Document Type

Conference Paper


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6.4 ART

Publication Details

European Society of Aesthetics, Charles University, Prague, June, 2013.


The problematic of Ekphrasis will be the central tenant of this paper, a relationship between text, language and image. Ekphrasis broadly understood as the relationship between images and words, however, in the case of this paper it will be taken to mean the relationship between words and images in relation to memory. Bernard Stiegler’s work has become well renowned in relation to his exploration of texts and in particular the relationship between texts and technology; an intimate relationship, if writing is to be considered as a form of technology, a mnemonic form. However, there is also another aspect in the work of Bernard Stiegler, which to date has not been fully explored, the role of the image as a placeholder for memory. By examining the proposition that writing functions as a pharmakon, and that a positive pharmacology is possible this paper will attempt to posit the question of images as a pharmacology.

Bernard Stiegler has become prominent within debates in critical theory in media and Critical Theory studies in the last number of years. His development of an approach to technology as, firstly, an innately human activity and, secondly, his extension of the work of both Jacques Derrida and Georges Simondon have led to the establishment of a key concept in Bernard Stiegler’s philosophy : Pharmacology.

This paper will firstly give an overview of the development of what Bernard Stiegler has termed a positive pharmacology and secondly scope the relationship between pharmacology and the image. In Plato’s Phradeus writing is considered a poison, a mechanical placeholder for memory and not true memory, the rejection of wiring by Plato is founded upon a distinction between memory as mechanical repetition, hypomnesis and memory as access to the truth, anamnesis. Writing for Plato is not a form of anamnesis but a form of hypomnesis. Derrida’s well known text, Plato’s Pharmacy develops a detailed critique of Plato’s understanding of writing as a pharmakon, however whilst Derrida exploits the semantic ambiguity of writing as a pharmakon, as a cure and a poison, he never details how the curative aspects of the pharmakon might be established. The revisiting of Plato’s Pharamacy enables Stiegler to develop both a criticism of Plato and of Derrida. The contention that Plato dismisses wirting as a form of pharmakon, cure and poison, by stating that writing is a form of hypomnesis, a form of automatic memory or regurgitation, is revisited and Stiegler’s analysis leads to a reappraisal of writing as a form of placeholder for memory. Stieglers develops a positive pharmacology through positing relations between anamnesis and hypomnesis, hypomnesis enables anamnesis. Meno’s slave is literate, the slave can read and this enables the philosophical reflection to take place. Therefore, the relationship between anamnesis and hypomnesis is not an exclusive relationship for Stiegler, writing functions as a placeholder for memory but also a means of access to alethea, writing enables reflection to take place. However, in this famous passage from the Phradreus where Plato is said to reject writing, this paper will argue that the reference to image in the text poses a particular problematic, according to Plato words and images continue to say the same thing forever. Writing and Images both function as a form of pharmakon as placeholders for memory. This paper will argue that images are according to Stiegler placeholders, the have a hypomnesic function. The image functions not only a placeholder for memory, a tertiary retention but also according to Stielger as a form of transindividuation. Stiegler developing on from the work of Georges Simondon posits writing as technology and as form of individuating, a form of transindividuation. There is a circuit of transindividuation, where the work acts, works, through a process of individuation and transindividuation. The recipient of the work has a potential, the work of art releases within the recipient. This paper will argue that the work of art, or the image, functions as a form of transindividuation, a circuit of individuating between artist and work of art .