MODO DE VOLAR

And He was asking him, "What is your name?" And he said to Him, "My name is Multitude; for we are many."

Science Was Born Cyborg IV -The Values of Cyborg Instruments

One can say with certainty that science was never a relation between Man and Nature, between an active agent and a passive one, never an inquiry of the former on the later. Science was born cyborg. Its units are not curious individuals or essential entities, but techno-organic hybrids. Schiller’s romanticism seem to echo in these words: «knowledge … is now a liberating relation of mutual respect among users, tools and their objects.»


This text is divided in four parts: -I. Foucault’s Path to Discipline (on which I had already written when discussing interdisciplinarity), II. The Production of Scientists, III. Scientists as Instruments and IV. The Values of Cyborg Instruments.

I usually post stuff about what I have been thinking about, so it’s likely that you find some ideas here that I had already posted.


the instruments’ discourse

Objectivity became a central concern in nineteenth-century discourse: besides amounting to the legitimation of knowledge, it was the guarantee of a global science, of a knowledge that went beyond the particular. Transportation, circulation, constancy, persistence; the authority of science depended on its relation with space and time.

However, the modern project did not consist in denying locality: scientific knowledge was valid everywhere because it was precisely situated, it bore history as a whole because it existed in an era aware of itself.[1] Its concern was «with the totality of knowledge as it developed within the totality of history. .. for here a local and temporal singularity consciously bore universality within it.»[2]

locality-universality

Instruments were central in establishing the new locality-universality relation. They could be transported, calibrated and built according to a standard – they were said to be able to reduce differences in human-perception.[3] Furthermore, they produced quantified measurements that, in their numerical transcendence, could not lose their juridical right.

Hence the importance of instruments as a validating discursive and non-discursive element: 1) in order to create global results, scientists «sought determinative evidence that was transportable across qualitative and spatial borders alike,»; 2) the subordination of «sensuous technology to a variety of complex measuring devices»[4] was said to «reduce differences in perception,»[5] thus validating quantitative results over others; and 3) to standardize, calibrate and multiply instruments, bringing them into agreement «literally built the concepts of the pure understanding – the basis for the communicability of knowledge – into the physical apparatus.»  By assuring the concordance among the new sites of scientific production across the world, disciplined instruments allowed the emergence of a rational universal, the rise of science.

subjectivity-objectivity

Besides the binomial locality-universality, the relations individuality-totality and subjectivity-objectivity were undergoing parallel transformations. It would be a mistake to ascertain, based on the shifts we’ve described so far, that the 19th century saw the victory of objectivity over subjectivity, or that of uniformization over individuality. Curiously, it is by taking subjectivity as the negation of objectivity that the project of historicizing these notions essentializes them.[6] On the contrary, subjectivity was fostered, and individuality became a key value for the new regimes.

«The power of normalization imposes homogeneity; but it individualizes by making it possible .. to render the differences useful by fitting them one to another.»[7] Analogously, rather than being exorcized, subjectivity was molded, integrated and valorized in the constitution of that which is objective; it took part in the chain of production of objectivity. Scientists were disciplined and calibrated, but their productive idiosyncrasies were fomented and distributed.

How to use a smaller hand or a stronger arm? What to do with a harder metal or a more flexible cable? How to relate a strong logico-deductive intellect to a mind with a talent for calculus? Differences were not to be erased, they were to be used and nurtured as far as they produced value. The same principles ruled the distribution of instruments and bodies.

What is scientific value? It’s validity, it’s legitimization, it’s objectivity. Subjectivity was valorized inasmuch as it produced objectivity. Is knowledge, after all, a form of capital?

‘foucault’s biopolitics is a flaccid premonition of cyborg politics’[8]

As heirs to these centuries, we are still trying to find ways of writing social histories that don’t have humans as their protagonists. This attempt on a history of technology and power, albeit an amateur one, has generated three interesting outcomes.

First, that it is only in this period that we see the rise of a set of institutions, of a distribution of bodies, of a terminology and in fact of an overall enterprise that resembles at all what we now call science. There was no ‘Second Scientific Revolution,’ this was the birth of science.[9] And science was born cyborg.

This being true, one can say with certainty that science was never a relation between Man and Nature, between an active agent and a passive one, never an inquiry of the former on the later. Science was born cyborg. Its units are not curious individuals or essential entities, but techno-organic hybrids. Schiller’s romanticism seem to echo in these words: «knowledge … is now a liberating relation of mutual respect among users, tools and their objects.»[10]

From here, a second finding: the emergence of discipline was not something reducible to human bodies. It brought human bodies under a regime of organic mechanisms, but it could not have done so without a) bringing non-human instruments under the scrutiny of an approach to mechanical organisms and b) making this dynamic a locus of reproduction of power itself.

Marx saw how «all our invention and progress seem to result in endowing material forces with intellectual life and in stultifying human life into a material force,» and soon recognized that «the working men [were] as much the invention of modern time as machinery itself.»[11] But where reification and fetishization were frowned upon as deviations from human nature, we see now synthetic processes; we see symbiogenesis.

Finally, by thinking of the hybrid human-machine as the link between the emergence of science and that of discipline, we find ourselves on the threshold of modernity asking ‘who is this hu/Man we’ve been talking about all along?’ The Birth of Man, not by chance, coincided with the Birth of Science. Now that we witness the withering of hu/Man, where will science stand? It is about time for the scientist to announce: «God is Dead, Man is Dead, and I’m not feeling too good myself.»[12]


[1] Kant, 1784

[2] Serres, 1995,p.423.

[3] Tresch, 2010,p.269.0

[4] Roberts, 1995,p.506,517

[5] Tresch, 2010,p.269

[6] Daston and Galison, 1992.

[7] DP,p.184.

[8] Haraway, 1981

[9] Cunningham and Williams, 1993,pp.407-432.

[10] Tresch, 2010, p. 267.

[11] Marx, 1856.

[12]Braidotti, 2015



bibliography

All the websites mentioned were consulted during the months of October and November, 2015.

images index (order of appearance)

1 – J.M. Charpentier et al. (coord.), Michel Foucault: Une Histoire de la Verité. Paris; Syros, 1985, p.73

2 – Foucault participating in a demonstration, Source: http://entitleblog.org/2015/06/04/uses-and-abuses-of-historical-contextualization-in-critiquer-foucault-les-annees-1980-et-la-tentation-neoliberale-edited-by-daniel-zamora/

3 & 4 – Intérieur de l’Ecole d’enseignement mutuel, située rue du Port-Mahon, au moment de l’exercice de l’écriture. Lithographie de H. Lecomte, 1818. Recovered from: http://majerus.hypotheses.org/481

5 – Composition of five images from nineteenth-century, french books on orthopedics. From left to right, top to bottom: a) M. Ferdinand, Essai sur les appareils prothétiques des membres inférieurs. Paris : G. Baillière, 1850. Lithographe: Fourquemin; b) Appareil de Gooch, pour maintenir la cuisse fracturée dans un état d’extension permanente, et bandages / Représentation de la tête d’un enfant à terme vue sous plusieurs angles in P.R. De la Roche and P. Allan, Encyclopédie méthodique. Paris : Panckouke, 1790-1792; c) Appareil de Duchenne (de Boulogne), pour suppléer par des ressorts spiraux ou en caoutchouc aux muscles paralysés in E.P. Gillette, Chirurgie journalière des hôpitaux de Paris. Paris : J.-B. Baillière, 1878; d) Appareil inventé par Lafaye pour faciliter le transport et le pansement de ceux qui ont la jambe ou la cuisse fracturée. Prothèses pour la jambe and e) Planche relative à la gibbosité / Appareils orthopédiques de Roux et de Levacher pour la colonne vertébrale, both from P.R. De la Roche and P. Allan, Encyclopédie méthodique, as above.

6 – Parte postica in G. Fabrizi D’Aquapendente, Opera chirurgica. Leyde : Boutesten, 1723

7 – From a sketch by Trautschold and v. Ritgen, 1840. Courtesy of the Library of the Justus Liebig University, Giessen. Recovered from: http://www.clinchem.org/content/49/10/1696/F2.expansion?ck=nck

8 – E. Grimaux, 1835-1900, Lavoisier dans son laboratoire: Experiences sur la respiration de l’homme au repos.

9 – Humboldt, Bonpland, and their scientific equipment. Source: Botting, Humboldt and the Cosmos, London; George Rainbird Limited, 1973,  p. 98-99

abreviations

AK – Foucault, M., 1969. The Archeology of Knowledge. New York; Tavistock Publications, Ltd., 1972, pp. 48, 49. Available at monoskop.org.

DP – Foucault, M. 1975. Discipline and Punish. London: Penguin Books, 1991

OD – Foucault, M., 1970. “The Order of Discourse” in Young, R. (ed), Untying the Text: A Post-Structuralist Reader. London; Routledge, 1981, pp. 51-76. original version in french available at: http://1libertaire.free.fr/Foucault64.html

PNN – Foucault, M., 1973. “Power and Norm: Notes” in Meaghan Morris & P. Patton (eds.), Michel Foucault: Power, Truth, Strategy. Sydney: Feral Books, 1979

Braidotti, Rosi, 2013.  The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press,  p. 106.

Braidotti, Rosi, 2015. in the lecture Posthuman, All Too Human? A Cultural Political Cartography, at the Inhuman Symposium organized by the Fridericianum in 2015. Video available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNJPR78DptA

Campos, Álavaro; Pessoa, Fernando. ‘Ode Triunfal’. Available here: http://poesiaseprosas.no.sapo.pt/alvaro_de_campos/poetas_alvarodecampos_odetriunfal01.htm; The english translation by Richard Zenith available here: http://www.jorgecolombo.com/lr/lr_poems.htm .

Cunningham, A., and Williams, P., 1993. “De-centering the ‘big picture’: The Origins of Modern Science and the modern origins of science”, in The British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 26, Issue 04, December 1993, pp. 407-432.

Daston, Lorraine, and Galison, P., 1992 “The Image of Objectivity”, Representations, Volume 0, Issue 40, Special Issue: Seeing Science (Autumn, 1992), pp. 81-128

Eribon, D, 1991. Michel Foucault. Massachusetts; Harvard University Press, pp. 224-237.

Foucault, M., 1989. Résumé des cours, 1970-1982. Paris : Julliard.

Foucault, M., 2004. Abnormal : lectures at the Collège de France, 1974-1975. New York: Picador.

Foucault, M., 2008. Psychiatric power : lectures at the Collège de France, 1973-1974. New York: Picador

Foucault, M., 2013. Lectures on the will to know. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Foucault, M., 2015. On the punitive society: lectures at the Collége de France 1972-197, Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan

Goldstein, J., 1984. “Foucault among the Sociologists: The ‘Disciplines’ and the History of the Professions”, in History and Theory, Vol. 23, No. 2, May, p. 181.

Golinski, J., 2005. Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science.Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005, pp. 73,74.

Hahn, R., 1971. The anatomy of a scientific institution: the Paris Academy of Sciences, 1666-1803. Berkeley, University of California Press, pp. 275-6.

Haraway, Donna, 1985. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York; Routledge, 1991, pp.149-181. also available at: https://wayback.archive.org/web/20120214194015/http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/Haraway/CyborgManifesto.html

Holmes, F.L., 1989. “The Complementarity of Teaching and Research in Liebig’s Laboratory” in Osiris, 5, pp. 121–164. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/301795

Hoskin, K., 1990. “Foucault under examination: the crypto-educationalist unmasked”, in S.J. Ball (ed.), Foucault and Education: Disciplines and Knowledge. London; Routledge, pp. 29-53.

Hoskin, K., 1993.  “Education and the Genesis of Disciplinarity: The Unexpected Reversal”, in Shumway et al. (eds), Knowledges: Historical and Critical Studies in Disciplinarity. Virginia: University Press of Virginia

Kant, I., 1784. An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?” Konigsberg, Prussia, 30th September, 1784.

Kelley, D.R., 1997, “The Problem of Knowledge and the concept of Discipline”, in D.R.Kelley (ed.) History and the Disciplines: The Reclassifications of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe. Rochester: University of Rochester Press

Kuhn, T., 1977. The Essential Tension. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 147, 220.

Lenin, V., 1920.  Our Foreign and Domestic Position and Party Tasks, Moscow. Available at http://www.marxists.org

Marx, K., 1856.  Speech at the Anniversary of the People’s Paper. Available at http://www.marxists.org

Olesko, Kathryn M., 1991. Physics as a Calling: Discipline and Practice in the Koenigsberg Seminar for Physics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pp. 13-18.

Parsons, T., 1956. Family, Socialization and Interaction Process. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

Rheinberger, H.J., 1992. “Experiment, difference, and writing: I. Tracing protein synthesis” in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A 23

Roberts, Lissa, 1995. “The Death of the Sensuous Chemist: The ‘New’ Chemistry and the Transformation of Sensuous Technology” in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 26, No. 4, 1995, pp. 506, 507.

Rouse, J., 1993. “Foucault and the Natural Sciences”, Division I Faculty Publications. Paper 33. Wesleyan University, WesScholar

Schaffer, S., 1988.  “Astronomers Mark Time: Discipline and the Personal Equation”, in Science in Context, Vol. 2, Issue 01, March 1988, p. 118.

Serres, M., 1995. “Parris 1800”, in M. Serres (ed.), A history of scientific thought : elements of a history of science. Oxford; Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Reference, pp. 432-438.

Shapin, S., and Barnes, B., 1976. “Head and Hand: Rethorical Resources in British Pedagogical Writing, 1770-1850”, in Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 2m No. 3

Shumway, D. R., and Messer-Davidow, Ellen, 1991. ‘Disciplinarity: An Introduction’ in Poetics Today, Vol. 12, No. 2, Disciplinarity. Summer, pp. 211-215.

Tresch, J., 2010. “Even the Tools will be Free: Humboldt’s Romantic Technologies”, in D. Aubin et al. (eds.), The Heavens on Earth: Observatories and Astronomy in Nineteenth-Century Science and Culture. Durham; London: Duke University Press, p. 258.

Veyne, P. 1979 “Foucault révolutionne l’histoire”, in Comment on écrit l’histoire. Paris. p. 241

Walzer, M., 1986. “The politics of Michel Foucault” in D. Hoy (ed.) Foucault: A Critical Reader. Oxford:  Basil Blackwell Ltd., p. 64

Warwick, A., and Kaiser, D., 2005. “Conclusion: Kuhn, Foucault, and the Power of Pedagogy”, in D. Kaiser (ed.), Pedagogy and the Practice of Science: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. London; Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press

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3 comments on “Science Was Born Cyborg IV -The Values of Cyborg Instruments

  1. Cathleen
    17/05/2017

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