Medea Archaeology, or Inhuman Interconnections and their Monstrous Milieu: Ancient and Modern Cybernetics

Presentation by Dan Mellamphy (University of Western Ontario).

Pythagoras, father of digital technology (via his mathesis universalis the tetractys), believed in the trans‐human ‘love and pursuit of wisdom’, coining a word for the latter (namely φιλοσοφία) and suggesting that the philosophical path was one that traced the circuit between ‘form’ and ‘the formless’ ‐‐ coining the words cosmos and chaos (κόσμος and χάος) for these two extremes, with ‘philosophy’ as their great median. His younger contemporary Heraclitus envisioned the path of wisdom between cosmos and chaos to be an intense (παλίντονος) and conflictive (παλίντροπος) course, which according to him is ‘how things are steered’ (ὅκη κυβερνηᾶται; cf. Diels’s fragment forty‐one/fifty‐one), κυβερνηᾶται being the origin ‐‐ after Heraclitus, via Socrates, c/o Norbert Wiener ‐‐ of the word ‘cybernetic’, of our notions of ‘cyberspace’, et cetera. The Heraclitean cybernetic is utterly inhuman rather than trans‐ or post‐human: human ‘takes’ on the matter are according to him always and inevitably mis‐takes and must therefore be factored out (or in the words of our latter‐day Heraclitus, Nietzsche, ‘overcome’: überwinden) for the sake of philosophia, the pursuit of wisdom. The Heraclitean vision is in fact quite a frightening one, since the logic of his philosophical cybernetic is a supreme singularity: a single logos distinct from all dialogos, beyond the bounds of any and every dialogue; there is no speaking to it or conversing with it: it speaks through us and beyond us, like the cosmic/chaotic forces found in H.P. Lovecraft’s supernatural tales (rather than the Thoth of the Platonic logos, the archetype or anarchetype of Heraclitus’s pre‐Platonic logos would be something like the Lovecraftian Azathoth).

Norbert Wiener’s look back to pre‐Platonic sources in the era of modern cybernetics, and Donald Schön’s similar one in his study of Technology and Change: The New Heraclitus, trace an important philosophical feedback‐loop which I endeavour to take up in this conference paper. Since ‘this conference will bring together scholars and practitioners to explore the resonances between digital networks and “older” (perhaps still emergent) systems of circulation’, I propose a revisiting of certain Pythagorean and Heraclitean fundamentals still at work, and still emergent, in the iterations and interrelations of contemporary cybernetwork transductions.

Dan Mellamphy Ph.D  (, Adjunct Proessor at the Center for the Study of Theory & Criticism, UWO London. Co-founder of the annual Nietzsche Workshop @ Western, co-translator of Gilbert Simondon’s treatise On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects (forthcoming from Semiotexte/MIT Press), and author of works that have appeared in journals such as Modern Drama; Foucault Studies; Deleuze Studies; Dalhousie French Studies; Contra-Attaques; The Canadian Journal of Comparative Literature; Symposium; International Journal of Continental Philosophy; Paideusis: International Journal in the Philosophy of Education; Collapse: Journal of Philosophical Research and Development; Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology, and the Arts; and in anthologies such as Manabrata Guha’s Concept War (forthcoming), Aaron Cheak’s Alchemical Traditions (forthcoming), and The Cylconopiedia Anthology edited by Eugene Thacker, Ed Keller and Nicola Masciandaro (in publication right now).

Dan Mellamphy presents at "Network Archaeology."


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