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Title: The pharmacology of the political : on the relationship between politics and anthropology in the work of Bernard Stiegler
Author: Turner, Benjamin
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2017
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A single question orients the argument that guides this thesis: what ramifications does the pluralisation of human nature have for our understanding of the political? This will be explored through two lines of argument. The first is established through an investigation of the rejection of a singular human nature found in Bernard Stiegler's philosophy of technics, which will argue that the political must be considered as plural as a result of his work. By claiming that the human is only ever constituted within a relationship with technical objects, Stiegler makes it possible to conceive of the political as a response to the problems unique to the way in which technics structures human life across varying contexts. This is consolidated by his understanding of technical objects as 'pharmaka', both poisonous and curative for political and social life. The political will be conceptualised as a response to these pharmacological tendencies, and thus differentiated across various anthropological contexts. The first three chapters will reconstruct how Stiegler's readings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, André Leroi-Gourhan, Jacques Derrida, Plato, and Gilbert Simondon contribute to the concepts that form his philosophical anthropology. These concepts are, namely, the default of origin, the pharmakon, and organology. Uniting the terms introduced across these three chapters will be the development of an understanding of the political based in Stiegler's concept of the a-transcendental. As a-transcendental, the concepts that direct the political are subject to transformation and change along with empirical technical systems, and are responses to particular a-transcendental horizons framed by pharmacological problems. The second line of argument will be that this a-transcendental conception of the political has ramifications for political theory more generally. It will be argued that Stiegler's philosophy of technics creates a tension between anthropological plurality and political judgement. Political theory makes decisions or judgements on the limits of politics, whereas anthropology represents the potential for these judgements to be suspended. Stiegler reveals this constitutive tension between political theory and anthropology insofar as his philosophy of technics puts this anthropological plurality at the heart of the political. After establishing this tension, an internal critique of Stiegler's arguments will show that he both furthers the possibility of understanding the political in the plural through his use of the concept of impossibility, but closes this space through his use of entropy and negentropy, and in his limiting of the political to a Western history following its emergence in the Ancient Greek polis. Despite his work both making the plurality of the political possible and negating it - by making political judgements that close off anthropological plurality - Stiegler's work is not unsuccessful in providing material for this pluralisation of the political. Instead, it will be claimed that his writing itself demonstrates this tension between political judgement and anthropological plurality. It will be concluded that Stiegler's work must be treated pharmacologically insofar as it makes anthropological plurality possible while also closing this space through his own particular political judgements. Stiegler's example will be seen to have broader ramifications for political theory, in that he demonstrates the demand for political theorists to pay critical vigilance to the way in which anthropological presuppositions form boundaries to the political, and that the possibility for the suspension of these limits must be incorporated into the work of political theory.
Supervisor: MacKenzie, Iain ; Widder, Nathan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral