Laruelle’s Essay on Simondon: “The Concept of a ‘First Technology'”

Laruelle, François. “Le concept d’une ‘technologie première’” in Gilbert Simondon: une pensée de l’individituation et la technique. Paris: Albin Michel, 1994. 206-219.

The Concept of a “First Technology”

François Laruelle

A “Unified Theory” of Technics and Technology

In order to define the object of which we speak and to set its limits in our discourse; also in order to define a certain relation to the work of Simondon or Heidegger—the two greatest philosophers of technics—we will make two distinctions whose relevance or irrelevance will be demonstrated by their capacity or incapacity to “found” a new discipline called “first technology.” This distinction is expressed in the following way: a science, rather than a philosophy or a “human science”, of technics, but a science of the essence of technics, not of technical properties or facts. Thus our object in the constitution of Simondon and Heidegger’s works will participate according to a relation to be determined whose formulation testifies to a paradoxical nature: a true science, not a philosophy; but a new type of transcendental science of essence, not a science of facts, whether it be “ontic” or “positive.” Essence is philosophy’s traditional object and that through which philosophy claims to be distinguished from science: how could the latter, while still remaining science, take on an essence as its object?

We think that the means of resolving the most general antinomy, that of science and philosophy, exists beyond philosophy either as epistemology or as positivism (=science of philosophy), and that it must be sought beyond the invariant means of ontology, but not outside a dimension of thought and experience which philosophy itself has always postulated without ever recognizing it as such and completely denying its role in science. It is no longer a question of Being, but of the One insofar as it refuses any convertibility with Being and therefore must be called “One-of-the-last-instance” so as to render it inalienable in Being. We will return to this point. What meaning can it then have for this antinomy, partially derived from the precedent of technics and technology? Can the principles of a unified and not unitary (=philosophical, i.e. hierarchical) theory be established based on the technical and the technological? This new discipline, “founded” in the non-philosophical experience of the One, would require a double support. It would require the support of technology, i.e. the support of a philosophical type of knowledge of technics, of the logos qua techno-logos, and consequently the dimension of essence. And it would also require the support of science insofar as the latter is the gauge of an objective, rigorous, analytic, and non-interpretative treatment of technical objects and properties, a treatment which we will in fact call “technics,” but only with the reservation of this treatment, thus distinguishing this usage of the word “technics” from its philosophical or technological usage. We can therefore define the object of this unified theory—if it is possible: for knowledge, it will have to set off again from the One—no longer as the banal and philosophical essence of technics (which supposes given or supposedly given objects as technical as well as their intentional telos under the philosophical horizon of essence as eidos) but as the Essence (of) technics, a writing designed to indicate an indivisible block, a strict and no longer philosophical or hierarchical identity of technics and essence. This “strict” identity obviously remains to be thought and to be known both with the help of the One and with the assistance of technological discourses; but we can always posit it as our object.

A “unified theory,” without being an “ontic science,” is not however an “ontological science” in the sense that philosophy or metaphysics is. It represents the emergence of a new theoretical genre, neither philosophy nor science but using them both along with essence and the scientific object in relations which have become unintelligible to the most reflexive and positivist epistemologies. The fact that it is a unified theory without being a science in the classical or ordinary sense is explained by the nature of its cause, the One: a unified theory in this form represents a transcendental usage of the sciences. This is a non-philosophical usage because here the transcendental is no longer convertible with the metaphysical and does not claim to add or subtract anything from the sciences or to intervene in their practice. This is an immanent usage of the sciences and consequently leaves them in their current state; this is a new discipline which includes the concept of science but without philosophically dominating it or claiming to legislate over it anymore.

We depart from a currently accepted thesis so as to pose our problem which is, in fact, the problem of the usage of this thesis, not of its validity:

1) The knowledges of the “technician” belong to a wider sphere, that of projective knowledges, of directional or intentional contents: they extend from certain biological phenomena to the phenomena of the “understanding,” the “project”, and technology in general, i.e. to the constitutive knowledges of the “technological.”

2) This type of knowledge does not give rise to the sciences in the strong or classical sense of the term, to sciences which are explicative rather than projective, determinant rather than reflective, i.e. to sciences which are ultimately mathematized. We do not seek to problematize this thesis but to pose the following problem: is it possible to elaborate an egalitarian unified theory of these two types of knowledge? This theory can therefore neither be a science (analytic and reductive of projective knowledges) nor inversely a philosophical synthesis which would again resume projecting this thesis and philosophically dominating the sciences. Beyond this double reductionism, we must seek a principle of unification which is neither scientific nor philosophical; we must search for a third instance of the experience of thought or at least orient ourselves towards this experience and its necessity.

Consequently, we will propose a certain usage of the Theory of demonstration and particularly the works of Gödel for a new paradigm of thought which we will extract from metamathematical problems so as to generalize and transpose it into the more “conceptual” problems of philosophy and technics. Rather than a philosophy or an epistemology of knowledges or sciences of technics–which remains a philosophical endeavor and, consequently, a simple speculative commentary on these knowledges–we will re-inscribe technics and technology in the theoretical interval between science and metascience, between the object-language and metalanguage. The Gödelian idea—even beyond Gödel’s own works—consists, on the one hand, in postulating an interiority or a practical immanence of science, which legitimizes itself of itself without needing to rely on the philosophical; and, on the other hand, in judging the formative claims of metalanguage so as to refute them in their most philosophical or “auto-foundational” forms.

How is this problematic applied here?

1. We suppose that ordinary knowledges which have technics for their object (insofar as they are projective) are globally linked to a meta-language which describes technics in its own way. These knowledges of technics (“technology” in our sense) do not spontaneously arise from science [“la” science], nor from technics such as science would apprehend it, but from a metalanguage which decides upon the being of technics.

2. What takes on the role of object-language in relation to this metalanguage which technology is? Not the sciences which are invested in technics (scientific reductionism) but the identity (to be determined) of technics grasped by science and technology, an identity of the technician and the technologist: the “Essence (of) technics” [technics-/technical-Essence.”].

3. It is possible–by way of a regulated process and operations to be determined–to project or internalize the metalanguage which is technology into the theoretical space defined by this strict identity of (explicative) sciences and (projective) knowledges, of technics-under-science and technics-under-philosophy.

4. If this identity or this equality excludes, as we have said, the double reduction (scientific, technological and/or philosophical), it is still for the moment unthought as such. In reality, we can only posit a simple hypothesis to be progressively determined with the data provided by the forms of technological thought.

5. That which is nothing but a hypothesis makes it possible to explain the illusions that generate this double reductionism: illusions of the philosophies-of-technics on the one hand and illusions which produce technological knowledges left to themselves on the other. In both cases, they are of the philosophical or quasi-philosophical type; technology as well, and not just science, secretes its “spontaneous philosophy.”

This identity is not a new figure taken from “Western metaphysics:” it is neither deduced by the philosopher, the technician, nor the scientist. This is a new type of theoretical hypothesis which is not inferred from existing knowledges but represents the chance or advent of a new usage of that which has no use, pure theory; or a new theory of that which has no theory, technics. A scientific utopia, perhaps…

A unified theory here is not the simple positivist symmetry of a philosophy. No doubt it’s a question of refusing the authority of the “philosophy of technics,” as well as the more or less vicious circle of what a technics of technics would be rather than a “human science” of technics or of the technical along with the philosophical and/or technological autoposition that constitutes the kernel of these doctrines. However, this refusal does not treat itself to a theoreticism or a complementary scientific idealism and still less to a positivism (a science of technics). Outside the philosophy of technics and its modes (history, etc.), one could imagine a “hard” science of technics. But a unified theory, if it is instead in fact a science, cannot be a reductive, “physicalist” science of technics. Its object is the Essence (of) technics, and the latter does not claim to be substituted for objects, machines, and operations, still less for their physical, economic conditions, etc. Instead, science is here the only rigorous knowledge of the Essence (of) technics. It is the supreme guardian of the immanence of the technical situation, the guarantor of a purely phenomenal description, an immanence which is in addition therefore no longer that of knowledge in general, but which will have to receive a form adapted to technics. This is not a theoreticist reduction, and only philosophy can believe—for a second—in technical phenomena “in themselves,” having no other “in itself” but Essence, which is not itself technological.

The Essence (of) Technics and Techno-logy

So as to engage more specifically with our objects, let us provide a few suggested distinctions and draw out several consequences.

1. The first distinction is that between the technical and the technological. These will no longer be two types of entities or objects, “phenomena” supposed as two “technics” or beings in themselves of the order of “technics” and distinguished simply by certain material, economic, social, or historical traits and by their different relations to science. Technics instead is here the object offered to science (thus including contemporary “technologies”), whereas technology is of the order of discourse and knowledge, knowledge of the human sciences concerning this object, and more generally knowledge of the philosophical type, techno-logos or techno-logical difference, which is still immersed in the human sciences, even if it be removed from them. Our principal object is therefore technics rather than techno-logy taken in the sense above.

2. This distinction is continued and specified by another which now bears upon the content of the single word “technics.” This word here designates instead the essence of technics, but more exactly what we call the technical Essence of technics: in the entire first approximation (to be rectified), the set of actions, operations, and causalities which constitute the technical phenomenon is grasped in its ingredients and its ultimate requisites. It could also more traditionally designate supposedly or so-called “technical” effects and objects. But here still we are making a choice, at least apparently: our real object, what we propose to know or determine ourselves, is the Essence (of) technics and not technical objects.

We will ask: what is it that is really “technical” and that is its place, this so-called “essence” or better yet these “technical” objects so fastidiously described by Simondon, who knew that of which he spoke? This question has no relevance from our point of view and is decomposed in the following way:

1. If there are technical objects, these are what Simondon describes, but we then doubt here that, even as “becoming” or “concretization,” they exist with a scientific objectivity and that they define the Essence (of) technics. On the other hand, what we call the technical Essence of technics is not itself “technical,” i.e. is not a technical object and cannot be understood based on Simondon’s philosophy, through a reading or a re-interpretation of his philosophy. Since, however, the notion of object is here a philosophical notion par excellence, bound to objectification, the logos, and every Greco-Simondonian ontology (if we are allowed this summation), we will say rigorously so as to rectify Heidegger’s formula: the technical Essence of technics is not at all techno-logical and can only be understood by the notion of “technical object,” whether in a state of genesis or not, i.e. by the notion of techno-logy in the highest defined sense of the techno-logos (in our way of speaking, the onto-techno-logos), which is that of Simondon.

However, it is not sufficient to say that the essence of technics is not techno-logical if this is to leave it suspended and undetermined. Heidegger still postulates the validity of ontology and technology too much to do something besides its deconstruction and to not leave the Essence (of) technics undetermined and therefore tested in a still too negative way. It must be further determined and in a more positive but not positivist way. Then how do we proceed, since in all evidence we cannot ignore Simondon or Heidegger and his phenomenology of instrumentality, whose authority and relevance we have come, however, to suspend? To remove any contradiction, we have to return to these topological philosophies under the condition of this suspension and, consequently, to treat them (and with them the whole sphere called “techno-logy”) as a simple material and no longer as a perspective; as an ensemble of properties or phenomena that are irrelevant for determining by themselves, by their auto-interpretation, or by their autoposition the Essence (of) technics, yet as the assistance with which, however, a new theory could determine it.

In other words: on the one hand, Heidegger and Simondon’s descriptions both belong to the genre of onto-techno-logical difference (either, with Simondon, to introduce it as process of concretization and functional overdetermination; or, with Heidegger, to extract it, if you will, behind itself and to articulate it via ontological difference, indeed via the “withdrawal” which makes it possible to think this difference, a withdrawal which, however, continues to insist upon its relevance). From our point of view, these descriptions bear upon the mixtures of technical effects and philosophical decisions. The famous “technical objects” of the former and the equally celebrated “instrumental circuit” of the latter do not exist “in themselves” but are simply and supposedly related to technics elevated to the state of essence: these are amphibological (albeit inevitable if one is a philosopher) formations, i.e. the more or less Greek and phenomenological decisions that isolate phenomena which are the material, physical, and social phenomena produced by technical causality and which elevate them (not however without good reason) to the state of fact or technical factum, indeed sometimes to the essence of technics. But, for us, they remain techno-logical universals.

On the other hand, if for us these universals can no longer define or of themselves think the essence of technics, they remain completely “well-founded” in their order (which is that of an objective fetishism) and are necessary as objective data for a discipline which would now be proposed not by a philosophical usage, but by a scientific usage (a usage which, moreover, has a “unified-theoretical” sense to be determined) of these universals, that of defining this essence in a positive and non-circular way. It is a question of theoretically rendering technics intelligible without deducing or projecting it from so-called “technical” phenomena in an intuitive and ambiguous way, without making this essence into the result of autoposition more or less worked or altered into superficial technical effects.

On this condition, essence will stop being an undetermined generality. Under the technical Essence of technics, we will in fact no longer search for a trait common to the spoke, the motor, and the computer (common either due to the abstraction or even autoposition of properties supposed as already common), a trait which would encompass technical objects. Initially we are not given these objects by arbitrarily supposing that they are “technical.” No, this essence is itself a new type of object without primordial or speculative continuity with “technical objects.” This essence of technics is still before us; we do not have to philosophize it as having already taken place, but instead we have to know it, to produce knowledges oriented around it. For that, under certain suspended conditions, we will help ourselves to these descriptions of the spoke, the motor, or the computer, descriptions to which our relation can be expressed in the following way: no longer to interpret Simondon again, to stop reinterpreting the essence of technics; but to use Simondon and techno-logical interpretations so as to know the Essence (of) technics and, towards this end, to transform or rectify these interpretations; and, finally, to explain them in the techno-logical appearance under which they give this essence.

If we now set off again from the techno-logical given in its spontaneous autopresentation and its sufficiency, which interpretations are necessary in order to come to the preceding distinctions? Philosophy and the human sciences create a system so as to constitute the sphere of techno-logical discourse. It is on this behalf that “technological objects” exist, i.e. an amphibology of the Essence (of) technics and the object as onto-techno-logical form. It is not sufficient to say, with the hopes of destroying technics as an “other-world”, that there are no technical phenomena but a technical interpretation of phenomena, because this would be to reconstitute a generalized technology as the general form of every “other-world,” simultaneously the philosophical machine and a machining philosophy. This is to reconstitute the philosophical myth of a supposedly “technical” object whose nature is never known, a confusion of a so-called gratuitously “technical” phenomenon with an essence which is completely philosophical.

Two reductions or two suspensions are at least necessary so as to access the Essence (of) technics and to extract it from its intuition and its consummation, from its philosophical contemplation. First, an ontological reduction of transcendent technical appearances or suppositions subordinated to techno-logical difference. This is the bracketing of the regional or ontic appearances of technics through which the human sciences nourish themselves; the suspension of the perspectives of the engineer, the manufacturer, the sociologist, the anthropologist, the economist, the psychologist, the “technologist,” etc., subordinated to the perspective of philosophy as “techno-logy,” and its correlate–the onto-techno-logical relation or difference to which the descriptions of Heidegger and Simondon are consecrated, which therefore extracts an invariant techno-logical schema that synthesizes every perspective in a superior perspective. Technological efficacy—onto-techno-logical difference—is in fact irreducible to one of the four causes isolated by metaphysics: it contains the four, but as their “superior form.” It generalizes their division or their heterogeneity as well as their unity; it renders these two properties coextensive at the same time as it suspends or annuls their most massive or regional forms, the most representative, the most susceptible of being opposed in a transcendent way.

But a second nullification from our perspective is necessary, that of philosophy itself, of the techno-logical causality still external to the Essence (of) technics. But only a new discipline (a unified theory of science and philosophy) can activate this suspension of techno-logical philosophy, thereby extracting an Essence (of) technics obviously according to non-philosophical processes and returning to the immanence of the “technical situation” without simply reflecting the technological schema and its effects within itself as generalities.

We will stop imagining technical causality via the physical model of inertia; or via the technico-philosophical model of a production; or via the restrained models of the spoke, motor, and computer, which are transcendent ensembles based upon which we can simply make opinions about this generality which would be “technics[“la-technique”] or “technologies[“les-technologies”]: this ideation must end. Any supposedly technical object can only serve as an example of the Essence (of) technics. This Essence is not made but known or made to be known in a science to be practiced here and now. Consequently, we will describe this essence by the “formal” terms of “technesis” and “technema,” for example, rather than by projections issuing from a specific tool of mechanics or informatics, which are here only materials and models of interpretation for the science of this essence. This is to challenge the “history of technics” as well as their “philosophies” (at least as an ultimate perspective) along with the circular and unstable generalities they produce. The theory of the Essence (of) technics is an inaugural break with the technician’s construction of machines along with their economic management and their philosophical “meditation.” It is not prolonged in a techno-logical essence of constructed and supposedly given machines. It stops the chain of confusion which proceeds from the given and inert machine-objects to their operation or their techno-logical schema and then from this schema to their essence. But, if this essence stops being inscribed in the production of techno-logical universals, this is so as to take these universals as regional properties it must explain.

The goal of these reductions is therefore to dissolve the amphibology due to which philosophies and the human sciences thrive; the confusion of the Essence (of) technics with its regional, material, or economic conditions, etc. (with its philosophical conditions), i.e. the idea that there would be a primordial continuity between supposed-technical experience and this essence. However, this dissolution is only one of the aspects, the least positive aspect of the endeavor to determine the immanent phenomenon of technics, to determine it more positively than Heidegger did, but without reflecting the “technical object” in this essence like, for example, Simondon has.

Our manner of action must be understood in its ambition but also in its limits. We stop treating technical “objects” or “causality” as metaphysical entities (or “mythological” entities, as a philosopher would say), which would willingly align ourselves with an unspecified decision or line of demarcation (manipulating scientific knowledge and reified, factualized, fetishized technical effects) and would lead us to believe that we could somewhat describe the real, somewhat modify it in its essence. The invariant of the “philosophies of technics” is that it more or less circularly arranges effects or processes (certain properties which are supposed to define this order of phenomena) and philosophical decisions, this blend [mélange] which is supposed to be equivalent with essence. But this discourse rests on a forgetting or a repression of something = X, which a science would precisely propose rather than taking it as its object: the essence or the identity (of) technics, the identity or the immanent phenomenon which prevents it from falling and dissolving into philosophy and the sciences, from being dogmatically reduced to philosophy, to a veritably techno-philosophical mixture (like, for example, “conceptual/desiring machines”), or to the applications of the supposed-“fundamental” sciences. A science of the essence of technics is the best way to keep it from its double ontological and scientific reduction. The philosophies of technics are blind to the fact that they do not recognize the problem of identity or essence as such, i.e. of the reality of technics, and that it is the object of a special science which re-establishes the correct and “full” formulation: “a science of the essence (of) technics,” which performs the real critique of the philosophical repression of this essence. It is therefore a question of ending the discourses of the techno-logical foundation of technics, of pronouncing their theoretical impossibility without thereby denying their usage as data within a science.

The Hypothesis of First Technology

How should we characterize this special science from the perspective of its theoretical sense, which is adapted to essences and makes use of certain philosophical formations, for example onto-techno-logy, which is oriented like meta-technical discourses and their regional properties attempting to understand the Essence (of) technics? Here are its most prominent traits.

1. A body of phenomena or properties is given: thus, no longer proclaimed properties-in- themselves of supposed-technical objects, but techno-logical discourses themselves. Not the phenomena with which Simondon would be concerned, for example, and which we would claim to re-interpret, but (more appropriately for our endeavor) the descriptions which he gives and which are as such our “objects.” Yet we should make one important specification: that we treat the techno-logical discourses as meta-technical discourses concerned with the Essence (of) technics, albeit via an illusory mode and due to a repression. All onto-techno-logy (including Heidegger, since he does not invalidate it from the outset) can be treated as a vast program for the philosophical foundation of technics, i.e. as a meta-technics. And, in that form, this is what constitutes our region of phenomena. It is obviously a question of explaining and limiting these foundational programs (which are the philosophies of technics) within a science.

2. A space is given, a scientific yet transcendental posture, instead of an interiority (which adds nothing to the concept of science) in which these meta-technical discourses manage to project themselves–a posture, i.e. here, the minimal conditions through which a science was possible, a reality of a science. Therefore, why does it have to be a posture of science rather than simply of philosophy? This problem is extremely limited. It does not eliminate the question of the empirical conditions of whichever science—a condition of objects, for example (since science urges us to introduce the region of technological phenomena)—but the philosophical or epistemological reduction of the essence of science to its empirical conditions (for example, to its methods or procedures, to its work, etc.) and to its ontological conditions. What is the reality of science rather than its effectivity and its conditions of possibility? So that there could be a reality of science (and thus an autonomous essence of science rather than a simple possibility of the latter), there consequently had to have been Being, in the sense that the tradition and Heidegger can still understand as presence or representation, as ontological project; but, if this does is not enough, there had to have been the One first of all: there had to have been not just any One [non pas de l’Un], but “the One itself”, and therefore a non-metaphysical but purely transcendental usage of science. And then there would have to be the Multiple, i.e. still Being, if you will, but in a new, precisely non-philosophical sense, although not absolutely foreign to this philosophical sense.

“The One itself:” no longer that which philosophy places in the neighborhood of Being and concerning which it supposes a convertibility with the latter; no longer the arithemetico-philosophical mixture of the number 1 interiorized and supported in the metaphysical One; but that which has already been called “radical immanence,” deprived of scission, nothingness, transcendence, and alienation. We will call it the One-of-the-last-instance so as to mark its inalienable and nevertheless determinant nature (this apparent contradiction being the content of the concept of “determination-in-the-last-instance”) that determines the essences (of) science and (of) technics. This One is above all neither science nor technics, i.e. their essence: it’s just the immanent cause of these essences.

But such a cause (given its purely transcendental yet real and no longer also metaphysical or ontological status) is no longer a posited and metaphysical entity, autoposited in a philosophical discourse. Its theoretical status is that of a hypothesis or an axiom (neither logical-formal, nor logical-real—Self = Self—but purely real or immanent in-the-last-instance). First technology is thus not an a priori or speculative construction (despite certain appearances): it is also a science proceeding by hypothesis, but now in a transcendental or real in-the-last-instance usage of hypothesis.

As for the “Multiple,” which is the content of Being, i.e. no longer arising from the cause but from the element of representation or from scientific “presentation” properly speaking, it is deduced from the One under certain conditions we will leave aside here (those of a science of the Essence (of) science using philosophy as material). From this perspective, Being has three or four characteristics:

a) it is devoid as void (of the) One, un-real as devoid (of) the real, (non-One); and obviously also and by definition devoid of every philosophical form, of every philosophical and/or technological consistency;

b) this void is identically a pure Multiple, unrepresentable, just as the One itself is unrepresentable; thus deprived of every philosophical form of closure or unity, but also of every form of consistency of the regional-scientific type, for example arithmetic and the arithmetico-philosophical mixed form;

c) however, this Multiple receives a consistency of the One itself, but consistency-of-the-last-instance and nevertheless one that is absolutely internal; it is neither ontic (arithmetic) nor ontological (“presence”);

d) this Multiple is completely determined when it is specified in accordance with philosophy and its structures or properties (we do not describe this specification here).

These are the minimal conditions that explain the non-philosophical reality of science or which gives this to it (knowledge, if it is real by itself, is not our problem). Not the sufficient reason of science, but the cause which can determine it in-the-last-instance, i.e. by using science without modifying it as such. This is a paradigm of intelligibility which is neither philosophical nor scientific nor positivist; it is founded on a new type of non-epistemological intersection between philosophy and science, where science acquires the means to treat philosophy as its object without thereby reducing it in a positivist way.

3. It now suffices to be given this scientific posture and to project or reduce the technological discourses so as to be able to elaborate a rigorous, non-illusory discourse about the Essence (of) technics. Whereas the philosophies of technics delve full speed ahead into metatechnics, into techno-logical exaggeration, we inhibit this process, we invert it in some way, establishing a discipline of scientific essence, whose phenomena will be the meta-sciences (or here meta-technics), and whose real object (to be determined rigorously in reality via a non-philosophical mode) will be essences and only essences.

Our problem is not “technoscience”, but techno-philosophy, of which “technoscience” is merely an avatar and an artifact.

We therefore call Essence (of) technics the set of residues abandoned by techno-logical or meta-technical statements that allows it to still be called knowledge when it is posed as an explicative type of hypothesis (i.e. a theoretical and critical type of hypothesis, this scientific posture itself, at least its real essential ingredients). The Essence (of) technics is thus known and, on the other hand, has explicated the illusory forms within which this essence is given in technological discourses. What we call the scientific posture corresponds to the Essence (of) science such as we can grasp it without interpreting it epistemologically, and it functions here as a hypothesis no longer of the philosophical type and relative to what must be interpreted, but a hypothesis of the scientific type, heterogeneous to phenomena and only capable of giving rise to a true explication instead of a more or less circular interpretation.

The onto-techno-logical schema is a given in opposition to the truly first given, which is the One. And it is only when this schema is treated as material that it appears afterward as a double that would not so much take the place of essence itself but the elaboration of its knowledge. Science does not return from the imaginary double to the real veiled by it; it does not dissipate the double; science has access to it so as to know the real and give it its status as double; and the double is that which techno-logic becomes when, prohibited from being a point of view, it is treated as simple material.

This position of the problem has important consequences on the status of techno-logy. We make use of the techno-logical schema as a simple index and material. A science does not trace its real object from its phenomena, which are only a partially external and repressive construction of the Essence (of) technics.

Saving the immanent phenomenon from the technics of its philosophical survey and its objectification is the primary goal. It is therefore not at all a question of founding a new technics (more powerful still), a new type of “instrument”, or, better yet, a new (philosophical and “mythological”) conception of technics upon the foundation of a science or through the conversion and techno-logical investment of a science, but of procuring a rigorous, non-interpretive knowledge of technics for ourselves. And what’s new is the knowledge, not “technics.” What we call “first technology” is consequently no longer an effective technology—here, it is not within our power to invent it—nor a philosophical generality or a “concept” of technics; “first technology” is instead the knowledge (de facto primary or anterior to every philosophy), of its essence, of an essence which leaves it in its state without claiming to appropriate it.

Original translation by Taylor Adkins 8/03/08.

13 thoughts on “Laruelle’s Essay on Simondon: “The Concept of a ‘First Technology'”

  1. Great work, Taylor. This reads very well, and it looks like it’s going to be very relevant to my current research (which involves a Simondonian analysis of proof theory). One suggestion: what you’ve translated as “language-object” should probably read “object-language” instead, which is how the term usually appears in logical and metamathematical texts (Tarski’s, for instance). I’ll have to get back to you once I’ve finished reading this and have had time to formulate some clear thoughts about it.
    Thanks for making this translation available.

    • Unrelated to current discussions, but….working my way through your translation of Zalamea. Very thought provoking. Thanks for the work.

    • Thanks Sid, great to hear from you. Yes, I’m not sure why this became popular today, but it looks like it’s getting some interest! Kind of neat, since it’s been lying around here for a while :). I have to admit that I first grabbed at it because of my interest in Simondon, but I was already working on Laruelle at the time, so it was a very happy confluence. Needless to say, L’s piece in the anthology of secondary essays on Simondon is quite unique, let’s just say.

      • Yeah, I just saw that this is older translation and, in fact, something that I have already looked through. But Terence Blake “reblogged” it today, so there you go. Have you checked out Fraser’s translation of Zalamea. I am really into it and should be done with it in a couple of days. Hopefully it will ended with bang and not a whimper. Good luck with the Freud/Huxley presentation. I may be in Atlanta then but am not sure if I can make it out (wife’s birthday and all).

        • Hey np, tell your wife happy birthday! I have not checked out Luke’s translation, but I should get back in touch with him, not only due to the fact that we had many translation interests in common. I’m still trying to get Ruyer translated…! But Joe has been reading Zalamea lately, although I could have sworn it was on Peirce? Maybe I’m confusing thinkers…

          Anyway, yes, I’m very glad that Terence Blake has reblogged this, even if as a stand alone essay it may be rather weak. It presupposes a lot of the argument of Phi and Non-Phi, which I’m really glad will finally be out soon! :)

          In any case, you or Terence feel free to reblog the other few L essays I have up…I think the pseudonymed essay on Badiou would be timely in light of Anti-Badiou, although I can’t seem to find it in the translations section…it’s still there though. The Kant essay is interesting because it’s from the early days of Phi II, and would probably make more sense in light of the last essay in From Decision to Heresy…My Parmenides could probably use some work…but Biography of the Eye might intrigue more readers, especially since Joe and Bryan at least have been struck by Laruelle’s more ‘mystical’ and poetic stuff (not necessarily including the Anti-G essay!) that Robin rendered quite well.

          In any case, I was really struck by this essay on Simondon by L, and I was then not as surprised when Stiegler dedicates his preface for Simondon’s new edition to Laruelle… What would be interesting to look at is how Laruelle’s notion of philosophy qua material could be read in a Simondonian vein…this would entail reading philosophical decision more or less as the hylemorphic model of form/matter (mixture-form, auto-position, etc.)…I know I’m stretching a little here, but I can see L playing with Simondon’s language at times, even if he never really explicitly brings him up. A better example might be of L’s usage of ‘l’individu’ and his neologism of ‘l’individu-a-le’…

          What makes it difficult to see Simondon’s impact on L is perhaps the fact that so much seems to be directed at Deleuze for Laruelle…In fact, I’d say that part of what’s at stake in Laruelle’s reading of Deleuze is the way in which Simondon and Ruyer inform a good portion of WIP, albeit L is silent on these two thinkers, but he is explicit about critiquing Deleuze’s milieu and self-survery…the one could be linked to Simondon, the other to Ruyer (I’m less certain about the claim of Simondon/milieu, but Ruyer/self-survey is quite certain)…

          What I have been inspired to do with Phi and Non-Phi is to read the extent to which it informs a reading of DG’s WIP… I had not sufficiently thought about it enough before, but there’s a sense in which DG’s two footnotes on Laruelle only scratches the surface of the extent to which they are responding to some of the exigencies and problems raised in Laruelle’s Phi and Non-Phi. I think this question will be crucial to investigate, and I hope to be working on it more in the future…

  2. I am starting the “From Decision to Heresy” as soon as I finish up Zalamea. He is a Peircian, as weird as it sounds, and has a book on Peirce’s philosophy of mathematics. I haven’t looked at it yet but have added it to my infinite list of possible purchases. Zalamea’s essay on Lautmann is in the book that Simon Duffy translated and edited. I need to take another look at that, as I skipped it the first time.

    I would like to see how the Laruelle and WIP project works out. WIP is my least favorite of D & G’s work. It seems to be a member of that genre of philosophy called “the last book I write before I die”. The whole “philosophy as the creation of concepts” is correct but only in hindsight. To become self-aware of it as a procedure leads to piling up of concepts, one after another.

  3. Pingback: Laruelle Bibliography (English & French) | Linguistic Capital

  4. Pingback: Translation of F. Laruelle’s “The Transcendental Computer: A Non-Philosophical Utopia” – SubSense

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