Tekhnema 2 / "Technics and Finitude"/ Spring 1995

From a Genealogy of Matter to a Politics of Memory: Stiegler's Thinking of Technics* 1

Richard Beardsworth

The hand is infinitely different from all grasping organs—paws, claws, or fangs—different by an abyss of essence. Heidegger

What is Matter?—Never Mind.What is Mind?—No Matter.

It is a commonplace of contemporary economic, social and political culture that we live in a world articulated through increasingly sophisticated technological supports. It is also a commonplace of the cognitive sciences and of the sciences of life that a radical transformation of the site of humanity in the world (its location and the very value of the concept ‘humanity’) accompanies this process of sophistication. Little of interest has yet been said, however, of how this transformation is to be thought (ultimately how do we still talk of ‘we’?) and how ‘we’ are to orient ourselves in this increasingly technicized world. There is, of course, much literature (often quickly ‘vulgarized’ for the general reader or for the reader unversed in the languages of the contemporary sciences) which either affirms the technicization of the world or, in contrast, affirms the human against these very processes of technicization. There is little, however, which reflects, in an innovative manner, upon the relation between the human and the technical; that is, which thinks technology without opposing thought (and, therefore, intelligence, will, ‘man’ as such) to technics.2

The difficulty of such an enterprise is made evident by the career of one of the most important of twentieth century philosophers, Martin Heidegger—a great philosopher, complicit, for a part of his life, with the politics of Nazism. If this monstrosity has become one of the conundrums of contemporary continental thought, is it not in fact because Heidegger’s complicity is a sign of the ever-present difficulty of thinking the technical and the human together? For if Nazism is precisely an ‘unthought’ politics of technology (as any paragraph of Mein Kampf shows), Heidegger’s complicity is also the sign of a failure to think technics—despite his critique of Nazism from within this complicity, and despite the enormous fact that he is one of the first philosophers, after Marx, to think technics. (My terminology is, after all, partly Heideggerian.) Since this failure has also been mirrored on the political Left—whatever the differences between fascism, communism, and socialism—and since after the end of communism this failure of the Left is all the more transparent, it is historically and politically urgent to re-articulate the lack of reflection on the relation between the human and the technical. For as the violence of twentieth century politics has shown, this articulation involves everything that is seen to be specifically human—that is, the conscious organization of life and death.3

It is the ground-breaking originality and force of Bernard Stiegler’s compelling La Technique et le temps: Tome 1. La faute d’Epiméthée to have embarked upon this reflection. In doing so, Stiegler shows why such reflection has immediate cultural and political stakes and, more interestingly, how it necessarily calls for a transformation of the present co-ordinates of thinking on the political. The book, the second volume of which appears this year, constitutes, in this and many other respects, a decisive contribution to an as yet under-subscribed debate concerning technics between philosophy, the arts, the human, social and political sciences and the contemporary sciences of ‘technology’. Indeed, it is perhaps the great merit of La Technique et le temps to have laid out the terms for such a debate. In this regard, and as we shall see in detail later, it is a work the importance and effects of which can be compared, in the continental tradition at least, with Heidegger’s Being and Time and Derrida’s Of Grammatology.

Given the importance of La Technique et le temps I believe it necessary—at this stage of the work’s reception in the Anglo-saxon world—to develop the theses of the book in detail. Consequently, my review of the work will remain on the level of exposition. That said, its expository nature intends to shed a very particular light on the work’s theses: i) by making explicit its ‘method’; ii) by focusing on the political implications of its reading of Heidegger; and iii) by then suggesting what is particular about its own reflections on the political. The initial focus on method will be divided into two parts separated, for reasons which will become clear, by the particular slant to my review of Stiegler’s reading of Heidegger. These two parts will concern, firstly, the specificity of Stiegler’s deconstruction of the empirico-transcendental divide and, secondly, the difference between Stiegler’s ‘genealogy’ of ‘matter’ and Derrida’s deconstruction of the tradition of philosophy. The third, concluding argument will logically follow from the opening up of this difference.

What is the particular light which I wish to shed? Firstly, it is, I believe, important to show that Stiegler’s thinking of technology depends on philosophical speculation, but that it transforms philosophy in the process, given its presentation of philosophy’s constitutive inability to think techne. It is this approach to the question of technics which, far from being too philosophical or too close to Heidegger (possible reproaches to La Technique et le temps), allows the relation between the technical and the human to appear through past failures to think it. Put differently, Stiegler’s method shows the necessity today of interdisciplinarity between philosophy and the sciences, for technics to be thought in its undetermined ‘specificity’. In this context, as we shall see, La Technique et le temps, whilst highly indebted to recent continental philo-sophy (specifically the phenomenology of Husserl, the radical ontology of Heidegger and the deconstructive philosophy of Derrida), also transforms this thinking. Stiegler’s break with both Heidegger and Derrida is, in this context, both highly complicated and decisive.4 Thus, the second reason for the particular orientation of my review is my wish to engage with this complexity, given the philosophical, disciplinary, institutional and, ultimately, ethico-political stakes involved.

Stiegler’s genealogy of the relation between the human and the nonhuman is not only highly original. Its implications are also innovative since, contra most philosophical reflection today (which has, with Heidegger or not, mourned ontology),5 it leads to a politics, what Stiegler calls ‘une politique de la mémoire’ (TT, 278). It is this itinerary—the path that necessarily takes Stiegler from a genealogy of matter to a politics of memory—which I wish to trace. As a result the review situates, at times in very stark terms, the break which La Technique et le temps makes with contemporary ‘post’-metaphysical concerns with the ‘other’ of metaphysics—radical finitude, alterity and matter.

I will proceed according to three axes, each of which lead—separately and in tandem—to my conclusion on the relation between the technical and the political:
1) the question in La Technique et le temps of the classical and modern divide between the transcendental and the empirical;
2) its interpretation of what Lacoue-Labarthe provocatively called in La fiction du politique the ‘faute’ of Heidegger (his philosophico-political complicity with Nazism);6
3) the difference between Stiegler’s deconstruction of the above divide and Derrida’s original deconstructions of it.

First axis: At a decisive moment of La Technique et le temps Stiegler recalls Plato’s Meno and the aporia of memory which Socrates develops in the first part of the dialogue. Aporia, which comes from the Greek aporos meaning ‘without issue’ or ‘without way’, that which is ‘im- practicable’, is what thought cannot resolve or untie without forgetting the undecidability which structures the aporia. In this sense aporia is what is irreducible in and for thought; an aporia is an aporia of thought, it is where man stops thinking forward. This is how the aporia of memory is expounded in Meno:

it is impossible for a man to discover either what he knows or what he does not know. He could not seek what he knows, for since he knows it there is no need of the inquiry, nor what he does not know, for in that case he does not even know what he is to look for. (Meno, 80e, quoted in TT, 109)

This aporia is only taken up by Socrates to be resolved by the myth of reminiscence. The finitude inherent to the aporia of memory is ‘disavowed’ through the Platonic articulation of anamnesis.7 Since this articulation institutes ‘Platonism’, Stiegler’s turn to the aporia is not an illustrative detail in his argument, but a crucial attempt to re-cognize, in terms that are neither exclusively philosophical nor exclusively technicist, philosophy’s constitutive exclusion of techne from the arche and telos of knowledge. Why is Meno so relevant in this respect?

The question of recognition (of the universal in the particular) is situated for Plato in terms of memory. To learn is to remember—a thesis which necessitates an axiomatic distinction between two modalities of time, that of the eternal, of being (concretized in the idea of the immortal soul)—the modality of time as that of the transcendence of time—and that of time as passing away, finitude, the body condemned to corruption and death. The myth of reminiscence therefore unties the aporia of memory by instituting the metaphysical oppositions between soul and body, infinite and finite, transcendental and empirical, logos and techne, form and matter. Instituting them, however, the myth forgets (disavows) finitude. Indeed, the myth of reminiscence is nothing but the forgetting of the aporia as the logic of opposition.

According to Stiegler (and here he follows the implications of Derrida’s philosophy closely) this aporia provokes the axiomatic of the philosophical tradition. Lying behind the question of Being in Greek philo-sophy, the ontological proof of God in mediaeval or rationalist philo-sophy, the aporia haunts in turn the question of transcendental method in modern philosophy. In other words, whatever the differences between these philosophies, their history, as a ‘history’, takes form in the gesture which turns the aporia of memory into a phantasmatic opposition between two types of being, life, intelligence, or—and this is the decisive and, for Stiegler, determining opposition—two types of memory.

For Stiegler, however, the transcendental question does not simply disavow finitude; it disavows technics. Or rather, the disavowal of finitude is nothing but the disavowal of techne. By settling the aporia in terms of an opposition, the transcendental question is in fact the forgetting of the ‘prosthetic already-there’ (TT, 238 et al.) which gives access, in the first place, to time and transcendence. In other words—and this is Stiegler’s thesis—the aporia which provokes the metaphysical disavowal of finitude (as in Meno) should be developed as an aporetic, inextricable relation between thought and technics. Since access to time marks the specificity of human culture, to forget finitude is thus to deny the constitutive role of techne in the process of hominization.

Quite simply, in its panic before time and matter, philosophy has not yet considered the zoo-techno-logical species called ‘man’.

Stiegler’s development of the aporia of thought in terms of technics is of course indebted to the innovative philosophical strategies of Jacques Derrida. It is Derrida’s early work, with and beyond Husserl, which shows that the metaphysical disavowal of finitude opens up the transcendental horizon (Introduction to Husserl’s Origin of Geometry, Speech and Phenomena). Let us recall in this context (and we must return to the point later) Derrida’s argument at the beginning of the chapter ‘Linguistics and Grammatology’ in Of Grammatology concerning the impossibility of a science of the gramme. Derrida observes:

writing is not only an auxiliary means in the service of science—and possibly its object—but first, as Husserl in particular pointed out in the Origin of Geometry, the condition of the possibility of ideal objects and therefore of scientific objectivity. Before being its object, writing is the condition of episteme. [...] historicity itself is tied to the possibility of writing; to the possibility of writing in general, beyond those particular forms of writing in the name of which we have long spoken of peoples without writing and without history. Before being the object of history—of an historical science—writing opens the field of history—of historical becoming. And the former (Historie in German) presupposes the latter (Geschichte).8

The condition of truth is the possibility of writing, that is, of a material inscription. Rather than this inscription (mis-)reflecting the truth—the argument which institutes ‘logocentrism’—its possibility is constitutive of truth as such. Thus, for Derrida, metaphysics constitutes its oppositions (the non-worldly/the worldly, the ideal/the material) by expelling into one term of the opposition the very possibility of the condition of such oppositions. Derrida calls this general possibility of inscription arche-writing. Now, Stiegler appropriates this thesis (one which ‘comes through’ a phenomenological approach to the memorization of truth) in terms of the ‘originary prostheticity’ of the human (TT, 98-100). La Technique et le temps thus pushes the Derridean analyses of arche-writing, as well as the concomitant thesis on the ‘closure’ of metaphysics, in the direction of technicity and its disavowal. However, as we shall see, this is more than a refinement of Derridean themes; there is a major difference of method and aim, one which concerns the theoretical rigor of the term ‘closure’ and carries ethico-political consequences.

According to Stiegler, then, it is technics which, as the support of the inscription of memory, is constitutive of transcendence. Since, following the Heideggerian destruction of ontology in terms of time, transcendence is nothing but the transcendence of ‘now’, and since this possibility is only given through a support which registers ‘indelibly’ (Husserl, Derrida), then, for Stiegler, matter, organized as support, is its condition. In other words, organized matter (the technical object) is the condition of consciousness as such. In its absolute resistance to transcendental or phenomenological reduction (epochality), the technical object (organized matter) at the same time makes the transcendental gesture im-possible in its possibility. Technics is thus—to use Derridean concepts at this stage—the condition of (im-)possibility of the transcendental gesture which marks the human species with its non-genetic specificity. Humanity ‘transcends’ its genetic program in pursuing its life through means other than life (matter).

For Stiegler, this aporia is the unthought of both classical and modern philosophy. Indeed, since all thinking, up to Heidegger and beyond, constitutes itself in turn in its differentiation from technics, the weight of Stiegler’s argument is immense. Further, re-cognized (in the Hegelian sense)9 in terms of technics, the aporia has wide implications for future relations between philosophy, the sciences and the arts. For, if it is explicitly as technical consciousness that man invents himself, then experimentation is what is proper to man. The metaphysical (and in part Heideggerian) divide between the Humanities and the sciences is accordingly no longer tenable. Indeed, the divide is seen for what it is—a symptomatic disavowal of matter.10

Stiegler calls the support of consciousness ‘organized inorganic matter’ (la matière inorganique organisée). The concept is crucial for an understanding of the radicality of his argument.

Organized inorganic matter is matter which transforms itself in time as technical object. Whilst in time, its transformations, however, are the condition of the human temporalization of time. In this sense, matter is constitutive of temporality. And this, in an explicitly historical sense: each ‘time’ matter undergoes radical evolution, the temporalization of time changes. Change in the temporalization of time means, in turn, change to the ‘conditions of sensibility’ (in the Kantian sense) and, therefore, change also to the very ‘identity’ of man. By elaborating the constitutive role of matter, Stiegler re-articulates matter (a straightforward concept in philosophical reflection, its object hardly disavowed) as the history of matter in its relation to the human. Matter has a history when organized; it is precisely the evolution of the relation between matter and the human: from the stone implement to the portable computer to the immanent optical and memory ‘implants’.11

The concept of organized inorganic matter is crucial to Stiegler’s re-organization of the relations between philosophy and technology because it re-articulates the metaphysical opposition between organic life and inorganic matter, animating form and inanimate matter, in terms of technical evolution. Organized inorganic matter is, in other words, an originary co-implication of ‘matter’ and ‘humanity’. It precedes the metaphysical determination which opposes matter to form-giving (divine or human). Indeed, the metaphysical determination of matter (as what is given to form) should be seen as a disavowal of the complex human-technical (in Stiegler’s terms the originary complex who-what). It is this co-implication which distinguishes man from other forms of life:

The zootechnological relation of man to matter is a particular case of the relation of the living to the environment, that is, a relation of man to his environment which passes through organized inert matter, the technical object. The singularity of this relation is that the inert, although organized matter which is the technical object evolves itself in its organization: it is no longer simply inert matter, but it is not living matter either. It is an organized inorganic matter which is transformed in time, just as living matter is transformed in its interaction with the environment. Moreover, it becomes the interface through which the living matter which is man enters into relation with the environment. (TT, 63, author’s italics)

Now this articulation of matter as organized inorganic matter both accounts for the aporia of the origin (suppressed by Plato and the tradition of philosophy) and allows for a history of human culture as the history of the differentiations within the originary complex human-technical object. It does so, however, without flattening out the transcendental question in terms of a mythic or finite history of humanity which would untie the aporia by narrating the origin of transcendence.

The first coup of Stiegler’s thought with regard to present philosophical concerns is to be felt here. Stiegler offers us a genealogy of matter—‘matter’ in the above sense of the originary complex human-technics (written from now on ‘matter’)—without finitizing the aporia of the origin. Briefly put (although it merits a long article in itself), this argument constitutes a fundamental transformation of the relation between the philosophies of Derrida and Nietzsche, maintaining that a genealogy of transcendence is possible (Nietzsche) whilst guarding the philosophical specificity of the aporia of origin (Derrida).12 Stiegler consequently guards the aporia of the origin as aporia whilst at the same time constructing a history of the aporia. The paradox is held together by the following argument.

Man and matter mutually organize each other without either of the two terms of the originary relation becoming the origin of the other. Since neither term is the origin of the other, history is nothing but the relation between the human and the non-human, which relation refuses all forms of ontologization (including all ‘materialism’ from Democritus to Marx). History and aporia are in this sense, and in this sense alone, to be thought together. Stiegler thereby holds his thought off from the ontological traps of determining the origin, whilst giving a history of the aporetic nature of the origin. The argument is structural to Stiegler’s overall concerns. Starting with the aporia of Meno, it ultimately constitutes a complex negotiation between philosophy and the technosciences which repeats and transforms Derrida’s moves between philosophy and the human and social sciences in works like Writing and Difference, Of Grammatology, Margins of Philosophy. It repeats the strategy in the sense that Derrida’s philosophy constitutes a transformation of oppositional logic, notably that between the transcendental and the empirical, which works towards a more refined thinking of finitude. It transforms Derrida’s relation to the tradition of philosophy, however, by giving in the aporetic terms of ‘matter’ a history of what precedes oppositional logic.13 Given the stakes, it is worth seeing in detail how this is done.

Stiegler’s rewriting of the divide between the transcendental and the empirical is translated first into the very form of La Technique et le temps. The first part is devoted to the history of technics (essentially the work of Bertrand Gille and Gilbert Simondon),14 to the evolution of technics within time and to the dynamics particular to technical evolution. The second part is given over to what could be called a ‘chiasmus’ between an anthropology which wishes to be transcendental—Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of the Inequality between Men—and a paleontological anthropology—the writings of the paleontologist Leroi-Gourhan—which explicitly criticizes the transcendental approach of Rousseau.15 This does not prevent the critique of a transcendental approach, how-ever valuable its recourse to prehistoric discoveries, from falling itself into the metaphysical traps of empiricism. These traps are informed by a ‘logic’, precisely, which has nothing to do with history (nor with the prehistoric) and which the Rousseauist ‘epokhe’ of historical facts intended to avoid. Hence the chiasmus. The third part begins with a profound philosophical reading of the error or fault of Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother.16 It then shows, in close relation to this reading of epimetheia, that the radical ontology of Heidegger—whilst being the first systematic thinking of technology at the ‘end’ of metaphysics—is also constituted through an originary forgetting of technicity. This forgetting structures Heidegger’s attempt to disentangle originary temporality from technical calculation.

La Technique et le temps therefore thinks technics firstly within time (in terms of its own historical dynamic), secondly with time (in terms of the impossibility of the origin), and thirdly as time (as the impure, retrospective constitution of the apophantic ‘as such’, or consciousness). The three parts of the book are intimately linked from the methodological viewpoint of the transformation of the empirico-transcendental difference: technics is first thought within time, then with time to be finally thought as constitutive itself of temporality. Through its constant passing between the empirical and transcendental gestures—a passage simultaneously within and between each part of the book—La Technique et le temps sets up unremittingly the aporetic, but historical ‘condition’ of the differentiation between the transcendental and the empirical—organized inorganic matter.

I will now consider the major example of this ‘method’: the drawing of the chiasmus between Rousseau’s transcendental analysis of the aporia of origin and Leroi-Gourhan’s empirical analysis of the process of hominization (TT, Chapter Two, ‘Technology and Anthropology’). Following this chiasmatic figure, we shall see that the development of the concept of organized inorganic matter through the two analyses transforms the terms of each. The transformation leads to Stiegler’s two other formulations of ‘matter’—epiphylogenesis and the complex who-what.

Stiegler firstly elaborates in terms of technics the intellectual rigor of the aporias of origin in Rousseau’s providentialist thinking of the origin of man and of society. The (second) origin of society, which Rousseau cannot explain except through the intervention of God, is thought in relation to the first aporia of the Discourse, man’s original absence of origin, that is, it is thought in terms of human technicity (TT, 117-141). Technics is the écart of nature which constitutes the human species. Stiegler then shows how Leroi-Gourhan’s paleontological account of the origin of man (in terms of the stone implement) keeps intact the difficulty which Rousseau’s paradoxical thinking confronts, but which Leroi-Gourhan refuses to confront despite having the very terms to do so (‘originary technicity’). The paradox is allowed to emerge in terms of the aporetic structure of organized inorganic matter, recast at this point as a reflective relation between cortex and stone tool.

First, the empiricist dilemma: In Le Geste et la Parole Leroi-Gourhan grants the prehominid (the Australopithecus or, more precisely, the Zijanthropicus) the possibility of speech, but refuses it the possibility of anticipation and the symbolic (the thought of death). He thereby maintains that the technics of the Zijanthropicus is still of a zoological type. Hence its language is nothing but the articulation of a cry, a concrete language prior to abstraction (TT, 75). Leroi-Gourhan situates the Zijanthropicus before the passage from the genetic to the non-genetic, concluding that it is this passage which opens up the horizon of the human species (from the Neanderthal onwards). In other words, the Zijanthropicus has no human qualities (anticipation, language, the symbolic). And yet—and here Stiegler mobilizes and transforms the insights of Husserlian phenomenology together with the development by Derrida of their methodological implications for the sciences—any possibility of speech already rests on a movement of idealization without which there would be no language in the first place (however ‘concrete’), this idealization resting in turn on the possibility of anticipation (174-176). As a result the passage from the genetic to the non-genetic cannot have a simple origin (from the prehominid to the hominid), as Leroi-Gourhan’s empiricist approach ends up, in contrast, maintaining. Rather, the passage demands to be thought, that is, it demands to be thought in terms of the im-possibility of its ‘as such’, in terms of the aporia of origin, and neither avoided nor disavowed.

Second, the transcendental dilemma: Despite his falling short of thinking the impasse of the passage to the human, Leroi-Gourhan is at the same time perfectly right to criticize the transcendental approach of Rousseau in Discourse of the Origin of the Inequality among Men. Rousseau (and those anthropologists in his wake) approaches the aporetic origin of the human with the presupposition that man is already standing on two feet. This is an anthropological a priori which, Stiegler suggests, any philosophical analysis of technics must develop out (TT, 97, 142, 158). Otherwise, one’s reading of the aporia of origin, and one’s thinking of aporia in general, remains, as in Rousseau’s case, transcendental.

Now, what is at play in both the empiricist and transcendental dilemmas, irreducible to one as much as to the other, is the very condition of their difference. Before proceeding to the development of this condition, it should be stressed that we are not involved here either with an act of museological classification or with a piece of intellectual acrobatics. We are involved with the very terms in which one thinks anticipation (and, therefore, access to time and memory). The condition re-invents the anthropological question: ‘What is specific to the human?’—a re-invention crucial to forthcoming ethical and political decision-making concerning technological invention. In other words, we are precisely at the moment of trying to think the relation between the human and the nonhuman, the political stakes of which I underlined at the beginning of this article.

Third, the ‘genealogy’ of aporia in response to the two dilemmas: Leroi-Gourhan insists that the Zijanthropicus does not anticipate, in order to situate the beginning of culture in another organization, different from that of the relation cortex-stone implement particular to the ‘prehominid’. This exclusion is in fact made to isolate and give qualitative specificity to the reflective intelligence of the man of sepulchers, an intelligence which indicates the origin of the beginning of culture. For all culture is a culture of death.17 Leroi-Gourhan does not wish this intelligence to be essentially technical given his belief (or rather, desire) that what is specifically human is the symbolic transcendence of the technical. In other words, keeping the Zijanthropicus within a concrete language and a zoological type guards the qualitative nature of the leap from the technical to the symbolic. The exclusion brings back into Leroi-Gourhan’s analysis of hominization a Platonic opposition between technical intelligence and symbolic intelligence (a repetition of Meno!) which his paleontology was intended to account for.

In its inability to think the aporia of origin, Leroi-Gourhan’s analysis is beset in turn by a non sequitur. Technical intelligence ends up zoological. It does not mark the specificity of the human—a conclusion which is in flagrant contradiction with the major thesis of Leroi-Gourhan’s paleontology; that is, that man is nothing but a process of ‘exteriorization’, a process in which man’s access to time and culture is developed through memory as the relation between the ‘human’ and the ‘technical object’ (TT, 152, 164). Clearly this thesis had already helped Stiegler to develop his own understanding of originary technicity in terms of ‘organized inorganic matter’. Quite coherently, then, Stiegler now turns this thesis against the metaphysical conclusions of Leroi-Gourhan’s empiricist critique of Rousseau’s transcendental anthropology in order to dissipate the contradiction without, however, in so doing, losing the aporia of the origin (166-171). The result is a genealogical ‘analytic’ of that which precedes the empirico-transcendental divide.

If the Zijanthropicus already anticipates by the very fact that he speaks, it is because the ‘reflective’ relation between the cortex and the stone implement (the one ‘mirroring’ itself in the other: TT, 152-153) sets off a capacity for anticipation and memorization on which any relation to the future depends. The way to think the problem of the Zijanthropicus is consequently to think technics as constitutive of the process of anticipation and, therefore, of the very process of hominization (time, language, society, etc.). There is, then, no opposition between the technical and the symbolic. On the contrary, in the process of exteriorization-hominization, in the double differantial constitution of technics and man, there is a further differentiation of life (the human species). Again, man is the paradox that life is pursued by other means than life. Thus, the truth of the simple origin in Leroi-Gourhan’s analysis of the passage from the zoological to the symbolic is in fact not the aporia of the impossibility of the origin, but what Stiegler calls ‘the aporetic and paradoxical beginning of exteriorization’ (TT, 151). (As we shall see, here lies the major difference with Derrida’s thinking.)

The who of the human species is nothing less than the who-what of the reflective relation between cortex and tool. This who-what is both a differentiation within life (starting with the stone implement) and itself a constant process of differentiation (the history of technics). It is in these terms that the passage from the genetic to the non-genetic is to be understood. The human zoon is essentially technical; it is a specific differentiation within the differantial economy of life which marks it out from other living beings who remain in the more simple différance of their genetic programs. The human zoon, organized inorganic matter, and culture are part of the same movement of exteriorization. This fact, one upon which the empirico-transcendental difference falls in disavowal of this sameness, is given the name epiphylogenesis. I quote Stiegler’s definition in full given its importance:

the individual develops out of three memories:
—genetic memory
—memory of the central nervous system (epigenetic)
—techno-logical memory (language and technics are here amalgamated in the process of exteriorization).
The process is as much the result as the condition of its production, both the support of the memory of operational chains which produce it, conserving the trace of past epigenetic events which accumulate as lessons of experience, and the result of the transmission of these operational chains by the very existence of the product as an archetype. Such is epiphylogenesis. Three types of memory should thus be spoken about […]:
—genetic memory
—epigenetic memory
—epiphylogenetic memory
Epiphylogenesis, a recapitulating, dynamic and morphogenetic (phylogenesis) accumulation of individual experience (epi) designates the appearance of a new relation between the organism and its environment, which is also a new state of matter. If the individual is organic organized matter (une matière organique et organisée), then its relation to its environment (to matter in general, organic or inorganic), when it is a question of a who, is mediated by the organized but inorganic matter of the organon, the tool with its instructive role (its role as instrument), the what. It is in this sense that the what invents the who just as much as it is invented by it. (185)

The concept of epiphylogenesis develops the reflective complex who-what in terms of memory, which complex both accounts for the empirico-transcendental division within traditional analyses of the human and shows that analyses informed by this division forget in an originary act of forgetting (epimetheia) its material transcendental ground. Hence this conclusion to the first volume of La Technique et le temps. (We will return to the emerging importance of the relation between memory and originary oblivion at the end.)

Technology, thought as epiphylogenesis, is a transcendental concept. However, this concept puts itself into crisis (se met lui-même en crise): it suspends the whole credit of the empirico-transcendental divide. (248)

Second axis : what I called earlier, following Lacoue-Labarthe and for reasons which will now appear, Heidegger’s ‘faute’. First, however, a word on the place of Heidegger’s thought in La Technique et le temps.

The very title of the work indicates its author’s wish to inscribe the concerns of Being and Time within a more comprehensive thinking of the relation between time and technics. A genealogy of ‘matter’ precedes and re-arranges the Heideggerian destruction of metaphysics, pointing constantly to a disagreement with Heidegger’s separation of thinking from technology. This inscription of Heidegger is complex. When arguing for a philosophy of technology, which ‘thinks’ technology but thinks it technically, refusing the ‘abyss of essence’ between logos and techne, Stiegler is both working within a Heideggerian problematic and overturning it. The issues are the same (calculability, the incalculable, indifferentiation, temporal ecstasis); the way of situating and confronting these issues is, in the end, almost totally different. An awareness of this twofold relation is important to an understanding of the strategies of the book.

Stiegler’s overturning of Heidegger takes into account the full philosophical force of Heidegger’s thinking only to show that this force is effective if this thinking is simultaneously re-inscribed into an epiphylogenetic genealogy of matter. Thus, the third part of La Technique et le temps: Tome 1. La faute d’Epiméthée (Part II, chapter II) shows the weight of Heidegger’s philosophy of time by, precisely, re-aligning Heidegger’s analyses with a thinking of the constitutive role of technics. The re-alignment has, however, radical consequences for all of Heidegger’s themes, methods and articulations. In other words, Stiegler sticks close to Heidegger (over sixty pages of dense interpretative commentary on the 1924 lecture ‘The Concept of Time’ and Being and Time) in order to say something different from Heidegger, something which nevertheless comprehends Heidegger’s philosophical gestures and concerns.18 It is this ‘logic’ which characterizes the nature of Stiegler’s break.19

The following reading considers this break in the light of Heidegger’s political engagements of the 1930s and with an eye to his subsequent theorization of Gelassenheit (‘releasement’) from the 1940s onwards. It does so for two reasons.

The Heideggerian desire to untangle an originary temporality from the time of technical calculation ‘authorizes’ both Heidegger’s nostalgia of place and the political and theoretical consequences of this nostalgia. It is therefore clear that the consequences of Stiegler’s re-inscription of the axiomatic Heideggerian distinction between originary temporality and ‘scientific’ exactitude cannot fail to have political implications for the whole of Heidegger’s thinking (above and beyond an early Heidegger/ late Heidegger distinction—his reflections, for example, on technology and Germany in the thirties to those on technology, language and poetry in the fifties).

The second reason follows on. If Heidegger’s move from a philosophy of the will to a thinking of radical passivity is in fact being rethought, and its co-ordinates transformed, by Stiegler’s re-inscription, then La Technique et le temps is inevitably developing a new reflection of the political. The terms of this reinvention go beyond Heidegger’s understanding of the distinction between thinking and acting as well as recent engagements with this distinction—Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy’s ‘withdrawal of the political’ (Le Retrait du politique), Derrida’s more complicated ‘quasi-politics’ (Spectres de Marx).20 In other words my orientation has the objective of stressing that Stiegler’s transformation of Heidegger has major consequences for the thinking of the political today.

In what way, then, should the third part of La Technique et le temps be read as a radical reading of Heidegger’s understanding of the political?

For Stiegler, Heidegger’s attempt to demarcate originary temporality (whose essence is the ecstasis of the future in Being and Time) from concern (which remains fixed to das Man) repeats the Epimethean forgetting of the prosthetic which characterizes the metaphysical tradition. The Heideggerian destruction of metaphysics does indeed throw the individual into the ‘already-there’ of the world as Mitdasein. Much more importantly, Being and Time shows that this world is factical, always already made up of entities that are ‘ready-to-hand’ (Zuhandensein). And yet, these innovative analyses of the factical fail simultaneously to measure up to their own consequences since they make Heidegger’s accompanying understanding of (authentic/inauthentic) Dasein and of the hermeneutic circle impossible.

Heidegger’s destruction of metaphysics remains within the epimetheia of metaphysics. At the very moment of thinking the ‘already-there’ in terms of materiality, Heidegger continues to forget the constitutive role of technical entities for temporalization. As a result (the first important point), Heidegger’s disentanglement of originary temporality from exactitude is a flagrant disavowal of the link between time and inscription. For there is no time without its being set down. This setting down (ex-actitude) is the condition of temporalization prior to the subsequent, misplaced distinction between ecstasis and scientific calculation. In the previous terms of this article, Heidegger’s destruction of metaphysics does not truly interrogate the radical structure of ‘matter’. Indeed (the second important point), Heidegger’s metaphysical disavowal of ‘matter’ is evident in the distinction he makes between the who and the what. For ultimately, as Stiegler succinctly puts it, ‘the what has no other dynamic than an inverse one to the ‘authentic’ dynamic of who’ (TT, 249). Disentangling a primordial temporality—with its priority of futural ecstasis (that is, Being-towards-Death)—from the leveling everydayness of das Man means nothing less than to disentangle the who from the what of the originary complex who-what. The oppositional logic of authentic/inauthentic follows. Forced, the disentanglement is legislative. In Hegelian terms, it is a Sollen. It is in these terms (Heidegger’s continuation of the Epimethean ‘fault’ precisely when he wishes to think technics) that the whole ambiguity of Heidegger’s thought concerning technics and modern technology (from the thirties to the sixties) is to be understood. Heidegger’s politics (and the philosophical terms of his later disengagement from it from the Nietzsche lectures onwards) should, I stress, be understood in these terms as well. For, it is from this metaphysical lack of attention to the constitutive role of technics, when wishing to address the modern age as the age of technology, that Heidegger’s complicity with Nazi politics can best be understood. I will give a brief indication of how, expanding upon a decisive note of La Technique et le temps (TT, 212, note 1).

Stiegler’s ‘deconstruction’ of Heidegger in terms of ‘matter’ implies that the forgetting of the originary prosthetic is the condition of the Promethean heroism of finitude which Heidegger advocates in the renowned chapters on historicality in Being and Time (§73-75), in his commentary on deinon, dike and techne in the Antigone chorus in An Introduction to Metaphysics, and in the Rektoratsrede.21 It is precisely because facticity is not constitutive of temporality that Heidegger can go on to entertain the idea of a politics of ‘place’ (Ort). Thus, although tekhne provides the basic trait of the deinon of the human (An Introduction to Metaphysics ) ‘tekhne is never the source itself of uprooting as good uprooting, not that of being torn up, but that of the return to the strangest, the farthest as the most familiar hidden under its everydayness’ (TT, 212, note 1). By separating the who from the what in this way, Heidegger separates the deinon of the human from the deinon of Being, as a result of which dike confronts techne. The institution of the Ort , as the ‘unheimlich’ carrying of the worlding of the world (polemos), ends up opposed to technicization. The confrontation assumed at first voluntaristic (1930s) then pious proportions (1940s onwards). Heidegger’s originary forgetting of the constitutive role of technics for ecstasis as such made him unable to think modern technology beyond the terms of calculation, destitution and decline. As I suggested at the very beginning of this article, Heidegger’s itinerary is a telling example (for how many on the Left or on the Right have escaped an instrumentalist thinking of techne?) of the lack of reflection on the relation between the human and the technical.

It should be clear from the above that the thinking of the ontological difference turns the prosthetic already-there into an existential stake which concerns Dasein’s ontological status because Heidegger has placed Dasein outside matter despite his original thesis on ‘equipmentality’ (Being and Time, ‘Origin of the Work of Art’). His philosophy of the will is comprehensible within this reading; it is the precipitate (a Sollen) of the anthropological refusal to think technology technically, or ‘epiphylogenetically’. Heidegger’s inability to think the ‘nullity’ of the factical world (Being and Time) in terms of the evolution of ‘matter’ leads in other words to a heroic politics of Being. La Technique et le temps thus suggests that the most suitable way to comprehend this politics (to mourn and transform it) is to inscribe the aporia of ‘nullity’ in Heidegger’s thinking of the ontological difference within an aporetic history of the complex who-what.

This inscription has enormous consequences for Heidegger’s understandings of resoluteness, debt, tradition, inheritance, the gift and Gelassenheit from Being and Time right through to Time and Being. For, if the prosthetic already-there undercuts (from the beginning) Heidegger’s desire to retrieve an originary temporality unaffected by technicity, then the world of facticity (or nullity) is neither a given of existential analysis nor, later, a determination of Ereignis, but a history of differentiations. Given shortness of space, we will look at one concept only—the existential of Schuldigsein (Being and Time: §54-60, esp. §58), which cuts across the topology of a chronological reading of Heidegger’s thought.22

Schuldigsein is to be translated in various ways: as being-at-fault, being-guilty, being-indebted or being-responsible-towards. It is a structure of radical lack which precedes and accounts for moral or religious conceptions of human facticity, forming a major part of Heidegger’s ‘destruction’ of ontology which returns what are considered to be ontological understandings of human lack to a radical structure of Schuld. Moral conscience is derived from a radical Gewissen towards the undetermined other of the ‘lack of ground’ (‘nullity’).

Now, for Stiegler, the ‘fault’ of Heidegger is not to have abandoned ethics, as contemporary humanisms have argued (often suspiciously too loudly).23 Derrida’s writings have repeatedly shown that this kind of argument is philosophically incoherent and inadequate if one takes the structure of Schuldigsein seriously.24 The fault is not to be understood either, however, in terms of Heidegger’s abandonment of the ‘Jewish’ source of obligation towards the other (Levinas, Lacoue-Labarthe and Lyotard).25 More radically, it is to be understood in terms of Heidegger’s Epimethean fault: the determination of the prosthetic défaut of origin as the originary fault (indebtedness, Schuldigsein) of being-without-ground. The fault of Heidegger’s understanding of fault is its forgetting of ‘matter’. Its singularity—Heidegger’s fault/mistake (à la Lacoue-Labarthe)—is the Promethean act of resistance to what he had already uncovered as an irrecoverable ‘already-there’. It is the non sequitur of his desire to hang on, at all costs, to the individuality of Dasein. This was made possible—and Heidegger’s philosophical conservatism is to be located at this level (not earlier, compare Habermas’s reading of Heidegger’s transcendental arrogance)26—by his refusal to mediate his understanding of ‘historicality’ in historical (epiphylogenetic) terms. As a result, his philosophy became willful and doctrinaire.

Here again we can see the originality and contemporary force of Stiegler’s thesis—his thinking of the ‘other’ of metaphysics, not in terms of the Other (or, indeed, autrui), but in terms of (the history of) ‘matter’. The consequences of this re-inscription of alterity are radical.

I argued earlier that, in terms of Stiegler’s genealogy of ‘matter’, the concepts of philosophy were the logical precipitate of the disavowal of ‘matter’. As Stiegler’s rewriting of Schuldigsein implies, this means that man’s cultural relation to technology should be thought through—in contrast to an oppositional logic of Epimethean forgetting, then Promethean resistance—in terms of Epimethean delay and Promethean foresight; what Stiegler calls the ‘redoublement’ of this originary delay (TT, 238-242). Before, however, concluding with Stiegler’s ‘politics of memory’, we should first sort out the difference between his deconstruction and Derrida’s. To do so will make it all the more clear why and how Stiegler’s historical (non-conceptual) understanding of différance reinvents politics whereas Derrida’s quasi-concept différance leads in turn to a quasi-politics, one made in the name of the radical ‘im-possibility of invention’.27

Third axis: On pages 147 to 153 of La Technique et le temps Stiegler opens an explicit debate with the philosophy of Derrida. I say ‘explicit’ because the whole analysis of the second chapter is of course in dialogue with the deconstruction of Rousseau in Of Grammatology. In this text Derrida describes the aporia of origin as an event which, in its very eventness, never takes place as such. This im-possibility of the event of the origin has become a familiar theme in Derrida’s works, one with which Derrida has always argued for the radical anteriority of the law. It is an argument, of course, in which the Heideggerian existential of Schuldigsein finds its place in Derrida’s work.28 In the context of Rousseau—it is precisely where Rousseau has a certain exemplarity for Derrida in the philosophical tradition—the aporia of the origin (the origin as a non-event, the im-possibility of the aporia) concerns the passage from nature to culture, of the birth of society, or, in the terms of Derrida’s penetrating reading, of incest.29 Rousseau narrates this passage, respectful of the fictional genre which the non-event of the pas-sage calls for, as a fête. The pages in which Derrida analyses this fête as the rigorous expression of the desire for presence are well-known, thanks in part to the scrupulous readings of Rousseau by Paul De Man and Geoffrey Bennington.30 I will assume knowledge of these readings to go straight to the passage which interests me. It is a passage which gathers together several Derridean motifs:

There is a point in the system where the signifier can no longer be replaced by its signified, so that in consequence no signifier can be so replaced, purely and simply. For the point of non-replacement is also the point of orientation for the entire system of signification, the point where the fundamental signified is promised as the terminal-point of all references and conceals itself as that which would destroy at one blow the entire system of signs [....] That point does not exist, it is always elusive or, what comes to the same thing, always already inscribed in what it ought to escape or ought to have escaped, according to our indestructible and mortal desire. The point is reflected in the fête [...], when ‘pleasure and desire were mingled and were felt together.’ The fête itself would be incest itself if such a thing—itself—could take place; if, by taking place, incest were not to confirm the prohibition: before the prohibition, it is not incest; forbidden, it cannot become incest except through the recognition of the prohibition. We are always short of or beyond the limit of the fête , of the origin of society [...] that which passes (comes to pass) always and (yet) never properly takes place. It is always as if I had committed incest. This birth of society is therefore not a passage, it is a point, a pure fictive and unstable, ungraspable limit.31

It is this limit which La Technique et le temps: Tome 1. La Faute d’Epiméthée has given us a genealogy of. Stiegler narrates the aporetic passage of hominization (passage from the genetic to the non-genetic) and determines it aporetically as the indeterminacy of the who-what. Refusing to dwell within the ‘im-possible logic’ of the aporia, considering this logic still too philosophical, he therefore replaces the ‘point of non-replacement’, the ‘fictive point’ by (a history of) the aporia of originary technicity, organized inorganic matter.

In contrast, considered in terms of a ‘fictive point’, the quasi-transcendental logic of the complex origin has always encouraged Derrida to disrupt the boundaries between philosophy and literature and speak, as most explicitly in ‘Before the Law’ and Mémoires for Paul de Man, of an aporetic law of law before all determinations of law, one which simultaneously calls for and prohibits a narrative (récit) of the origin.32 As Derrida’s most recent writings have insisted (from Mémoires for Paul de Man to Specters of Marx) this law of all laws is undeconstructible; it is thus both the irreducible condition of all deconstruction and the immemorial source of memory and the future. Unnarratable, it gives time and space. This understanding of what Derrida has consistently called, since Psyché. Inventions de l’autre and Of Spirit, a radical ‘promise’, can be considered in part as a re-organization of the Heideggerian theme of the gift of time (Time and Being) which precedes all ontology. The structure of the promise, however, places literature and philosophy in a necessary relation of fictional contamination, rather than, as for Heidegger, opposing thought to literature (What is Called Thinking?).

The above paragraph from Of Grammatology makes sense of Derrida’s strategies in philosophy. It also makes sense of the literary reception of deconstruction in the Anglo-saxon world in the 1970s and 1980s. The aporia of origin leads to a thinking of the ‘quasi-transcendental’ which emerges most productively in Derrida’s work in the chiasmus between philosophy and literature. In this chiasmus ontological logic is mourned, and literature is given a certain privilege in the re-arrangement of the human sciences which ensues from the Derrida’s deconstruction of the empirico-transcendental divide (compare my note 13). Now, for Stiegler, in the context of a ‘genealogy of matter’, the law of law already prejudges too much; it is to be re-inscribed in a differentiated, complex narrative of ‘matter’ which is nothing but a history of the differances of différance. Stiegler’s genealogy leads therefore to more of a negotiation between philosophy, the sciences of life and the cognitive sciences. To put it too simply (for I am concerned with general orientations here), it is now that the difference between a Derridean and Stieglerian-type deconstruction of the empirico-transcendental divide comes to the fore. It is one, on the one hand, between philosophy and the human and social sciences, and one, on the other, between philosophy and the sciences of life and technosciences. The former thinks invention in terms of the ‘im-possible’ and the irreducible gift of time; the latter thinks invention in terms of the technical giving of time and, therefore, in terms of a ‘politics of memory’.

In the pages to which I have just referred Stiegler examines the way in which Derrida himself reads the paleontology of Leroi-Gourhan in the preceding, poorly known chapter ‘Of Grammatology as a Positive Science’. Derrida is here disentangling the concept of arche-writing from the paleontological perspective on hominization. The passage is of decisive importance for Stiegler and interests us for several reasons:

Leroi-Gourhan no longer describes the unity of man and the human adventure by the simple possibility of the graphie in general; rather as a stage or an articulation in the history of life—of what I have called différance—as the history of gramme. Instead of having recourse to the concepts that habitually serve to distinguish man from other living beings (instinct and intelligence, absence or presence of speech, of society, of economy, etc. etc.), the notion of program is invoked. It must of course be understood in the cybernetic sense, but cybernetics is itself intelligible only in terms of a history of the possibilities of the trace as the unity of a double movement of protention and retention. This movement goes far beyond the possibilities of the ‘intentional consciousness’. It is an emergence that makes the gramme appear as such (that is to say according to the new structure of nonpresence) and undoubtedly makes possible the emergence of the systems of writing in the narrow sense. Since ‘genetic inscription’ and the ‘short programmatic chains’ regulating the behavior of the amoeba or the annelid up to the passage beyond alphabetic writing to the orders of the logos and of a certain Homo Sapiens, the possibility of the gramme structures the movement of its history according to rigorously original levels, types and rhythms. But one cannot think them without the most general concept of the gramme; That is irreducible and impregnable [imprenable].33

For Stiegler, in contrast, if the concept of the gramme is indeed irreducible, its irreducibility must at the same time be articulated in terms of its (historical) differentiations in different ‘systems of writing’. Derrida’s quasi-transcendental concept of différance as arche-writing can be seen to freeze these articulations. I would add that the ‘freeze’ ends up as the very concept of ‘quasi-transcendental’, a term which Derrida coined in the seventies (Glas), but one which is already implicit in the ‘textual’ negotiation with Saussure, Lévi-Strauss and Rousseau in Of Grammatology. Let me quote Stiegler’s argument concerning this articulation of gramme:

One must, in addition, determine what conditions hold for the emergence of the ‘gramme as such’, and what consequences follow regarding the general history of life or the gramme. This is going to be our question. The history of the gramme is also that of electronic files and reading machines: it is a history of technics. The invention of man is, in other words, technics [l’invention de l’homme, c’est la technique]. (148)

Concerning Derrida’s well-known definition of différance (as differing and deferment) in the article of the same name, Stiegler continues:

it designates, above all, life in general: there is time as soon as there is life, even though Derrida had also written [in Of Grammatology] that ‘the trace is the différance which opens appearance (l’apparaître) and signification [which articulates] the living onto the nonliving in general, [which is the] origin of all repetition’. To articulate the living onto the nonliving, is this not already to have passed over the break, not already to be no longer in pure physis? There is something like an indecision concerning ‘différance’: it is the history of life in general, but this history is (only) given (as dating) after the break, even though this break is, if not nothing, at least a lot less than what the classical division between humanity and animality means. The whole problem has to do with the economy of life in general, and the meaning of death as the economy of life when the break has come. The question of ‘différance’ is death. This after is ‘culture as nature different and deferred, differing-deferring; all the others of physis—tekhne, nomos, thesis, society, freedom, history, mind, etc.—as physis different and deferred, or as physis differing and deferring. Physis in différance’.34 Now, physis as life was already différance. There is then an indecision, a passage which remains to be thought. The question is the specificity of the temporality of life when life is inscription in the nonliving, spacing, temporalization, differentiation, and deferring through, from and in the non-living, in death. To think the articulation is also to think the birth of the relation to time which we name ‘to exist’, it is to think anticipation.

Let me bring my commentary towards a conclusion through this quotation. Stiegler’s wish to differentiate the concept of différance—specifically in relation to the historically traceable differentiation(s) ‘human-technical object’—has several major consequences with which we should now be familiar:
i) a genealogy of matter replaces quasi-transcendental analyses, bringing with it a new understanding of inter-disciplinarity and new negotiations between philosophy, the arts, the sciences of life and the cognitive sciences;
ii) it brings to a definitive close the specificity of the ‘Humanities’;
iii) in specific relation to the engagements and strategies of the philo-sophy of Jacques Derrida, it rethinks the trace (worked out in Of Grammatology through the notion of non-worldly ideality in Saussurean linguistics and Husserlian phenomenology) in terms of the ‘différances’ of life and of the reflective complex human-matter.
iv) in terms of this rethinking, and if the differentiation of différance makes the passage to the human knowable in terms of technicity, then a politics of technics is possible.

What is the logic of the last point? I will conclude here.

In situating in historical terms the aporia of the passage, Stiegler, in contrast to both Heidegger and Derrida, calls for an understanding of the gift of time in terms of originary technicity. The gift of time—a crucial concept for Heidegger and one with which Derrida has remained faithful to Heidegger’s path of thinking in his development of the ‘promise’ of aporia—this gift gives itself as organized inorganic matter, without which there would be neither access to time nor anticipation. This determination of the gift opens up the possibility of an active development of the relation between the human and the technical. Stiegler calls this type of reflection ‘redoublement epochal’ (see TT, 191ff.). It is an active remembering of the originary défaut of origin, one, precisely, which can be considered to re-inscribe recent and contemporary efforts to get behind the distinction between thinking and acting (Heidegger’s Gelassenheit, Derrida’s logic of ‘double affirmation’, Lyotard’s ‘radical passibilité ’).

This is important, since for many, notably those working within a thinking of aporia, one can imagine the following reception of Stiegler’s work:
In determining the gift of time, in re-inscribing—be it aporetically and in a gesture of complexification regarding the concept of différance—the law of law in a history of ‘matter’, Stiegler ends up losing an aporetic understanding of human facticity. The loss finds symptomatic expression in Stiegler’s wish to consider the horizon of technics as ‘speed’ (TT, 29) and, concomitantly, to see time and space as differentiations of speed. By differentiating the quasi-transcendental ‘différance’ and inscribing a differentiation of its movement within an aporetic articulation of the complex living-nonliving, Stiegler simplifies the movement of différance and runs the risk of narrating a history of increasing acceleration which loses, in its history, the aporias of finitude. In other words, Stiegler’s account of technics ends up infinitist.

When at several points in the book (and Stiegler’s reflections will take on fuller form in the second volume) he looks forward to a politics of memory, the suspicion concerning the dangers of determining the gift may well be increased. Derrida has been the most important philosopher to ‘mourn’ the possibility of political philosophy at what he calls the ‘closure’ of metaphysics. Although the complexity of Derrida’s argument is often underestimated concerning his relation to the political, it is nevertheless well-known that Derrida’s relation to politics is thought in terms of aporetic impossibility (even if the logic of this im-possibility is little rehearsed). From within Derrida’s philosophical strategies, it would be wrong to conceive of a politics of deconstruction. Such a proposal makes nonsense of his refusal to determine the law of law. Rather, the im-possibility of narrating the origin (or of accounting for the law) leads to an aporetic relation to institutions: on the one hand, one cannot escape determination (the trace is only in this world); on the other, all determination engenders an ‘economy of violence’ (since there is no logic adequate to the trace) which prevents identification with any one determination. Hence Derrida’s understanding of the political is always couched within terms of the relation between undecidability and decision, aporia and judgment, alterity and form. This relation must remain itself undetermined and aporetic for there to be the chance of a future (l’à-venir). For the door to events to remain open, one must not anticipate event-hood. If there is a process within the acceleration of contemporary technicization that renders time and space homogeneous, that abolishes the experience of events, that reduces singularity to indifference, one cannot, in contrast, anticipate the ‘surprise’ of events without determining them in turn. This would be, in Derridean terms, a politics of the promise or of the event: Heidegger is, for Derrida, the example of this confusion—the wish to appropriate/figure the aporia of nullity.

From a Derridean perspective, therefore, Stiegler’s desire for a politics could look like another (highly sophisticated) recuperation of an absolute past which elides the aporia of origin within the figure of, let us say, a voluntarist politics of deceleration. I believe that some such reception of Stiegler is possible in the years to come. I also believe, however, that it would be erroneous. Let me finally conclude by suggesting why. As I anticipated in my introduction to this long review, everything preceding this conclusion leads up to what Stiegler understands by a ‘politics of memory’. I can, therefore, be brief. I also look forward to the appearance of the second volume of La Technique et le temps which will have much more to say about these terms. It is then that detailed debate can be engaged. At least, this article may have served to say where we have come from.

1) For Stiegler, politics is to be understood in terms of the défaut of originary technicity. In other words, politics can only be understood in terms of the ‘faute technique’ (TT, 202). The political forms part of the same movement out of originary technicity as thinking and reason. The political, the technical and the symbolic cannot, therefore, be separated. This does not mean, however, that they are to be identified— the risk Heidegger ran, ironically, by wishing to philosophize the politics of his age. If one separates thinking from the political, then one runs the risk of either politicizing thinking or ontologizing politics. If one does not, then one is always already in the political; but this political is, precisely, not yet a genre. Stiegler’s rewriting of what precedes the distinction between thinking and acting is actively epiphylogenetic. Rather than repeat the Epimethean forgetting of the delay of man in relation to the ‘prosthetic already there’ in terms of the politicization of thinking or the ontologization of politics, memory doubles up on the human-technical défaut of origin as a politics of memory. Our ‘delay’ upon the ‘prosthetic already-there’ (to go quickly: doubling up the past as the possibility of the future) is re-marked as a doubling of the differentiation of différance.

2) This politics is nothing but the struggle to remember, actively, the relation between the technical and the human. The struggle is pitched against all affirmations of either the inhuman or the human. It also questions the philosophical rigor informing the affirmation of anamnesis as other than political citizenship (Lyotard, Inhuman. Reflections on Time, etc.).35 Stiegler re-inscribes the task of thinking back into active citizenship. He does so, however, without developing an idea of citizenship which would re-engage the classical or modern axiomatic of the political. For the relation between the human and the technical is, precisely, originarily aporetic, to be constantly (re-)invented. Thus, the community Stiegler is concerned with (the ‘communauté du défaut’ of the ‘défaut de communauté’, TT, 234-6) is the re-cognition of the trace as the doubling of the differentiation of différance. In this sense, Stiegler is looking forward to a politics of memory articulated in terms of multiple, heterogeneous sites of invention. These sites are, in this multiple, experimental sense, and in this sense only, institutions of aporia.

3) Thus, whilst aporia leads Derrida (contra Heidegger) to invention as the im-possible promise of invention, for Stiegler (contra Heidegger and Derrida, although, precisely, in almost opposing ways), aporia is the possibility of invention; the aporia of who-what shapes the very pos-sibility of (a) politics. Since politics has always disavowed its possibility—Socrates’ treatment of the slave in Meno, reproduced again and again throughout the history of the West (there is no invention, only memory, that is, forgetting)—then a politics of the memory of the aporia of memory calls for a recasting of the West’s thinking of the political as well as that of its ‘closure’.

The implications of La Technique et le temps: Tome 1. La faute d’Epiméthée are, I believe, clear (to some they will appear, initially, scandalous): we have mourned the ontologization of politics enough; it is just, in active memory of epimetheia, to re-invent our understanding and practice of dike.

And, each time one remembers, one is already inventing. La Technique et le temps is already aporetically engaged in a future of political imagination.


* My thanks to Howard Caygill, George Collins, Michael Scollen and Bernard Stiegler with whom I have had memorable conversations on the subject of matter.
1 All references to the work will take the form TT and will be placed in the text. Translation forthcoming Technics and Time: Vol. 1. The Fault of Epimetheus, trans. Richard Beardsworth and George Collins (Stanford University Press, Meridian Series).
2 A word of definition is called for concerning the recurrent terms 'technics', the 'technical' and 'technology' in the following. I understand by 'technics' (techne, 'la technique', 'die Technik') either the thought, practice, or phenomenon of technical objects. The term 'technical' is used to designate the domain (not essence) of technics in general; hence my substantival use of the adjective (in analogy with contemporary use of the term 'the political' in distinction to the term 'politics'). Following Stiegler, I understand by 'technology' the specific amalgamation of technics and the sciences in the modern period. It is this amalgamation which makes the modern age an essentially technical age. The Anglo-saxon translation of Heidegger's "Die Frage nach der Technik" as "The Question concerning Technology" unfortunately loses the importance of these distinctions. For a detailed account of the implications of Derrida's deconstruction of ontology and logic for the thinking of the political, see my forthcoming Derrida and the Political (London: Routledge).
3 One can surmise from this perspective that the wish to guard philosophy from political thinking not only betrays a refusal to think historical inscription; it is also, perhaps above all, a refusal to think material inscription (technics).
4 Since Stiegler's work on Husserl is to be found in the second volume, I will concentrate here on his relation with Heidegger and Derrida's philosophies. In this context I wish to anticipate the possible remark, concerning my own approach, that Stiegler's major focus in this volume is really with Heidegger, especially since the second part of the book is a detailed reading of his philosophy of time. Thus, four pages (out of approximately three hundred) on what could be seen as a principled, but ultimately minor disagreement with Derrida's concept of arche-writing hardly constitutes matter for a 'decisive' break. It is one of the purposes of this article to show that, on the contrary, the relation with Derrida's philosophy is constant in La Technique et le temps. Tome 1: La faute d'Epiméthée and that it should be articulated, if the complexity of the work (and the complexity of its negotiations) is to be suitably appraised. The second volume of La Technique et le temps will undoubtedly carry this necessary articulation further.
5 For a detailed account of the implications of Derrida's deconstruction of ontology and logic for the thinking of the political, see my forthcoming Derrida and the Political (London: Routledge).
6 P. Lacoue-Labarthe, Heidegger, art, and politics: the fiction of the political, trans. Chris Turner (Oxford, UK; Cambridge, Mass., USA: B. Blackwell, 1990), 43 and 51.
7 'Disavowed' in the Freudian sense, that is in the sense of a refusal to perceive a fact which impinges from the outside. Freud's example in his use of the term is the denial of a woman's absence of a penis (see 'The Infantile Genital Organisation' in Pelican Freud Library, vol. 7, 303-312, esp. 310, n°1). The term, however, is appropriate for the way in which the tradition of philosophy has 'denied' finitude. It is all the more appropriate (hence my constant use of the term in what follows) to describe the relation between philosophy and technics.This is perhaps the occasion to express one serious regret concerning La Technique et le temps: the lack of a confrontation between its thinking of memory and inheritance and Freud's theory of the unconscious. The terms of the confrontation are so complex, however, that one can understand Stiegler's reticence in this regard. As we shall see, he has at the very least opened up a major field of inquiry for the future theoretical work of psychoanalysis.
8 J. Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Spivak (John Hopkins Press, 1974), 27.
9 For an excellent development of the relation between recognition and aporia, to which my own reading of Stiegler is, obliquely, indebted, see G. Rose, The Broken Middle. Out of our Ancient Society (Blackwell, 1992).
10 Whilst this is also a central thesis of Derrida (especially in terms of his own reading of Heidegger) we shall see later that Stiegler's genealogy of 'matter' demands a rethinking of the logic of invention such as Derrida has recently expounded it in Ch. 1, 'Psyché, Invention de l'autre', Psyché. Inventions de l'autre (Paris: Galilée, 1987), 17-62.
11 At the risk of repetition, this understanding of matter-in terms of its historical differentiations, and, therefore, with regard to man, in terms of its organization as organized inorganic matter-is radically innovative in the philosophical tradition. An alert reader will also be aware that Stiegler's articulation of organized inorganic matter announces a re-reading of Marx's materialism after the phenomenological disentanglement of time from logic. The consequences for a new thinking on the Left of the relation between the social, the technical, and the economic are, I believe, profound.
12 The argument in fact throws into question the politico-philosophical orientation of aporetic thinking which Derrida outlined, for example, in his major writing on the relation between philosophy and history 'Cogito and the History of Madness' (Writing and Difference (Routledge, 1978), 51-98). For a statement on Derrida's related readings of Nietzsche in terms of the law of différance, see my interview with Derrida, 'Nietzsche and the Machine' in Journal of Nietzsche Studies, Issue 7, Spring 1994, 7-64. See also my note 29.
13 We will come to the philosophical implications of Derrida's (highly coherent) refusal to give a history later. Let it be said here (in the context of Stiegler's elaboration of 'matter' prior to the philosophical distinction between matter and form) that the concept of organized organic matter cuts through Derrida's re-reading of khôra in the Timaeus as an unplaceable, unnarratable crypt prior to, but constitutive of, the genres and logics of the Western tradition (Khôra (Paris: Galilée, 1993)). It therefore cuts through the 'ultra-philosophical' purchase which Derrida gives to fiction and literature to describe, in a simulacrum of narrative, what precedes the difference between philosophy and myth, truth and fiction. We should also point out in this context that Stiegler's genealogy of 'matter' shows Lyotard's recent elaboration of the term matière (from Heidegger and "the jews", trans. Andreas Michel and Mark S. Roberts (Minnesota University Press, 1988), onwards), as an immemorial other of/to the philosophical concept, to be unmediated and a-historical. Lyotard's thinking of the relation between the 'philosophical', the 'political' and the 'aesthetic' needs to be rethought accordingly. Stiegler's genealogy provides indeed a welcome opportunity for contemporary French thought to look again at the relation between philosophy and history and Hegelian mediation (despite the fact that Hegel is not a thinker of 'matter' in Stieglerian terms). This can only be done however-and this is why things are complex and why it is important to go slowly-in recognition of all that contemporary French thought has done to mourn metaphysical logic, including all logic which informs the concept of history (hence its refusal of the term 'a-historical', understandable in its own terms). This mourning is without doubt infinite; however, the differentiations of history (and what goes with them-above all the importance of 'experience' and 'struggle') have been unnecessary victims of the terms of this mourning. Consequently, it is in questioning its terms that one can question contemporary French thought's desire to 'get behind' (the logics of) history. If history has no logic, and if this can be elaborated in terms of a genealogy of 'matter' without the ever-present risk of re-engaging the axiomatic of ontology (and all that goes with it-the fetichization of experience and struggle as political avant-gardism and terror), then the terms of the 'post'-metaphysical break with philosophy are untenable (whatever the differences, which are considerable, between the philosophies of, for example, Heidegger, Derrida, Lyotard and Deleuze). What is at stake here is, ultimately, the question of the exact relation between écriture and technics. We will come back to the this, at least in the context of Derrida, in the last part of the article.On the importance of the 'French' mourning of the ontological for political invention, see, again, my Derrida and the political, esp. chapter Two 'The Political Limit of Logic and the Promise of Democracy: Kant, Hegel, Derrida', op. cit. B. Gilles, Histoire des techniques, Enclyclopédie de la Pléïade (Gallimard, 1978). Gilbert Simondon, Du mode d'existence des objets techniques, L'invention philosophique (Aubier, 1989); L'individu et sa genèse physico-biologique (PUF, 1964), L'individuation psychique et collective, L'invention philosophique (Aubier).
14 B. Gilles, Histoire des techniques, Enclyclopédie de la Pléïade (Gallimard, 1978). Gilbert Simondon, Du mode d'existence des objets techniques, L'invention philosophique (Aubier, 1989); L'individu et sa genèse physico-biologique (PUF, 1964), L'individuation psychique et collective, L'invention philosophique (Aubier).
15 A. Leroi-Gourhan, Gesture and Speech, trans. A. Berger (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993).
16 The story is narrated in Protagoras (321c-322d). Although placed at the beginning of the second section of the book (what I am in fact calling its 'third part'), in Part II, Chapter 1: 'Prometheus's Liver', the themes of this chapter are crucial for an understanding of the book as a whole. Given the general conception of the work, it would be difficult, however, to see the chapter coming earlier.The story is as follows: The gods had charged the two brothers Epimetheus and Prometheus with the task of 'equipping [mortal creatures] and allotting suitable powers to each kind'. In a gesture typically unthinking and rushed, Epimetheus wished to do the distribution himself, leaving his brother Prometheus to review it when he was done. Having given all the available qualities to the animals, Epimetheus had, however, none left for the human species. As a consequence of Epimetheus's error, Prometheus, when he came to review the work, was 'at a loss to provide any means of salvation for man, [and] stole from Hephaestus and Athena the gift of skill in the arts, together with fire-for without fire it was impossible for anyone to possess or use this skill-and bestowed it on man.' (321d)As the title La Technique et le temps: Tome 1. La faute d'Epiméthée indicates, Stiegler structures humanity's relation to technics in terms of this 'double [supplementary] origin' of man. Prometheus's 'fault' (stealing the gift of technicity) supplements the fault of Epimetheus (forgetting the human species). These two faults form the double 'duplicity' of man. On the one hand, Epimetheus's forgetting (precipitation) is constitutive of man, just as man's tardy reflection (reflection in the après coup) is a consequence of the initial forgetting. Man is thus both distracted and, distracted and empty-headed, he is at the same time inheritor of all the faults of distraction. This is the structure of epimetheia. What is most important here is the logic of forgetting and retrospective delay. On the other hand, Prometheus's review of his brother's error (which leads to the subsequent theft) foresees that man will need skill (itself foresight) in order to survive. Man is thus, also, an animal of anticipation and technique. This is the structure of prometheia. As both epimetheia and prometheia, Man is doubly at fault; that is, his finitude (compared to the gods) is to be understood as his being-always-too-late and always-too-early, in delay and in anticipation, in need and artificially empowered. It is the double structure of this finitude which Stiegler wishes to re-cognize and, as we shall see, it is in terms of this double duplicity that he develops a thinking of political invention.This said, both structures-especially that of epimetheia-need to be articulated with Freud's understanding of psychic inheritance in Moses and Monotheism; that is with the sexuality of the human species (the ego is (also) deferred 'body') and with the consequent 'tradition' of 'disavowal' (for Freud, religion). This is, of course, an immense project. Stiegler's work on temporal delay and on the human cortex-organized inorganic matter prepares the way.
17 Compare J. Derrida 'Donner la Mort' in L'Ethique du don, eds. J.-M. Rabaté and M. Wetzel (Paris: Transition, 1992).
18 M. Heidegger, The Concept of Time, trans. William McNeill (Blackwell, 1992); Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Blackwell, 1967).
19 The violence of the break becomes explicit, in negative mode, at one juncture, when Stiegler argues that the late Heidegger's move to think Being without reference to beings is an overcoming of Dasein (in 'Time and Being', 'The End of Philosophy and the Beginning of Thinking' and related essays). Rather, the late Heidegger's move is to think Being without reference to its being grounded in beings: which is not the same thing; it does not amount to thinking Being without reference to man. Stiegler should be less cautious here and announce explicitly his own totally justified wish to dis-anthropologize Heidegger's thinking of Ereignis (for this is what is at stake). My point is not trivial. Stiegler's wish to push Heidegger in a non-anthropological direction speaks eloquently of the kind of violence he is inflicting upon Heidegger's thought. For it is done in order to retrieve an 'unthought' within what Heidegger thinks. Hence my term 'violence' (just as Heidegger speaks of violence in his productive interpretation of the Critique of Pure Reason in the Kantbuch). My fear is, however, that, unarticulated, the violence of the latter appropriation of the late Heidegger loses the double relation to his path of thought which is so carefully maintained throughout most of the book. It thereby covers over Stiegler's clear belief that the theme of Ereignis is another panic before 'matter'. For the coherence of his own thesis, Stiegler must elaborate the difference, however difficult this elaboration promises to be.
20 P. Lacoue-Labarthe and J.-L. Nancy (eds.), 'Préface' of Le Retrait du politique (Paris: 1983); see also JLN and PLL (eds.), Rejouer le politique (Paris: Galilee, 1981); J. Derrida, Specters of Marx, trans. Peggy Kamuf (Routledge, 1994).
21 M. Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Ralph Manheim (Yale, 1987), 146-165; M. Heidegger, "The Self-Assertion [Self-Affirmation] of the German University", trans. K. Harries, The Review of Metaphysics, March 1985, vol. 28, n° 3, 470-480.
22 See, in this respect, the long (and now notorious) note on debt, engagement, promise and affirmation preceding the 'Greek' authority of the questioning attitude, in J. Derrida, Of Spirit. Heidegger and the Question, note 2, 129-136, esp. 133. Derrida has recently further radicalized the originary structure of acquiescence in terms of the peut-être of the arrivant; see J. Derrida, Politiques de l'amitie (Paris: Galilee, 1994), esp. 43-66. This is not the occasion to go into this radicalization here. Suffice it to say the following: if epiphylogenesis re-articulates Schuldigsein as 'matter', the re-articulation has important implications not only in the context of Heidegger's politics of the questioning attitude, but also in the context of Derrida's above 're-writing(s)' of this attitude. As we shall see, the issue here-- one which traverses again the terrain of Nietzsche-- is the 'logic' of possibility.
23 Such outcries flooded the academic market in the 1980s after the historical 'revelations' of Victor Farias' Heidegger et le nazisme (Verdier, 1987), often repeating humanist reactions or appropriations of Heidegger's thought of the 1950s when a humanist Marxism and Existentialism were institutionally in place. See, for example, L. Ferry and A. Renaut Heidegger et les Modernes (Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1988). In other words the 'Heidegger Affair' is more serious than a humanist answer to Heidegger's error implies. For the terms of such an answer are invariably already put in question by Heidegger's Abbau of metaphysics. They cannot, therefore, hold authority over the way in which Heidegger's complicity with National Socialism is considered. This does not excuse Heidegger; it makes the complicity all the more scandalous.
24 See, for example, "Ulysses Gramophone: Hear Say Yes in Joyce" in J. Derrida, Acts of Literature, ed. Derek Attridge (Routledge, 1992), 253-309; and, obliquely, "At this Very Moment in This Work Here I am", trans. Ruben Berezdivin in Re-Reading Levinas, ed. Robert Bernasconi and Simon Critchley (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991). For comparative work on the radicality of this existential, see, also, Christopher Fynsk, Heidegger: Thought and Historicity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986) and Avital Ronell, The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech (Lincoln: Nebraska Press, 1989).
25 E. Levinas, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991); P. Lacoue-Labarthe, Heidegger, art, and politics: the fiction of the political, op. cit.; J.-F. Lyotard, Heidegger and "the jews", trans. Andreas Michel and Mark S. Roberts (Minnesota University Press, 1988). (It should be noted in parenthesis that the singularity of Jewish suffering is in fact lost in the above (eminently philosophical) type of generalization. For a detailed analysis of this point, see my Derrida and the Political. For sympathetic recourse to Levinas concerning the relation between Heidegger's separation of thinking from the sciences and his political engagements, see, nevertheless, the accompanying, important article by Jean-Michel Salanskis 'Die Wissenschaft denkt nicht'.)
26 J. Habermas, "The Undermining of Western Rationalism through the Critique of Metaphysics: Martin Heidegger" in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988), 131-158, and Martin Heidegger. L'Oeuvre et l'engagement, trans. Rainer Rochlitz, (Paris: Cerf, 1988), 13-26 and 56-62.
27 See note 9.
28 See J. Derrida, "Before the Law", trans. Avital Ronell, in Acts of Literature (op. cit.), 181-220.
29 For the aporetic im-possibility of the aporia as such (in distinction to Heidegger's figuring of the aporia), see J. Derrida, Aporias, trans. Thomas Dutoit (Stanford University Press, 1994). The informed reader will know that we are doing nothing here but turning in and out of this profound text.
30 P. de Man, "The Rhetoric of Blindness: Jacques Derrida's Reading of Rousseau" in Blindness and Insight, Second edition (Routledge, 1993), 102-141 and Allegories of Reading, "Part II-Rousseau" (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979). G. Bennington, Sententiousness and the Novel. Laying Down the Law in Eighteenth Century Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 1985), "Part IV-Sententiousness and the Law"; Dudding. Des noms propres de Rousseau (Paris: Galilée, 1991); "Postal Politics and the Institution of the Nation" in Narration and Nation, ed. Homi Bhabha (Routledge, 1990), 121-137; and "Mosaic Fragment: If Derrida were an Egyptian" in G. Bennington, Legislations. The Politics of Deconstruction (London: Verso, 1994), 207-228.It is, I hope, clear that the writing which the most concentrates the various types of deconstruction (from Jacques Derrida to Bernard Stiegler) of the philosophical, the technical (as technics in general or as literature in particular) and the political is that of Rousseau. The proper name of Rousseau in contemporary critical debate serves as a good guide to many of the questions we are dealing with in this article.
31 Of Grammatology, op. cit., 266-267, translation slightly modified.
32 See again "Before the Law", op. cit.
33 Of Grammatology, op. cit., 84-85.
34 J. Derrida, "Différance" in Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago, 1982), 17.
35 J.-F. Lyotard, Inhuman. Reflections on Time, trans. G. Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Stanford University Press, 1992).