Looping Nature

Recursivity, Epigenesis and Ideology


  • Florian Endres Princeton University




recursivity, materialism, epigenesis, ideology, dialectics, path-breaking, structural emergence, pattern formation


The following paper attempts to articulate a distinctly materialist notion of emergence and the formation of patterns by way of re-visiting two texts that have been considered oddities, if not embarrassments, by the subsequent developments of their respective disciplines: Freud’s Project for a Scientific Psychology and Engels’s Dialectic of Nature. Both texts are strikingly similar in their speculative engagement with the natural sciences and in their potential to inform a renewed engagement with the question of the relation between technology and life. In the concept of “path-breaking” [Bahnung] Freud understands perceptions as inscribing themselves in the structure of the very perceiving apparatus through repetition of what one could call a “material trace” (Sybille Krämer). This notion of the “material trace” can be connected to the key thrust of Engels’s “objective dialectics” in that it “concerns a model of structural emergence”(Hartmut Winkler). I want to propose that these texts can potentially enrich our understanding of how mental formations such as memory take shape and how subjectivity is constituted in material processes. That is, once Freud and Engels are read through recent philosophical thinking on technology (Bernard Stiegler, Catherine Malabou) and the concept of recursivity (Yuk Hui). This approach can also supply resources for a Marxist notion of ideology—namely by performing a turn from a critique that is primarily concerned with the question of how we can penetrate false appearances towards a materialist account of how (“false”) appearances, something like “real abstractions” (Alfred Sohn-Rethel), can emerge out of the “flat plane” of matter.






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How to Cite

Endres, Florian. 2024. “Looping Nature: Recursivity, Epigenesis and Ideology”. Technophany, A Journal for Philosophy and Technology 2 (1). https://doi.org/10.54195/technophany.14830.

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