Abstract: Rhythm and Modulation

Below is an abstract of a paper to be presented in the conference  General Organology: The Co-individuation of Minds, Bodies, Social Organizations and Technè in Kent (20-22 November 2014), it is the second part of my rhythm project, the first part titled Rhythm and Individuation – on Heidegger’s commentary on Rimbaud, was presented in the National University of Singapore,10-12,April 2014.

Rhythm and Modulation

– on the resonances and conflicts of organs

Yuk Hui

This paper wants to pose a question: what role does rhythm play in the General Organology? By asking so, it attempts to reconcile a reading of Stiegler and Heidegger on the question of rhythm. In Technics and Time 2 Disorientation, drawing from Leroi-Gourhan’s Memory and Rhythm, Stiegler proposed to consider technics as the epochal double redoubling, that opens the question of the who to technics (both pure technical functions and functional aesthetics). At the same time, Stiegler shares with the critiques of industrial rhythm with Leroi-Gourhan and Simondon: Leroi-Gourhan sees that technical rhythm which used to “transform untamed nature into instruments of humanization” is in the process of being totally replaced by mechanisation; Simondon in Du Mode d’Existence des objets techniques observes that “the worker was placed in the presence of sections of networks measured out by the machine’s rhythm.” Hence rhythm consists the core question of general organology, in which the organs either resonance toward a diversification (gesture, ethnics, etc) for its continual evolution, or can no longer rhythm due to an forced synchronisation (without difference) described by Simondon and Stiegler.

Going back to Stiegler’s critique of Heidegger’s reduction to present-at-hand and ready-to-hand in Technics and Time 2 (before the introduction of the epochal double redoubling), I would like to suggest a different reading of Heidegger’s notion of rhythm focusing on his later writings, such as Rimbaud Vivant, Kunst und Technik. Heidegger in his commentary on Arthur Rimbaud, provokes that the Greek word rhythm has to be understood in terms of a kind of relation holds human(ein wiegeartetes Ver-Hältnis (die) Menschen hält). And it is rhythm here play a central role in holding humans to the world. Heidegger’s understanding allows us to interrogate the function of technics as the source of relations, hence rhythms as well as their modulations. While we have to recognize that these relations, are not static but rather technically constituted, which we can understand with Stiegler in terms of grammatisation.

If the above logic is valid, then we should ask what kind of rhythm shall be favourable. Technics, as Simondon has shown, brings forth a modulative thinking which serves the critique of the classical hylomorphism. Individuation is always modulative, and it can be approached from different orders of magnitude. The epochal double redoubling also opens a new grammar of modulation. Commenting on the industry of calculation, Bernard Stiegler proposed “to change the rules is to move ‘faster’ than the (quasi-)speed of light, insofar as the latter has become, as the speed of digital automata, the horizon of the calculation and computing industry: it is to move infinitely ‘fast’ – at the speed of desire, that is, of idealization, through which neganthropy passes onto the plane of consistence” (Stiegler, General Ecology, Economy and Organology, forthcoming). If one understand changing the rules as a moderation of rhythm, how shall we consider the concretisation of this term in its technical development. In Heidegger, we find the rhythm bears other names such as Auseinandersetzung (exchange, disput) or Fuge (a joint) quaFügung (a coincidence). This article concludes with a comparison between this reading of rhythm (Heidegger), with Simondon’s concept of tension and incompatibility, as the condition of the passage onto the “plane of consistence”.

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