The Subject and its Techne

The Subject and its Techne
Published in Spanish in El Gran Otro, Buenos Aires, 2014

Despite the fact that psychoanalysis emerges as a

consequence of the invention of a “techne”, Anna O’s technique of

“chimney sweeping” the question of technology appears, in my

view, to have only occupied a marginal place in the unfolding of

the analytic field.

Freud’s use of the term ‘prosthetic god” in “Civilization and

its Discontent’s” and his acknowledgement that the extensions and

protections provided by technology have not been able to

ameliorate the “unbehagen” within “kultur” itself has only

relatively recently been taken up as a subject of importance to the

clinic.

Psychoanalysis, however, has not been alone in its relative

indifference to the effect on the subject of the remarkable increase

in the role of a multitude of technologies. Western philosophies

duel inheritance of platonic idealism and the Cartesian cogito ( as

the embodiment of the emergence of modern science) left the

question of technology in the margins – at least until Heidegger’s

“The Questioning Concerning Technology” a text whose

pertinence has grown considerably since its first publication.

Relatively recently two works, one of philosophy and one

psychoanalysis have redressed this problematic omission. Jean-

Pierre Lebrun’s work “Un Monde Sans Limite”(1997) addressed

the importance to the analytic clinic of addressing the question of

filiation in light of the advances of techno-science. Lebrun’s

central question is to what effect the mutation of the role of science,

from a form of knowledge, into a social function that substitutes

for the decline of patriarchy effects the paternal function.

As Lebrun underlines for us the mutation of this role of

science is largely as a consequence of the way in which a liberal

market economy continuously offers its members technological

products that claim to embody the knowledge of science and

deliver that knowledge at the level of a consumable product.

Lebrun, who contributed an important text to the colloquium

“Being Human:The Technological Extensions of the Body”(1997)

hosted by Apres-Coup Psychoanalytic Association, New York ,

effectively opened up a new field of psychoanalytic research,

although many other analysts, most noticeably Serge Leclaire, who

along with Paola Mieli, initiated the “Being Human” project had

shown great interest in establishing on going research into the

effects of technology.

Bernard Stiegler’s three volume study “Technics and Time”

(1991-99) redresses the aporia in philosophy regarding the relation

of techne to being. Stiegler’s work, drawing extensively as it does

on Leroi-Graham’s anthropological investigations of hominization

is an important reference point for psychoanalytic research into the

effects of modern technology.

Following Heidegger’s insight Stiegler is elaborates the

manner in which modern technology veils the role in the

emergence of the human subject of “techne”. The way in which

our relation to “techne” is obscured to is precisely, in Stiegler’s

account, what makes us vulnerable to ideological constructions that

claim the importance of the role of technology and the necessity of

the subject to submit to the social demands produced by these

industrial, medical and media ( to name only a very few)

technologies that surround us.

Lebrun rightly emphasizes that the technologies of

reproduction and life extension, as they have been incorporated

into the medical discourse, are those that most obviously support

the mutation of the role of science into an avatar of the “names of

the father”.

However the new pathologies of everyday life, addiction to

video gaming, avoidance of speech through the use of text

messages, a generalization system of the distribution of

pornographic imagery, reveal that the optical technologies are

equally dominant in their role as guarantors of the social link.

An optical technology of particular importance, although it

does not, as yet play any role in contemporary media, is the MRIf

scanner that is now used extensively in neurological evaluations.

Largely upon the basis of this technology a new version of

science has emerged, called at least in the U.S. since the 1970’s

“neuroscience”. What is striking about this “science” is that its

ambitions reveal that it aims to eliminate the limits of modern

science, specifically modern science as Lacan, following Koyre,

defines it as emerging from Galileo’s mathematizing of the motion

of the planets.

While modern science relation to the mathematical was

structural it is noticeable that despite the use of statistical modeling

in certain kinds of experiments the MRIf scanner essentially

eliminates the need for a mathematical formulation of the data

produced by an experiment. The “evidence” that the MRIf

scanner provides that “the subjects experience of arousal occurs in

the hippocampus” is “transparent” and apparently does not

require any symbolic mediation or dialectical consideration – the

synaptic activity is equated with subjectivity itself. A “subjectivity”

that is also an “objectivity”.

With the use of the MRIf scanner in the establishment of

neuroscience as “the science of the human” we have reached a

moment when the “prosthetic” has become a “god”. The subject is

merely an extension of its technological invention. At such a point

we might add along with Lebrun and Stiegler that we can see that

if contemporary technology veils the human as always dependent

upon its own proper techne it has also been able, in the face of the

death of god, to establish a new form of religion, the religion of the

technological.

References

Houis, Mieli, Stafford, Ed. “Being Human” (Marsilio) 1998

Lebrun, J.P. “Un monde sans limite” (Eres) 1997

Stiegler,B. “Temps et Techne” Vol 1-3 1991-99