The reality of real time

Autumn 2012

According to Bernard Stiegler the technological contrivances that rule our world have set in motion dangerous developments. Although Stiegler is not a technophobe, he believes that the technological devices that are constructed around real time (live broadcasting, mobile phone communications, digital photography, etc.) introduce a new relation to time that jeopardises the cohesion of society. They erase the delay of time that is essential to it and thereby wipe away the singular, which is a crucial element in the construction of the social.

This essay examines the nature of this argument and queries its factual basis. It does this by first exploring the technological or prosthetic nature of Dasein by referring to Heidegger’s definition of Dasein as ec-static time. After this short exposition, the essay shows how Stiegler strengthens this pre-prosthetic nature of time that can be found in Heidegger into a time which is fully fledged prosthetic or fundamentally constituted by the technological devices that exteriorise it. The second part of the essay focuses on Stiegler’s hesitations and even contradictory statements regarding the contemporary production of time. Sometimes he presents real time as a factual accomplishment, sometimes he is more careful and characterises it to be merely a tendency; there are passages in which he proclaims the end of history, and other ones in which he presents that end as a fiction and a warning. The comments on the rather dramatic and evocative pages Stiegler inserts in La technique et le temps 1, together with ideas and comments from Maurice Blanchot and Richard Beardsworth, serve as a bridge to discuss the philosophical importance of an ambiguity in the actuality of real time.

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NF 77 Bernard Stiegler: Technics, Politics, Individuation