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Hum Stud (2007) 30:411–428 DOI 10.

1007/s10746-007-9072-7 RESEARCH PAPER

Technology and Intimacy in the Philosophy of Georges Bataille
Alessandro Tomasi

Published online: 2 November 2007 Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Abstract The goal of this article is to examine the nature of technology in view of Georges Bataille’s notion of intimacy. After providing a summary of Bataille’s critique of technology, I offer my response and show that a technological device can reach such a degree of familiarity that it becomes indistinguishable from our psychophysical personality. In this sense, we experience technology not as instrumentation, but in intimacy. The old theory of technology as organ-projection is, therefore, reinterpreted to produce a theory of technology that includes the technological process in its entirety, from the moment of invention and innovation, involving a movement of transcendence and objectification, to the moment of intimacy. Keywords Bataille Á Intimacy Á Self Á Technology Á Unknowing

Introduction Georges Bataille’s critique of technology is unforgiving. In a split world, technology is not only responsible for this division, but also it finds itself on the wrong side of the divide. On one side, we find the world of things, objectified by a consciousness that posits the world in terms of means whose enjoyment is always postponed; on the other side, living beings engage and value their surroundings not as means, but as ends in themselves, enjoyed in the moment, never postponed and always free from the anxiety of future goals. Humanity’s transfer from one to the other side of the divide was occasioned by the birth of the first tool. The first time something was conceived as a means to an end, humanity lost its intimate relation to the world. Bataille believes that humanity is nothing but this constant search for a
A. Tomasi (&) Rhode Island College, 600 Mount Pleasant Ave., Alger Hall 223, Providence, RI 02908-1991, USA e-mail: atomasi1@cox.net

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The choice of Bataille for this purpose may seem inappropriate. I will mention. who has provided a more sophisticated phenomenology of embodiment. is justified by the fact that intimacy. Technology and intimacy are placed on these two very different planes.1 This choice. In this article. There is. This exclusive.412 A. Intimacy. pace Bataille. relate back to these two philosophers. The World of Intimacy and the Birth of Humanity Before the dawn of humanity. Intimacy is an essential aspect of technology. I wish to free technology from this constraint. through successfully adopted technological devices. in Bataille. no duration and no anticipation. but also as the sought after telos of human activities. This is the world of intimacy. positing consciousness. Of these two last philosophers more will be said in the body of the article. Intimacy can be achieved not only through the destructive effort to negate usefulness. but seek to rejoin fully and finally. in Bataille. while the corresponding Heideggerian notion of the ready-to-hand serves the instrumental attitude by making things manageable. functions not only as the lost arche. Tomasi lost intimacy. and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. p. in Bataille and differently from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s embodiment. 1 123 . in fact. since parts of their analyses can help us clarify and support the claims here put forth concerning the relationship between intimacy and technology. Ray Kurzweil. 19). who offered analyses of technological adoption and integration that seem to point to the possibility of a relation of intimacy between technology and humanity. In addition. when applied to technology. This is a world without subjects and objects. is clearly and utterly opposed to a purely instrumental view of technology. as Bataille is certainly not a major figure in the philosophy of technology. but the hammer that performs its function with excellence is a hammer that has become but an extension of our own body with which we maintain an intimate. however. with current attempts to show that an evolving technology is an intrinsic part of the evolution of humanity. in the course of the article. of course. non-objective relationship. but a life lived in the moment of an immediately valuable There are others. but also. oppositional standpoint reduces technology to mere instrumentality and defines intimacy negatively as the absence of instrumental relationships. as there is no objectifying. I will. in his Diffusion of Innovations. here. such as Martin Heidegger. whose predictions in The Age of Spiritual Machines about the future of technology point to a future merging with humanity. Bruno Latour and Andrew Feenberg. Bataille’s approach fits better. where to experience one requires the abandonment of the other. in other philosophers. oftentimes ignored. provides a clear model for the diffusion of technology and the attributes necessary for their adoption. the notion of intimacy appears. namely the charge that technology is incompatible with the experience of intimacy. the works of Everett Rogers. there was the night of a world in which we lived ‘‘like water in water’’ (Bataille 1992. who. The hammer used to build a house is a means to an end. who has dealt more explicitly with the nature of technology. though in different guises. at least. which we have lost. is part of a larger movement that surpasses the theoretical range made possible by Merleau-Ponty’s embodiment and by Heidegger’s ready-tohand. In addition. intimacy.

the ‘‘inability to transcend itself’’ (p. and claim blurriness as a sign of continuity. the making of a tool is singled out to represent the irreversible disruption of the domain of the continuous and is the origin of the world of things. ‘‘the [developed] tool brings exteriority into [the] world. give ourselves limits and prohibitions to sexual behavior. This screwdriver. Such animality is ‘‘immediacy or immanence’’ (p. We know. Fallen humanity is 2 Animals of different species have been observed to use tools and to develop them to make them better fit to perform a certain task. that this distinction between animals. In the operation of mining the metal necessary to make a strong enough screwdriver. for example. negatively. A crow has recently been observed to form a hook. The dog will certainly outrun the child to eat the cookie waiting on the table. belong to the world of intermediary beings. as it requires the manipulation of objects in temporal sequence where the satisfaction of eating the cookie is postponed. 17). Human transcendence is a movement out of one’s present condition that manifests itself in planning ahead. and ritualize the care of the dead.2 Regardless. These examples suggest we should abandon the idea of a divide between animals and humans. since its existence has value only insofar as it is used in order to build the house. 27) because it has to be made with an end in view that is not achieved at the end of the process of making the tool. and human beings. Tools. time is divided and sequential. such as the strengths and weaknesses of iron as opposed to steel. According to Bataille. but observes that all of them are found at the ‘‘dawn’’ of human presence (p. Technology does not solve the problem of the origin of human specificity. whose value is to be found in their usefulness as means to further production. even though the animal will eat the plant that warrants its survival. or. of course. With this disruption. but in Theory of Religion (1992). all of which are forms of squander (Bataille 1991. is not so clear-cut. reproduce and die. once produced. This is a world of ends in themselves. 33–34). Bataille (1993) does not put any one of these activities before the others.’’ insofar as it is unable to make conceptual discriminations between this poisonous plant and that edible one. and all things get individualized by belonging to their own causal chain. finding means to achieve an end.Technology and Intimacy in the Philosophy of Georges Bataille 413 experience. living in an all-abiding present. we act within a world made of the knowledge of measurable attributes that can be obtained only by comparison and experimentation. Bataille would see improvising a ladder with chairs and buckets to reach the jar as an example of human transcendence. in which nothing is experienced as a means to them. therefore. In Erotism. but if the cookie is in a jar on top of the refrigerator. Technology appears to be a phenomenon limited to the world where space is measured. remains within the world of intermediary beings. 23). The animal is ‘‘absence of transcendence. even though humans have reached such a level of technological complexity that no other species conceivably could achieve in the foreseeable future. and it is in this sense that.’’ The tool is the ‘‘nascent form of the non-I’’ (Bataille 1992. acting in sequential time. humanity loses the sovereignty which it enjoyed as animals serving no purpose other than to eat. p. we become specifically human when we engage in toolmaking. pp. according to Bataille. 123 . 28). and in the manufacturing process of shaping the metal to become such tool. the dog can only hope for crumbs.

according to Bataille. This claim will be supported by a revaluation of the role of positing consciousness in causing the breaking down of the world of continuity. that is. When its technological identity engages the world. we stop seeing the world in terms of means and ends. which is always superabundant. After all. technology has no small burden to carry. At the end of the beginning of Bataille’s story.414 A. as achieved in the age of industry. 57) and technology is its original sin that caused the loss. Humanity itself will be caught in a spiraling downfall towards the total reduction to thing-hood. the fruits of this labor. however. Put in these terms. From this point of view. intimacy withdraws. we struggle to maintain some kind of control. and therefore no justification for accumulation and postponement of the joy of consumption. 123 . as the process of developing better tools. Bataille calls this standpoint ‘‘general economy. This path to salvation goes through a world that has all the characteristics of our current consumer society. Wars and sacrificial bonfires are ways to negate usefulness itself by destroying the useful object in a seemingly useless activity. 40) in order to generalize the possibility of the intimate experience. by engaging in squander. which requires a point of view detached from such local identities. and by using Bataille’s conception of intimacy to reinterpret an old view of technology as organ-projection. Scarcity and poverty are due to the unevenness of planetary resources. This is the human way to experience intimacy. and we simply need to ‘‘transfer… wealth… without reciprocation’’ (Bataille 1991. is responsible for human fallenness and the birth of the order of things. dying and reproducing. Tomasi definable as a ‘‘search of a lost intimacy’’ (Bataille 1992. but it can also patch up the tears produced by labor by wasting. all activities on earth are economically significant as part of the general flow of biochemical energy. p. humanity is diagnosed as suffering from a split-personality disorder. In this way. technology. of technology. I offer an argument in favor of the view that technology and intimacy are not only compatible experiences. when we enjoy any one type of fusion via the negation of usefulness. Animals. Caught in this unrelenting oscillation between immanence and transcendence. Humanity can transcend its given world by laboring. there is no such thing as scarcity. do not have any other way to deal with the curse of excess energy than by eating. the consistently downplayed and often forgotten half. Instrumentality and Intimacy The theory that technology is essentially instrumental is a typical example of a fix whose secondary effects are more harmful than the primary ones it manages to cure. intimacy and instrumentality. In order to free technology from this burden. but it will be a necessary step towards selfconsciousness. waste.’’ a point of view which allows us to go beyond the ‘‘restricted’’ (to usefulness and instrumentality) point of view. will not constitute a clear-cut break of any sort in this historical movement towards self-consciousness. in different ways. This reduction. This is a form of negation of the use-value of things. p. but more importantly that intimacy is the other half. pure expenditure.

p. of technology represents an extreme example of this approach. 4). 455–456). that is. the use of the adjective ‘‘massive’’ was conceivable only because of the objectifying consciousness with which Ellul approaches the reality of technological devices. The great advantage of using icons in the Apple desktop could be seen in the relatively short time a completely ignorant user would take to learn it (Gelernter 1998. p. the knowledge concerning how to use something should not need to be said. the techniques and materials used to make it. Of course. As a matter of fact. The machine is only the most superficial of all technical manifestations. in my own home. and characterized the latter as involving techne (McKeon 1992. starting with the raw materials (making plastic and mining metals) and ending with an explanation of how to use it. knowing-what and knowing-how. but this does not eliminate the possibility that a non-utilitarian. pp. Jacques Ellul’s reduction of machinery and tools to a sub-system. Aristotle’s further distinction between instruments of production and instruments of action (McKeon 1992.Technology and Intimacy in the Philosophy of Georges Bataille 415 It has illumined one side of technology by pushing the other into darkness. If I were to read a manual about assembling a telephone. However. 595) does not lead to an appreciation of use-knowledge. the machinery that surrounds me. this last part of the manual would be limited to telling the user to pick the phone up and move it closer to the ear. The dominance of this mindset is such that it constitutes itself as a value system. the scientific principles that explain the transmission of images through space and time. at all. he was thinking of the productive aspect of technology. there is also a difference between knowing-how-tomake and knowing-how-to-use (e. and not even its trans-technological end. pp. while ignoring a third type resulting from its being in use.g. knowing how to use a television requires knowing how to push a button. In fact. There is certainly a difference between knowing-what (e. we commit ourselves to an ontological and definitional blunder. in order to use it. and technique is a mindset merely concerned with the best means to achieve a given end. a mere ‘‘massive presence. It is like defining the moon only by referring to its illuminated side. that forces it to go into the open.’’ as Ellul argues. ‘‘it is the machine which is now entirely dependent upon technique’’ (Ellul 1964. though. then there is no escape for tools and machinery from being reduced to means in the instrumental process which sees a gargantuan technique as an end in itself. 123 . Bataille and Ellul would agree on the instrumental nature of the technical consciousness. and in fact the least important aspect. I do not require knowing what a television is made of. how it is made). Arguably. intimate relation with the ‘‘massive presence’’ of tools and machines is still possible (Ellul 1964. Ideally. p. Ellul’s reduction was possible because he defined the instrument as involving only two types of knowledge. In this way. but to politics and ethics (Mitcham and Mackey 1972. such as when it stops functioning). 6). eludes my consciousness most of the time (until something happens. 348–349). in which everything is organized according to the duality useful/useless. 33–34). When Aristotle distinguished between natural and artificial objects. what a television is made of) and knowing-how (i.g. if we define technology as technical thinking of means and ends.e. This latter comprises the manufacturing aspect of tools. how to change channels. pp. and so on).

109). it would not be wise to push buttons. This requires praxical knowledge. but it becomes useless. On the basis of this observation. the car requires. In all cases. This praxical knowledge is non-instrumental. knowing that you have to blow air into a small hole. to incorporate them into the bulk of our own body’’ (p. Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of embodiment recognizes just this type of knowledge when he writes that the spatiality and motility of one’s body is ‘‘the [motor] grasping of a [motor] significance’’ (Merleau-Ponty 1962.416 A. knowing. we find. and so on) does not make us able to play the flute. The expert is such if he or she develops ‘‘an immediate intuitive situational response’’ and. 277). In other words. while it is extremely simple outside. we can make a final distinction between the knowledge that precedes use and the knowledge that results from using. p. Praxical knowledge becomes. even an obstacle in the using phase. a car-driver. 108). and so on. the chair. how to play a flute (that is. p. The television. such as doing the task in less time. p. to use Don Idhe’s terminology (Scharff and Dusek 2003. A remote control is a very complicated instrument inside. It becomes relevant only at a time when we wish to develop a better tool to achieve the same general end in view of certain standards. knowing where to put your fingers and mouth. practical and praxical knowledge of this kind. to be driven expertly. In that case. there is knowledge that can be gained only as a result of practice. Tomasi In fact. If I were to find an abandoned spaceship and enter it. Proficiency seems to develop if. ‘‘To get used to a hat. in Merleau-Ponty. that is. Again. The outward simplicity of use is necessary for adoption in a multiplicity of similar situations. goes through all the stages necessary for the tool to stop being a thing to us and start being us. all such technical knowledge is irrelevant to knowing how to use a television. The type of technology we conceive as instrumental is given to our consciousness only as long as we have the ability to isolate it from its context of relations. or in a way that produces less waste. if it had buttons. or conversely. experience is assimilated in this atheoretical way and intuitive behavior replaces reasoned responses’’ (Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1999. 143). in practice. in view of an already predetermined plan. and all the technological ‘‘massive presences’’ that can be found in most houses are noticed only by directing our consciousness to posit as its objects technological tokens. or skill acquisition. the acquisition of a skill that results in the merging of the car and the driver into a whole. combines theoretical. and only if. we need to analyze materials. every time we desire to watch the television or listen to music. a process in which the slow use of rules and principles are ‘‘gradually replaced by situational discriminations accompanied by associated responses.143). made up of more elementary technological 123 . an acquired habit and a skill. The use of flight-simulators. In fact. test them. this type of knowledge is limited to the making phase. today. So. the telephone. the spoon. we name composite technological entities. from novice to expert. at that point. the stick partakes to the blindness of the man who cannot see (p. the car is no longer set apart from the psychophysical personality driving it. As Hubert Dreyfus explains. know their properties. The risk of pushing the selfdestruct button should be a good enough deterrent. a car or a stick is to be transplanted into them. this process of incorporation. On the other hand. such as learning to play a musical instrument or learning to fly planes. hoping to click the right one to start flying.

Technology and Intimacy in the Philosophy of Georges Bataille 417 objects. and other such devices without thinking about them. affected by the way it is used. If we were to disassemble a television. We would think of a biological organism. considering the hammer as a way to prolong the arm. made up of various instruments and adapted for some specific use. Televisions. kidneys and lungs. we would experience. but this body of knowledge must be set aside in order to play the guitar. The most effective use of any technology requires the utmost level of ignorance. 3 Basalla’s evolutionary approach to technology gives us a diachronic explanation of the illusion of a technological unit. custom and social conventions for breaking down the continuum into a series of discrete. namely the experience of technology in-use. We can forget where we put our glasses. Certainly. of course. but. We can study the history and the manufacturing process by which we make guitars. an organ would recall arms and legs. Most of us relate to our technological surrounding in much the same way. and as a way to extend and expand what a hand can do. together with a gain in theoretical knowledge. The notion of technology as organ-projection does not violate this basic connotation of ‘‘organ’’ as ‘‘instrument’’ or ‘‘tool. and we know only because we engage it every day. we think. Aristotle’s organon. However. they are inextricably connected. could be disassembled into hundreds of smaller pieces. intimacy and instrumentality are opposites.3 This feeling of a loss is the clear sign of a distance that unknowing. but we do not need to be. This type of relationship results in the perception of a loss. A musician would think first of pipe organs. the development of claws mutated the way the organism engaged its environment. not in relation to the object they are making) and common users of house appliances. identifiable inventions’’ (p. to use Idhe’s. Basalla (1988) quotes Gilfillan as blaming ‘‘language. as the invention of the wheel did. the loss of the namable technological unit. for example. In evolutionary terms. but we tend to resist the temptation to erase all differences because of this similarity. but we cannot forget to ‘‘wear’’ our eyes. What unknowing reveals is that aspect of technology that cannot be named without losing it. an instrument with a specific use. even if in the form of an intentional erasure of what is known of the deep structure of a technological device.’’ A hammer is an organ. may be thought as part of human instrumentation. We know only their most superficial being. all man-made objects. more obviously. 123 . performing a certain specialized function. all of which are usually unknown to most users. of knowledge. raises some questions about the nature of this relationship between the extended body and the extending tool. namely. namely logic. but in technology. We are not technicians. is meant to collapse. and like any of these other organs. not a gain. This is the knowledge of the body that we notice as much in devoted musicians as in artisans (in relation to the tools they use to make an object. while I provide a synchronic one. We relate to telephones. just like legs and lungs. television sets. 22). of instruments. or praxical knowledge. a loss of praxical knowledge. The Externality of Technology and the Mine-body When we think of organs. to use Bataille’s concept.

the body. In Bataille’s ontogenetic sequence. 38). The term mine-body is not the objectified body. because of this closeness that. We can make the hand that is playing one of Bach’s piano concertos the object of our consciousness. This bridge is bi-directional. but it still retains a closeness that violates all criteria of objectification. We cannot externalize our stomach while we are using it. engaging the environment while it is engaging it (I will call this. figure out the possibility of its reversal within technology. as a tool. 30). 123 . differentiation. no matter how important these tools are to my body. the first object. is the idea of a distance between the mind/body complex and technology in all its forms. However. insofar as it is not present in sovereign spirits’’ (Bataille 1992. after a simple. and reunification of the alienated sphere of objects to the immanent world. and thus we cannot see it as easily as we see a pen. Only after such a process was well underway were the first subjective attributes. p. to be clear.418 A. the emphasis should be placed on the ‘‘mine. as an organ with a certain function. our body reveals to us a reality that is most hidden. plants. that is. for example. allowing objectification and externality. The externality that the developed tool brings about can be extended to our body 4 There is a difference between our objectifiable body and the unobjectifiable body that is ours. The Supreme Being and the spiritual sphere are the result of this process of objectification. After the developed tool brought subordination. Also. so that animals. such as acting and thinking. Indeed. but it is. and all entities perceived as external. Tomasi What the notion of technology as organ-projection opposes. Such difficulty is due to the fact that the body is most proximate to the center of intimacy. the mine-body includes all references to the psyche. as well. but we cannot expect it to play the concerto any longer. the mine-body is the first to disappear from consciousness. once mastered. We could talk of the mine-mind. It opposes the idea that technology is out there. We can view it as an object as easily as we objectify a pencil. zoom in on the process of objectification and. where they could be clearly and distinctly known (Bataille 1992. confusedly bestowed on some of the same elements. externality itself. with Bataille’s help. or tools. cursory phenomenological investigation. This is all too difficult to accept once we consider how close the body is to us. pp. closer or further from us. and so the split between sacred and profane. The mine-hand is the hand that is playing the piano concerto. Let’s. but nonetheless external. there is a gap between the body that is mine.32–33). we experience the absence of separation and distance. p. but the body that is engaged while it is engaged. and the external tools the mine-body can possibly use to help itself. as logic becomes part of the mine-mind. is the tool. the minebody4). The hammer becomes part of the mine-arm. all the other elements that originally belonged to the immanent sphere were one by one situated on this plane. as a means to an end. in fact. therefore. In the perception of what is mine. It is only at this point that the body joins the world of objects: ‘‘Only starting from the mythical representation of autonomous spirits does the body find itself on the side of things. The process of objectification was carried on untiringly to include animals. could be at one time objects and subjects (Bataille 1992. sequential time and means/end relationships into the world. This gap can be bridged by bringing to light the importance of intimacy in technological acquisitions and uses. As we engage the world. which corresponds to the negative definition of intimacy.’’ not on any philosophical conception of what constitutes the human personality.

objectify the body that is ours. from the sacrificial. for example. tortured. On the other hand. Interestingly. the mine-body. which is a form of distancing. I speak slowly out loud. My vocal cords tense. and the 5 The body of the Other. that is. 123 . refer to a time when ‘‘the distinct clarity of consciousness … move[s] me farthest away… from that unknowable truth which. The psychologists Paul Rozin and April Fallon used a very graphic example of the shift between an embodied self-consciousness and a consciousness of the body: we do not think of saliva when we swallow it (Rozin and Fallon 1987). William Jeracki in 1993 and Aron Ralston in 2003 both opted to amputate their own leg and arm respectively to free themselves from a crushing boulder. to the Christian. as the closest entity to the immanent sphere.5 We can. described in his book Between a Rock and a Hard Place. from experience. since it is the sine qua non of our experience of intimacy. a surgeon. wasted. The body. therefore. to the military. in sacrifice. and my voice changes octaves. of creating a wedge within his intimate sphere in order to push his crushed arm out of it. as opposed to the same saliva that we swallow every few seconds. Jerri Nielsen. 57) In general.Technology and Intimacy in the Philosophy of Georges Bataille 419 only by losing its natural closeness. from the archaic to the modern world. the body is the first to lose its objectivity as we redirect our consciousness to posit some other entity. should have been at the center of Bataille’s analysis of many historical attempts to return to intimacy. All the same. but this objectification necessitates the loss of the mine-body. without a pick to crack the boulder. 20). Saliva on a spoon. from myself to the world. adhering indelibly to their presence’’ (Bataille 1992. these extreme examples of objectification only show the extreme degree of plasticity of our body. p. you’re gonna have to cut your arm off. 23). Recently. We can add. we can. It is the body that is sacrificed. ‘But I don’t wanna cut my arm off!’ ‘Aron. (Ralston 2004. It is no longer mine. appears to me only to slip away’’ (p. This is crazy. constitutes a solution to the problem of the mine-body. The night of unknowing is experienced through the negation of the object-body of the Other by not destroying the minebody. I have only one possible course of action. Ralston’s thought process. we would find it disgusting to swallow our own saliva if it were given to us on a spoon.’ I realize I’m arguing with myself and yield to a halfhearted chuckle. The psychological mechanism that made the destruction of the body of the Other necessary. was set in motion by the fact that ‘‘we can never imagine things without consciousness except arbitrarily. However. which we want to return to intimacy. subtract. shuffle things around.’ Hearing the words makes my instincts and emotions revolt. of course. took the form of an inner dialogue. since we and imagine imply consciousness. to the industrial era that preceded us. has lost its place in our intimate world. p. our consciousness. As he writes: Without enough water to wait for rescue. was able to perform a mastectomy on herself (she tells her story in Ice Bound). without an anchor. ‘You’re gonna have to cut your arm off.

showing how hazy the boundaries of the body are. giving similar results. then the telephone. At that point. We have people seeing all things upside down and still capable of living a normal life. technology in its instrumental mode has a role in the process of self-formation. has both an interior aspect (in the formation of an ego) and an exterior manifestation (in action which negates the given). Bataille contends that ‘‘Man… negates Nature… by introducing into it… the anomaly of a ‘pure. As we can add more similar examples. The telephone is not twice removed from its positing source. as in sacrificial rituals. of the useful object is experienced by the human subject as a sudden loss of subjectivity. The negation. cannot be said to have a use for me. as the self stood in opposition to its object. As the prototypical hammer struck for the first time. which. just as our hand is to us. human intimacy is still achievable by means of a secondlevel negating action which can take two directions: it can either negate the self (what we can call No-Consciousness) or the object (a sort of Consciousness-ofNothing). The first method reminds us of the quasi-mystical experience of deep contemplation. favored by Bataille in his major post-war writings. it has also a role in the process of self-negation. an electronic prosthesis. it resonated into human consciousness the first glimpse of a seemingly unredeemable difference between it and its bearer. repeatable negation of the useful object. Bataille. A blind person can learn to ‘‘see’’ by strengthening her or his hearing capability. Regaining intimacy would require. If the telephone had the qualities necessary to become entirely familiar. 10). a performance artist who has had a third arm. the intimacy that connected all dots in a natural whole was lost. as I have argued. According to Bataille. subject and object. The telephone-in-use inhabits the world between the hand. ‘‘the intrinsic relationship that arises between 123 .420 A. it gives the body one more possibility to project itself towards the world. have been performed. As Ernst Kapp points out. in its closeness. p. added to his biologically inherited two arms (p. The second method. but. we can conclude that the body does not end with its skin. quite surprisingly. which is humanity. personal ego’’’ (Stoekl 1990. 13). We have painters without arms painting with their feet. like the hand. The Technological Self or the ‘‘Soft’’ Self Following Alexandre Kojeve. requires the momentary. Several experiments. 115). the collapse of self and other. but still sought after experience of intimacy that human beings can hope to achieve. wars and other forms of consumption for its own sake. therefore. Therefore. including its own body. the ‘‘inner experience’’ of a stop to all mental operations (Bataille 1988. and that is the rather unstable. This negative action. and that which the hand picks up. namely the objectifiable telephone. or destruction. There is no possibility of intimacy for a self that regards itself in opposition to any externality. failed to realize that both formation and negation are aspects of the dynamics of technology. Andy Clark (2003) reports the case of Stelarc. Tomasi psychophysical personality still manages. could not be set apart without the intentional act of a positing consciousness. p.

absolutely pliable in any type of ceremonial destruction. but as it becomes mine. but that ‘‘it is certainly not one of the mutual recognition of talents or qualities by two opponents. 104). The second difference has to do with the nature of the two sides in this play of reflection. p. 1–7). It is a type of recognition that does not require any form of mutuality. but it takes the shape of ritual substitution. using Jacques Lacan’s scheme (Lacan 1977. The role of the mirror. 92). Bataille recognizes Kojeve’s influence. Bataille’s subject. 120). which we can or cannot control. activity and passivity. Suzanne Guerlac completes Stoekl’s analysis by considering the role of the prostitute in this ceremonial recognition. The prostitute is ‘‘an object which signifies the absence of any object’’ (Stoekl 1990. 123 . she pretends to evade the seduction: all this to increase the desire of the subject (Bataille 1986. she feigns a denial. 78). Allan Stoekl takes notice of this when he argues that recognition is still present in Bataille. as we find it in religious ceremonies. His analysis of Bataille’s Madame Edwarda shows how ‘‘ritual substitution and recognition are… inseparable’’ (p. p. with regard to the process of self-formation. pp. She is completely passive. but instead of re-cognizing it. Non-savoir (or unknowing) is achieved only at the end of this process. ‘‘in which a mere vicarious experience of death. The prostitute does not offer herself in the role of an equal. The first difference concerns the importance and nature of recognition in the play of reflection between two conscious subjects. a sort of mater materia capable of giving up myriads of things in myriads of forms. it throws back at it an image of itself that is very different from the one it projected.Technology and Intimacy in the Philosophy of Georges Bataille 421 tools and organs… is that in the tool the human continually produces itself’’ (Mitcham 1994. desiring subjective counterpart in the process of recognition. As Bataille (1986) states. p. p. 24). The character of the prostitute at this point becomes symbolic. p. but he did not follow him blindly and completely. which signals a ‘‘break with all objectification’’ (Gill 1995. the female and the male’’ (p. This absolute pliability of this ‘‘paradoxical object’’ is an inaccessible Other insofar as it refuses to be made into a subject apart from the subject that it serves. is caught in a process where it seeks its own demise by negating its objective counterpart: if I can control this object. This ‘‘paradoxical object’’ replaces the conscious. It serves everybody and. it escapes subordination. is substituted for the real thing—one’s own death—which by definition cannot be experienced’’ (Gill 1995. therefore. He reports Bataille’s idea of the ‘‘comedy’’ of sacrifice. Such a ‘‘mirror’’ is so unstable that it changes its surface depending on the desire that the subject directs towards it. so that both object and subject are superseded dialectically. ‘‘the final aim of eroticism is fusion. then it is mine. 88). 132). it serves nobody. and places it in the middle of Bataille’s economy of expenditure (Stoekl 1990. all barriers gone. 79). or better it is a form of mutuality where the ‘‘paradoxical object’’ either satisfies or fails to satisfy one’s desires. therefore. as standing for anything that can perform the same function. 129–130). is taken by an absolute object. but of the object to be sacrificed by the subject. p. There are two key differences between Bataille and Kojeve on this point. Rather recognition here appears in the form of exchange between unstable terms—between divinity and animality. and hence only death’s representation. the ‘‘I’’ gets obliterated. but its first stirrings are characterized by the presence of a desirable object’’ (pp.

then that hand is ours: ‘‘I am the sum total of the parts I control directly’’ (Dennett 1984. Tomasi This kind of self-making-and-unmaking process is entirely compatible with Andy Clark’s ‘‘soft self. 136). In a very apt way. Lacan’s Aha-Erlebnis of the child recognizing. lapsing into nothingness as easily as a candle flame is snuffed. 418). ‘‘it is just tools all the way down’’ (Clark 2003. We are ‘soft-selves. Stephen Kline.’’ Drawing from Daniel Dennett’s analysis. In fact. artifacts as well as ‘‘sociotechnical systems of use.’ continuously open to change and driven to leak through the confines of skin and skull. ‘‘to face up to our true nature (soft selves. Clark concludes that. If these elements are free-floating. p. Clark (2003) places the body in front of a mirror and constitutes its sense of self by realizing its sphere of control (p.422 A. herself as a whole in the mirror is functionally the same as the one of the user successfully adopting a new device. in his attempt to organize the variety of technological entities. given the main topic of this work. as well as self-transforming. There is no real. It would serve us better to think of the mine-body as porous to its social context. Dennett (1991) recalls Richard Dawkins’ notion of the extended phenotype ‘‘as a part of the fundamental biological equipment of the individuals who are submitted to the selective forces that drive evolution’’ (p. the point around which we tell stories about ourselves. includes. p. 130). In fact. 137). The Issue of Control as Social Projection This technological. mind. actually mis-recognizing (meconnaissance). does by spinning webs and the beaver by building dams. self apart from its non-biological extensions. In his analysis. This sense of belonging is based on the responsiveness of the parts of the body. As the hand that is mine responds by waving good-bye to the demands of specific circumstances. p. distributed decentralized coalition) is to recognize the inextricable intimacy of self. This phenotype presides to the drive to extend our boundaries in our own human way. If we can move that reflected hand. 211). as the spider. then the boundaries of what constitutes our sense of self and what is not ours get inevitably blurred. ‘‘soft’’ self does not have to be limited to the individual sphere. constructed by all sorts of cranks and levers. We do not simply project a self for others to see. annexing more and more non-biological elements as aspects of the machinery of mind itself’’ (p. within the range of possible meanings. under more auspicious circumstances’’ (p. only to be rekindled at some later time. The form that this responsiveness of technological devices takes is relative to their nature. and world’’ (p. The reconstitution of the self corresponds to the enjoyment of the object beyond its being a means to an end. If it works. These stories allow us to keep an appearance of continuity. but the fact remains that ‘‘[a] self could be just as gappy. what keeps this expanding and contracting self unified is what Dennett calls ‘‘a center of narrative gravity’’ (Dennett 1991. p. that is. If we want to talk of technology as projection.’’ or combinations of people and artifacts (Mitcham 1972. 82). and this self is nothing apart from the parts it controls. through technology. all such elements responding equally to our commands might be said to be ‘‘parts’’ of the mine-body. though smaller. ‘‘We… just are these shifting coalitions of tools. 423). 415). it is mine. 139). then we 123 . in its way.

thus determining the actions and wishes of people and even reducing them to tools. cash and the wallet. blow his nose. does not enter his mind. and not three or four. raising the ethical issue of a technology that is affecting our life. This hand is detached from the body and posited as an alien object only when it starts misbehaving. and still. for example. the mere thought that he was endowed by nature with only two hands. we would encounter some problems. this one is clearly detached from the body. ‘‘soft’’ self may very well include the social network. but it can still fail to work out. p. to talk of social projections as opposed to individual projections. We can refer to this experience as the experience of ‘‘fitting in. from the other side of the bush near which they are resting. then we can talk of ‘‘fulfillment’’ (Mitcham and Mackey 1972. an old Laurel and Hardy movie in which our heroes find themselves lost in a labyrinth. to clarify this point. the technological mirror reflecting the technological. without fragmentation and without precluding the experience of intimacy.’’ which Friedrich Dessauer used in his analysis of invention. In the same way. As long as this third hand works in harmony with the other two. to rival Orpheus himself. invented and produced. We may think of a musician as having reached such familiarity with her or his musical instruments. social projections could be out of the sphere of control of the mine-body. If the machine. 322).Technology and Intimacy in the Philosophy of Georges Bataille 423 need to include social activities. and this may be seen as stretching it too thin. Dessauer engages the idea that technology is an ‘‘inner working out’’ of forms from what he calls the ‘‘fourth realm’’ into the first realm of actual. It is noteworthy that Dessauer’s concern with technological products ends with such fulfillment. with the rest of the body and mind. If we stretched the meaning of organ-projection in this way. a trickster inserts his arm and helps Laurel’s two hands light a pipe. and so forth. such a level of musical knowledge. whose nature may not be easily reconcilable. Still. then the mine-body maintains its integrity. playing the part of the controlling subject. It may help to recall. an ATM machine. It would be possible. The notion of ‘‘working out’’ should carry the connotation of a long-term. Differently from Stelark’s third hand.’’ or ‘‘working out. but this would also force us to double the projected selves. under given conditions. though. as long as this third hand does what Laurel feels and wishes. then there is no perception that this third hand may not be his. night approaching. In fact. Tired after unsuccessfully trying the find the exit. they sit and wait for the new day. such a level of ingrained neuromuscular skills. works. In fact. In all such cases. just as an airplane magnifies our ability to move only by being part of a system of transport. maybe a life-long relationship established between two beings. that is. for example. it becomes much more difficult to appreciate the role of intimacy and to delineate the boundaries of the mine-body that technology periodically transgresses. hoaxed by college tricksters. as long as the relationship works out. but all these will not suffice to play in an orchestra. The problem is that a newly invented device can work. which is only the visible end point of a complex banking system. can become a projection of our mine-body only as long as it reduces the distance between desire and satisfaction. we are able to extend only by being embedded in a social practice. In many cases. existing objects. In darkness. as when we talk of a 123 .

such as buttons on an ATM machine. (Bataille 1992. Failure and success to fit in can be decided by a variety of geographical. Bataille’s order of things is made of things known. reminds us that the wheel did not fit in in a culture inhabiting a rough terrain. pp. Without this simplification. The perfect—complete. impervious to the construction of roads (pp. clear and distinct—knowledge that the subject has of the object is entirely external. as an experience. 29–30) What Bataille did not see is that the possibility of such an experience opens up a flexible intimate space that is entered in perfect ignorance of the manufacturing process and. I have said little. the invention may work. most likely they would not have worked out as they did. Assembling all the elements of a radio may allow us to listen to music from all around the world. that which is nearest and most familiar to us. As a result of this fitting in. I can make another one like it.424 A. but it alone is capable of reducing man’s distance from the objects that it determines. Bataille. just like the right piece of a puzzle in the right place. who are today most revered. I know what the object I have made is. that is. about its implications for 123 . cultural. The first computers were huge and slow and. for example. Heidegger and the Instrumentalization of the Lifeworld I have argued so far that there is an aspect of technology that permits the experience of intimacy in the use of tools. sociotechnical systems of use hide their complexity beneath the simplest of features. it results from manufacture. Tomasi marriage failing to work out and ending in a divorce. Technology requires more than a smart inventor to work out. but this does not mean that the radio is going to find its stable place into our daily concerns. and so on. not experienced in unknowing. Electric guitars were deemed to be (musical) instruments of the devil when played by musicians like Elvis Presley or Jimi Hendrix. Among the many factors affecting the degree of success or failure in any relationship with artifacts is its capacity to fit in an already established context. I can establish immanent relations with the hammer or with an ATM machine in unknowing. religious. or handles of a gas pump. there would be simply one more case of organ rejection. Nonetheless. The inventor may invent. Ignorance and familiarity are both conditions for establishing a relation of intimacy in the mode of unknowing. economic and other conditions. if it is too big to fit into the closet. George Basalla (1988). yet. but then the inventor will wonder where she or he is going to put that thing. in total familiarity. 7–11). The question as to whether I can establish immanent relations with a hammer as well as with complex sociotechnical systems of use can be answered affirmatively.… This external knowledge is perhaps superficial. if they remained that way. It makes of these objects although they remain closed to us. the world regains the integrity that was shuttered during the divisive process of invention and production. This sense of fitting in is a key condition for the experience of technological intimacy. however.

in my opinion. or in Rene Clair’s A Nous la Liberte. correctly understood. a cell-phone that plays your favorite tune in the middle of a Catholic or Muslim prayer time will stand out as an intrusion in a very religious community. in the end. not Bataille.’’ a phrase coined by Langdon Winner (1986. the Being of beings within a particular epoch. comes to be ‘‘taken as standing-reserve. ‘‘Technological somnambulism. but weighs a hundred pounds. p. In order to provide the necessary substance to this reply. or way of seeing and experiencing things. and this cannot be accomplished by forcing either to go all the way. It can be a screwdriver or another human being. Given this new. since not all that is technological fits in and works out in intimacy. and it reveals. There is the possibility of an authentic relationship with technology such that we do not end up chewed up by the machine like the workers in Chaplin’s Modern Times. The Being of beings that technology reveals is Bestand. at some time. including Dasein.Technology and Intimacy in the Philosophy of Georges Bataille 425 the larger context of social and political issues related to the adoption of specific technologies.’’ that is. Of course. It may be objected. It requires an understanding of the kind of humanity that would result from an open adoption of technologies capable of being intimately experienced. necessitates the dangerous reduction of humanity to instrumentality. intimacy replaces efficiency. right now. Instrumentality persists in intimacy and. then. which is arguably the core of the instrumental view of technology. but the body more so. as well as the horoscope. 5). that this understanding of technology as intimately experienced deepens the process of instrumentalization of humanity. is merely one more condition promoting the reduction of the lifeworld to instrumental values and categories and guarantees its further progression to include humanity itself. for Heidegger. it is instructive to follow. I am unconcerned with its nature and with the conditions of its use. lunar and solar eclipses. This coming together of tool and body (in the mine-body) does not seem to make the tool less instrumental. ontologically. In fact. After all. but a mode of revealing. Instead of rebelling against such state. In order to fit in and work out. p. needs more than an appreciation of the possibility of an intimate technology. The clock that tells the time from all over the world. to surrender to its directive. to produce the tools by which I engage my environment or entertain myself. As long as what I use fits in and works out. reduced to a mere thing to be used (1977. In the same way. This is the danger. or in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. However. ‘‘enframing’’ (Gestell). and much more. Technology is not simply a number of instruments made efficient by some technical knowledge. 295). so can I by them. 308). p. all beings. There has to be a fitting-in and a working-out on both sides. after all. which remains the main focus of this article. We can. in fact. or standing-reserve. it expands its boundaries to include those countless human beings who are working. ‘‘Techne is a mode of aletheuein’’ (Heidegger 1977. is a danger as it can cause alienation and exploitation. 123 . a tool so deeply embedded in our life literally disappears from our conscious gaze and control. this surrender does not necessarily entail blind acceptance. we are. Heidegger proposes. Heidegger sees technology as involved in a movement that. as the goal of technological activities. but Martin Heidegger’s analysis of technology. now dominant. but for very different reasons. as other human beings can be treated merely as means by me. the machine has to meet the human half-way. The experience of intimacy. will not work out. A reply to this objection.

6 6 Andrew Feenberg recognized the role of these non-instrumental qualities. We can say that a tool that performs its function most efficiently may still be not at all effective. but recedes or withdraws.’’ characterized by four stages of increasing positive integration of technology ‘‘with the natural. 98–99). has to fit in a human context already established and consisting of its own sensibility to what is good and bad. What is it. The efficient use of a tool does not guarantee its readiness to be used in intimacy.’’ though necessary for a successful integration. One characteristic of these two modes is that we cannot have both at once. we experience it no longer as an object present-at-hand. Looking at an object as present-at-hand hides its readiness to be used. The availability and manageability of tools become dangerous when these properties are valued in themselves. If we are entirely familiar with a working tool. namely. whether it is a hammer or the machinery in a large industrial complex. regardless how good the design is. The ethical. then it would become present-at-hand. that is. the visibility. In the process he calls ‘‘secondary instrumentalization. We relate to tools in these two ways: theoretically. which is to be useful. relate to tools in two basic ways. A technology that fits in and works out cannot simply do efficiently the job it was designed to perform. The difference between these two ways of relating to tools is given by the tools’ relation to consciousness. shows that this technology fails. a technology may become questionable simply because it offends our aesthetic sensibility. in the field of biotechnology. not as an object to be seen. though. The coming of the door handle into the field of positing consciousness reflects a disruption in the field of intimacy. and social environments that support its functioning’’ (1999. the obtrusiveness or conspicuousness of the present-at-hand may have originated in the first experience of a tool failing to function or to be available.’’ and vice versa (Heidegger 1962. The door handle is ready-to-hand as I use it to open the door while conscious only of what I am going to do after I leave the house. as ready-to-hand. technical. beautiful and ugly. If the door handle were to break. apart from what the tools are available and manageable for. and praxically. useful and useless. but placed them so-to-speak in the background of the primary function of technology. I would become conscious of it as an object with certain attributes. The mere technical elements of a device do not suffice to make a device successfully accepted to the point of intimacy. p. p. as present-at-hand. that keeps the tool ready-to-hand? What is it that makes a tool fit in and work out so that it remains withdrawn from positing consciousness? It is not enough that the tool appears to be functioning. 99). the ethical and aesthetical are thought of as ‘‘secondary qualities. In fact. The door handle becomes the object used as I become the subject user. to meet the human half-way. ready-to-hand and present-at-hand (1962. ‘‘The tool in use appears. for the time being. and the religious dimensions are all part of a human context in which the tool has to fit in in order to work out in intimacy. The device also needs to be properly inserted in an already established social context. The resistance encountered by recent technological advances. 123 . pp. Tomasi according to Heidegger. In addition to failing general ethical expectations. Both technical and social elements are necessary to account for its acceptance.426 A. 205). The atomic bomb became all the more present-at-hand as it most efficiently brought to an end two Japanese cities and most of their inhabitants. for example. the aesthetic. A technology.

the tool becomes present-at-hand. there is no user subject and used object. promos. Once that revealing which brings forth truth into the splendor of radiant appearance was also called techne. In a truly successful encounter between humanity and its tools. In order to meet the body half-way in the mine-body. Technology was expected to be useful. ‘‘a single manifold revealing. true and holy. The technical core of technology. in other words. It was pious. ‘‘the necessary condition for the conscious and fully developed posing of the problem of man’s reduction to thinghood’’ (Bataille 1992. embedded in one single system of making and valuing that lost its integrity. Once there was a time when the bringing-forth of the true into the beautiful was called techne. Bataille would agree with this observation. paradoxically. but not without affecting the way the tool makes itself accepted by it. our sensibility offended. but a merging that transforms and adapts both sides to fulfill the promise of a renewed mine-body. The loss of intimacy of a tool.e. was. At the point of this junction. If this happens. instruments have to fit within a larger. therefore. We avoid the danger of reducing the lifeworld to its instrumental aspect. The poiesis of the fine arts was also called techne. in turn. by being sensitive to the conditions that cause the tool to switch from ready-to-hand to present-at-hand. the tool has to fit in and work out within a human context that is. It was a single manifold revealing. The instrumentalization of humanity may well be a condition for such wounded sensibility. p.’’ There was a time when it was not technology alone that bore the name techne. is a condition for the coming to awareness of a problem. This integration of technology and humanity cannot be forced by an imposition of norms from on high or from flooding the market with the latest gadget. 123 . signals the breaking down of the single manifold. The possibility of an intimate technology. pp. certainly. 440). therefore. avoided the reduction of technology to pure instrumentality. 315–316) Technology was. beautiful.Technology and Intimacy in the Philosophy of Georges Bataille 427 It is this view of technology as more than just instrumental that Heidegger observed to be at work. Bataille observes that this reduction is. (Heidegger 1977. The ancient Greeks’ relation to techne. losing its readiness to be used in intimacy. its readiness-tohand. yielding to the holding sway and the safekeeping of truth. It is reasonable to expect that the same resistance to the adoption of a specific technology on the basis of religious/ethical concerns would be experienced if we attempted to force technology to meet the demands of the dominant ethical/religious worldview. mostly non-instrumental context. …And art was simply called techne. ‘‘Heidegger is asking us to imagine a system of cultural values in which these four characteristics are combined in such a way that to find one separated from the others would offend our sensibility’’ (p. 94). i. As George Teschner (2004) explains. liable to change as a result. which. Commenting on the ‘‘generalized reduction’’ of human beings ‘‘to the order of things’’ caused by the rise of industry. which may require that we reject a specific technology altogether or change the way it is used.. once upon a time. according to Heidegger. for them.

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