘Yes,’ they keep on whining, ‘but that means that we don’t grasp them ‘in themselves’; we don’t see them as they would be ‘without us.’’
      ‘Well, but since you want to approach them, if you want them to be as they are ‘without you,’ then why not simply stop trying to reach them?’
      More whining; ‘Because then we’d have no hope of knowing them.’
      An exasperated sigh from the ethnologist: ‘It’s almost as though you were congratulating yourselves that there is a path to Mont Aiguille, but then complaining that it has allowed you to climb up there . . .’
      Critique behaves like blasé tourists who would like to reach the most virgin territories without difficulty, but only if they don’t come across any other tourists.”
  • Correspondence is then to “co-respond”
    • Risks taken by existence in keeping-existing, and risks taken by constants (immutable mobiles?) in order to maintain themselves 
    • “… it is meaningless to speak of co-responding unless there are two movements in the first place, each of which will respond to the other — often multiplying their missteps.”
    • “What the canonical idea of objective knowledge [complete, continuous, contiguous, gapless] never takes into account are the countless failures of this choreography” 
      • Reminscent of the Zizek story about the programming of reality being incomplete (without a programmer) 
    • Dance of agency - Pickering
  • Double click — the Evil Genius — is the ignoring of networks as they pass — and the point from which ‘relativist’ criticism is levied 
Chapter 4 — Learning to Make Room
  • [REP]·[REF] is an amalgam often called The Material World — which obscures the individual modes by claiming them identical (static, material world) — also “Nature” which is a premature amalgamation of all existents
    • Latour later names this ‘res ratiocinans”, a strange amalgam of “res extensa” [REP] and “res cognitans” [REF]
  • Repetition is swarming with difference — “It is hardly probably that this world obeys laws, for there is not yet any law and still less any obedience”
  • “But the grasp of existents according to the mode of reproduction is not limited to lines of force and lineages; it concerns everything that maintains itself: languages, bodies, ideas, and of course institutions.”
  • “Subsistence always pays for itself in alteration”
  • “We have to de-idealise matter in order to arrive at immanence and find the means, at last, to follow experience” – p. 106
  • FORMS are…
    • …what is maintained through a series of transformations
    • …an object that allows putting into form, or shaping
    • …formalisms that take isolated documents for the entire (this last sense is bad!)
  • P. 110 — “all, necessarily had to pas though a series of discontinuities [REP] to achieve continuity. To obtain being, otherness is required. Sameness is purchased, as it were, at the prince of alterations” 
    • Because I am always changing, altering in order to keep existing [REP], for something else to seem to me like it is not changing, it must also be changing, altering [REP] through hiatus. This is the co-respondence given to science, and what produces contestants, immutable mobiles, and what is revealed by chains of reference.
  • We must not confuse the ‘raw materials’ of technology, economy, etc., with ‘matter’ in the sense of [REP]·[REF]
Chapter 5 — Removing Some Speech Impediments 
  • [REF]·[POL] — A dangerous amalgam between knowledge and politics. “The moderns are those who have kidnapped Science to solve a problem of closure in public debates.” 
  • Critique of Double Click [DC] requirement of straight talk, about facts, etc.
  • Double Click values: Literalness — where language correspondents directly to reality
  • Double Click critiques full chain-of-reference descriptions as figurative, ordinary, incomplete
  • Experience starts to ring false through [DC] — “Experience will have been lost from sight, and with it, of course, any possibility that the Moderns may be ‘empirical’, that is, may draw lessons from their experiences.”
  • Res ratiocinans is Latour’s name for the thing that Double Click wishes to turn everything into — that is, an ontology wherein “all distinction between what the world is made of how one can know this, and how one can talk about it vanish.”
  • [REF]·[POL] — is the res ratiocinates — space where ‘straight talk’ allows [POL] to close off debates by dismissing those who do not engage in straight talk, who “express themselves more or less awkwardly: poets, rhetoricians, common people, tradesmen, soothsayers, priests, doctors, wise men, in short, everyone—and of course scientists, whose ways and means will cruelly disappoint the Double Click sectarians…”
  • The prohibition on speech that explains the gap between theory and practice:
    • First — make claim that speech and reality are inseparable
    • Second — require that the world (ontology) and words (epistemology) be complete separate
  • The term articulation better describes the world and words — “If we speak in an articulated manner, it is because the world, too, is made up of articulations in which we are beginning to identify the junctures proper to each mode of existence.”
  • Magritte’s Pipe: “This is not a pipe either — just one of the segments along the path of a pipe’s existence. The articulation of the pip with itself, then the articulation of this first articulation with the word “pipe,” then the articulation of these first two articulations with the picture of the pipe…”
  • Everything ‘passes by way of others’ in order to exist — hiatuses and articulations — so everything that is a sign is also a signification

Chapter 6
  • D
Chapter 7
  • D
Chapter 3
  • D


ideas manifestations realisations

Apocryphal Technologies

A research project into methods of creating technologies and technological imaginaries which do not work, although widely believed and circulated as being functional:

  1. Lie Detection
  2. Randomness / Choatic Behavior (machinic luck)
  3. E-meter

(An oppositional project into the technologies which do exist and function, and everyone knows about, but people are in denial about — surveillance, brain science FMRI, etc. — “Abjured Technologies”)


The Law of the Instrument