- La Planète Hyper: De La Pensée Linéaire à La Pensée En Arabesque
La planète hyper (Hyperplanet: From Linear Thought to Arabesque Thought, my translation) is the third in a series of philosophical essays by Hervé Fischer about the effects of the digital on society and philosophy. In Le Choc du Numérique (The Shock of the Digital, 2001) he tried to take stock of what counts as the digital revolution, and in Cyberprométhée (CyberPrometheus, 2003) he focused on how our understanding of what it is to be human may have changed. Throughout these books the author has made a point of developing a critical perspective, presuming that his readers share his fascination for the newly emerging technologies of the last decades.
According to Fischer, Western modernist thought combated obscurantism by using the "trilogy" of realism, rationalism [End Page 170] and humanism as an aggressive armor. Realism opposes and opposed nominalism and idealism and laid the foundation for a scientific representation of the world. Rationalism replaces and replaced beliefs and scholasticism in philosophy, and humanism tried to overrule religiously inspired ethics. This triad appears to be in crisis, and the rise of the digital is at least instrumental in its demise. At the same time, an opportunity to find footing for a new philosophy presents itself. The passage from the analog to the digital marks the dematerialization of realism by presenting the world as a vast web of hyperlinks. Rationalism has reached the end of its breakdown in the complexity of the sciences and the science of complexity while postrationalism emerges as a way of thinking in connections and arabesques. Linear thought no longer suffices. Meandering thoughts and strengthened associations, gathering weight as they are used and reused, will become the basic instruments of philosophy. And humanism, dangerously losing credibility, is threatened by the double utopias of technoscience and posthumanism. "La planète hyper," or the hyperplanet, is also the realm of otherworldness ("altermondialisation"), where individuals and societies have learned to live and thrive together instead of fighting cold wars and wars of terror.
This essay is an analysis of the rise of modernism and its crisis in the face of the realities of the 21st century as well as an exploration of possible solutions. Fischer thinks that by incorporating the strengths of the information age—Castells and Giddens are never far away—modernism may evolve into some new world view, combining a metaphysics of hyperlinks, the logic of fuzziness, paradoxes and multiple values and a meta- or hyperethics based on the connectedness of individuals within emerging newly defined communities. He fails, however, to substantiate his grand view of a new triad. While reading, I kept thinking, "Yes, but how?" What is the added value of this new philosophy? Why would it stand up against the forces that have undermined modernism, and how would it, if even partially successful, change the lives of the TV-watching, perpetually consuming or hungering masses who are gradually miring in the swamps of particularism and fundamentalism? In this sense, Fischer's tone of "dismal optimism" reminds me sometimes of the web-cult magazine Wired, even though the language is much more erudite and its references are way more classical.