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Stiegler, Bernard - Technics and Time 1

Stiegler, Bernard - Technics and Time 1

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Translated by Richard Beardsworth

and George Collins









The Fault of Epimetheus

Bernard Stiegler

Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus

was originally published in French in 1994

under the title La technique et le temps, 1: La faute d'Epiméthée,
© 1994 Galilée / Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie.

Assistance for the translation was provided
by the French Ministry of Culture

Stanford University Press

Stanford, California

© 1998 by the Board of Trustees of the
Leland Stanford Junior University

Printed in the United States of America

cir data are at the end of the book

For Gilles, my deceased brother


The object of this work is technics, apprehended as the horizon of all

possibility to come and of all possibility of a future.
This question still seemed secondary when, ten years ago, I was setting
down its first delineations. Today, it informs all types of research, and the

enormousness of the question summons us all. This calls for a work

whose urgency is still hardly grasped despite the high stakes of the issue
and the disquiet it arouses—a long and exacting task, as exciting as it will
be difficult, stirring a necessary but deaf and dangerous impatience. Here

I would like to warn the reader of this difficulty and of its necessity: at

its very origin and up until now, philosophy has repressed technics as an

object of thought. Technics is the unthought.
The reactions, immediate or mediate and mediatized, "epidermic" or

calculated, that are provoked by the extraordinary changes characteristic
of our age, in which technics constitutes the most powerful dynamic fac-

tor, must be imperatively overcome. The present time is caught up in a
whirlwind in which decision making (krisis) has become increasingly
numb, the mechanisms and tendencies of which remain obscure, and
which must be made intelligible at the cost of a considerable effort of

anamnesic as much as of meticulous attention to the complexity of what

is taking place. The work presented here is nothing but a tentative ap-
proach to these questions, as subject to trial and error as it is resolute—
advancing by trial and error (with the hand permitting) is the very ob-

ject of this reflection.

The frenzy of time is all the more paradoxical in that, although it

should open onto the evidence of a future, never before has the immi-



nence of an impossibility to come been more acute. That a radical change

in outlook and attitude is demanded induces all the more reactivity be-

cause it is unavoidable. Ressentiment and denegation are factors of ruin as

well as irreducible tendencies, which Nietzsche and Freud placed at the

heart of their reflections a century ago. They will never have been exem-

plified so diversely as today. The reader will know, then, that these au-
thors, if seldom quoted in these pages, form the vanishing point of the

perspectives I have attempted to open.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to acknowledge here everything I
owe to so many friends and allies encountered in the course of this un-

dertaking. I would at least like to express my profound gratitude to

Gérard Granel, who, as professor at the University of Toulouse-LeMirail,

awakened me, with the warm exigency that all those who have had the
opportunity to study under his direction know, to the necessity of re-
turns (to things themselves, to metaphysics) as well as to that of a ma-
jor overturning.

I would also like to thank Madame Montet, Eliane Escoubas, Annick
Jaulin, Madame Lévy Hébrard, and Elizabeth Rigal, whose excellent

teachings find an echo here.
Jacques Derrida has made this work possible through his own, and the

reader will find in these pages a reading that strives to remain faithful

while taking on ("starting from," "beside," and in the deviation (écart) of a
différance) the fascinating inheritance that the spectral authority of a mas-
ter engenders—all the more fascinating when the master suspects any and
all figures of mastery. Jacques Derrida's immense devotion to the possibility
of the other
not only is the object of his exemplary discourse and medita-

tion but also governs a lifestyle, a thought of life and a life of thought
where, in his relationship to students, to those who are close to him, to

the private and public spheres, the author authorizes his text in the facts of

existence the more he is vigilant in observing the limits of his authority.

Without the welcome extended to me by Jean-François Lyotard at the

Collège International de Philosophie, and without the dialogue he so

generously allowed me to enter into with him and with others (whom I
also thank without mentioning their names here), steps that were deci-
sive to my project could no doubt not have been made.
Frequent conversations with Paul Virilio, Régis Debray, and Antoine
Dulaure have greatly enriched this work and have given me inestimable


Preface x i

The most precious stimuli to work are often friends. I have shared with

Antoine Berman, Thierry Chaput, and Michel Servière, all of whom have
since died, the care and the enigma of the memory haunting this work.
Catherine Malabou has encouraged and accompanied me in the work
as well as in the banal difficulties of everyday life, while setting out on

her own investigations. Tenderness has been our bond in the aim of

philosophical exigency, which ties together as much as it opens out the

spaces of struggle—a fruitful and threatening emulation that Hesiod

sings about under the name of Eris, the daughter of Night. Never before
has the experience of the community of a de-fault of community, residing
magnificent and terrifying at the heart of what I attempt to explore, been
more radical than with Catherine, in the concept and the circle of love, if
only to conceptualize out of love for the concept—what she also names
the end of love (in these times when philosophy will have wished to "lay
down its name as love of wisdom in order to be effectively and actually

real knowledge").

My children Barbara and Julien Stiegler had to bear, when growing up,

the conception and the birth of this other progeny: a book. May this hec-
tic period of my life have brought them some kind of joy, and may this
object, now behind me, which I hope is turned toward a future already
no longer my own, be for them in their own right fruitful.
I thank my students who attended my courses and often contributed
to the maturing of the theses set out here. I also thank the higher admin-
istration of the University of Compiègne, which has not forgotten the ur-
gency and necessity of an encounter between philosophy and technology.

A grateful beneficiary as much as a devoted actor, I wish to recognize

their unusual clairvoyance.
Lastly, I would like to express my thanks to Roger Lesgards, to Jacques

Tarnero, and to the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie; without their help,
this book could not have been published.



Translators' Note xv

General Introduction 1


Introduction 2I

§i Theories of Technical Evolution 29

gz Technology and Anthropology 82

g3 Who? What? The Invention of the Human 134


Introduction 183

§i Prometheus's Liver 185

§2 Already There 204

§3 The Disengagement of the What 239

Notes 279

Bibliography 291

Translators' Note

Most quotations appearing here in English are from published English
editions, as cited in the notes. Occasionally, however, we have modified
these translations to reflect the original sources or the French translations
used by Stiegler. Emphasis in quotations follows the cited editions unless
otherwise specified.
Stiegler's interpolations of words or phrases in quotations are enclosed

in curly brackets. Our own interpolations in quotations and in Stiegler's

text are enclosed in square brackets. Stiegler's omissions in quotations are
indicated with spaced ellipsis dots (thus:... ). His ellipses in his own text
are marked with unspaced suspension points (thus: ... ).



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