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.

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