“The Fundamental Questions and Research Programmes for a Study into the NET,” from Le nouvel esprit technologique (2020)

The Fundamental Questions and Research Programmes for a Study into the NET
François Laruelle
In Le nouvel esprit technologique (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2020), p.85-98

This is a table of the main questions towards a critique of Technological Reason:

1) Can we treat philosophies as possible “research programmes” concerning technology? From what criteria (half-philosophical, half-technological) can we evaluate them?

2) Is the technological delay of philosophy in general and the contemporary in particular a reality or an illusion? Is it an inevitable constraint of “reflection”? [Concerning] the traditional modes of technology by “metaphysics” and the varying types of “Representation.”

3) [A study on] the spontaneous philosophy of technologists and the spontaneous technology of philosophers: their complementarity.

4) The technological delay of philosophy: reactions of stupor and flight; ethical and humanist reactions – To what conditions is a theoretical intervention still possible to define the essence of technology?

5) The current need of philosophy for technologists and sociologists of technology: its evaluation, its “ideological” functions and its real operative incapacity. Is the anti-philosophical skepticism of certain technologists still a philosophical position?

1) How does one really limit the hegemonic modes of intervention by the philosophical tradition (foundation, legitimation, legislation, validation, critique)? Must they be definitively excluded, simply altered or displaced, or again: ordered to a positive science and a critique without ressentiment of Technological Reason?

2) How does one struggle against the monocentrism of philosophers – that is, particular techno-logics (for example, the Nietzschean, Heideggerian or Cartesian conception of the machine)?

3) [A study] from techno-logics (= real or transcendental logics of technology = philosophies) to philosophies as “transcendental technologies”; the technological limits – internal and external – of philosophy and technology as the unconscious or Other of philosophy (at least the Other of ontology); and the reciprocal limitation of philosophy and technology: their mixture or circle. Is the opening and displacement of this circle still enough?

4) An absolute, nonempirical science of technology must be able to give a positive interpretation to this axiom demarcated by that of Heidegger and one that generalizes him: the essence of techno-logy is not itself techno-logical. How does one acquire a positive, though non-empirical knowledge of this essence and thus break the circle or parallelism of the essence and the logos – of science and techno-logos?

5) Can “philosophy” or at least a transcendental thought elaborate a specific method of description of the assumed “technological” phenomena? – That which distinguishes philosophy and the sciences in their respective experience of technology.

6) The necessity of an intervention of a theoretical – rather than ethical – essence within the problems of technology. The theoretical lack and its ethical symptoms within philosophy in general; its “historicizing” symptoms (primacy of the “History of Sciences and Technics” in philosophy).

7) Is a science of absolute immanent givens without any transcendence possible? There are outlines in Husserl and Nietzsche; its “phenomenological” falsification; its application to the description of absolutely immanent phenomenal givens of technological theory and practice.

III. The Problems of a Critique of Technological Reason (CTR)
1) A real critique: subordinated to the absolute science of technology, rather than the first and fundamental operation of a philosophy (= Kant).

2) The fundamental traits of this CTR:
a) Is technology an a priori factum, a rational fact, i.e., a facticity of reason? Or can Technological Reason no longer be treated as a fact?;
b) The operation of this critique? Is it a de-limitation by an alterity or an unconscious? Or, rather, a uni-lateralization of the techno-logical as globally hallucinatory as to the real (= One)?
c) How can a real critique break empirico-transcendental parallelism or philosophical circularity? By uni-laterally ordering the Metaphysical Deduction of technology – of techno-logics – to their Transcendental Deduction (Kant puts a circle between them): not of technological facts but Technological Reason must be already or a priori described within the optics of the One and absolute science. This position of the problem allows us to “decide” that techno-logics (the real philosophical content of technological categories), which are unitary each for themselves, do not form a unitary field in turn, but a field whose original mode of unity is assured by real technological A priori (not philosophical ones) extricated by the transcendental science as absolute phenomenal givens invested within techno-logics and that assure the insertion of them within the experience of the subject (of) science.
d) This transcendental science relates techno-logics (the mixtures of technical objects and philosophies) to the real: it denounces their illusion as to their power to constitute or produce the real; and it measures their tenor in reality; it assures the radical, dualist distinction between reality and effectivityTherefore, it is a genuine Transcendental Deduction of techno-logics broadened to philosophy itself.
e) The decisive importance of technological catastrophes and ecological resistances to access the essence of technology. Internal, external catastrophes; internal and external catastrophes (cf. Heidegger: the rupture of instrumental immanence and the irruption of the real under the form of the Other that is both internal and external).
f) The obliged reference of technical systems to the resistance of the real. The denegation of the real at the origin of technologist deviations. Critique of deviations: technological idealism, technological positivism. Are these deviations or “normalizations”? – Philosophical: in particular technological idealism (the reduction of the real to the technological continuum) and the contemporary “technologism” of “machines” within philosophy; etc.

3) The New Spirit of Technology (NET):
a) “media-friendly” interpretations of this formula; the possibility (to be developed) of an epistemological interpretation;
b) In a CTR, the NET is the equivalent of an a priori factum, but it has another status (cf. above). The Transcendental Genealogy of the NET: the NET is the objective appearance (broadly ideological and “illusory”) that gives birth to the difference and hiatus between techno-logics and science that is invested within them; therefore a hiatus or nonunitary duality (without Aufhebung nor any residua of circularity) of the Philosophical Decision and science that intervenes within it and within techno-logics on a mode of non-philosophical and non-circular determination that we call the Determination in the last instance (this is the real phenomenal content of this fundamental Marxian concept). In technology, science is not any such determination (economic, political, psychological), i.e., an over-determination, but a determination in the last instance of technology. Ergo: not a “technological break” (“new technologies”), but a scientific break within technology. This break detaches the NET that is the object of the CTR.

1) That which determines in the last instance technology: not only theory and science, but practice insofar as there exist immanent phenomenal data proper to the “relation” of the finite subject to effectivity.

2) The description of practico-technical intentionality:
a) Deprived of any representative relation to the real, therefore non-objectivating;
b) Distinction of the two sides of this intentionality: a “technesis” and a “technema”
c) The analysis of the technema itself (what is the type of the real to which a tool or a machine is addressed and what resists them, if this is not a physical, social, economic, etc., resistance?)
d) The ambivalent status of technological catastrophes as the irruption of the real within and without technological processes;
e) The distinction of action, or practice, the essence of techno-logy, and technological continua that are the object of sociologists, economists and technologists (and also philosophy when it does not conceive itself as a radical description of the immediate data of the techno-logical “relation” to the real);

1) To extend the Critique of Technological Reason to the automatological images of man as to the anthropological images of the automaton. The distinction between man and the automaton – which is never radically decided on in philosophy, refusing the existence of one such principle of choice or decision among them – becomes imperative in this problematic. The problematic reposes upon the absolute distinction, the unilateral or irreversible duality of the One and Being; or again, here at least, man and the World, man and Technology in which man is inalienable. What are the theoretical and critical effects of this duality concerning the metaphysical conceptions of the Automaton, the contemporary conceptions of Artificial Intelligence, and the philosophical and anthropological images of man?

From this perspective, let us proceed to a redistribution of man “as such” and his automatological doublets. Let us displace in any way the Cartesian partitioning of man and the automaton because the One is not quite the Cogito anymore. Realistically, the problem is vaster: to suggest that unitary philosophy, its anthropology and humanism, and their intra-philosophical critiques as well were solely an automato-logy grounded on the forgetting of the real essence of man.

2) To reprise the Kantian motif of the paralogisms of rational psychology to – following Fichte for example – focus the whole transcendental illusion of metaphysics on the conception of the subject that develops it; then to demonstrate that – on the basis of the One and a real and no longer philosophical critique of philosophy – philosophy is in the background animated by an illusion, indeed an automatological hallucination of man. More profoundly than its local theories (mechanistic and computerized) of automata, this means that the philosophical conceptions of the subject and man, even the most “humanist” and the ones most apparently opposed to automata, are those that are still quasi-human artifacts; they are anthropoid entities, even androids, rather than man himself. The philosophies of the subject, the subject within philosophy, even within anthropology or humanism, are realistically – as soon as they are measured to the One or “ordinary man” – mixtures of man and the artifact (a prosthetic essence of man). These are the ways to repress the non-technological essence of man. Humanism is also an automatological forgetting of man, but because it is opposed to technology instead of placing between man and technology a unilateral or irreversible distinction, etc. …

3) To equally interrogate ourselves concerning the presuppositions or requisites of Artificial Intelligence: not exactly its ontological presuppositions in view of a deconstruction of the sedimented experiences of Being that have been rendered possible by the concept; but the real phenomenal givens through which finite man, who brings them about with him and whose essence is no longer defined by intelligence (nous, dianoia, mens, etc. …) can be affected by technologies of intelligence and still maintain – and under what form – relations with it.

Realistically, the problem of Artificial Intelligence is extremely complex for us because science in its fundamental posture or in its relation to the real express man (the subject = subject (of) science) more directly than philosophy. Therefore, we cannot content ourselves with a rejection or a “humanist” and “mentalist” critique of Artificial Intelligence whose physico-mathematical aspect more radically expresses a humanity and a subjectivity to which philosophy has wrongly opposed a so-called scientific “objectification” that is only the work of philosophy.

1) The goal: to complete the resorption of philosophy within technology (on this point at least radicalizing the Heideggerian hypothesis; and to give tis full meaning to the concept of the NET).

2) The current forms of the “technologization” of philosophy (the computerization of its texts): their primitive and elementary character, simply preparatory.

3) How, and through what programme, can one simulate the Philosophical Decision: not only the most exterior philosophical operations (doubt, suspension, reduction, analysis, deduction, synthesis, ideation, etc.), but the foundation or the kernel of these operations, i.e., transcendence (both the break with a given and the identification with an Other assumed the authentic real)?

4) On this basis, can we create artificial philosophies and to what extent would they be, or not be, programmed by “natural” or “historical” philosophies?

5) The philosophical critique and the real critique of the concept “artificial”

6) Towards the concept of “philosophy-fiction” and “hyperspeculation”

1) Between ethics and mysticism, the One allows us to make the same break between philosophy and science. Hence: to pose the problem of technology in terms of mysticism rather than ethics. However, a certain ethical grasp is always possible.

2) The technological re-distribution of ethical problems:
a) The ethical “stakes” of technology: what ethics especially? The necessity to define at first an ethical position that will always be particular and contingent: the war between ethics will revive the techno-logical war. There is a congenital insufficiency of any ethics of technology; its lack of philosophical foundation.
b) The global displacement of ethics by the absolute science of technology: man is not alienated in the machine. One effect upon ethics of this redistribution is this extension of the automatological sphere towards the man-of-philosophy and ethics – which is not real man. If the finite essence of man excludes philosophical reason, then a break will happen – within “artificial intelligence” itself – between the mathematics and the “spirit” but more profoundly the domain of what is allowed to man in the terms of “prosthesis” will be revised and perhaps broadened. Man’s body such at least rational and metaphysical anthropology was able to seize it no longer belongs to man. At the same time, the radical distinction between man and the World on the one hand, and man and Reason and Technology, etc., on the other hand, cannot signify something like the metaphysical distinction between the Soul and the Body, Consciousness and the Object, regardless of their phenomenological correctives (Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty), but an entirely other distinction that passes through what we indistinctly call the “body.” Something of the body is radically human, finite and subjective, and this element is in any case inalienable in technologies and their “project.” The problem is to explore the subjective, affective and ethical effects of this border between man and technologies and that, precisely, it is here that what distinguishes us from other investigations on this theme is no longer an anthropo-technological or anthropo-pathological border, surface or interface.

There too is an immense field of investigations that is opened as soon as we admit – as we do so here and against any philosophy and its deconstructions – that the essence of man is inalienable in technologies and that he is no homo ex machina: then how – that is, in his reality as a finite subject – can man receive, support and return the technological project concerning man to its contingency?

3) The passage to the “mysticism” of technology
a) The evaluation of the thematic of stakes (ethical, social, philosophical, etc.) of technology and the stake in general: this is a modernization – in the sense of the differentiality and positivity – of the old motif of alienation (the problematic of Consciousness) and the contemporary motif of affirmative expropriation.
b) The philosophical topology as the becoming-positive of alienation: neighboring, amity (topology of technē and logos; to be good neighbors to things: Nietzsche; to be friends to technics: Heidegger). The “friend-enemy” topology and the topology of the stake as the ultimate “sublimation” of the agon and combat, which are the essence of unitary Western thinking.
c) If the sphere of the stake, the superior conflict and topology, is par excellence techno-logy, absolute science renounces posing the problems of technology in terms of stake and thus exits from the vicious circle of an auto-critique of Technological Reason. The One grounds a positive indifference (renounces care, concern, interest in… = the philosophical circle) towards techno-logy and science is no longer itself a part of its corpus as philosophy is. Man is not alienated in the machine, not more than absolute science is in its “object.”
d) Examining technology upon the foundation of the indifference of the One. We see technology, we test the machine in the One rather than in Being (against Heidegger’s still vicious interpretation). The immediate and indifferent “contemplation” of technology: the mystical “relation” (to) technology is non-thetic (of) itself and technology; whereas ethics is still at least residually a thetic relation to techno-logy, a position of it and a war that is waged against it. Peace to machines…

4) The return to ethics
a) There exists another limitation of the traditional way to present the ethical problems of technology; a still ethical limitation but one that no longer proceeds through the notion of the “stake.” Levinas has questioned it: (non-ontological) ethics as the liberation of the technical grasp upon nature and the cosmos. Ethics and the Other, liberated from the ontological limitation, justify the limitless transformation of nature. This tradition of the autonomy of the subject, but above all the autonomy of the Other, with regard to nature and the World and as titularies of the technical project, emerges at least since Descartes and assumes a dualism. We partially inscribe ourselves in this tradition against the Greco-philosophical tradition of the unity of man and the cosmos.
b) The A priori of technology that has two forms (philosophical: the causality of the Other over the Other; and the scientific-real) necessarily emerges from the experience of transcendence or the Other. We will elaborate under the name Real A priori of technology a non-thetic yet scientific concept of the Other or transcendence that will thus open directly onto the ethical problems of technology though on a “non-philosophical” mode. As a general thesis: ethics in general and the ethics of technology must itself be subordinated to mysticism rather than to philosophy.


I) Anamnesis and History – technological production and innovation; the part of anamnesis within any techno-logy and the part of innovation. Is the future a specific dimension or an illusion in technology. A critique of the concepts of innovation, prediction, and futurology.

General thesis: genuine innovation belongs to science, not to technology which can only be produced through the anamnesis of its old forms; technical invention and innovation proceed through the simulation of anterior technical forms. The concept of technological anamnesis. The distinction and unity between the historicizing history of technics and the historicity of technologies.

II) Reason and Singularity – General thesis: differently from science, technology is par excellence, with philosophy in its contemporary forms, the synthesis or complex co-belonging of rationality and singularity, cf. the given definition of the a priori or technological causality: the reciprocal causality of the Other upon the Other. Therefore, it is the specific causality of singularity, the type of rationality ( = reciprocal determination) that it is capable of. What remains to be defined: we will compare its techno-logical and/or philosophical forms (for ex. Difference in the Nietzsche-Deleuze context) with 1) its mathematical and “catastrophist” forms; 2) the systemic theories of complexity. We will suggest that the reciprocal investment of science and technology is the cause of this entry of singularity and complexity on the scene of rationality.

III) Presenting/Representing – General thesis: differently from science, technology is par excellence (NB: through its own a priori rather than through its scientific determination) what completes “Representation.” However, this remains to be defined. Representation in the sense of what Nietzsche and then Deleuze critiques is already destroyed by techno-logy, at least by the relational, positional or topological forms of technology. However, this topological conception of machines still remains an ultimate mode of Representation in Heidegger’s then Derrida’s broadest sense which no longer seeks the remedy to an “identifying” and “representative” technology and philosophy within an accomplishment and re-affirmation of their essence under the form of an Absolute or Unconditioned Technology, but within a non-technological delimitation of it. Not only Heidegger, but Nietzsche in his own way and those who followed him have irreversibly marked the entanglement of philosophy and technology, the first (Heidegger) by “denouncing” it, the second and those who followed him (Nietzsche) by absolutizing and re-affirming this bond. We make this Nietzschean hypothesis our own, but not in the goal of affirming it, but rather to make it the factum of Techno-logical Reason and to thus constitute it as an object of a critique that will proceed with non-philosophical, that is – finally – non-Heideggerian means.

Translation by Jeremy R. Smith

taken from here; https://endemictheory.wordpress.com/2021/11/15/translation-of-francois-laruelle-the-fundamental-questions-and-research-programmes-for-a-study-into-the-net-from-le-nouvel-esprit-technologique-2020/?fbclid=IwAR3wo-dw3Q7bp-F54EzuVatzYVd1Mcwzz4aePSrEzkz0pgidGsJZOGbz4OQ

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