Research Article

Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 187-202

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The Ontological Force of Technicity: Reading Cassirer and Simondon Diffractively

  • Aud Sissel HoelAffiliated withDepartment of Art and Media Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology Email author 
  • , Iris van der TuinAffiliated withDepartment of Media and Culture Studies, Utrecht University Email author 


This article contributes to contemporary philosophy of technology by carrying out a diffractive reading of Ernst Cassirer’s “Form und Technik” (1930) and Gilbert Simondon’s Du mode d’existence des objets techniques (1958). Both thinkers, who are here brought together for the first time, stood on the brink of the defining bifurcations of twentieth-century philosophy. However, in their endeavor to come to grips with the “being” of technology, Cassirer and Simondon, each in their own way, were prompted to develop an ontology of emergence that gives ontological priority to “technicity,” that is, to technology considered in its efficacy or operative functioning. By reading Cassirer’s and Simondon’s insights through one another, we aim to further develop this ontology of emergence, and, simultaneously, to demonstrate the relevance of these thinkers for present-day theorizing. As we hope to show, the insistence on the ontological force of technological apparatuses transverses received philosophical and ontological divides and revitalizes the notions of “nature” and “the human,” which are now understood as coevolving with technology.


Philosophy of technology Onto-epistemology Technological in(ter)vention Performative correspondence Facile humanism Positive difference