séminaire 2011/2012 séance 2- 5 avril 2012

Traduction anglaise réalisée par Terence Blake :


Seminar 05-04-2012
Second class

(Translated by Terence Blake)


The context is as for last year the industrialisaiton of R3s (tertiary retentions), the appearance of heuristic machines, automatisation and the short-circuits that it can engender.

The problem posed by Nicholas Carr is that of the negatively pharmacological character of the DR3 (digital tertiary retention, but, as Alain Giffard emphasizes in the text that I distributed, without envisaging a positivity of this pharmacology.

We aim on the contrary in this seminar to define the axioms and the conditions of a pharmacological critique which, in a given retentional situation, would permit us to project the paths of a positive pharmacology opening the therapeutic possibilities of an epoch, i.e.: permitting us to accomplish what I have called the double epokhal redoubling – i.e. to treat the short-circuits (the proceses of disindividuation), which are technological shocks, to turn them into new long circuits of TI (transindividuation), i.e. into heuristic shocks.

Such a pharmacology must be founded on a general organology which itself must be constituted in our time in the new neuroscientic context where it has become apparent that this central organ, the brain, which is central because it is the organ of all the organs, which remains to this day the indispensable and irreplacable organ of the organism, the organ of its individuation, in the case of the human brain, this organ of all the organs thus constitutes above all a writing surface, a sort of khôra; and we shall see with Maryanne Wolf how its thought, according to her, is constituted by the way in which in a sense the brain writes and reads itself by projecting itself in artificial retentional organs – by introjecting and projecting tertiary retentions which constitute in a sense the carpet of R2s, or rather, the warp and woof on which these R2s constitute the motifs, all of which form the fabric not only of the cerebral organ, but of the soul (and it is perhaps in this sense that we should interpret certain consideraitons of the neurobiologist JD Vincent, author of Biologie des passions).


That the R3s (tertiary retentions) are the condition of thought, and in particular the LR3 (literal tertiary retention) as condition of Greek thought (which Vernant highlighted in other terms), and so, of Western thought, i.e. of philosophy, this is what Walter Ong affirmed in 1983 in the following terms:

In 2007, Maryanne Wolf takes up this subject from a neurophysiological point of view, and she does so by asking if the DR3 (digital tertiary retention) does not constitute in our time something like our own proper destiny, like the «proper» or «improper» destiny of our thought, that will have to be thought as and by means of a new way of thinking (precisely in what I call the DER (double epokhal redoubling), but with the very specific question of an increasing speed of the DR3, cf Etats de choc, an «invention» which will itself transform not only «human consciousness» but also the unconscious, which it is perhaps difficult to call simply «human», propagating swarms of equally new sorts of unconsciousness.

Enquiring about what I call here the DR3 (digital tertiary retention), and that she calls the digital, she tries to establish a «pharmcological balance-sheet», as we shall see,

. in posing that such a change modifies circuits, and more precisely destroys previous circuits,
. asking what must be preserved of previous circuits and how.

Ong does not pose this question in exactly these terms in 1983: speaking of computers, he does not see what Wolf will, namely that their practice can and in a certain way must lead to the short-circuiting of previously formed circuits :

Ong did not see that this pocket calculator can in effect create short circuits (SCs), just as writing in Plato’s time could create SCs – what Socrates and Plato say is not just a fantasm. Carr, unlike Walter Ong, feels it however, and in a way in both body and soul.

This is what we want to reinterpret here with Wolf, and from this point of view, the subject of this seminar will be the relation between R3s and the neurosciences, on the basis of which I would like to reopen the dossier that Walter Ong describes in these terms:

This is for me precisely the work of the DER – and of the critical transition which is constituted by it. These terms are those of a pharmacology of the double epokhal redoubling, and make Plato and through him the whole of philosophy just such a «redoubling» of the shock of writing by a «counter-shock» – which is also at the heart of the speculative proposition that is discussed in Etats de choc (but I will not talk to you here about Hegel and his Phenomenology of Mind even though it already sketches out the questions that I raise with the R3s).

Ong poses these problems along with Havelock, and yet he does not take into account the question of loss, as it is raised by Wolf and Carr – who raise it differently, as for Carr, there is no way out of this loss, which is not the case for Wolf.


Aspects of all these questions emerge in Phaedrus, via the theme of memory, which itself comes from the question of anamnesis which appeared in Meno.

The way Plato will attempt to resolve the paradox he is caught in – namely that the soul having lost its memory, this memory has become pharmacological, but, as such does not constitute a veritable memory – will consist in forging a new conception of dia-logic which will become dialectic in a new sense, i.e.: as dialectic put in the service of the synchronisation of statements, and of the reduction of diachronicity, that is to say of their plurivocity and of their ambiguity.

So this dialectic will be defined as being that which precedes writing de jure – however if we follow the analyses of Maryanne Wolf, that which constitutes the very possibility of such a dialectic, is precisely that the cerebral organ which supports the soul (i.e. for us – after Freud – the psychic apparatus) is put into form and in a sense PRE-INDIVIDUATED by the formation in it of what MW calls a «circuitry» which introjects the circuits that constitute those R3s that are for example letters.

You are perhaps going to object that I am naturalising Derrida’s concept of writing in the sense it seems to me that Geoffrey Bennington for example could accuse me of this, and I would reply to such an objection: absolutely not! – what I am speaking about here is not Derrida’s architrace of course. However it certainly is a state of the elementary supplementarity in which consists technical life, which is in no way a «naturalisation of the trace», in this case by neurophysiology, since it is on the contrary an artefactualisation of the brain, which is the only way to overcome the neurocentric point of view of behaviourism and to revisit Freudian thought and go a few steps beyond Freud – but in recommencing from his own first steps, notably those contained in the outline of 1895.

However let us return to Plato: he does not reject writing, he wants to domesticate it by means of the dialectic, which is thus not «always already» constituted by it. What I maintain here is that on the contrary such a dialectic is «always already» scripturary, that is to say supplementary: it does not proceed from being as it defines itself in opposition to becoming. And here I am following in Derrida’s wake. But

. on the one hand this supplementarity is not simply the architrace, but in fact a positively analysable trace, notably in our time in terms of the effects it has on the organ of all organs that is the brain, which serves as physiological support for the psychic apparatus by interiorising the technical and the social apparatuses, and only on this condition,

. and on the other hand, I maintain while still adhering to Derrida’s heritage that what Plato wants here, i.e. to practice the pharmakon positively, that is to say to make the difference in the différance between toxic and curative practices of this pharmakon, and without opposing these differences, we cannot do away with them, even if it is precisely – inversely to Plato – by making pharmacology and the constant risk of its toxicity and the ever possible reversal of all curativity into intoxication an irreducible condition, i.e.: where it is not a question of reducing and of «sublimating» its negativity, but of reversing it each time it is possible, by making of the default a necessity, and that by assemblages emerging in what I call the DER (double epokhal redoubling).

Plato denies this irreducibility of the pharmakon,, and that is why I do not believe, like Havelock and Ong, that

Plato pleads in favour of the new technology of writing

as Nicholas Carr says, paraphrasing them.

What Plato wants is to reappropriate anamnésis as it was when it was the power and the knowledge of the poets, i.e. of the «oral tradition», which is in reality a tragic tradition oralising the retentional base of a society that was already to a large extent literalised, in particular in the time of the Presocratics. Plato wants to reappropriate anamnésis then to the profit of the dialecticians that philosophers are or should be, the true philosophers, those who should direct the politeia, and in the aim of reducing the tekhnè of the poets as well as that of the sophists and of the artists: the goal is to break with the tragic, that is to say the pharmacological, age.


Seminar 05-04-2012
Second class (part 2)

(Translated by Terence Blake)

It is necessary to discuss all these suggestions in terms R1, 2 and 3 (primary, secondary, and tertiary retentions), but also in terms of CR2, CP2, (collective secondary retentions and protentions), etc.

Ong describes grammatisation such as it comes to prevail in the Greek world (and begins much earlier) and continues with the industrial R3s of our time:

The LR3 (literal tertiary retention) produces a new type of CR2 and as well of PR2 (collective and psychic secondary retentions), but it also and first of all produces, in Socrates’ opinion, SCs (short-circuits) in the souls and in the city (i.e. in what binds together these souls).

These SCs, in particular via the sophists, prevent both the PIs (psychic individuations) – if it is true that the PI of a citizen is that of a soul which, being autonomous and isonomous, must think for itself while at the same time thinking with and for others (that is to say: justly, in justice, dikè) – and the CIs (collective individuations), i.e. the formation of the true, just and beautiful circuits of TI (transindividuation), the psychic individuation of political (collective) individuation, i.e. ITS DIACHRONISATION and its SINGULARISATION (what I will also call its idiomatisation) posed as a right and as a duty which are the foundations of the polis.

My thesis on the Republic and on what is adumbrated in the Phaedrus is that against the sophistic manipulation, Plato wants to pose another one – which is evidently in his own eyes not a manipulation, since his eyes blind themselves to what they are doing in the very moment that they are doing it: Plato manipulates the comprehension of what was Socrates’ dialogism, which he replaces with a dialectic which aims at imposing CR2s by means of a social and pedagogical organisation of the polis eliminating the diachronic, i.e.: the defering (différant) of the R1, 2 et 3s which makes possible a new diacriticity.

We shall have to come back to this point as soon as possible, in questioning the sense and examining the stakes of the prefix dia.

Before doing that I would like to

. resume my account of the 3 types of manipulation of the psychic R (retentions) and P (protentions) made possible via the R3s,

. tell you why we cannot be satisfied with the concepts of Derrida to think these stakes.

On the basis of this we will read MW.


Last year I spoke of the CR2s – which combine with PR2s and with which further are formed traumatypes, which are on the DIA- side, and stereotypes, which are on the SUN- (or SYN-) side, traumatypes and stereotypes which can themselves be either psychic or collective. (For those who did not follow this seminar, this refers to classes 6 and 7 of last year).

This year in the 5th class of Introduction to the Republic, I attempted to show that one can utilise the CR2s and the R3s to manipulate souls – and I indicated that here it is always a matter of manipulating Traumatypes and Stereotypes, which is a form of negative psychagogy – : by diffusing in a massive and systematic manner certain types de retentions in the form of discourses, music, films, images associated with texts, all forms of mnesic traces mobilisable in a mise en scène etc. , it is possible to induce certain types of expectations, i.e. of CP2s.

In this case, it is a matter of writing in the brain by practicing reinforcements by massive means of diffusion. These means are always more or less R3s. If I speak of «mise en scène», it is also because I want to emphasize in passing that all this is very close to the arts of the spectacle, and that the reinforcement is all the more effective the stronger the impression.

I maintained that there are three main ways to manipulate minds – i.e. to short-circuit the act of understanding by oneself, i.e. of entering into the cycle of an anamnésis, and on the basis of that, of thinking for oneself:

1. The first consists in standardising all the R2s, in getting everybody to adopt the same R2s, by producing CR2s (by means of events – that is also one of the uses of festivals, commemorations, gatherings of crowds of all sorts etc. or through «campaigns» or broadcasts such as «I like Ike», which Jacobson discusses, etc.) which tend to replace PR2s – by propaganda or by conditioning in the strong sense, or by advertising which is another form of conditioning, and which is a mise en scène of the world seen as merchandise.

Here we may note that in our time is developping rapidly what is called «neuromarketing», a component of the neuro-economy (Paul W. Glimcher, Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics) appelée aussi beheviourial economics (cf http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuRBf5_5Kbo) on the subject of which a colloquium was recently held at Columbia.

Neuromarketing, we must emphasize, consists in «writing» , so to say, directly in the lower layers of the brain, ie in short-circuiting the cortical zones so as to directly solicit the «reptilian brain».

2. The second main way to manipulate minds passes through the taking control of language – i.e. of the processes of transindividuation which metastabilise themselves in it – by implementing specific and systematic measures to this end.

But we must indicate that every language activity tries to participate in the PTI (processes of transindividuation) of its language, and philosophers, poets, scientists, writers and politicians but also PARENTS (who are the first great SCULPTORS OF THOSE YOUNG BRAINS THAT ARE THEIR CHILDREN), all are actively, AND EACH ON HIS OR HER OWN CIRCUITS OF TRANSINDIVIDUATION, animated by the aim of taking part in these processes more or less locally. There is «manipulation» when means of synchronisaiton are implemented by SCs in the circuits of TI by which each of us finds means of invidivuating himself or herself on the circuits of TI by taking part in them . That is what Klemperer describes in the language of the 3rd Reich.

In the case of totalitarianism, as for example Lyotard articulated it in reference to Zinoviev, it consists in replacing the PR2s with CR2s that are so synchronised that they have become uninterpretable, and no longer allow any individuation at all, whether psychic or collective.

But it is also the question of neoliberal or ultraliberal Newspeak, as Eric Hazan has shown, and which I fear has been either contaminated or recuperated by the discourses of post-structuralism in all sorts of ways. And there is no doubt that the state of stupidity and of folly into which the world has fallen is largely caused by a regressive state of language induced by R3s which alter it profoundly.

On this point I strongly recommend that you read Frédéric Kaplan (and I thank Lanval Montrouzeau who drew my attention to this text) on linguistic capitalism (cf also http://fkaplan.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/google-et-le-capitalisme-linguistique/) of which Google is the leading entreprise, though no doubt not the only agent – all this arises on the base of what Auroux called the language industries almost 30 years ago. I will come back to Google obviously to the extent that the pharmacology of the industrial politics of reading and of writing, i.e. of enunciation (I take this word in Foucault’s sense) is for us the main stake of the epoch of hermeneutics assisted by automatic means, and constitutes the specific fabric of the linguistic PTI of our time.

More generally, if we return to our Platonic modes of questioning, such procedures consist in short-circuiting the activity of individuation of the soul by ensuring that, in such short-circuits, in what «I expect», it is not I who expects: it is that which has been introduced into me as an expectation which is not mine – every expectation is made of traumatypes and of stereotypes which can be either collective or psychic and which are even doubtless always in articulation with collective TTs (traumatypes) ie inscribed on circuits of TI which link the intergenerational TTs.

3. In the first 2 cases, the R3s are obviously massively mobilised, but in the third way of inducing, of manipulating and of controling expectations, the R3s «proletarise» the horizons of expectation by provoking short-circuits in the process of psychic individuation by functional displacements in the GO (general organology), via defunctionalisation and refunctionalisation BETWEEN ORGANS AND ORGANISATIONS, i.e.: by disindividuating the dia-logical scene as scene of co-individuation via a disorganisation of the assemblage amongst themselves in the first instance of the cerebral organs supporting what Freud calls psychic apparatuses and Plato calls souls: this is precisely what Plato will have Socrates say in the Phaedrus, when he speaks of the use made of writing.

Question: what do the industries of the DR3 produce in the economies of individuation, of the libido, of expectation, of attention, of transindividuation, as well as in the financial, the industrial economies etc., and if, as Carr maintains, obviously with a thousand reasons, they massively intoxicate these economies, i.e. the relations between organs that are constituted there, how is it possible to reverse this situation?

This is the stake of the discussion with Plato via Carr, Wolf, Ong, Derrida, etc. that we are going to try to conduct by looking at what happens in the brain – i.e. on the web where all that is exposed…

Comments are closed.