Technics and Time – Bernhard Stiegler (1998)

General Introduction

  • Homeric times
  • then philosophy separates: techne and episteme
  • this separation devalues tekhne
  • Marx / Engels – “dialectic between tool and hand that was to trouble the frontier between the inert and the organic”
  • Bertrand Gille – technical system
  • Andre Leroi-Gourhan – technical tendency
  • Gilbert Simondon – concretization
  • Nazism in Germany
  • Husserl and technicization – algebra and calculation – arithmetization of geometry that removes the eidetic (relating to or denoting mental images having unusual vividness and detail, as if actually visible) relations of form
  • Geometry is bereft of meaning when it is fully arithmetized
  • “The technicization of science constitutes its eidetic blinding”
  • Technicization leads to loss of memory
  • Plato’s Phaedrus
  • Heidegger’s thinking of being is concerned with forgetting, and the inscription of being in technicity
    • The critique of the meaning of being to be achieved by a “critique of modern technics given that modern technics is apprehended as the effective completion of metaphysics”
  • “Concern” (besorgen) – aims to determine the undetermined – supported by ‘equipment’ (das Zeug)
  • Gestell – enframing
    • backgrounding
    • forstellung – ‘representation’
    • infrastructure?
  • Equipment is the system of references that constructs the significance of the world
  • Facticity: that which makes possible the attempt to determine the indeterminate is the root of calculation (the quality of being fact)
  • “Calculation… is the falling of existence” (??? Stiegler, p. 6)
  • Heidegger’s turning – is the entrance to the “technical age of philosophical thought, as a result of which technics in its modern guise brings subjectivity to its completion as objectivity”
  • Heidegger’s philosophical essays:
    • The Question of Technics
    • The Age of the World Picture
    • Time and Being
    • The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking
    • The Principle of Identity
  •  Gestell
    • “That in which and from which man and being are of concen to each other in the technical world”
      • “the technical world” does not suggest the possibility of other worlds
    • modern technics is the completion of metaphysics
    • thinking being without beings (without Dasein)
  • Technics is more than a means (method) of bringing something about
    • ends and means comes from the four causes: material, formal, final, efficient
    • “privilege accorded to the efficient cause leads to the instrumental conception of technics according to ends and means”
    • “as production (poesis) technics is a ‘way of revealing'”
    • “the bringing forth that is partcular to technics constitutes a mode of truth”
    • Heidegger: “It is as a revealing, and not as manufacturing, that tekhne is a bringing forth”
    • technics is the history of being itself
  • Marcuse, Habermas, Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin
    • One Dimensional Man, Marcuse
    • Technics and Science as Ideology, Habermas
      • communicative action versus technical activity (purposive-rational action)
      • Max Weber – rationalisation – industrialisation – the extension of ‘purpose-rational activity’
    • Technocracy: power of technicians OR technicians in the service of power
  • Herman Kahn – psycho-technical manipulations
  • Modern technics (as opposed or derived from pre-modern techniques?)
    • modern technics defined as the Gestell of nature and of humanity through calculation – metaphysics completed as the project of calculative reason
    • we ourselves are subjected to the imperatives of techni
  • “it is through technics that the destiny of being unfolds, that is, technics is the history of being itself”
    • Gestell – Heidegger: an in-between stage, offers a double aspect, one might say, a Janus head
    • Roman Mythology an ancient Italian deity, guardian of doorways and gates and protector of the state in time of war. He is usually represented with two faces, so that he looks both forward and backward. two-faced; hypocritical; two-sided
  • Jacques Terminiaux – Neitsczhe and Marx – express the metaphysical essence of technics
  • Marcuse
  • thesis one: we are dominated by technology in modernity, as differentiated from the liberation that technics used to represent in the face of nature
  • supported by the theory of rationalization – Weber – industrialization as a frame of thought (Marx)
  • rationalisation is a system of domination (Marcuse)
  • thesis two: we must develop a new science that would be in dialogue with nature, free from technics as a force of domination
  • Habbermas’ alternative distinguishes between different forms of rationalisation (Weber) which can still at times be liberating. his argument is one about language – about “removing restriction on communication”
  • Habermas
  • human history as the balance between communicative action (intersubjective, etc.) and purpose rational action (work, technical, etc
  • traditional societies priveledge communicative action and modern societies purpose-rational action
  • this reaches its height when science and technics become indissociable – technocracy
  • Heidegger and Habermas are talking fundamentally about the technicisation of LANGUAGE here – as a denaturisation.  In “the oldest philosophyical tradition”
  • But Heidegger also has a completely different view that points in the opposing directions:  e.g.: “sophistic logography” leads to the grammaticist which leads to “tutor” which leads to the idea of citizenship. We need to shift from a concentration on the dynamics between language and technics to a thinking on the relationship between time and technics.
  • Jean Ladriere: “It has become an urgent matter to question the modalities of interaction between science and technics on the one hand and culture, and more particularly to ask how science and technology affect the future of culture in general”Heidelberg appeal – Gille – “Prolegomena to a History of Technics” – the change is one in the temporalisation of technics and culture – in that there are a set of ‘etirements’ between the advances and delays of culture and technology.Jean-Pierre Vernant – epimetheia (withdrawl) and prometheia (advance) – are temporal figuresPrometheus and Epimetheus were brothers (titans) who were responsible for the creation of man. ** prometheus – forethinker ** epimetheus – afterthinkerThe dynamic of forgetting and knowing in advance – the hope and fear – is fundamental to the technological. Technologies are a ‘process of exteriorization” – a pursuit of life by means other than life “we shall call in question Heidegger’s claim that “the essence of technics is nothing technical”

PART 1 – The Invention of the Human 


  • Contemporary technology is deeply opaque – we have many decisions to make regarding technics but don’t understand them
  • Puissance et pouvoir – “puissance” often applies to things, while “pouvoir” rather applies to people.
  • A history of technics in terms of a history of acceleration – which frames history itself (Ferdinand Braudel)
  • Simondon (the appearance of individuals in the form of machines)  <–> Heidegger (Gestell)  <–> Wiener (System)
    • a new kind of knowledge, “technology” or “mechanology” is necessary – technics as a process of concretisation
    • science is not this kind of knowledge – e.g.: someone who sees in the technical object a scientific principle or law
    • manufacturing is not this kind of knowledge – e.g.: someone who evaluates the machinic in terms of its ‘value’ (market utility)
    • users of technology don’t have this kind of knowledge – e.g.: someone who operates a machine
    • all other means/end relationship evaluations of technics are likewise outside of a ‘true’ relationship to technical objects
    • modern techniques arrives when technologies begin to ‘enframe’ (Gestell – Heidegger) man

Gestell – system – apparatus – an active framing – a gathering together

Technics is dominated by cybernetics – a science of organisation – organum as instrumental to organization as characteristic of life

Nature becomes the ‘standing reserve’ the auxiliary, the assistant – to technology

Humans are part of the ‘all the resources’ that are enframed by technology? Technics commands nature whereas before nature commanded technics.

The systematicity (enframing-ness) of technics which excludes it being a means – dates from BEFORE MODERN TECHNICS (i.e.: is ageless?)

  • Bertrand Gilles
    • Gilles – programming – technical systems require adjustments to the other social sysetms – but can these other systems be adjusted in this way?
    • The new technical system is at least adjustable on chronically – SPEED
    • (Note this is perhaps similar in orientation to Kittler’s arguments for the use and analysis of Cultural Technologies (Mauss): “When texts, images, and sounds are no longer considered the impulses of brilliant individuals but are seen as the output of historically specified writing, reading, and computing technologies, much will already have been gained. On the Implementation of Knowledge – Toward a Theory of Hardware)

Technical system denotes a whole play of stale interdependencies at a given time of epoch (e.g.: the railroad requires steel of a certain grade for the creation of high-pressure camber in the train, so these two thing form a technical systemface

  • Leroi-Gourhan

Enables the ‘adjustment’ thinking between technical and social systems from an anthropological standpoint – all anthropology is the relation between the social (ethnic) and the technical.

If systematicity informs the entire history of technics, how can we characterise modern technics as Gestell?

  •  Marx

“Technology reveals the active relation of man to nature, the direct process of the production of his life, and thereby it also lays bare the process of the production of the social relations of his life, and of the mental conceptions that flow from those relations.” – Marx, Capital, chapter 15

Theories of Technical Evolution

“A proposal in historical method not only for the history fo techniques but for general history” p.29

“A history bound, so to speak, by the material world” (Gille)

  • “… there is a systematicity that here implements tendencies, realized in a coupling, which should be brought to light, of the human with matter” p.43
  • Leroi-Gourham calls athropogenesis what Stiegler wants to call technogenesis (Is it possible to think this access / development outside of a correlation? I.e.: As a kind of non-new-age, non-cybernetic empathetic fusion with technology?)
  • Leroi-Gourham’s phylum – the line of development of technology – which results from choice proposed to living matter within a milieu. p. 45
The technical system (Gilles) is “a stabilization of technical evolution around a point of equilibrium concretized by a particular technology.”
“The evolution of technical systems moves toward the complexity and progressive solidarity of the combined systems.” So the technical system, once consolidated and globatized, constitutes the Gestell that Heidegger talks about: “planetary industrial technics”
Economics, social and technical systems are always in ‘tension’ and governments (for example) attempt to ‘regulate’ these… through interventionism around protecting a traditional industry (e.g.: pottery, fishing, etc.).
A Halt to Growth – report from the Club of Rome criticised by Gille.  The limits of a technical system specify its dynamics:

  • Endogenous – limit from the inside – e.g.: Railroad rails as trains got heavier and heavier required the invention of a smelting process to produce steel rails
  • Exogenous – French techno-economic protectionism in the nineteenth century – duties on the import of steel that prevented the expansion of a ‘global technical system’
  • New technical systems are born out of the limits of preceding systems – so essentialy discontinuous (‘punctuated equilibrium‘?)
Difference between technical discovery and scientific discovery is in IMPLEMENTATION:
  • Kittler’s ref in Theory of Hardware to the Scottish etymology as both “implement” (a tool, utensil, or other piece of equipment, esp. as used for a particular purpose : agricultural implements) and “1806, originally chiefly in Scottish, where the noun was a legal term meaning “fulfillment.”  So the fulfillment or actualisation, as well as the instrument which allows the fulfillment or actualisation
  • Boirel’s “diffuse rationality”
  • Gilles posits a universal technical tendency – the dynamics of this system are what offers the possibility of invention.
  • The ‘inventor’ follows a ‘quasi-obligatory’ path (chance and necessity are balanced as “in molecular biology”?)
  • Leroy Gournham here brings in the idea of a universal technical tendency – which is locally concretized by the tendency of the ‘ethnic’
Invention and Innovation
  • Innovation destabilizes – creates resistance – by drawing out the consequences in other systems (economic, social, political, etc.)
  • “the logic of innovation is constituted by the rules of adjustment between the technical system and the others”
  • Gilles typologies: technical elements, invention, factors of production that are not of a technical nature, chronology


  • The adjustment between the management of capital, means of production, development of potentialities of the technical system
  • Gilles: the canals of innovation
  • Weber: the rationalisation of speculation – the development of banking and market systems which favor innovation (help innavation ‘create credit for itself’)
  • This rationalisation results in “the financial sector becoming autonomous with regard to production”
  • Development:  perpetual modernisation or constant innovation
  • Development is so omnipresent in our lives that a new consciousness about it is emerging – ‘autonomy’ and ‘opacity’ of the technical systems becomes more apparent and resistances (more or less organised) emerge

Constant Innovation: tekne and episteme

  • The prior argument puts a lot in the hands of the engineer: “to manage a technical system is to intervene in the social and economic transformation at a much more profound level than in what peoples, political organisations, and managers in the ordinary sense believe they decide”
  • A new relation between science and technics is now establish by way of the economy – rationalisation processes bring the time between invention and innovation ever-closer (e.g.: the chemistry invention that enables the photograph takes 120 years to come to the point of ‘innovation’, the invention that enables the transistor takes 5 years to come to fruition)
  •  Four factors: invention, innovation, economic and social progress, scientific progress
  • Two combinations from Gille: (1) (scientific) progress –> invention –> innovation  and (2) invention –> innovation –> growth.  The first is lead by science, the second by capital.
  • The Age of the World Picture (Heidegger):  Man becomes subject by presenting what is to himself (instead of it being presented in other ways, God, etc.) and the World becomes a picture (a representation).  Basically a critique of science as a kind of metaphysical representation, which stems from man becoming subject (beginning with Decartes)
  • The inversion of innovation stemming from invention (i.e.: having to wait for the social conditions to become favorable) has been up-ended – now innovation is a global process trying to spur on invention.  INNOVATION PROGRAMS THE RISE OF INVENTION.
  • Science, invention and innovation rhythms in relations to social and political systems (transfer delays) were for a while attempting to be programmed – instead of the haphazard jerkiness of progress when innovation was driven by invention.
  • Stiegler thinks that the perpetual transformations (speed of transformations?) that we’re currently experiencing call for a reexamination of the originary relation between the human and the technical, “as a phenomenon of temporality”
Technical Universality
  • Andre Leroi Gourham – technical tendencies are universalities (across cultures / ethnicities) that take the form of technical fact in specific instances
  • Ethnological questions – not historical – facts and instances
  • Anthropology tends to favor the ‘genius of a particular culture’ instead of the technical universality
The Coupling of the Human with Matter
  • techno-morphology based on raw materials
  • furnishing a theory of anthropogenesis – corresponding point by point to technogenesis
  • From Bergson he gets tendencies – introducing the concept of the line, the phylum
  • treating technology more like zoological study – bottom up phenomenea resulting in general ‘tendencies 
  • Leroi brings in a quasi – determinism (toward perfection, etc.)
  • the analogy of studying the interaction of man and matter as a zoological (Cuvier) – might be ‘ecological’ instead of zoological
    • “ethnology may, up to a certain point, draw from the form of the blade of a toll, previsions [predictions] on that of the handle and on the use of the complete tool” – Leroi
    • i.e.: ” the texture of wood [raw matter] imposes forms on blades and hands [technology]
Tendency and Facts
  • Distinguishing here fact and tendencies
  • Facts can be diverse and belong to the same tendency
  • “The tendency has an inevitable, predicatble, rectilinear character” – Leroi 
  • “The fact, contrary to the tendency, is unpredictable and whimsical”
  • Against the “genius” of particular cultures
  • There is no difference between borrowing and invention – as every fact is the result of a tendency (external) plus milieu (internal, local, ethnic)
  • Technological phenomenae result from 
    • Links between two cultures (diffusion, borrowing)
    • Universal tendencies becoming fact through the interaction of people and material milieu
  • “The singularity of the relation lies in the fact that the inert, although organised, mater qua [as] the technical object itself evolves in its organisation: it is therefore no longer merely inert matter, but neither is it living. It is organised inorganic matter that transforms itself in time as living matter transforms itself in its interaction with the milieu.  In addtion, it becomes the interface through which the human as living matter enters into relation with the miliseu” p . 50
    • this ‘as’ is interesting – i.e.: is this just a metaphor or is Stiegler giving (at least some) agency to the inorganic matter ‘transforming’ itself?  

Ethnic Differences and Technical Differentiation

  • Humans are special – essentially technical beings which exceed the biological 
  • Facts arises through 4 degrees of “mechanism of pressive individualisation of facts”: 
    • first: the universal archetype expressing the tendency
    • second: the localisation – deciding factors composing the technical ecosystem
    • third: ethnic subgroups break apart, or decompose to idividualise the technical fact
    • fourth: detailed description and fixation of the fact and relations between the third degree
  •  Technical states of peoples: Very rustic, the rustic, the semi-rustic, the semi-industirla and the industrial (Leroi) 
Geography as Origin and “Ethic Genius” as “Unifying Process”
  • Geography, and milieus, environments – decide technical development more than the ethnic principles 
  • “ethnic unity is conventional, without any other origin than a mythical one”
Interior and Exterior Milius in the Technological Dynamic
  • Interior (cultural, social memory, material intellectual capital) and Exterior (intert, geographical, climactic, animal) 
  • Technical facts interface the interior and exterior millieu
  • Simondon transforms the universal technical tendency into a technophysical and technolcultural milieu 
The Two Aspects of the Tendency
  • There are tendency propelling the development of facts 
  • Facts then come to structure the world (instruments / tools) – “There is then a whole side to the tehcnial tendncy involving the contruction of the universe it self”
The Technical Milieu as a Factor of Dillution of the Interior Milieu
  • “It is as if the technical groups tended to become autonmous with respect to the ethnic groups, owing to the very fact that the techno-industira units have become world-wide”
The Permanence of Evolution
  • Borrowing and invention are the same as they are both dependent on the milieu being ‘ready’ for the technological fact to take root
  • All development is continuous (i.e.: no genius, no magic) 
  • “What happens when there is no longer any exterior milieu as such, so-called “physical” geography being saturaated with human penetrations, that is technical ones, and the principle relations fo interior to exterior milieus being mediated by a technical system having no “natural” remainder in its wake?
  • Has the technical group “totally emancipated form the ethnic group”
Industrial Technical Evolution Imposes the Renunciation of the Antrhopological Hypothesis
  • Simondon – tries to “create a new consciousness of the sense of technical objects”
  • The problem is: 
    • “culture has made itself into a system of defense against technics, in which the defense is presented as a defense of humnaity, `supposing that technical objects do not contain human reality.” “If there is such a thing as the alenation of humanity (or of culture) by technics, it is caused not by the machine but by the misunderstanding of its nature and essence.” p66 
Mechanology the Science of the Process of Concretization of the Industrial Object 
The Genetic of the Industrial Object As Functioning Matter 
The predominance of Technology in the Becoming of Industrial Societies 
Summary of Part I
  • Gille
    • A model for innovation and invention – and the inversion of a invention expectant society into an innovation driven society.  Innovation is now part of the R&D cycle, not arising from constalations of materials / science / agents. 
  • Leroi
    • The technical tendencies (external milieu) are universal, which interact with milieu to create specific technical facts which effect (internal) milieu
    • The technical milieus used to rise out of the (internal) social milieus, but now they have grown to effect and enframe the (external) milieu of geographical, climactic, animal millieu 
  • Simondon
    • Accounting for the “associated millieu” when the interior and exterior are fused by the dissipation of ethnic (technocultural / technophysical) 
    • Concretization of the technical object is its individuation, its becoming-individual, that is its organization as a becomine-individual (i.e.: the tendency or possibility of consolidation / integration – as in integrated circuit boards, where the component functions are ‘locked in’ the behaviour the aggregate technical object, and vice versa)


Infrastructure – a theory of technology AS A STANDING RESERVE (not as enframing – but as standing reserve).  Development claim goes like this:  Nature once commanded technics (axes, houses, clothing), technics then commanded nature (20th century) making nature a ‘standing reserve’, now our relations to technology is as a new standing reserve (cloud computing, “Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.” ― Douglas Adams.)?

Technoasthetics – Ways of Technical Knowing:

  • Sites and staging for the release of human reality within technicity (release of alienation, ‘bringing things to a human scale, etc.) (STS) 
  • An acknowledgement the internal desires and dynamics of technical facts and tendencies 
    • vibrant matters 
  • (corrolary to the above) a dissolution of the falacious principles of genius upon which technological histories are normally founded 
    • media archeologies in general 
    • the old in the new – the new in the old
    • jonathan stern – “To put it another way: if the span of media history in human history amounts to approximately 40,000 years, we have yet to really seriously reconsider the first 39,400 years.” Times of Communication History – Sterne
  • Materialisms of complex matter which break away from ‘nature’ as a seperate sphere
  • Stage experience of the potential autonomies of technical systems
    • witnessing the relations of objects 
  • Technoaesthetics and epsitemics 

Other links / Readings

  • External links
  • Plato’s Pharmacy – Derrida’s essay that gives the Pharmacon
    • Amun Ray – The god Tote (brings writing) going to the god Amun (self-sufficient presence of the word,  the metaphysics of presence) – introducing arts and sciences, and writing
    • Writing will help men remember – but it will also give the illusion of wisdom, making men insufferable
    • Pharmacon – remedy + poison – an early media studies of writing!  
    • Speech is always upheld and writing is always supplemental 
    • Phaedrus and Socrates = Tote and Amun 
    • Tote is a floating signifier – he’s a joker, that can take on identity – a ‘trace’

To put it another way: if the span of media history in human history amounts to approximately 40,000 years, we have yet to really seriously reconsider the first 39,400years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

twenty − 12 =