Muriel Combes, (Thomas LaMarre, Trans.), Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press, , pages, £, ISBN: (hbk). Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual Individuals and Technology: Gilbert Simondon, From Ontology to Ethics to Feminist Bioethics. Gilbert Simondon, one of the most influential contemporary French philosophers, published only three works: L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique and.

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There are continuing appeals for English translations of Gilbert Simondon’s richly complex works. From the very first, scholars have judged it an invaluable guide for anyone wishing to enter glbert complex and labyrinthine world of Simondon, an enigmatic and somewhat elusive thinker. The sophistication with which Combes explicates and systematizes his baroque texts is admirable and a model to emulate.

Indeed, she manages to upset the erroneous, but perpetuated, impression largely resulting from the unavailability of authorized translations that Simondon’s relevance lies only in his being a supplement to more celebrated thinkers.

Philosophhy, she makes clear that what prohibits most political and social theorists from fully grasping the relationship between the collective and the individual is precisely blindness to their own ontological presumptions.

Combes bases her claim on Simondon’s paradoxical hypothesis, which posits a “pre-individual being” as the condition for the emergence of the “psycho-social” field. It points to the fact that the individual is only ever incompletely individuated, only ever gilnert, only ever — to some degree — mutable and relational, a “reserve of becoming”.

Every individual gilbrt “more-than-identity” and “more-than-unity. Now, we must not forget that what initially is at stake for Simondon are the grounds for reforming knowledge so that it correlates with the shift from ontology to ontogenesis. There can no longer be knowledge of individuation in the typical Kantian sense of the term. For how does one “grasp” being in becoming, individuation, without arresting it in the form of concepts, whose spatial and temporal consequences are already predetermined by the traneindividual of understanding?

Only the individuation of thought, in completing itself, is able to accompany the individuation of beings; therefore, it’s neither an immediate nor phlosophy knowledge that we can have of individuation but a knowledge, which is an operation parallel to the known operation; we are only able to individuate, individuate ourselves, and to individuate in ourselves; this grasping is, thus, in the margins of knowledge properly speaking. Simondon “transgresses” the Kantian limits of reason, Combes argues.

He conceives an ontogenetic-epistemological structuring process, which operationally brings being and thought into a co-determinate fransindividual via individuation.

Metaphysics and logic merge, so that “it expresses individuation and allows it to be thought. She takes Simondon to extend the Nietzschean critique of Kant via Spinoza.

What is this “before”? In other words, gilbeet this formal distinction, which would provide the conditions for critical analysis, which makes possible the judgment of knowledge, “reason is as it were in the state of nature, and it cannot make its assertions and teh valid or secure them except through war.

And, while Kant is not mentioned, Simondon argues that the being of subject and the being of object arise from a “more primitive reality”; as such, “the conditions of the possibility of knowledge are in fact the causes of existence of the individuated being” IPC Consequently, the epistemological justification for what Combes identifies as Simondon’s “realism of relation” is found in a metaphysics prompted by the indeterminate, metastable being of the pre-individual.


It follows that the most immediate challenge presented to the commentator is how to grasp in all its modalities what Simondon terms the “allagmatic”.

Our capacity to fully appreciate his ambition to rethink the history of philosophy depends upon how this notion is comprehended. For it is through its prism that we contest rationalist inferences, which are founded on the basis of their presupposing the existence of an individuated objective structure, i.

Thus, this “general theory of exchanges and modifications of states” defines the conditions for the study of the genesis of the individual the ‘becoming of the being’ of some thing or beings as beginning not from some absolute commencement but rather from the energetic and structural conditions. In other words, “to know the individual through individuation rather than individuation beginning with the individual.

By focusing on Simondon’s most influential concept of “transindividuality,” Her second chapter carefully extends these metaphysical implications into an ethics formulated on the basis of the ontology of relation ontogenesis.

The psychic and collective are reciprocal individuations, according to Simondon. As such, for Simondon the transindividual names the systematic unity of the interior psychic and exterior collective individuations. However, it is not purely inter-individual — at least in the manner phenomenology has defined “inter-individuality”. Etienne Balibar among others likewise finds in Simondon’s concept a way to bring to the fore the ontology yilbert relations. And so, writes Balibar, all social relations as transindividual “are nothing hpilosophy an endless transformation, a ‘permanent revolution'”.

As already claimed, it is this zone that compels the passage from psychic to collective, while, simultaneously, constituting both in the process, to resolve, however tenuously, the excess of what is “more-than-individual”. Simondon, as a result, requires and, subsequently, creates a new concept of the subject.

According to Combes, the critical analysis of work must become the “privileged site of human alienation in relationship to the machine, which has led to human alienation becoming the site for analysis of technics in general” Simondon’s claim is that “technical activity can be considered as an introduction to veritable social reason, and as an introducer to the sense of individual liberty” IL Combes ultimate goal is to discover in Simondon’s thought the grounds for a radical critique of work that is equally distant from the Marxist perspective as well as from certain sociological and psychological perspectives.

Admittedly, Simondon’s engagement with Marx or rather with an abstracted conception of ‘Marxism’ is indirect and only obliquely evident in anf work.

As a result, Combes’ nuanced and effective analysis is very much appreciated. Here is where we find her most significant analyses and her study’s most far-reaching consequences. However, Philoophy purpose is not to transindividial Simondon into some form of proto-Marxist. Rather, more subtly, she identifies the divergence between the two perspectives where separately each locates “alienation” within psychosocial and productive realities.

Simondon describes himself as formulating a “philosophy of nature”. Once again, his motive is “to save us from impoverished conceptions of subject and object”. But this time to what end? As a philosophy of nature, Simondon’s thought situates the exploration of the processes of individuation in the transformations arising out of the pre-individual zone of indeterminate being, with each individuated being sharing this nature to different degrees.

As Combes writes, “Nature in Simondon is not the objectivist operator of repression of the subject, nor is it opposed to culture or society. The pre-individual is nature.


As such, it instigates and nourishes individuation. Therefore, for the political to become thinkable requires our taking into account the pre-individual affective life or nature.

And what is gained in rendering thinkable the immanence of psychosocial transformation?


What is gained in grasping the movement of psychosocial transformation? In “naturalizing the collective” a new humanism is built on “the ruins philosoohy anthropology” In the resources of his philosophy of nature, Simondon finds a form of humanism that is capable of compensating for the alienation arising out of the growth of technological culture.

Simondon’s reformed ‘difficult humanism’ amplifies this new reality granted by a transformed relationship with the machine.

Simondon calls such an ontogenetic-epistemological correlate a “new encyclopedism”. At the same time Simondon holds that,knowledge conceives its goal to be the constitution of a universal and universalizing mode of expression.

Combes’ disregarding encyclopedism, therefore, evades both the historical and the ontogenetico-epistemological, motives guiding the formulization of each epoch’s respective “humanism”.

This is the one error in her otherwise brilliant exposition. An awkwardness is quite clear, particularly if we acknowledge the unequivocal linkage Simondon establishes between encyclopedism and humanism. However, there is another potentially debilitating problem in Simondon’s thought proper, which Combes directly confronts. Simondon clearly mindful of Bergson is careful to distinguish his position from finalism.

Muriel Combes, Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual – PhilPapers

Nonetheless, she wonders if Simondon has merely substituted an evolutionary, dynamic finalism for a static one. In other words, might Simondon’s “evolutionism” not “take us far enough from the finalist schema of thought that places ends on becoming”? After all, the primary motive for his focusing on the genesis of the culture of technics is that it dramatizes how “becoming in itself bearing meaning or sense”, reflected in the intrinsic normativity it contains, is capable of regulating the social.

As Combes writes, “culture is to make humans recognize this virtual normativity in order for it to become effective” Her concern, however, is that his “normalizing bias” makes it too simple to argue, despite his claims to the contrary, that Simondon “has not totally rid his philosophy of a substantialist conception of ethics in the form of having-to-be; he has simply displaced having-to-be onto having-to-become” Immanence, as a result, would seem to be effectively normalized.

Combes’ critique threatens the trahsindividual and political value, which she alleges is present in Simondon’s principle of ontogenesis. A great merit of her simomdon is that she offers a defense of Simondon’s silence on this problem.

Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual

Even more impressively, particularly in the final discussion about “work”, Combes lays the groundwork for the unique paths that his thought provides for grasping the fundamental relationship of the individual and the collective relative to their mutual and constitutive co-individuations. For this reason Combes not to mention Thomas LeMarre and pgilosophy editors of the MIT series must be thanked for giving the English-speaking world an introduction worthy of Simondon’s genius.

All translations from Simondon’s texts belong to the reviewer.