I would like to introduce an article resulting from a talk I recently held. I had the chance to speak at a conference for young researchers in philosophy held at the Université Paris-Est Créteil. The global frame was the criticism of ratio and rationalism during the 20th century. In order to illustrate such a criticism, I tackled the idea of blind reason in an article entitled ‘La Raison aveugle ? L’époque cybernétique et ses dispositifs‘, which I made available online (PDF file).

Brief summary

In a late interview, Martin Heidegger states that philosophy is bound to be replaced by cybernetics. Starting from this contestable point of view, I try to describe the value of the cybernetics paradigm for philosophy of technology.

I already mentioned the work of Gilbert Hottois on this blog (see the philosophy of technology category). In this article, I shed light on the relationship between what Hottois calls ‘operative techno-logy’ (in a functional sense) and the origins of this notion, dating back, according to him, to the calculability of signs by Leibniz, who writes about this particular type of combinatorial way to gain knowledge that it is ‘blind’ (cognitio caeca vel symbolica).

On one hand, that which is visible plays a major role in philosophy, from the etymological meaning of ‘idea’ to the examples used by philosophers and the association of light and reason. On the other hand, Leibniz had a great influence on the development of information systems and cybernetics, as Norbert Wiener for instance refers to him as a inspirational thinker.

Thus, using blind reason as a leading clue may be a productive way of thinking modern technology, whether it be with the foucauldian notions of dispositives and of the very realization of reason as a machine, with the criticism of Heidegger, who sees cybernetics as a systematic way to control the living, or with the techno-sciences, by Hottois or by Henry for instance.

A few useful references quoted in the article

  • G. Agamben, Qu’est-ce qu’un dispositif ?, Rivages poche, 2007.
  • H. Blumenberg, Lebenswelt und Technisierung unter Aspekten der Phänomenologie, Stuttgart: Reclam, 1996.
  • L. Ellrich, “Die Computertechnik als Gegenstand philosophischer Reflexion” , Sandbothe, M. and Nagl, L. (eds.), Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 2003.
  • M. Henry, “Descartes et la question de la technique,” in Le Discours et sa Méthode, Grimaldi, N. and Marion, J. (eds.), PUF, 1987.
  • G. Hottois, Le signe et la technique : la philosophie à l’épreuve de la technique, Paris: Aubier, 1984.
  • H. H. Knecht, La logique chez Leibniz, Essai sur le rationalisme baroque, Lausanne: L’âge d’homme, 1981.
  • S. Krämer, Berechenbare Vernuft : Kalkül und Rationalismus im 17. Jahrhundert, Berlin, New York: W. de Gruyter, 1991.
  • S. Krämer, “Symbolische Erkenntnis bei Leibniz”, Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, vol. 46, iss. 2, pp. 224-237, 1992.
  • J. Vioulac, L’époque de la technique, PUF, 2009.