The Individuation of Nature in Gilbert Simondon's Philosophy and the Problematic Nature of the Technological Object

Anne Lefebvre Lefebvre, Anne. 2011. “The Individuation of Nature in Gilbert Simondon’s Philosophy and the Problematic Nature of the Technological Object.” Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 15 (1) (July 12): 1–15.

Lefebvre provides a detailed synthesis of Simondon’s major writings: Individuation in the Light of the Notions of Form and Information, The Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, and Imagination and Invention, a collection of course lectures from the mid 1960's where he expanded upon his previous discussions of invention. Lefebvre's work is important for its attention to Simondon's work as a cohesive philosophical system, as opposed to only paying attention to individuation or technology, as a number of works do. Lefebvre makes clear that Simondon's goal is to bring a philosophical consideration of how technology functions—how it encounters a "techno-geographical milieu" (8). His work on individuation does not form a flat ontological structure, but considers the specific relations engendering ontogenetic formations across biological, physical, and psycho-social realms. Lefebvre argues that within each realm, within each individuation, there is a specific actualization which is linked to its material and affective relations. Technology has similar limitations, and Simondon's interest on the function of technology is in its physicochemical interaction with a specific milieu. "The technological individual, rather than being conditioned by its milieu, creates its associated milieu" (9). Lefebvre focuses on invention in Simondon's philosophy, noting that invention recruits "unexpected effects at the heart of nature as potentials," "[invention] exceeds the level of the individual and comes to reorganize the relation the individual entertains with its milieu, via the mediation of the created object" (11). Invention is a mediation of the environment, and Lefebvre claims that Simondon looks to animals who create objects, such as birds and their nests, as a form of invention. She argues that he challenges the distinction between animal-created objects and culturally-created objects (13).

Incorporating Imagination and Invention (not yet translated in English) into her reading of Simondon, Lefebvre challenges a number of humanist readings of his work. However, she does not challenge some of Simondon's more problematic assertions, such as the artificiality of flowers within a greenhouse environment, in fact she defends this (see Mitchell, Simondon and Bioart…). Nonetheless, this is one of the more sophisticated analyses of Simondon and will be useful in my research of art with living entities, invention and its relation to praxis, and a focus on the tensions between use and function within technological art.