Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Graded Blog #3

One of the passages I found to be difficult and crucial to the Lyotard’s essay “Can Thought go on without a Body?  Is the passage starting when he says “technology wasn’t invented by us humans.”  (Lyotard, 12).  This is difficult because it’s an unconventional thought process.  It looks at humans and technology in a much different light than we are use to.  Secondly, it is crucial to the essay since it lays the foundation for his claim on the process of thought.


Before I get too far, I’m not a philosopher, and I found this entire article to be too abstract and fluffy.  Personally, it bothered me how he kept on talking about the death of the sun.  The repetition of some of his points is unnecessary.


The conventional view of technology is that humans created it, and specifically created a lot of it since the Industrial Revolution.  This makes computers, iPods, phones, tvs, cars, etc. very visible forms of technology in the traditional sense.  This popular view is challenged in this passage.  Lyotard does not lead up to his claim.  Instead he makes it rather abruptly at the beginning of the paragraph.  Immediately, he makes the claim that technology invented us.  That sounds unbelievable.  How could these devices we made make us?


This technology he speaks of can be correctly interrupted after applying the meaning of the Greek roots of technology that was given at the very start of this class: the discourse of technique.  But this definition while closer to what is needed to interpret this passage is not quite able to explain how technology invented us.


The problem with using this definition of technology is the word discourse.  Discourse involves a dialog or thought.  There are many subtle variances in the definition, but these all involve some rational thought and human presence.  ( How can atoms talk to each other and figure out how to be a human?


To broaden the definition of technology even more, it must be defined much more abstractly. (Which will fit perfectly with this essay.)


After he makes the claim that human’s are products of technology, Lyotard goes on to describe algae and humans like we would describe a computer.  He talks about how humans “absorb data and process it” (Lyotard, 12).  Humans to him are biological computers.  This viewpoint is essential to Lyotard’s view on thought.  Thought is a product of the mind, and the mind is a machine that is made from biological material.  To understand this technology must be defined as a process.  It is a process where a system exists that has defined rules, and within that system changes are made and perpetuated.


While this definition is broad, it is not exhaustive.  I’m sure I could write a dissertation on technology.  However, this sentence is applicable to Lyotard’s sentence.  Atoms and molecules follow certain rules.  Changes in these systems (i.e. molecular bonds) perpetuate according to these rules.  Since for the most part these changes are allowed by the rules of the system (bonds create a lower energy system which is favored) these changes remain.  If you let this process carry out, life and humans are products of this process, which is no more than changes within a system with defined rules.


Once Lyotard has built this foundation for his readers, he can now analyze thought as a product of this process.  Furthermore, he establishes that thought is dependant of physical material to operate.  This provides a crucial framework since this essay is about how thought and the body are connected and asks the question if they can be separated.


Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Inhuman: Reflection on Time: Polity, 1993.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Your focus here is great - you're zeroing in on perhaps the most startling, provocative and frustrating thing Lyotard says in an essay (story) which is absolutely full of startling, provocative and frustrating things. So I admire your focus.

The difficulty here, though, is that you spend much of your post wresting with _our_ definition of technology, before revealing that you know what _Lyotard's_ definition is: information processing. From my point of view this means that you've wasted considerable effort that could have been better expended, for instance, by challenging or developing his definition of technology, or showing how it _relates_ to the definitions I have given.

As much as I like your focus, I feel like you're only really getting started towards the end.