, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 187-202,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 14 Nov 2012

The Ontological Force of Technicity: Reading Cassirer and Simondon Diffractively


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.

This article was written when the two authors were both visiting scholars in the Department of the History of Science, Harvard University. The authors wish to thank Prof. Janet Browne and Prof. Peter Galison for their hospitality and stimulating discussions. Furthermore, we wish to thank the three anonymous reviewers of Philosophy & Technology for their valuable feedback as well as our colleagues Annamaria Carusi, Christine Quinan, and Marta Zarzycka for their careful engagement with the text. Open Access has been made possible by the Incentive Fund Open Access (036.001.148) of the the Netherlands Orgnisation for Scientific Research (NWO).