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Three Concepts for Crossing the Nature-Artifice Divide: Technology, Milieu, and Machine


Altamirano, Marco. "Three Concepts for Crossing the Nature-Artifice Divide: Technology, Milieu, and Machine." Foucault Studies [Online], 0.17 (2014): 11-35. Web. http://rauli.cbs.dk/index.php/foucault-studies/article/view/4250

p.2: In an 1982 interview with Paul Rabinow on architecture,Foucault laments the fact that our use of the word ‘technology’ is confined to such a narrow meaning of “hard technology, the technology of wood, of fire, of electricity,” but considers that if we disabuse the term of its narrow confines, we find that “government is also a function of technology: the government of individuals, the government of souls, the government of the self by the self…” -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.2: To be sure, there seems to be a prima facie distinction to be made between the material logistics of “hard technologies,” of instruments and machines, on the one hand, and the social institutions of government (despite its seemingly mechanical and insensitive bureaucratic procedures), on the other. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.2: If we understand a material instrument as artifact that is constructed for a certain goal, as a clock is built to tell the time; and if we understand government as an artifice constructed to conduct human activity, then the technological dimension of both the material instrument and the social institution comes into view: both the clock and government are practical and artificial constructions that rationally conduct or gov‐ ern us toward a conscious goal. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.3: Aristotle’s evaluation of the megalopsychon can illuminate the way the concept of technology is critical of the natural/artificial distinction precisely because the socio‐ political phenomenon of becoming megalopsychon involves time and materials: it is constituted by a certain technology of walking slowly through ancient Greece, perhaps with an appropri‐ ate train, and it requires the artful reception of politically valorized material objects, that is to say, gifts, with a technology of the body—a deep voice and a level prosody. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.4: Foucault reckons that the concept of technology (taken in the general sense) would allow us to examine the relation between humans and the nonhuman material architectures surrounding them in a better fashion than the confrontational opposition between the hard sciences and the social sciences and humanities. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.5: Technical problems are problems that concern the eventual as the limit of knowledge, because the eventual future, when apprehended in terms of knowledge, harbors an element of uncertainty. From an epistemic perspective, in other words, the future signifies uncertainty, an uncertainty that needs to be managed and conducted—and we find that techne is precisely the way to conduct the present into the future. In this regard, techne is a mode of intervening up‐on becoming, it is a way of ordering time and events. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.18: Leroi‐Gourhan discerns a parallel evolution between so‐called intellectual capacities and technological advancement, between milieu and technics. The crucial point here is that consciousness itself may be considered as a technical activity: from the bi‐faced stone to orality and literacy, we think through our technologies. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.18: Ultimately,Gourhan finds technological advancements such as orality and literacy do not merely indicate an extension of human abilities, but rather an entire re‐ordering and re‐conceptualization of humans and society. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.18: Similarly, alongside the development from techniques of hunting to the techniques of stockbreeding there emerge the artifices of new social orders, from hunting to stockbreeding societies. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.21: We can take, for example, lepers in the Middle Ages—where we find a technology of exclusion that produces knowledge of lepers—the question was “who are the lepers?” The answer to this question was produced through a technology of separating them through laws and sets of religious rituals, which produced the knowledge of lepers: the lepers are those that are banished, excluded from the community. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.21: This technology of exclusion becomes one of quarantine with the 16th and 17th century problem of the plague: in order to identify who were the plagued, we find a technology of inspection, regulations indicating where people can go, requiring them to present themselves to inspectors, an entire disciplinary system oriented toward finding out where the plague was, who were the plagued, and subsequently detaining them within the town. -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.21: Things change with the outbreak of smallpox in the 18 becomes “how many people are infected with smallpox, at what age, with what effects, with what mortality rate, lesions or after‐effects, the risks of inoculation, the probability of an individual dying or being infected;” in other words, the problem is no longer one “of exclusion, as with leprosy, or of quarantine, as with the plague, but of epidemics and the medical campaigns that try to halt epidemic or endemic phenomena.” -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.21: These examples highlight the historical correlation between technology (exclusion, quarantine, epidemics and medical evaluation) and knowledge (Who are the lepers? Where is the plague? What is the mortality rate, effects, etc. of smallpox?), which informs the social order (how bodies and individuals are identified and arranged within a social space). -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.21: And Marx, of course, had already made this essential point in Capital:

Technology reveals the active relation of man to nature, the direct process of the production of his life, and thereby it also lays bare the process of the production of the social relations of his life, and of the mental conceptions that flow from those relations.

-- Highlighted aug 23, 2014

p.22: Following biologists Umberto Maturana and Francisco Varella, Guattari defines a machine “by the ensemble of interrelations and its components, independently of the components themselves.” -- Highlighted aug 23, 2014