Vol. 1 No. 2: General Issue
Technophany's General Issue is published on an online first basis throughout the year. Collecting articles and book reviews dedicated to the philosophical thinking of science and technology, it offers a space for critical reflection aimed at comprehending and confronting the contemporary technological world and the epistemologies that underlie it.
General Book reviews
- Bitbol, Michel. Maintenant la finitude : peut-on penser l’absolu ? Paris, Bibliothèque des savoirs. Flammarion, 2019, 520 pages.
- Moynihan, Thomas T. Spinal Catastrophism : A Secret History, Falmouth, Urbanomic, 2019, 352 pages.
- Woodard, Ben. Schelling’s Naturalism : Space, Motion and the Volition of Thought, Edimburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2019, 256 pages.
The intention of my essay is to introduce the concept of “natural-history” (Naturgeschichte) to foster dialogue on the role of art, aesthetics, and historiography in speculative materialism and the wider debates around the Anthropocene. I will present my argument in four steps: The first will be a brief reconstruction of the natural contract as conceived by Michel Serres in Le Contrat naturel (1990). Since in his essay Serres largely dispenses with an aesthetics, in my second step I will argue that at the same time the utopian model of the new, human-built environment, Biosphere 2 (1991) manifested exactly an aesthetics as suggested in legal-theoretical terms by Serres. In the third step, using the example of three films by Ben Rivers, one of which is specifically about Biosphere 2, I will show that the potential of utopian ideals is preserved in their realization only insofar as it is documented in images of transience that may be identified as allegorical representations. This implies a critique of the concept of utopia. In a fourth step, I will therefore show that the natural contract’s utopian body of ideas and the manifestation of the utopian concept in Biosphere 2 can be viewed from a historical-philosophical perspective, with reference to the allegorical representation of the film, as the fate of all nature in which history inscribes itself. To that end, Benjamin’s formulation of “fallen nature” [gefallene Natur] will need to be differentiated here. This selective counter-reading of Serres against Benjamin and the films of Ben Rivers ultimately aims at the restitution of a historical-philosophical argument to the status of art in the natural contract or—in a broader sense—in the Anthropocene; more precisely, it also pursues the conception of an aesthetics of amazement in post-apocalyptic narrative time.
Martin Heidegger and Bernard Stiegler have both famously argued that philosophy has hitherto been incapable of seeing, recognizing, or remembering technics. Both thinkers confronted this technical aporia by putting forward their own thought on technics, arguing to find themselves in a historically singular position from which technical thought proper can, for the first time, be questioned and invented. This article shows how both Heidegger’s and Stiegler’s conceptual projects are supported by a two-fold reading of the history of philosophy as at once devoid of technical thought proper, while at the same time harbouring, but only ever implicitly, the resources for thinking and remembering said technics. Their readings of the work of Immanuel Kant will be shown to be exemplary in this regard. This article ultimately concludes that, as a result of both Heidegger’s and Stiegler’s particular self-positioning within the history of technical thought, neither of them could recognize the technical thought proper within that history that they were at the same time so urgently looking for. Only in this way can the radical oversight regarding, for instance, Kant’s explicit writings on technics proper make sense.
In the present work, we aim to expose the central tenets of the philosophy of technology which underlines the work of the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. Beginning from his early works and also mapping his philosophical influences, we show how he incidentally started theorising technology while still profoundly engaged with critical theory in the 1980s, but along the 1990s, passed through an anthropological turn, which made possible a concept of technology that has its foundations in both Heidegger’s existential philosophy and German philosophical anthropology in general, but also emphasising the long biological-evolutionary process of the human species itself. This perspective then enables us to highlight a powerful philosophical techno-anthropology that deals with the genesis of the human as sphero-poietic species having evolved into a biosphero-poietic geoforce and the future planetary challenges put in front of us by the Anthropocene. With this, we aim to contribute to current debates in the philosophy of technology, offering a techno-philosophical reading of an (in our view) decisive and yet under-explored author in this field.
This essay stages a critical engagement with the late works of James Lovelock, the famous Gaia scientist hagiographized by Science Studies scholar Bruno Latour. I argue that Latour’s celebration of Lovelock’s Gaia dangerously obscures a more compelling version of Earth systems’ theory, belonging to Lovelock’s collaborator and co-founder of the theory, Lynn Margulis. Lovelock’s version of Gaia is embedded in a masculinist, bellicose and imperialist discourse reliant upon an emergency rhetoric and justifying geoengineering and A.I. control fantasies. Meanwhile, over the last decade Bruno Latour positioned himself as a thinker of ecology, partly by casting himself as a supporter of Gaia theory. Yet he made no mention of the problematic politics with which Lovelock’s work was entangled. Turning both to Lynn Margulis’ and to feminist philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers’ understanding of Gaia, the article resists anthropocentric visions to articulate less hubristic and potentially more democratic responses to our current ecological catastrophes.