You are on page 1of 14

Care and Carelessness in the Anthropocene

Introduction to a Reading of Stiegler and Heidegger

Daniel Ross

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, 11 May 2018

If it is true that Stiegler’s work can be divided into three phases, which are not breaks
but rather reinscriptions and intensifications, and indeed, as I have argued, three
‘conversions’, then, corresponding to these three Stieglers and accompanying them,
we can find three Stieglerian Heideggers, with quite different functions within his
work. What I would like to do today is introduce the third Stiegler and his Heidegger,
in which it is the question of the character and fate of the Anthropocene that
becomes central, but to do so it will first be necessary to say something about the
preceding two.
Stiegler’s work gets going with the thought that what has been repressed in
and by the history of philosophy is technics, where this inorganic yet organized
matter must be understood as an ‘exteriorization’ that is firstly a prosthesis of
retention, that is, the constitution of an artificial memory. Stiegler makes this case in
large part on the basis of the work of André Leroi-Gourhan, who is himself referred
to by Derrida in Of Grammatology but ignored by most of the rest of so-called ‘French
theory’.1 But, in Technics and Time, 1, this leads Stiegler to conduct a rather
unorthodox reading of Derrida’s concept of différance, which Derrida himself
describes in terms of Leroi-Gourhan’s concept of exteriorization.
We have become used to thinking of différance as the origin of the play of
difference, implying the sign’s or the trace’s perpetual openness to retrospective
reinterpretation as differences proliferate, and in terms of the textual detour through

Derrida’s discussion of Leroi-Gourhan in Of Grammatology came about somewhat by accident,
however, given the fact that Marguerite Derrida studied anthropology with Leroi-Gourhan, and
Jean Piel, editor of Critique, asked Jacques Derrida to review Gesture and Speech. See Bernard Stiegler,
in Daniel Bougnoux and Bernard Stiegler, ‘Pour Jacques Derrida’, in Jacques Derrida, Trace et
archive, image et art (Bry-sur-Marne: INA, 2014), p. 84.

which I must pass for even spoken language to become possible. But in 1967,
Derrida had already written:

Leroi-Gourhan no longer describes the unity of man and the human adventure thus by the
possibility of the graphie in general; rather as a stage or an articulation in the history of life
– of what I have called differance – as the history of the grammè.2

Here, the entire history of human inscriptivity is viewed as but part of a much vaster
history, that of the entire history of life on earth, where the latter is itself identified
with différance. In other words, the billions-year-old unfolding of the conservation
and transformation of the DNA molecule is already a question of a lasting
inscription in matter, deferring entropy by differentiating organs and organizing
species – where this is, precisely, a matter of différance. But if that was in 1967, in
1968 Derrida says that philosophy is constructed on a set of oppositions, differences
and deferrals that amount, so he says, to ‘all the others of physis – tekhnē, nomos, thesis,
society, freedom, history, spirit’, and so on, ‘physis in différance’.3
Hence we may be inclined to agree with Stiegler’s observation that there is an
‘indecision’ in Derrida about the relationship between genetic inscription (in organic
matter) and artificial inscription (in inorganic matter) by the living, ‘a passage
remaining to be thought’.4 In fact, key to this indecision is Derrida’s failure, repeated
in the 1976 seminar La vie la mort, to clearly identify that, if the relationship between
technical différance and genetic différance remains to be elucidated in his work, this
is also because there are three memories in question here: technical memory is firstly
a remedy for the finitude not of genetic memory but of nervous memory, where all
living things endowed with a nervous system function according to the programs
and latitudes made possible by these two, distinct, biological memories.
What we see in Derrida’s 1976 seminar, still unpublished in its entirety, is that
this confusion, or this confounding, is still clearly visible in Derrida’s discussion of
geneticist François Jacob: we can only wonder how Derrida, reader of Leroi-
Gourhan, can write a phrase such as ‘nervous memory (that is, cerebral memory,
thought and language in [the] traditional sense)’, or how he can describe ‘nervous or
cerebral memory’ as a ‘second emergence’5 (after genetic memory). What is meant

Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, corrected edition, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore
and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), p. 84.
Jacques Derrida, ‘Différance’, Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago and London:
University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 17, translation modified.
Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus, trans. Richard Beardsworth and
George Collins (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), p. 139.
Jacques Derrida, quoted in Francesco Vitale, Biodeconstruction: Jacques Derrida and the Life Sciences,
trans. Mauro Senatore (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2018), p. 60.

here by ‘cerebral memory’? Either it means more or less the same thing as nervous
memory (referring to the cerebellum common to all vertebrates), in which case it has
nothing to do with ‘thought and language in [the] traditional sense’, or else it means
what Francesco Vitale seems to assume, that it refers not to nervous memory but to
cultural memory6, in which case it is not a second but a third emergence, arising some
500 million years after nervous memory and corresponding to a co-emergence with
technical memory.
If technical différance is an exteriorized temporalization qua spatialization, it
is firstly because, whereas genetic memory is subject to intergenerational
transmission but remains unmodified over the course of an individual’s life,
regardless of the variety or intensity of that individual’s experiences, nervous
memory may indeed accumulate over the life of the individual, but the lessons
retained by that individual do not survive its own death. Artificial memory is the
advent of a cumulative means of overcoming the retentional finitude that consists
in the fact that these two biological retentional systems do not communicate –
thereby opening the possibility of the accumulation of what we call knowledge. In
other words, technical différance is always already noetic différance.
This is ultimately the unthought and unacknowledged context of Heidegger’s
account in Being and Time of the temporality of Dasein. Dasein, the being that we
ourselves are, the being for whom being is a question, and the being constituted
essentially in terms of the knowledge and non-knowledge of its own mortality, is a historial
and factical being in the sense that it inherits a past it has not lived, which it must
then adopt by projecting itself into a future that remains always indeterminate because
of Dasein’s fundamental character of being-towards-death. Dasein’s potential to
exist within authentic temporality lies in resolutely taking up the possibilities granted
to it by its non-lived past, not as behavioural programs simply taken over by Dasein
but as what grants the possibility of making a decision concerning one’s own existence.
Most of the time, however, Dasein does not dwell within authentic
temporality but rather flees from it, denying it via procedures that amount to
determining the indeterminate. That Dasein’s being is a question for it may lie in the
fact that its existential character is grounded in ‘care’, yet the fact that it flees the
knowledge of its mortality means that it becomes preoccupied not with Sorge but
with the busyness of Besorgen, which makes possible the forgetting of the question
of being itself and makes equally possible all those ways in which Dasein falls prey
to inauthenticity, and firstly to the inauthentic temporality of what Heidegger calls
‘clock time’, determinable time, that is, calculable time.

Vitale, Biodeconstruction, p. 63.

What Stiegler shows in Technics and Time is that one can find a similar
indecision in Heidegger that we saw in Derrida, a passage remaining to be thought.
For if, on the one hand, busyness and the forgetting of being amount to possibilities
constituted by a kind of originary technicity of Dasein, by the fact that Dasein is
originarily dependent on ‘equipment’ and a system of references by which one piece
of equipment is ultimately related to all the others, and firstly by the clock itself,
through which it neglects its existential character of care, on the other hand, and
nevertheless, on what basis does Dasein access its non-lived past, through which it
opens up the possibility of the resolute projection of anticipatory possibilities, other
than through the documents, artefacts and archives of that past, all of which are also
forms of equipment, that is, technical? Is not every artefact, Stiegler argues, in some
way a clock by which it becomes possible to reduce that past to something
‘determined’, and hence to reduce it to an object of busyness and carelessness, but
does not every artefact also open up the very indeterminacy of the future that
Heidegger calls being-towards-death, which requires Dasein to anticipate the future
in the sense of taking care of it?
What Heidegger comes close to admitting with the concept of world-
historiality, but what he ultimately withdraws from consideration, is that this
originarily technical character of Dasein is both what opens up and what closes off
Dasein’s memory, that is, the source of its knowledge and its non-knowledge, and firstly
of the fact that its end is both certain and indeterminate. There is no access to the
infinitude of the indeterminate other than through the determinate. In short,
exteriorization is both what makes it possible to ‘make a différance’ by caring for an
indeterminate future, and what tends to close off that possibility by reducing
existence to the stereotypical, the dogmatic or the careless, ‘common understanding’
of das Man.

In 2001, after 9/11, after the Nanterre massacre committed by Richard Durn, and
after observing the increasing prominence of the National Front on the French
political scene, Stiegler’s work takes a more directly urgent and political turn, but this
consists in the introduction of a fundamental analytical concept, a fundamental
political concept, and the complication of Simondon’s philosophical apparatus
already introduced in the three volumes of Technics and Time.
The fundamental analytical concept is grammatization, by which Stiegler
continues the history of the supplement that, as he points out, Derrida called for as
itself a necessary supplement to his own account of the logic of the supplement, but

which he did not himself carry out.7 Borrowed from the linguist Sylvain Auroux, but
extended beyond the realm of language and writing that were Auroux’s concerns,
grammatization refers in Stiegler to every technical evolution of the processes by
which temporal flows are spatialized, in so doing rendering them discrete and
reproducible. Auroux’s use of the term was firstly to describe the process necessary
for speech to be turned into alphabetical writing, as an operation both of linguistics
and of domination (leading to ‘linguicide’), followed by the revolutions of
grammatization that were the printing press and computing. But Stiegler introduces
the thought that fundamental to the possibility of the industrial revolution was not
just the printing press or the steam engine, but Jacquard’s loom and all the related
machines that turned the temporal gestures of the manual worker into the spatialized
programs of industrial machinery. This could be followed in the twentieth century
by the grammatization of the temporality of aural and visual perception with the
analogue machinery of the gramophone, radio, cinema and television, and then, at
that century’s end, with the grammatization of ‘information’ by computing that led,
in the twenty-first century, to the grammatization of everything in the thoroughly
reticulated technical system in which we currently find ourselves.
In works such as For a New Critique of Political Economy, Stiegler points out that,
in the Grundrisse, Marx himself (unlike most Marxism) sees that the rise of capitalism
is a matter of acquiring the gestural knowledge of the worker and programming it
into automated industrial machinery, and that this dispossession of work knowledge,
even more than the ‘dispossession of the means of production’, is the real meaning
of proletarianization, as workers are reduced to wage labourers. In this way, Marx’s
critique rediscovers that of Socrates in Phaedrus, for whom the duplicity of writing
lay in the fact that it was a pharmakon that could either help or harm memory, and so
help or harm knowledge – for which reason Stiegler calls Socrates the first thinker
of the proletariat.
What he adds is that, if grammatization is always a matter of the spatialization
of temporal fluxes and flows, then this involves the relationship to what, in On the
Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time, that is, in his quest to describe the
character of temporal experience, Husserl calls ‘temporal objects’, that is, objects
that exist in and as a temporal flow, such as a melody. But where Husserl
distinguishes primary retention from secondary retention but dismisses the
possibility that external artefacts make any significant contribution to the temporality
of experience, and where Derrida deconstructs Husserl’s distinction between

But where this ‘logic’ of the supplement that is grammatology is precisely not a logic in the sense
of a ground of ontology, because at the origin is not a being but an accidentality, making ontology
strictly impossible.

primary and secondary retention as amounting to two modifications of non-
presence, Stiegler, while accepting Derrida’s deconstruction, insists that for the
technical beings that we are, artefacts, in their retentional character (which is at first
accidental but later becomes deliberate with hypomnesic tertiary retentions, from
the Upper Palaeolithic onwards) must be understood as ‘tertiary retentions’, where
these tertiary retentions fundamentally condition and overdetermine the relationship
of primary retention and secondary retention.
In other words, primary, secondary and tertiary retention must be considered
as distinct phenomena, which together enter into a play through which the fabric of
temporal experience is woven. Consequently, protention, the futural aspect of
present experience, which for Husserl was more or less limited to the expectation of
the next moment and, decreasingly, of the moments immediately following, can no
longer be kept within such strict temporal or perceptual limits, amalgamating instead,
progressively, with every manner of expectation, anticipation, hope, fear, motive and
reason – in short, the question of protention in this way melds into the question of
Just as, in the reading of Heidegger in Technics and Time, access to exteriorized
artefacts proves to be the condition of possibility of being-towards-death, and the
possibility both of opening up and closing off a relationship to indeterminacy that
Heidegger refers to as ‘authentic time’, so too, in texts such as Symbolic Misery, Stiegler
shows that tertiary retention is the basis of the ‘detachability’ of the drives, which
are not instincts precisely thanks to this detachability. While the drives always have
finite aims such as hunger and sex, through this detachability it becomes possible to
bind them to infinite objects of desire such as taste and love – essentially the process
that Freud refers to as sublimation. What this ultimately makes possible is Stiegler’s
critique of the consumerist economy, in which the libidinal economy is harnessed to
the productive economy, and the techniques enabled by audiovisual grammatization
(by marketing) are used to influence consumer desire by reattaching it, not to the
infinite objects of desire but to the finite objects of consumer society, ultimately
desublimating and disenchanting desire, depleting it in favour of a cycle of addiction
based on the drives unbound. This is a matter of eliminating, as far as possible, the
incalculability associated with the desire for infinite objects, because what is infinite
cannot be calculated – all of which amounts to a new realm of proletarianization in
the twentieth century, no longer of work-knowledge but of life-knowledge, the
proletarianization of ways of living and their replacement by ‘brands’ and ‘lifestyles’.
With such an analysis, Stiegler is able to ‘update’ Simondon’s account of
individuation, showing that, if the latter is right to distinguish psychic individuation
and collective individuation, and to distinguish those individuations from the vital

individuation of biological life, nevertheless Simondon cannot really account for the
possibility and basis of those distinctions: on what basis do psychic individuation and
collective individuation arise and interact? Stiegler shows that between them there
must be a support, a medium, and that, fundamentally, this medium amounts to
another individuation process, that of technical individuation. But these three strands
of the general individuation process proper to the kinds of beings that we ourselves
are each have their possibility only in the relationship to the other two: between
them, in other words, there lies what Simondon calls a ‘transductive’ relationship,
that is, a relationship in which the relation precedes its terms. Furthermore, each
involves a kind of organ – the psychic organs of the individual, the technical organs
that are tools and machines, and the social organizations associated with all manner
of collectives – and for this reason Stiegler refers to this ‘pharmacological’ form of
thinking as ‘general organology’. In general organology, care consists in the
cultivation and transformation of processes of transindividuation, that is, in the
knowledge of how to live and how to do, confronted with the systemic tendency
towards carelessness resulting from the depletion of libidinal energy and the
unbinding of the drives.
In this second phase of Stiegler’s work, Heidegger generally withdraws from
the scene: he is capable of thinking neither grammatization nor proletarianization.
But Stiegler does still find the time to think what this account of individuation means
for Heidegger’s ‘great stupidity’ in 1933, or for what Lacoue-Labarthe described as
the moment when Heidegger ‘indulged’ in philosophy. If the question arising from
Simondon’s work is the basis of the relationship of psychic individuation to
collective individuation, of the I to the we, then, he asks, does this not amount to the
question that follows from Heidegger’s failure to articulate the existential analytic of
Being and Time (essentially an account of psychic individuation) with the history of
being that followed from 1935 onwards (an account of, let’s say, the Western process
of collective individuation)? If politics is the struggle to articulate the I with the we,
a struggle that requires both the calculation of the future and the incalculability of
that very same future, then Heidegger’s failure to clearly see that the technical objects
of tertiary retention are the basis of every relationship to the future, of whatever kind,
proves to be the very reason for his political failure: failing to see the role of technical
individuation between psychic individuation and collective individuation, Heidegger
can perfectly well think the possibility for collective individuation to regress to
collective disindividuation (as das Man, which Simondon cannot think), but he cannot
think the possibility of a genuinely fruitful collective individuation process other than
as the history of a Volk that is in fact the dissolution of the I into the we.

Heidegger cannot see, and cannot help falling prey to, a collective
disindividuation process whose condition of possibility was the new retentional and
protentional media that were radio and cinema, which Freud, too, did not see,
despite his account of group psychology, but which Syberberg would perfectly well
understand in his cinema. By truly opening up the question of psychic, collective and
technical individuation, it becomes possible to see that the limitation of the existential
analytic is that Heideggerian care is described in terms of being-towards-death as if
the horizon of my own end is simply the end as such: the notion of care beyond my own
end, of some being-towards-life, is fundamentally excluded, while in 1933 that end
is fundamentally subsumed into a future of the people in which the singularity of
individual Dasein is no longer a matter for care.

On 24 January 2013, I wrote to Stiegler, one of the very rare occasions on which I
have written specifically to ask him a philosophical question, inquiring about his
occasional use of the concepts of entropy and negentropy, suggesting that there
would seem to be two negentropies, that of life and that of technics, wondering how
directly the mathematical accounts of thermodynamic entropy and informational
entropy relate to his general organology of tendencies and counter-tendencies, and
asking to what extent his non-mathematical use of these terms should be understood
in ‘metaphorical’ or ‘quasi-metaphorical’ terms. On 22 November 2014, at the
University of Kent, Stiegler delivered a lecture entitled ‘The Anthropocene and
Neganthropology’, the first of several in which he begins to disseminate a series of
familiar terms and neologisms: entropy, negentropy, anthropy, neganthropy,
entropology, neganthropology, exosomatization, exorganism, Entropocene and
Neganthropocene. It is clear that, in the intervening months, Stiegler had ruminated
and would continue to ruminate not just on the question of entropy and negentropy
inherited from Boltzmann, Schrödinger and Shannon, but on IPCC and other
reports (such as Barnosky et al. on the ‘state shift’ threatening to disrupt the
biosphere, and, more recently, the ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A
Second [and final] Notice’, signed by more than 15,000 scientists), as well as on the
rather resigned if not nihilistic statement by Lévi-Strauss in Tristes Tropiques that
anthropology might as well be spelled as entropology, and, most importantly, on
readings of the work of geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky, of biophysicist Alfred J.
Lotka, of economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen and of cyberneticist Norbert
Wiener. It is also clear that this involved a revisitation of the Heideggerian corpus,
and in particular his work after the turn that had received little attention in Technics

and Time, tending hitherto to assume, as many do, that the attitude towards
technology it espouses is ultimately reactionary and condemnatory.
The Anthropocene can be understood as the great acceleration of the
anthropization of the biosphere that began with the industrial revolution – that is,
with the invention of the steam engine and then other combustion engines, the
practical problem of the inefficiency of which led to the practical problem of closed
systems and ultimately to the probabilistic formulation of the second law of
thermodynamics – where this anthropization qua technicization threatens to lead to
the collapse of the planetary biological envelope, and so potentially to its de-
anthropization. It was Vernadsky who understood that this thin envelope that
surrounds the earth, which he named the biosphere, can itself be considered as an
open system founded on complex biochemical processes primordially and
continually fostered by a constant bath of solar radiation. It was Schrödinger who
first clearly understood that the thermodynamic operations effected within this
biosphere amount to a struggle against the entropic tendency that he referred to
somewhat misleadingly as negative entropy. But it was Lotka who first saw that, in
the unfolding of the anti-entropic processes of the biosphere, the introduction of
what he called ‘exosomatic evolution’8 represented a step beyond biological
evolution, amounting to an intensification of both the entropic and negentropic
characteristics of the latter, potentially threatening, through processes no longer just
of biochemistsry but of technochemistry, to exceed the limits upon which the
metastability of the biosphere depends. And it was Georgescu-Roegen who
understood that this means that the functions regulating such anti-entropic processes
are no longer biological, but economic.
In Stieglerian terms, this means that the negentropic endosomatization of vital
différance is followed by the neganthropic exosomatization of technical and noetic
différance, which, for the beings that we ourselves are or struggle to be, suspends
biological selection, replacing it with a process of artificial selection requiring the
intergenerational transmission of that knowledge by which we articulate
psychosocial organs with technical organs (education) and the elaboration of
therapeutic prescriptions through which psychosocial evolution organizes and
arranges the exchange of ever-changing technical organs (economics). It is in this
way that noetic différance involves knowledgeable functions that are not scientific
but processes of care. ‘Politics’ would then be not the name for these care-ful
processes in general, but only for the most recent, and not necessarily final,
instantiations of such processes.

Alfred J. Lotka, ‘The Law of Evolution as a Maximal Principle’, Human Biology 17:3 (1945), p. 192.

Whether they are endosomatic or exosomatic, however, such processes are
always a matter of temporalization and spatialization, or, better, of localization. In
endosomatic evolution, such localization is bio-geographical, a process through
which ecosystems are differentiated, and species within those ecosystems. Such
ecosystems are hyper-complex ecologies composed of simple organisms consisting
of a single cell, each one of which is itself a negentropic localization bordered with
a membrane, along with complex organisms that are multi-cellular localizations
bordered with bark, an exoskeleton, skin and so on. The biosphere is the overarching
localization operating at the level of the entire planet, a terrestrial biological envelope
differentiating itself within the entropic tendencies operating at the scale of the solar
system, the galaxy and the cosmos. This biosphere is itself ultimately still entropic,
as is every thermodynamic process, but, within the terrestrial locality, it continues to
produce anti-entropic effects that have thus far lasted some three billion years.
In exosomatic evolution, localization is not bio-geographical, but techno-bio-
geographical. From out of a default of origin undecidably distributed between the
who and the what, there emerges a new set of localizations. Stiegler describes these
neganthropic localizations in terms of what he calls exorganisms: the simple exorganism
that is I-and-my-flint-tool, I-and-my-dwelling, or I-and-my-smartphone, along with the complex
exorganism that is this tribe, this school, this prison, this factory or this university,
and the hyper-complex exorganism that is this nation, this global corporation or this
digital platform. All of these are bordered neganthropic localizations, which is to say
that they are both technical and idiomatic, always instances of a here and now,
products of a double différance that can intensify entropy at a pace far beyond the
relatively slow rate of adjustment of the endosomatic processes of the biosphere,
and today far beyond, in fact, the noetic processes associated with the exosomatic
and pharmacological processes involved with the noetic beings that we ourselves are –
pharmacological because of the rate at which such processes always produce both
entropy and negentropy.
Our neganthropological struggle is to maximize the negentropy and minimize
the entropy produced by exosomatization, where this is a matter not just of the
thermodynamic entropy producing climate change, habitat destruction and a new
wave of mass extinction, but the informational entropy producing cultural
destruction, behavioural standardization and fake news. Remedying the former will
be impossible without remediating the latter. This is, ultimately, a question of the
function of reason in Whitehead’s sense: the noetic faculties, the pursuit of
knowledge, the necessity of thinking, all find their stakes in the possibility of, as
Stiegler says, ‘making a différance’ in exosomatization, which is also to say of finding
the quasi-causality of contemporary exosomatization. Knowledge, in this

conception, is a matter of noetic capabilities that are the condition of possibility of
elaborating therapeutic prescriptions for living within exosomatization, where
knowledge itself has technical conditions of possibility and is therefore a pharmakon
in the sense that, always potentially becoming rigid, dogmatic, authoritarian or
obsolete, its prescriptions may become toxic, that is, overwhelmingly entropic. The
question of thinking, in this conception of the function of reason, is the question of
care, which Stiegler thematizes via old French, associating penser with an e with panser
with an a.

In an age where the digital and algorithmic grammatization of everything

undermines every form of knowledge, generating powerful tendencies towards
proletarianization and ultimately a macroeconomic and more-than-macroeconomic
process that has come to be called ‘disruption’ (a term based originally in marketing),
what threatens us is a violent indifférance to rising disorder. But this question of the
relationship of knowledge and violence, of the questioning that opens up the
possibility of knowledge and as what puts us violently into question, is the question
and the problem that Heidegger raises in An Introduction to Metaphysics, as the question
of tekhnē, that is, art, skill, knowledge. If Dasein is the being who questions, it is
because it is thrown into question, challenged, and this challenge ultimately arises
from exosomatization. The 1935 lecture course raises this question in terms of the
relationship between dikē and tekhnē, which Heidegger stages via his reading of the
so-called ‘ode to man’ in Antigone, man the most dreadful, unsettling and unsettled
being. But Heidegger insists that this tekhnē, this knowing, is always a kind of ‘looking
out beyond everything subsistent’9, or in other words, an arising of the extraordinary
from out of the ordinary that is always a matter of the unconcealment of and
challenge to the violence of dikē itself, that is, for Heidegger, of being.
But if tekhnē is a knowing that happens only in setting itself to work in the
work, that is, in exosomatization, then technics is the condition both of knowledge
and of its obliteration, which is what Marx already understood in relation to the
proletarianizing character of machines, and Socrates in relation to the
proletarianizing character of writing. There is not time to sufficiently pursue
Stiegler’s reading of Heidegger on these questions now, but what he shows in the
final chapter of The Neganthropocene, via the work of Rudolf Boehm, is that this is

Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt (New
Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 169, translation modified.

Heidegger’s question, too, as the question of the hubris with which Dasein’s violence
challenges the violence of dikē.
For Heidegger, it is this violence, and this hubris, setting truth into the work
and as work by wresting unconcealment from concealment, that produces the history
of being as a history, not of grammatization, but of the epochs of truth, from Plato
to Descartes to Leibniz and beyond. Today, however, we find ourselves in the age
of what Heidegger called ‘modern technology’, in which all of phusis, and man
himself, find themselves exposed as a standing reserve enframed by and available
for calculative extraction, an age that has subsequently turned into the unepochal
epoch of post-truth. May we not, however, see this as the question of thinking being
without beings that Heidegger ultimately raised in 1962 in the lecture ‘Time and
Being’, whose necessity lay, according to Heidegger, in the fact that without doing
so ‘there is no longer any possibility of explicitly bringing into view the Being of
what is today all over the earth’10, nor of deciding what relation to have, what
decision to make, concerning what is today all over the earth? And does this in turn
not bear upon Lévi-Strauss’s entropology, which, too, strangely and disconcertingly,
seems to think a world of becoming devoid of being – carried to the limit?
What is today all over and beyond the earth is an exosphere, including a set
of transoceanic cables and a belt of geostationary and other satellites that ensure the
thoroughgoing reticulation of this earth across digital networks, operating by
applying powerful probabilistic calculations to vast amounts of data in a highly
automatic way, designed to function at high speed and therefore performatively.
What is performativity? John Austin described it as the possibility for saying
something to do what it says (the classic example being the performative statement
uttered by the priest to a bride and groom), and it is common to say that this
possibility depends on ‘institutional conditions’. But to say something, to use
language whose history amounts to a long circuit of transindividuation, is already a
form of exosomatization, and institutions are themselves social organizations whose
existence depends on organological conditions, and, at some level, on our belief in
those institutions – institutions are themselves performative in the sense that they exist
only insofar as we continue to collectively believe in them.
We might as well say, then, that performativity is in fact a matter of how
exosomatization can be used to make people dream. Today, we refer to the age of
post-truth in order to describe an age in which this performative use of
exosomatization functions automatically, that is, without knowledge, pure
exteriorization without corresponding re-interiorization, and thus without any

Martin Heidegger, ‘Time and Being’, On Time and Being, trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York:
Harper & Row, 1972), p. 2.

longer giving rise to an epoch of truth – hence these dreams tend to become nihilistic
nightmares, even if they remain performatively realizable, and violently so (which
we see with the thoroughly entropic and anti-social functioning of today’s social
networks). This is, ultimately, the question of what Heidegger called Gestell – the
reign of calculation all over the earth, which Stiegler also associates with the nihilistic
desert that, a century ago, Nietzsche prophesied would last two centuries – and of
the need it raises for what he called the Ereignis, for some kind of appropriation of
Gestell, using the instruments of Gestell to produce a bifurcation from within it and
out of it. Ereignis, however mysterious this Heideggerian concept remains for us,
cannot, we may be sure, be formulated according to Descartes’s dream of man as
‘master and possessor of nature’, mastery being the business of the artisan, and the
immense performative power of the technologies of control only intensify the
processes of entropic destruction that have brought climate change, post-truth and
Donald Trump. This hidden, mysterious Heidegger, to the extent he consists, is no
longer either reactionary or condemnatory, or at least not only so, not merely so,
being instead the one who, decades ahead of most others, weighed the gravity of the
decisions yet to arise, yet bound to arise, in a cybernetic Gestell extending across the
earth, where the challenge provoked by exosomatization is taken to its absolute
limits – the limit of a possible end to the possibility of questioning. These decisions,
if they can no longer be taken in terms of the illusions of mastery or control, can
only become questions of care.
For Stiegler, the questions of Gestell and Ereignis in this way amount to the
question of the Entropocene in an age where the algorithmic processes of hyper-
complex exorganisms function automatically and performatively all over the earth,
threatening to produce a world that is ultimately without world in Heidegger’s sense,
if not indeed without Dasein. But we can draw this conclusion only if we also recall
the reasons that Heidegger could not yet think the Anthropocene, that is, care about
it: firstly, because he did not think entropy, the second law of thermodynamics
(whereas he did think, for example, Newton’s first law of motion as a chapter in the
history of truth as measurement); secondly, because he tends, increasingly, to oppose
meditative thinking and calculative thinking (for example, in the Discourse on
Thinking); thirdly, because, even though he is perhaps the first to think cybernetics as
the possibility of an end of thinking (recalling also that for Wiener it raised the
possibility of what the latter termed a ‘fascist ant-state’11), nevertheless Heidegger
could not envisage the magnitude and depth of the problem of automated
algorithmic performativity set to work at the scale of the biosphere; and fourthly,

Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), p. 52.

because, as a thinker of work who almost completely refused Marxist discourse and
did not engage with the question of automation and proletarianization elaborated in
the Grundrisse, he could not think our macroeconomic problem.
What Stiegler shows is that these are the questions that must be added to the
Heideggerian problematic of Gestell and Ereignis in order to open up, in a dis-
automatizing way, new noetic knowledge, new noetic dreams and new
macroeconomic possibilities through which we might yet hope to sculpt a social (as
Joseph Beuys put it, describing the work not of the artisan but of the artist, of everyone
an artist…or a philosopher…or an aristo-crat), a new social contract capable of
addressing an exosomatization process that has become thoroughly toxic and
nihilistic – it is a question of opening up new neganthropic, that is, care-ful,
prospects, values and investments, a bifurcation and a transvaluation within that
planetary-scale process of terrifying carelessness that is our present-day being-