séminaire 2011/2012 – séance n° 5 – 31 mai 2012

Traduction anglaise par Terence Blake :

Pharmakon.fr Bernard Stiegler

Fifth class of seminar 2012, part 1
30 May 2012

(translated by Terence Blake)

Reminders concerning the last class:


. General organology is the principal subject of this seminar in so far as it attempts to surmount the blockage produced in the history of the birth of philosophy with the REPUBLIC, ie after the voyage to Sicily.

. We are living through the passage from biopower and psychopower to neuropower, by way of a power over the organs and the organisations through a power over the central organ ie the brain, which is made possible by a generalised grammatisation which translates itself as a generalised automatisation => I am going to develop this point before the end of this seminar and during the summer academy. Here it is important to link the questions of neurology to those concerning the digital:

«The understanding of cerebral functioning and the cartography of the human spirit are progressing at the same speed as the augmentation of our informatic capabilities». (TOWARDS A BRAIN POLICE, Laurent Alexandre, le Monde 19-05-2012, my translation).

. We are trying to reread Plato from this point of view, and I maintained in the preceding class that the attempt at the synchronisation of the city and the elimination of the diachronic by means of the diacritc, which is the central motif of the REPUBLIC, is illusory except by submitting precisely writing to a dialectic conceived as a technology of the power to write directly in people’s souls – which is now possible by means of the grammatisation of neuronal life.

On this point, cf Laurent Alexandre’s article cited above:
«Tetraplegics can command a computer or a machine just by thinking, via a helmet which analyses brain waves».

the question as Laurent Alexandre presents it is completely pharmacological:

«The technology will go beyond decoding brains: their manipulation seems limitless. Its regulation will not be consensual: one can just as well affirm that the brain must remain an inviolable sanctuary as promote neuro-reinforcing technologies to help underprivileged children».

But the scientific world as a general rule seems to remain totally indifferent to this pharmacological question:

«Finally, the editorialist of The Lancet, the prestigious medical review, worried not about the possible misuses of these technologies of cerebral re-inforcement, but about the conditions for awarding bursaries to poor students to permit them to have access to them».

Thus what is at stake is purely and simply the possibility of modifying the memory of individuals and groups and in particular of eliminating the traumatypes, ie, according to me, the diachronising (and so diabolic in this sense) factors
«The protection of cerebral integrity is going to become essential. It will be necessary to supervise mnesic modifications even when they are done in the interest of the patient»

and again:
«Should we have – if it had been possible 1945 – suppressed the horrible memories of the survivors of the Shoah? For the good of the few deportees who survived maybe the answer is yes, but not for that of humanity, whose history would have been falsified. Biological and electronic transformations of the brain, virtual reality, manipulation of memories, form an explosive cocktail».

To return to Plato, isn’t writing directly in souls with the dialectic the perfect realisation of what Socrates reproached the Sophists with doing: short-circuiting the singularity of souls as the only possible point of origin for any knowledge whatsoever? And don’t these contemporary programmes make this possible both «scientifically» and industrially?

What I hold to in philosophy: this affirmation of autonomy as the définition of thought, in the sense of giving oneself one’s law – knowing that the law supposes the pharmakon, ie its publication, the technology of its writing inside as well as outside, and we will have to come back to this question of the INSIDE OF THE LAW, ie of the writing of the self as inscription in oneself of what one writes outside of oneself and of what is written outside of oneself.


There is modification of the brain by technical individuation in two very different senses:

. on the one hand, as organological transformation of the brain during its corticalisation (2 million years) and as constitution of the cortical areas and of the afferent subcortical zones – on the preindividual vital reserve of the primary layers, including the «reptilian brain»,

. on the other hand, that which comes from what is called cerebral plasticity, such as it leads to metastabilising cerebral organisations which are in that respect both historical and social.


First question of organology of the central organ that is the brain:

When the hand works, what it inscribes in matter is inscribed also in its matter: in its «grey matter». And the hand is also that which holds the reed, the quill or the pen, types on a keyboard, touches an Ipod screen, etc. => new questions of sensori-motricity in relation to von Uexküll

(Corrections: the epiphylogenetic memory becomes the principal evolutionary factor – by means of the first occurrences of tertiary retentions; writing totally reorganised certains cerebral areas, including of course in the first place those related to vision and to the hand but equally and evidently those related to language)

. the «circuitry» relates to the formation and the metastabilsation of knowledges by an organological assemblage linking psychic, social and technical apparatuses In THE AIM OF produCiNG circuits OF trAnsindividUaton.

tarde, cooperation between brains

The REPUBLIC as a grand discourse on the transindividuation provoked by a neuropolitical mutation during which the natives de la lettre appear: this question of technological nativity leads to an organology of the intergenerational which makes Epstein say that

we are what we read

but this is perhaps no longer exactly what the younger generations would say – but in what respect? In what way is reading a digital writing of a different order? The question would then be to rethink education and instruction, ie the formation of the brain and its plasticity in the context of this new era of writing, the formation of a digital reading brain, and not of a digital brain which would no longer be a reading brain. Weakness Carr’s discourse on this point. And this should be presented explicitly as a neuropolitics.


That we are what we read is what for the last 30 years I have been trying to think (and, like Wolf, in reference to Proust) as this structure in loops:

and which is not only textual, but which is always more or less textual, ie participating in a herméneutiCAL process that I represent like this:

IHere, I must be clear that if Derrida could talk of trace and of architrace, and if I have learnt so much from this point of view (which is that of a «quasi-transcendantal» consideration, however I refuse this very terminology, considering that it denotes a retreat before an obstacle – even if I am not unaware of its phenomenological provenance and necessity, but this phenomenology is precisely that which does not, any more than Plato, think tertiary retention), if Derrida, therefore, could thus speak of trace and of architrace, it is because he sees in a clairvoyant way, and starting out from Freud’s Project, that in Freud’s neurological questions, as in those of Husserl concerning primary retention, or as well in the question of the mystic pad, it is a question of a gEnEral tracEologY, if I may say so – where the trace is always a relation between traces, ie a différance, ie also, I would say with Simondon, a transduction.

And this is also what forms the horizon of Derrida’s Archive Fever, which envisages possibility that the archiveological or traceological becoming may lead to disrupting the psychic apparatus

«Because if the upheavals in progress affected the very structures of the psychic apparatus, for example in their spatial architecture and in their economy of speed, in their processing of spacing and of temporalization, it would no longer be a question of simple continuous progress in representation, in the representative value of the model, but rather of an entirely different logic». (Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, p16, DIACRITICS, vol 25, No. 2, Summer 1995).
For those with jstor access: http://www.jstor.org/stable/465144?origin=JSTOR-pdf

and not only the psychic apparatus but also psychanalysis itself if it is true that it was itself conditoned by a certain state of the archive:

«Whether it is a question of the private or public life of Freud, of his partners or of his inheritors, sometimes also of his patients, of the personal or scientific exchanges, of the letters, deliberations, or politico-institutional decisions, of the practices and of their rules (for example, those of the so-called « analytic situation, » the place and the length of the sessions, association which is free, oral, in person, and in the presence of the analyst, without technical recording), in
what way has the whole of this field been determined by a state of the technology of communication and of archivization» (p17).

And which poses that every technoscience is above all a system of archivation:

«What is at issue here is nothing less than the future, if there is such a thing: the future of psychoanalysis in its relationship to the future of science. As techno-science, science, in its very movement, can only consist in a transformation of the techniques of archivization, of printing, of inscription, of reproduction, of formalization, of ciphering, and of translating marks» (p16).

So one sees how DERRIDA poses here the question of hypomnesis today and how nearly twenty years ago he anticipated the questions of today. But on the one hand:

. he does not distinguish the tertiary retentions
. he does not pose that there would be a constitution of desire by these tertiary retentions.

Thus what bothers me in ARCHIVE FEVER, where it is also a question of the devil:

«We do not like to be reminded, Freud notes, of the undeniable existence of an evil which seems to contradict the sovereign goodness of God. But if this Devil – another proper name for the
three-named drive – seems, then, in the eyes of Christians, for « Christian science » (in English in the text), irreconcilable with God, we see now that it can also exculpate God: evil for evil’s sake, diabolical evil, the existence of the Devil can serve as an excuse
(Entschuldigung) for God, because exterior to him, anarchic angel and dissident, in rebellion against him, just as, and this is the polemical trait of analogy, the Jew can play the analogous role of relief or economic exoneration (die selbe okonomisch entlastende
Rolle) assigned to him by the world of the Aryan ideal» (p15).

is that the trace, which is not there constitutive of desire itself is as well related unilaterally to the repetition compulsion:

«if there is no archive without consignation in an external place which assures the possibility of memorization, of repetition, of reproduction, or of reimpression, then we must also remember that repetition itself, the logic of repetition, indeed the repetition compulsion, remains, according to Freud, indissociable from the death drive. And thus from destruction» (p14).

Related to the death drive itself opposed to the principle of reality,

«The death drive is not a principle. It even threatens every principality, every archontic primacy, every archival desire. It is what we will call, later on, le mal d’archive, archive fever» (p14).

Which is in my opinion unfaithful to the point of view of Freud after 1920.

Also and in general, Derrida was unaware then of the detail of what we now know, namely that the play of writings of which the cerebral organ consists positively in its relations with the inorganic organs of writing leads to texts or tissues formed of neuronal relations which consist in chemical and electric exchanges.

The question of the architrace then becomes that of a tracEologY which is also An HISTORICAL AS WELL AS SYNCHRONIC organologY (in the sense in which Alain Mille and Yannick Prié are working on these questions in the LIRIS in the digital context) of which Archive Fever is like an announcement and simultaneously a refusal – the archive being that of which there could be no concept (according to Derrida), a sort of «quasi-concept», to which I oppose the concept of the tertiary retention.

Pharmakon.fr Bernard Stiegler

Fifth class of seminar 2012, part 2
30 May 2012

(translated by Terence Blake)

That we are what we «read» (and so we must spell out very precisely what reading means here), is what I described in my W3C conference (that you can find online at http://arsindustrialis.org/bernard-stiegler-%C3%A0-www2012):

«This transformation of the individual [by writing] is possible because the latter has, for example, ‘literalised’ his own brain, which has thus become a ‘reading brain’, and is therefore now a weave of literalised secondary retentions, ie of textualised secondary retentions, and becomes as such the object of constant self-interpretations».
This refers back to what I presented last year like this:

This is why Eptsein could write: we are what we read.

And it is what Walter Ong makes comprehensible when he writes that literate human beings – literate minds – are

beings whose thought processes do not grow out of simply natural powers but out of these powers as structured, directly or indirectly, by the technology of writing. Without writing, the literate mind would not and could not think as it does, not only when engaged in writing, but normally even when it is composing its thoughts in oral form.

Here Ong speaks of mind and not of brain. What my spirals represent are minds and spirits – literal revenances of the letter. It remains that the brain must be instanciated in all that: such is one of the first objects of a general organology in the age of neuroimaging.

Ong tells us here that even when he speaks and expresses himself orally the literate human being is LITERALLY reADING AND interprEtING HIMSELF – ie that he is «literally» WRITING HIMSELF, if it is true that 1. EVERYTHING THAT HE READS inscriBES ItSELF IN HIS BRAIN, and that 2. EVERYTHING THAT HE READS rEactivATeS AND interprEtS THE PREVIOUSLY AND textuAllY WRITTEN CIRCUITS OF HIS SECONDARY rEtentions: the literate human being speaks like the book that he is and that he reads,

And I will add here that this is what our spiral shows.

But prior to its literal tertiarisation, I affirm that every brain is a sort of reading brain avant la lettre ie: an organ which assembles secondary retentions with primary retentions by way of tertiary retentions which may or may not be litéral.

(Added June 10th): And this is what in fact is meant by archi-writing as that writing that speech is supposed to always already be, and not only speech but the logos and the psukhè by means of all their ex-pressions, ie of all their movements.


That the reading brain reads in itself when it reads a text, for example a book by Proust, is also what Wolf describes in citing Proust:

We read Proust on the basis of what we have already read, and that is done in a situation of «orthothetic» empathy in the sense that

ie in the sense in which the alphabetical grammatisation of the brain makes possible an empathy literally, ie a techno-logical form of pity in the sense of Rousseau, or even a «telepathy» (cf Derrida) – which, we may note one more time, is precisely what founds the possibility of geometry for Husserl.

Here, the question of empathy becomes that of a technology and of an organology of the other, and I shall evidently return to this question.

And by way of this alter-ation that is our individuation, we do not cease thus to become other and, to that extent and to that excesss, to individuate:

I spoke about this in ACTING OUT under the name of me-the other.

=> here speak about an ORGANOLOGY OF THE OTHER

This alteration which is produced by a virtualisation of the same, of the ego, of what Proust describes as the reader who says I – is a way of travelling, of changing and ultimately of diachronising oneself by leaving one’s own world by means of the imagination, and

As for those who literalise their conscience by reading, they produce aSSEMBLAGES OF PRIMARY RETENTIONS in what they read by mobilisING SECONDARY RETENTIONS WHICH THEMSELVES HAVE BEEN gEnErATED BY THE frEquentation AND THE intEriorisation OF THOSE TERTIARY RETENTIONS that are texts:

This describes precisely the question of the primary retentional aggregation as Husserl tries to think it in his Lessons on Time.

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