Mechanology (3)

This is my summary in English of part 3 of a 5 part video interview of Gilbert Simondon by Jean Le Moyne.

Q: This brings us back to your idea of the incomprehension of the machine, due to its being judged by a reason that is not contemporary with itself.

S:Yes, but there is not just reason, there is also knowledge. To understand a technical object and to have the right attitude towards it you must first know how it is constituted in its essence and be present at its genesis either directly or by being taught. But the teaching of the history of technology does not exist. Beyond reason, and knowledge there is perhaps a certain relation to technical reality, which is in part affectice or emotional. Without an excess of passion or indifference, one must have an attitude of friendship, of society with technical objects and also an ascetic attitude to be able to use them even when they are old and unreliable, and an attitude of respect for its age.

Q: So the machinic essence resides in both its rationality and in its cultural value. But does its cultural value reside in its rationality?

S: No doubt, as I have spoken of an essence of the technical object. But this essnce is not only rational, or we must be rationalists and not pragmatists. We must be realist rationalists, believe that reason attains things, attains physical processes, the totality of the world. In that sense I would accept the idea of reason, provided that it is not restrictive.

Q: Do you see this reason as inductive as concerns the production of the machine and of its creation?

S: Yes it is inductive, and also to a certain extent deductive, but in the sense of a full induction that stays close to the concrete, and of a reason which is thus extremely close to the real, and which would not try to be a reason based on innate ideas. This point is very important.

Q: This means that a poetic field  appears around the machine. It lives in a poetic field.

S: If reason is conceived as inductive, and as trying not to distance itself from the concrete and from the real, the ambience of the usage of the technical object, of its invention, remains quite close to the world, and can even become a manner of decoding the world with speeds, modes of looking, manners of comportment, that the simple body would not have permitted. Here the technical object has a prothetic, or « prosthetic » as Norbert Wiener calls it, value. To see the world from a plane or a satellite is to see it as no man has ever seen it before, just as concretely but at a greater distance and with a greater velocity. No privilege for seeing the world can be accorded to bipedalism or vision from a car in motion. Anything goes, as long as one realises that it is a question of different speeds and altitudes.

Q: Is it acceptable to compare you to Bachelard and his inductive thought, his inductive interpretation of scientific instruments and method?

S: I don’t know. Bachelard is a poet., I don’t really know his works well enough.. But I think we could just as well do a psychoanalysis of the technical object, as Bachelard has done a psychoanalysis of the elements. In particular, I think that each technical object can be treated as having an intention and an attitude. When we contemplate a TV emitter at the summit of a mountain: in itself it is just metal, a vast parabola made of unoxydisable metal with a tiny dipole in its centre. It is rigid, but it is oriented, looking into the distance it can receive from a distant emitter. For me it is more than a symbol, rather a sort of gesture or intention or power, almost magical, a contemporary magic. In this encounter between the elevated place and the key point for the transmission of hyperfrequencies, there is a sort of connaturality between the human network and the natural geography of the region. That is a poetic aspect, an aspect of signification and of encounters of signification.

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