Humans and Machines

Thomas Lamarre. “Humans and Machines.” Inflexions 5, “Simondon: Milieu, 29 Techniques, Aesthetics” (March 2012). 29-67. Also published as the afterword to Muriel Combes’s Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual, in this essay Lamarre focuses on the political stakes within Simondon's philosophy, using Foucault and Rancière as touchstones in his argument. Lamarre argues that Foucault and Simondon share an approach to understanding modernity "in terms of overlapping fields of rationality…with their specific potential for resistance" (50). Lamarre draws out the "politics of knowledge" evident in Simondon's approach to bringing forth a technical mentality (see Technical Mentality). However, such a move is spurred by Simondon's goals of a technical equality between humans and machines, which, Lamarre argues, links him to Rancière's aesthetic equality. Technical equality "may not guarantee political equality or democracy but surely conditions it" (53). This allows Lamarre, following Combes, to think through the counters to technical determination and subjugation within Simondon's philosophy. At the heart of this is both the adoption of a technical mentality and the participation on the part of humans with a "non-linear and discontinuous" process of technical evolution where both humans and machines are considered active agents.

Lamarre's essay connects Simondon with a number of thinkers, highlighting different resonances with not just Foucault and Rancière, but also Whitehead, Latour, Stengers, Deleuze and Guattari. His essay brings to light the potential in Simondon's work, while also tempering some of the elements glossed over by other commentators and the utopian qualities within Simondon's philosophy. If anything, the essay may attempt too much and not make clear connections between certain ideas, for instance the concepts of minor and major within Simondon and Deleuze and Guattari. Additionally, the article focuses on the politics of Simondon's philosophy of technology, but does not consider the politics inherent to the rest of Simondon's philosophy (information, transduction, individuation, transindividual, etc.). I will use Lamarre's arguments to further my own considerations of the relations between aesthetics, technology, information and praxis within Simondon's philosophy.