Experience, Time and the Religious: From Classical Subject to Technological System


This essay addresses the question of experience in today’s ‘technological modernity’. The essay sets up the earlier classically modern notion of experience in Kantian critique and finds that it is irreducibly connected to Kant’s self-identical subject. We interrogate the temporal dimension in Kant’s transcendental aesthetic in the context of such experience and subjectivity. We then shift our attention to today’s technological modernity. Here we first consider perhaps the dominant voice in cultural/social theory - in Badiou, Žižek and Lacan - in which the subject is constituted through the subtraction from experience in the context of a mathematical notion of time. This subtraction from experience takes place in the register of the real. We criticize this and attempt to rescue experience, through consideration of, not the real but the imaginary in the more phenomenological thinking on temporality of Heidegger and Bernard Stiegler. We then break with the apriorism of both Heidegger and Badiou in an attempt to take experience back to its radical empiricist roots. We do this through drawing on the religious thematic in the late science-fiction writing of Philip K. Dick. We set this up in contrast again to today’s notion of the religious as subtraction from experience in Badiou’s St Paul and Žižek’s Christ. We draw on Dick’s Gnosticism to reconstitute experience and the subject as a technological system. Dick’s ‘vast active living intelligence systems’ operate, not in time, but as time. They constitute a socio-technical imaginary that engages structurally with cultural objects. Here experience is fundamentally empirical: yet this re-casting of the subject as socio-technical system at same time largely effaces the distinction between the empirical and the transcendental.