An Initial Reaction to Simondon's Individuation

There's something that's very enticing and exciting about Gilbert Simondon's work. For me, he not only invites me to think about philosophy in new ways, he explains how other concepts function in a way few other philosophers could relay. Simondon's critiques of dominant ways of thinking (i.e. "Western Thought") are devastating in a practicable sense. I can see myself actually applying his ideas to other areas on my own.

I have read "On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects" with some success and it was a book I actually found myself finishing with a speed that I rarely have with many philosophical works. I say "with some success" because I found something missing in my understanding of his thinking. I was coming across a lot of terms that I have some vague sense about (i.e. phase shift, individuation, domains) and other terms that I could only guess at (pre-individual, trans-individual). The work read like I was missing the prerequisites.

Simondon's Challenge to My Thinking

Having just started, "Individuation in Light of Notions of Form and Information" I can't say too much yet, but the exploration of individuation has been very illuminating on how I think about the world to a very fundamental level. I would say that I imagine myself as a materialist and one thing I believed was,

"Interactions come with structure through which energies must both animate and also break down."

In my own understanding, I agreed with Simondon that energy potentials are important, though for me it wasn't in context of something like a theory of individuation that Simondon has put forth. In my own thinking, I am dealing with already individuated objects, terms, and I think that those terms have relations and it is this manner of thinking that Simondon has challenged.

From "A Short List of Gilbert Simondon's Vocabulary"

Simondon criticizes hylemorphism for emphasizing the presupposed requisites of an interaction (form and matter) instead of the necessary requirements for the process to take place (metastability, information, potential energy).

Simondon's attack on hylemorphism was a challenge for my own assumptions to that end, even if I didn't hold those views in any formal way. However, on that front, even if he has been illuminating so far, it isn't fruitful yet because I've not gotten through his arguments.

“Individuation corresponds to the appearance of stages in the being, which are the stages of the being. It is not a mere isolated consequence arising as a by-product of becoming, but this very process itself as it unfolds; it can be understood only by taking into account this initial supersaturation of the being, at first homogeneous and static [sans devenir], then soon after adopting a certain structure and becoming–and in so doing, bringing about the emergence of both individual and milieu–following a course [devenir] in which preliminary tensions are resolved but also preserved in the shape of the ensuing structure; in a certain sense, it could be said that the sole principle by which we can be guided is that of the conservation of being through becoming.” via Simondon's Vocabulary

Individuation is "not a mere isolated consequence arising as a by-product of becoming, but this very process itself as it unfolds." What is offered here is richness in thinking. Simondon talks about this process unfolding that connects different orders of magnitude and in exploring those mediations you can discover even more individuation in both directions. Time is individuation. Living beings individuate. Social organization is a process of individuation.

With hylemorphism you end up with a less dynamic view that matter is waiting for form in order to become animated. In the book on Individuation Simondon puts this poignantly:

"The distinction between matter and form, between the soul and the body, reflects a city that contains citizens in opposition to slaves."

I also think this reads a bit as a sleight on dialectics, which is another area that Simondon is challenging me. I barely understood dialectics as is and yet I find Simondon's notion of "phase shifting" as more approachable outright.

There's still so much to get through and I can only imagine some of my own revelations and inspirations could be on faulty grounds due to misunderstandings or misinterpretations. I don't mind though.