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Book Symposium on Le concept d’information dans la science contemporaine

Cahiers de Royaumont, Les Éditions de Minuit/Gauthier-Villars 1965

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  1. 1.

    In his autobiography I Am a Mathematician (1956, p. 321–22), Wiener mentions that before settling on the term “cybernetics” which he found originally in Plato’s Gorgias, he had also considered the word angelos or “messenger” but found its religious connotations to be unappealing. See Johnson 2014, p. 61.

  2. 2.

    The cybernetic research of Wiener and his colleagues were in keeping with military research (Wiener had participated in the war effort by developing a servomechanical weapon known as the AA predictor); military applications were also the context for the development of Claude Shannon’s theory of telegraphic information transmission (as set out in The Mathematical Theory of Communication in 1949) (Lafontaine 2007, p. 28–9).

  3. 3.

    See for example, Céline Lafontaine, L’empire cybernétique (Paris, Seuil, 2004); Christopher Johnson, “‘French’ Cybernetics”, French Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 2014, p. 1–19; Bernard Geoghegan, “From Information Theory to French Theory: Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss, and the Cybernetic Apparatus”, Critical Inquiry 38 (Autumn 2011), p. 96–126.

  4. 4.

    Ampère (1834); see Johnson 2014, p. 61.

  5. 5.

    Some treatments include Louis de Broglie, “Sens philosophique et portée pratique de la cybernétique” (1953); Albert Ducrocq, Découverte de la cybernétique (1955); Pierre de Latil, La pensée artificielle: introduction à la cybernétique (1953); G. –T. Guilbaud, La Cybernétique (1954); André Lentin, “La Cybernétique: problems reels et mystification” (1953); Raymond Ruyer, “La Cybernétique: mythes et réalités” (1952). For more detail see Johnson (2014). Also see Jérôme Segal, Le Zéro et le un: histoire de la notion scientifique d’information (2003).

  6. 6.

    “Not only did Lévi-Strauss draw from the cybernetics universe his ‘spirit without subjectivity’ model, but the entire project of structural anthropology consisted in interpreting society as a whole according to a general theory of communication” (Lafontaine 2007, p. 32); also see Dupuis (1994). Lafontaine, among others, also notes Roman Jacobson’s role in bringing together the Wiener/Shannon model of information and linguistics (in which language becomes a coding system that structures the exchange of information (p. 33). Geoghegan (2011) examines how what he calls the “cybernetic apparatus” “yoked together the development of ‘French’ theory, media studies, informatics, and global science” (p. 98).

  7. 7.

    The entirety of Lacan’s 1954–5 seminar was devoted to cybernetics (Lafontaine 2007, p. 35) and Derridean deconstruction is “closely related to the cybernetic notion of information” (Lafontaine 2007, p. 38). The influence of second order cybernetics is seen in the work of Deleuze and Guattari (Lafontaine 2007, p. 39) as well, although I would say, in contrast with Lafontaine’s argument, that the stronger influence on Deleuze is that of Gilbert Simondon’s post-cybernetic theory of transduction.

  8. 8.

    “Formless” by Georges Bataille, in Documents 1, Paris, 1929, 382 (translated by Allan Stoekl with Carl R. Lovitt and Donald M. Leslie Jr., Georges Bataille. Vision of Excess. Selected Writings, 1927–1939, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press “Formless”, 31). Accessed online at

  9. 9.

    Céline Lafontaine (2007) argues that cybernetics influenced the development of French thought—especially of structuralism, post-structuralism, and postmodernism—after the second world war by integrating and interrogating cybernetic concepts to rethink subjectivity; for instance, “the link that exists between the deconstruction of the subject in ‘French theory’ and the identity and mutations associated with the development of new information technologies and biotechnologies” (p. 28).

  10. 10.

    Le Concept d’information dans la science contemporaine, Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit/Gauthier-Villars, 1965.

  11. 11.

    Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1948.

  12. 12.

    Both theses had been presented in 1958, but only Du Mode d’existence des objets techniques was published in 1958 and under its original title (Paris: Aubier). L’Individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information had to wait until 1964 to see its first part—and the first chapter of its second part—published (L’Individu et sa genèse physico-biologique, Paris: P.U.F). The two last chapters of its second part were published in 1989, as a strangely independent book titled L’Individuation psychique et collective (Paris: Aubier). The first complete edition of L’Individuation à la lumière… is from 2005 (Grenoble: Millon).

  13. 13.

    Le Concept d’information…, op. cit., p. 157–158.

  14. 14.

    On this difference, see Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications, New York: George Braziller, 1968.

  15. 15.

    Gilbert Simondon, L’Individuation à la lumière…, op. cit., p. 31 (personal translation).

  16. 16.


  17. 17.

    Léon Brillouin, Science and Information Theory, New York: Academic Press, 1956.

  18. 18.

    Gilbert Simondon, L’Individuation à la lumière…, op. cit, p. 330 (personal translation).

  19. 19.

    Georges Canguilhem, Le normal et le pathologique, Paris : P.U.F., 1966, p. 209.

  20. 20.

    On this opposition, see Jean-Hugues Barthélémy Simondon, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2014 (forthcoming translation by Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016), p. 103–112.

  21. 21.

    Henri Atlan, L’Organisation biologique et la théorie de l’information, Paris: Hermann, 1972.

  22. 22.

    Henri Atlan, Entre le cristal et la fumée, Paris: Seuil, 1979.

  23. 23.

    Henri Atlan, Le Vivant post-génomique, ou qu’est-ce que l’auto-organisation ?, Paris: Odile Jacob, 2011, p. 33 (personal translation).

  24. 24.

    Ibid., p. 69–70.

  25. 25.

    Edgar Morin, La méthode 2. La Vie de la Vie, Paris: Seuil, 1980.

  26. 26.

    Edgar Morin, La méthode 1. La Nature de la Nature, Paris: Seuil, 1977, p. 303 (personal translation).

  27. 27.

    Gilbert Simondon, L’individuation à la lumière…, op.cit., p. 542.

  28. 28.

    Michel Bitbol, Mécanique quantique. Une introduction philosophique, Paris: Flammarion, 1996.

  29. 29.

    Michel Bitbol, De l’intérieur du monde. Pour une philosophie et une science des relations, Paris: Flammarion, 2010, p. 395.

  30. 30.

    Jean-Hugues Barthélémy, Penser la connaissance et la technique après Simondon, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2005. However, such an ignorance of Penser la connaissance et la technique après Simondon by Bitbol remains all the more so strange since the “philosophy of action” that is explicitly announced by his “philosophy of relations” seems to leave Kant and presents some contacts with the post-wittgensteinian project of a “philosophical semantics”—understood as first problematics of the open system of the “philosophical relativity”—that I presented in the last chapter of Penser la connaissance et la technique après Simondon.

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Iliadis, A., Mellamphy, N.B., Barthélémy, JH. et al. Book Symposium on Le concept d’information dans la science contemporaine . Philos. Technol. 29, 269–291 (2016).

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