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    Gilbert Simondon, The Limits of Human Progress: A Critical Study

    Johnathan R. Razorback
    Johnathan R. Razorback

    Messages : 12740
    Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
    Localisation : France

    Gilbert Simondon, The Limits of Human Progress: A Critical Study Empty Gilbert Simondon, The Limits of Human Progress: A Critical Study

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback Jeu 28 Jan - 18:54


    "The problem of human progress cannot be posed unless one
    takes into account the entire system of activity and existence constituted by what man produces and what man is.
    Consideration of what man produces (language, technics) does not
    permit evaluation of human progress, nor prediction of its law of
    development as a function of time, because attention is then solely
    directed towards the objective concretization of human activity. For
    this reason, as long as one considers only objective concretization, one
    has no criterion to enable one to distinguish between one system of
    concretization and another as the sole sign and valid medium of human
    progress. It has proved possible to identify the progress of language in
    all its forms with human progress, as classical humanism has done.
    Similarly it has been possible to identify technical progress in all its
    forms with human progress. If you do make this identifi cation, which
    we think reductive, you will then fi nd that human progress has a limited
    temporal evolution and foresee by analogy that technical progress will
    describe a sigmoid curve,1 as in the case of linguistic progress.
    However, even if one wanted to evaluate human progress on the
    grounds of objective concretization alone, it would be imperative to
    consider the series of possible concretizations as progress, not such
    and such an objective concretization, which is in itself self-limiting.
    That linguistic and technical progress share internal processes of
    in hibition which gives their development the form of a sigmoid curve
    when regarded as a function of time is hardly doubtful in the case of
    language, and is perhaps also true in the technical domain. But human
    progress consists in the way man, having pushed the possibilities of
    language to the point of saturation, turns towards technics, and enters
    upon a new domain of development. If to us human progress appears
    identifi able with technological progress, it is because in our day and
    in our civilization human progress is engaged with the develop ment
    of technology. Nothing allows us to presume that having brought
    tech nical development to saturation, if indeed such saturation can be
    achieved, humanity will not fi nd itself engaged in another domain of
    progress. Besides, the reduction of the domains of progress that have
    been already attempted to only two seems excessive: if the ancient
    classical civilizations seem to have achieved the saturation of language
    development, those of the medieval period seem to have achieved
    the same in religious development. Starting with the Renaissance, the
    spirit of technical development fi rst sought the spirit of develop ment
    in the ancient example of the development of language, but then
    distanced itself from it. The Renaissance was effectively fi rst a new
    phase, short and intense, of linguistic development, before becom ing
    an introduction to the phase of technological progress in which we live.
    The Reformation, between religious and technical phases, manifests
    the introduction of the power of linguistic progress, inspired by ancient
    classicism, into religious becoming. Likewise, at the end of the ancient
    world, one can see new forces of progress, essentially religious and
    ethical, applied to promoting the most highly elaborated phase of the development of language, in the form of the ethico-religious philosophies in full expansion, Stoicism and Gnosticism. Thus there exist
    not only a succession of domains where development creates object ive
    concretizations – language, religion, technology – but there also exist
    durable overlappings between these domains, manifesting a pursuit
    of universality.
    Nonetheless succession, or even overlapping, of successive stages
    does not signify progress. If the linguistic phase, the religious phase, the
    technical phase, and all those other phases of human activity past and
    future were self-limiting and ignorant of each other without inter communication, humanity would be called to live each successive ven ture
    to no avail, until the saturation and abandonment of each of them. And
    one might then speak of the progress of language, of religion, or of
    tech nology, but not of human progress. Indeed, what these success ive
    phases of objective concretization have in common is not the content
    of that concretization: pontifi cal power cares as little for Greek theatre
    as radar cares for the cathedral. It is man who is common, man as
    the motor and promoter of concretization, and man as the creature
    in whom objective concretization resonates, that is to say, man as
    agent and as patient. Between the objective concretizations of each
    self-limiting cycle of progress and man there exists a bond of reciprocal
    causality. In each cycle of progress, man forms a system with what he
    constitutes, and this system is far from being saturated. It is not the
    sum of human possibility that is refl ected in objective concretizations,
    language, religion, technology. Thus we can say that there is human
    progress only if, when passing from one self-limiting cycle to the next,
    man increases the part of himself which is engaged in the system he
    forms with the objective concretization. There is progress if the system
    man–religion is endowed with more internal resonance than the system
    man–language, and if the man–technology system is endowed with a
    greater internal resonance than the system man–religion.
    Certainly this is a very delicate question, for it is here that there
    appears the effective role of man taking consciousness of the develop ment process, man who forms part of the system in which this
    process unfurls. There are undoubtedly aspects of automatism in
    every development, and hypertrophy of automatism coincides with
    the end of evolution, and with the saturation that concludes each
    process of development. Such was the state of language at the close
    of the ancient world: it became purely a matter for grammarians and
    formalist logicians seeking etymological rectitude in naming. Surely, a
    grammar or a formal logic does not refl ect man, or at the least refl ects
    only the smallest part of man, one that should not be infl ated. All the
    same, in its classicism, the phase of linguistic development at its
    apogee was charged with more hope; at the time of the Sophists and
    of the Panegyric Discourse,
    2 language, conceived as the repository
    of knowledge, appeared as the foundation for a “perpetual eulogy”
    of humanity. Such too was religion in its ascendant phase, with its
    universal ecumenical inspiration. It ended nonetheless in that rigorous administration of thought and action which no longer refl ected the power
    of human progress. To put it another way, after a leap imbued with the
    power of universality manifesting a high degree of internal reson ance
    in the system formed by man and his language, or man and his religion,
    there comes a closure, a progressive saturation of the autonomous
    system of objective concretization, to the same degree reducing the
    system’s internal resonance, initially much vaster, formed by man and
    the objective concretization. The real center of systematization shifts.
    At fi rst it is to be found between man and the objective concretization.
    Little by little, it is the objective concretization alone which constitutes
    the system. Man is ex-centered, the concretization mechanizes and
    automates itself; language becomes grammar and religion theology.
    Will technology become industry as language became grammar
    and religion theology? It is possible, but there is no necessity, and
    one should not confuse the three cases. In fact, if language became
    grammar, it was because from the beginning the share of human reality
    translatable into language was too weak to establish a valid reciprocity
    between man and the growing system of language. It required privileged
    situations to instigate this reciprocity, the condition for the adequacy
    [French: adéquation] of language to man: such were the ancient
    democracies like Athens. But language, more or less adequate to the
    life of an ancient city-state, was deeply insufficient for the geographical
    dimensions and forms of exchange of an empire. The humanism of
    language was of short duration; in our times it subsists artifi cially in
    very small human groups with no capacity for constructive expansion.
    As for religion, it proved adequate to the geographical dimension of
    empires, covering areas as big as continents, and far larger than the
    ancient city-state, all the while cementing different social classes,
    even penetrating into castes. The current regression of religion is
    manifest in the loss of its universal geographic power and its defensive
    withdrawal into limited human groups, recalling that of the humanist
    culture founded on language which found refuge among the literati.
    If technology becomes industry and takes defensive refuge in a new
    feudalism of technicians, researchers, and administrators, it will evolve
    like language and religion towards closure, centering on itself instead
    of continuing to form, with man, an ensemble in process of becoming.
    Yet we need to note that the claim to universality was more justifi ed in
    religion than in language, in the sense that the capacity for continual
    progression across diversity demonstrated much greater expansion in
    the religions. Religion, in effect, concerns a more primitive reality, less
    localized, somehow more natural for man than that to which language
    addresses itself. Religion is more implicit than language, closer to the
    basics, less civilized, therefore less limited to the city-state. Technology
    is even more primitive than religion: it connects with the elaboration and
    satisfaction of biological desires themselves. It can therefore intervene
    as a link creating ensembles between the people of different groups
    or between people and the world, in circumstances far less tightly
    limited than those required for the full use of language or full religious communication. The impression of a fall into primitivism, into vulgarity,
    which we feel at the passage from religion to technology, the Ancients
    felt watching the most perfect monuments of language abandoned in
    favor of a religious upsurge which they judged vulgar, destructive and
    filled with the seeds of barbarism.
    Yet this step-by-step descent towards primitivism and materiality is a
    condition of universality: a language is perfect when it is congruent with
    the polity that is reflected in it; a religion is perfect when it achieves the
    dimensions of a continent whose diverse ethnicities are at the same
    level of civilization. Technology alone is absolutely universalizable,
    because that part of man that resonates with it is so primitive, so close
    to the conditions for life, that every man possesses it in himself. Thus
    there is at least the chance that the seeds of the decentering of man,
    and thence of the alienation of the objective concretizations which he
    produces, may be feebler in technology than in language and religion.
    All the same, the internal resonance of the systemic man–technology
    ensemble will not be secured so long as man is not known technologic ally, such that he becomes homogenous with the technological
    object. The threshold of non-decentering, and thus of non-alienation,
    will only be crossed if man intervenes in technical activity in the dual
    role of operator and object of the operation. In the current state of
    technical development, man intervenes above all else as operator.
    Admittedly he is also a consumer, but only after the technological
    object has been produced. Man is very rarely, as man, that on which
    the tech no logical operation is carried out. Most often, it is only in rare,
    serious and dangerous or destructive cases that man is the direct
    object of technical operations, as in surgery, war, or ethnic or political
    strug gles: such activity is conservative or destructive and degrading, not
    instigating. Surgery, warfare, and psychological action do not construct
    man: they do not institute a positive reaction through the medium of
    technicity. So far, there has been no solid relation of interiority between
    the techniques of action on things and techniques of action on people.
    In the best cases, techniques acting on human beings merely replace
    the role previously devolved to language (political struggle) or religion
    (psychoanalysis). Technology would have the opportunity to prime a nonsigmoid process of development if it could effectively and completely
    replace the activities of language and religion. Since, at present, there
    exists no a metrology applied to humans, nor a human energetics,
    the unity of techniques devoted to humanity does not exist, and no
    genuine continuing relation is possible between these techniques and
    those directed towards things. The various techniques devoted to things
    appeared when science (in this case Physics and Chemistry) provided
    the foundations of a true science of measurement. Such a science,
    foundational to a scientifi c measurement applicable to humans, does
    not yet exist in any stable fashion in the domain of living organisms.
    It therefore seems possible to foresee that technological progress
    will not always preserve the explosive aspect which it manifests in
    the domain of objective concretization. Moreover we should consider more moderately the repercussions of this progress in everyday life.
    Here the pace is less than explosive: lighting, furniture, food, transport
    all change, but slowly. And, if industry changes, agriculture in our
    regions is a domain where technological progress is far from having
    assumed an explosive pace. It would be wrong to confuse technical
    progress, of value to vast groups of human beings, with the exceptional
    results achieved in the specialist milieu of scientifi c technology. The
    technical object increasingly requires a technological milieu in order
    to exist. So machines like drills and grinders cannot be employed in
    a workshop without risking silicosis in their operators. New machines
    cannot simply break in: the artisanal milieu must be transformed into
    an industrial milieu, requiring energy supplies, automation, and remote
    control, not to mention human and economic conditions, which make
    the transformation even slower. Often enough the introduction of an
    isolated machine, whose performance contrasts with those of other
    machines and the possibilities of the surroundings, gives a spectacular
    impression of the abstract notion of possible progress, whereas, if
    the whole ensemble is modifi ed homogeneously, this appearance of
    explosive pace is erased. The slow speed of real progress, in the very
    domain of objective concretizations, means that technical progress
    is already tied to social conditions. The inhibiting forces which could
    otherwise retard it are already operating, but they do not stop it. On
    may then surmise that, because of this slowness, technical progress will
    not suddenly assume an explosive pace, because regulatory conditions
    already exist, and the exploitable riches of energy and raw materials are
    considerable. According to the journal Prospective (whose fi rst number
    has just come out), the possibilities for long-term development do not
    justify an attitude inspired by Malthusianism.
    If technical progress is to be considered as human progress, it will
    have to involve reciprocity between man and objective concretizations.
    This means initially that there must be homogeneity between the
    different domains of technical development, and an exchange of their
    determinations. Progress assumes an explosive pace when it is already
    in its origins a fragmented progress, fulfi lling itself in sharply separate
    domains: the more fragmented its condition, the less it is human progress. Such is the case of the technical progress accomplished in a
    matter of years in oil and gas prospecting. In France, Lacq gas crosses
    underdeveloped areas, bringing them no profi t, heading off for sale
    far away in already industrialized areas. The gas discovered by oilmen
    in the Hassi-Messaoud region fl ames like a torch in the sky while, in
    Algeria, men kill one another and children die of hunger beside wasted
    fi elds and cold hearths. Technological progress would be much more
    profoundly human progress if it was already progress of all technologies,
    including agriculture, which in terms of excellence is, in every sense of
    the word, the poor relation.
    Such progress would therefore be much slower at each point and
    much more profound in its totality, thus much more truly progress.
    Trans forming all the conditions of human life, augmenting the exchange of causality between what man produces and what he is, true technical
    progress might be considered as implying human progress if it has a
    network structure, whose mesh is human reality; but then it would no
    longer be solely an ensemble of objective concretizations. For technical
    progress to be self-regulating, it must be a progress of the whole; which
    means that each domain of human activity employing techniques must
    be in representative and normative communication with every other
    domain; this progress would be of an organic type, and would form part
    of the specific evolution of man.

    In addition, even if such a conclusion might appear illusory, it must be said that human progress cannot identify itself with any single crisis in the progress of language, religion or pure technology, but only with that which, in each of these crises of progress, can be passed on to other crises of progress in the form of refl exive thought. In effect, this inner resonance of the ensemble formed by the objective concretization and man is thought, and can be transposed. Only philosophical thought is common to progress in language, progress in religion and progress in technology. Refl exivity of thought is the conscious form of the internal resonance formed by man and the objective concretiza tion ; it is this thought that ensures continuity between successive phases of progress, and it is thought alone which can maintain the pre occupation with totality, thus ensuring that the decentering of man, in parallel with the alienation of the objective concretization, do not occur. In our times, refl exive thought must devote itself particularly to guiding human technical activity in its relation to man, because it is in this domain that there exists the greatest danger of alienation, and where we find that absence of structure which stops the technological progress practiced in objective concretization from becoming an integral part of human progress, by forming a system with man. The question of the limits of human progress cannot be posed without also posing the question of the limits of thought, because it is thought that appears as the principal repository of evolutionary potential in the human species."
    -Gilbert Simondon, "The Limits of Human Progress: A Critical Study", Cultural Politics, Volume 6, Issue 2, 2010, pp.229–236. Première publication dans la Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 1959.

    « La question n’est pas de constater que les gens vivent plus ou moins pauvrement, mais toujours d’une manière qui leur échappe. » -Guy Debord, Critique de la séparation (1961).

    « Rien de grand ne s’est jamais accompli dans le monde sans passion. » -Hegel, La Raison dans l'Histoire.

    « Mais parfois le plus clair regard aime aussi l’ombre. » -Friedrich Hölderlin, "Pain et Vin".

      La date/heure actuelle est Ven 27 Jan - 14:17