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  • Bernard Stiegler's Pharmacy: A Conversation
  • Marcel O'Gorman (bio)

The following interview took place on June 27, 2010 at the home of Bernard Stiegler in Épineuil le Fleuriel, France. At the time, Technics and Time 3 was about to be released in its first English translation and Stiegler was nearing the completion of Taking Care 2. The primary goal of the interview was to explore what might be called Stiegler's "techno-thanatology," a concept that guides his theoretical work in Technics and Time, just as it inspires his political and pedagogical activities with Ars Industrialis and the Institut de recherche et d'innovation at the Centre Georges Pompidou. The interview touches upon the topics of mnemotechnics, political engagement, cinema and psychoanalysis, economies of contribution, and educational reform, not to mention metadata, geocaching, flash mobs, and Twitter. It is fitting that Stiegler, who is allergic to wheat, currently lives in a converted flour mill, where the interview took place. Our discussion ultimately documents Stiegler's pharmacological approach to the question of techne.

Marcel O'Gorman:

The majority of the questions I want to ask today have to do with Technics and Time 3: The Time of Cinema and the Question of Ill-Being, which will soon be released in its English translation. But of course we will also move into your more recent work, including the work you do besides writing—in particular, with Ars Industrialis. First of all, on the way to cinema, let's talk a little about other specific media technologies, beginning with parts 1 and 2 of Technics and Time. In part 1, you draw on the story of Epimetheus and Prometheus to frame an argument about what you call "the invention [End Page 459] of the human." This is a theory of origins, but also a theory of ends—a thanatology.

Bernard Stiegler:

What I tried to show in Technics and Time 1 was supported in effect by the work of Jean-Pierre Vernant. He himself does not thematize thanatology, but he describes according to me—in particular by commenting about the meaning of the word "elpis," which signifies in Greek hope and fear simultaneously, that is to say, positive and negative protention—he describes according to me the way in which the tragic Greeks, 2,600 years before Heidegger, already posed the problem that Heidegger called "Sorge" (anxiety). 1 And they posed it as a relationship of origins with technics by saying look, our way of life is to be technical beings, and our schema—in the ancient sense of the term "skhema"—is Prometheus, whose liver is eaten by the vulture yet it regenerates every day. This is already for me, in the ancient Greece of Hesiod and Aeschylus, a tragic way of describing what Heidegger meant by "being-toward-death." But it's in a language that is poetic, tragic, theatrical, mythological, and the irony for me of this matter is that for the Greeks—because for Heidegger, as you know very well, it's always the Greeks who are at the origin of thinking, we have to rediscover them, etcetera—the Greeks say to Heidegger, "thanatology" is technics. And thus technics is not what obscures the rapport with death, but rather that which opens up the rapport with death.

Now, of course, in this technics there is a pharmacology. And this is not made explicit by the Greeks in general, but nevertheless, when we read the work of Vernant, where in particular he comments on the result of the conflict between the Olympians and the Titans, between Zeus and Prometheus. The mortals are nothing, as we say, but the accidental result of this conflict. This is a result that Jean-Pierre Vernant calls an absolutely ambivalent situation, and that everything is good and evil. 2 The example he uses is Pandora. It is very important that he uses this example, because this means that with being-toward-death comes sexual difference, which is to say, desire.


AND hope—because elpis also means hope.


And hope. And this we do not find in Heidegger. There is also [End Page 460] no sexual difference in Heidegger's work, as...