The Fall, Temporality, Stupidity, Shame

As has been noted in previous weeks, Stiegler seems to invoke the concept of the fall (qua second origin) as a key moment in the constitution of the human. There seemed to be three falls – the creation myth in Genesis, a developmental-psychological fall into the social-symbolic domain (i.e. the Lacanian mirror-stage, which by the end of Part One has been all but invoked directly), and the fall from the spirit realm into the body in Greek myth, as found in the Phaedrus. These three falls might, respectively, seem to exhibit three different temporalities, or three different relations to the origin: that of human history (where the fall constitutes the founding moment of the human race); that of individual development (the founding of the subject); and finally that of thought (the founding of the human condition as a battle for anamnesis).

The first two are linear developments at different rates (epigenetic and epiphylogenetic) and Stiegler seems to want to conflate them, or at least draw out the parallels – hence the naming of a ‘mirror proto-stage’ in early man. The third, however, seems to be a different type of relationship with the origin, a fall that eternally threatens thought with a return to amnesis; it’s a relationship that produces a distinctly circular temporality, rather than merely being subject to it (technics as time, rather than just technics in time).

I think it is this latter relation that leads Stiegler to his later focus on attention and on stupidity, when formulating an understanding of knowledge that is necessarily pharmacological: the threat of a return to stupidity (i.e. of disindividuation) as the inherent condition for a robust and creative knowledge and for new (and potentially liberating) circuits of transindividuation. He writes elsewhere of ‘that stupidity proper to knowledge, that is the impropriety of knowledge’.

No doubt we will hear more of this when we come to the myth of Prometheus and Epimetheus. But I think this careful attention to the looming potential for hubris (the pride that comes before the fall, perhaps), which might be a shared quality of both revolutionary conservatism and utopian-socialist ‘projects’, also goes some way towards finding a key, not only to Stiegler’s commitment to the apparatus of pedagogy, but also to what we might perceive as his preference for political reform instead of overthrow. Following Deleuze, philosophy (as a productive act – of concepts, of time, as an approach to the limit), for Stiegler, properly emerges out of the experience of shame (as well as being fundamental to the concept of the fall) – and shame, for Marx, as for Deleuze, Derrida, and Foucault after him, is ‘a revolution in itself‘.

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