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The inorganic open

The inorganic open Nanotechnology and physical being

Nathan brown

But what is an object?

Bernard Stiegler, Technics and TimeWhat is the status of the object in contemporary philosophy? How is the question of the object sutured to particular determinations of the concept of ʻlifeʼ – a concept that, according to Giorgio Agamben, ʻmust constitute the subject of the coming philosophy?ʼ [1] And how does the binding of the question of the object to the concept of life determine, in turn, the manner in which we negotiate the question of how modalities of being-in-the-world are connected to forms of material existence?

Such questions are not only in the air; they have crystallized, in less philosophically inflected forms, into the discipline of material culture studies, and more than a few good answers to them have been gathered by Bill Brown into an influential special issue of Critical Inquiry entitled Things. [2] In Science Studies, Bruno Latour has been leading a non-modern mission to ʻrescue the non-humansʼ, and Graham Harman, in the name of a new ʻobject-oriented philosophyʼ, has urged contemporary thinkers to ʻbegin funneling arms and humanitarian aid toward some sort of guerrilla realism – a fresh insurgency on behalf of objects themselvesʼ. [3]

Taking up the question of the object, the concept of life, and the problem of being-in-the-world, I direct these towards recent developments in nanoscale materials research and fabrication. These developments have raised the stakes of our opening questions, challenging philosophy to revise and to rearticulate the basic categories into which it has distributed discrepant modalities of material being. The new capacities of material address enabled by nanotechnology – the capability to image, to manipulate and to supervise the self-organization of matter at molecular and submolecular scale levels – threaten these categories in a number of ways. From the efforts of nanobiologists to build ʻmolecular motorsʼ by enlisting and expropriating the self-organizing capacities of DNA outside the biological enclosure of the cell, to the fabrication of DNA-wrapped carbon nanotubes that operate as sensors inside living cells, to ʻbottom upʼ research and development programmes promising to ʻassemble artificial cells from scratch using nonliving organic and inorganic materialsʼ, the hybrid, nonorganic entities that nanotechnology is just about to render operative thoroughly unsettle, displace and reassemble the articulations by which we attempt to differentiate living beings from ʻmerelyʼ physical matter. [4] As Geoffrey Ozin and André Arsenault note in a recently published textbook on nanochemistry, ʻsimple, elegant and robust attributes of self-assembly are now being combined with powerful methods of inorganic and solid-state chemistry to create materials with unprecedented structures, compositions and morphologies.ʼ The capacity to manipulate and to characterize matter below the scale threshold at which its properties are determined by its molar composition has made it ʻfeasible to organize and connect organic, inorganic and polymeric chemical components with well-defined functions into integrated electronic, photonic, mechanical, analytical and chemical systemsʼ. [5]

Such pronouncements are now routine among nanotechnologists and those who follow the development of the field. But while there is no question that nanotechnology has already produced material structures with unprecedented physico-chemical constitutions and genuinely novel properties, its proponents and apostles have had greater success in flaunting the conceptual entanglements with which it confronts philosophical and scientific taxonomies than in disentangling and precisely delineating the lines of demarcation along which it challenges ontological categories. In what follows, I unwind one such thread: the category of phenomenological ʻaccessʼ as constitutive of living being. Tracking this thread through several recent challenges to the famous theses of Heideggerʼs 1929/30 seminar regarding the being of stone, animal and man – and then winding it through the questions of sense and sensation posed by the so-called ʻsmart materialsʼ engineered by nanotechnology – I follow this line of demarcation towards a concept of ʻphysical beingʼ that would recognize another sense of what Heidegger calls ʻworldʼ. Could we articulate a concept that would thread such a line of demarcation right through the self-difference that the object has always been denied by philosophy? And would the articulation of such a concept make it possible to suture the rift between object and world which that denial has imposed – to sew together the very threshold which the non-living being of the object opens onto world?

Non-living without world (the stone)

A stone cannot behave in this way.

Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of MetaphysicsOf the three theses elaborated by Heidegger in the 1929/30 seminar – according to which ʻthe stone (material object) is worldless; the animal is poor in world; man is world-formingʼ [6] – it is perhaps the determination of the animalʼs modality of being that has provoked the most curiosity and the most insistent criticism among Heideggerʼs commentators. To mention only a few recent examples, the animalʼs poverty in world has been the primary subject of Akira Lippitʼs book, Electric Animal, of Jacques Derridaʼs final seminar at UC Irvine on ʻThe Beast and the Sovereignʼ, and of Giorgio Agambenʼs The Open. [7] The subtitle of Agambenʼs book, Man and Animal, is representative of the manner in which this attention to the animal – or more accurately to the ʻsimultaneous division and articulation of the animal and the humanʼ [8] – has often come at the expense of critical reflection upon the ontological status of the non-living being: the worldlessness of the stone.

As was the case in Homo Sacer, [9] it is the articulation of life with which Agambenʼs analysis of ʻthe anthropological machineʼ is primarily concerned in The Open. The anthropological machine of Western science and philosophy, Agamben argues, produces a state of exception between man and animal, a zone of indeterminacy in which there ʻis neither an animal life nor a human life, but only a life that is separated and excluded from itself – only a bare lifeʼ (TO 38). As might be expected given this focus upon the biopolitical, when Agamben enters into the engagement with Heideggerʼs 1929/30 seminar that will dominate that latter half of The Open, he grants the first term of Heideggerʼs three theses, the stone, only one sentence: ʻsince the stone (the nonliving being) – insofar as it lacks any possible access to what surrounds it – gets quickly set aside, Heidegger can begin his inquiry with the middle thesis, immediately taking on the problem of what it means to say “poverty in world”ʼ (TO 51). Quickly set aside by Heidegger, the stone, or the ʻphysical beingʼ of the material object, is set aside even more rapidly by Agamben, whose analysis will not refer to the triadic structure of Heideggerʼs theses again. At what would seem like an opportune moment for an analytic intervention into the frame of Heideggerʼs thinking, a moment at which to raise one or two questions about the precise status of ʻthe nonlivingʼ, or to interrogate the concept of ʻaccessʼ that determines Heideggerʼs denial of world to inorganic entities, Agamben leaves such concerns aside, casually following Heidegger in relegating such beings to worldlessness.

Heideggerʼs triple thesis is determined by a double distinction: a first distinction between the stone and the animal, and a second between animal and man. The first, which determines the stone as ʻworldlessʼ and excludes it from the sphere of ʻlifeʼ, is conditional upon the capability or incapability of beings for phenomenological ʻaccessʼ. The stone exemplifies what Heidegger calls ʻphysical beingʼ (FCM 192), a modality of being which is negatively determined as non-living, without access to an environment, and therefore without world. The stone is immobile and senseless: ʻit lies upon the earth but it does not touch itʼ, it ʻcrops up here or there, amongst and amidst a host of other things, but always in such a way that everything present around it remains essentially inaccessible to the stone itselfʼ. If ʻworldʼ, writes Heidegger, denotes ʻthose beings which are in each case accessible and may be dealt with, accessible in such a way that dealing with such beings is possible or necessary for the kind of being pertaining to a particular beingʼ, then the stone is worldless in so far as it does not have such access. It is ʻessentially without access to those beings amongst which it is in its own wayʼ. Worldlessness ʻis constitutive of the stone in the sense that the stone cannot even be deprived of something like worldʼ, and it is precisely the fact of the stoneʼs having no access that ʻmakes possible its specific kind of being, i.e., the realm of being of physical and material nature and the laws governing itʼ (FCM 196–7).

The animalʼs way of being, on the other hand, which Heidegger calls ʻlifeʼ, is ʻnot without access to what is around it and about it, to that amongst which it appears as a living beingʼ. In so far as it has access to beings, the animal has world, and it ʻstands on the side of manʼ rather than on the side of the stone (FCM 198–9). But the animal is ʻpoor in worldʼ – as Agamben discusses at length in chapter 12 of The Open – in so far as its mode of access is that of captivation by its ring of disinhibitors. Heidegger writes that Beings are not manifest to the behaviour of the animal in its captivation, they are not disclosed to it and for that very reason are not closed off from it either. Captivation stands outside this possibility … to say that captivation is the essence of animality means: The animal as such does not stand within a manifestness of beings. Neither its so-called environment nor the animal itself are manifest as beings. (FCM 248)While the stone is ʻsimply present at hand amongst other thingsʼ, the animal ʻfinds itself suspended, as it were, between itself and its environment, even though neither the one nor the other is experienced as beingʼ (FCM 198, 248).

The final eighty pages of Heideggerʼs seminar are devoted to an analysis of this ʻasʼ: a mode of comportment towards beings that is constitutive of ʻworldformingʼ as the essential capability of the Dasein in man. The second distinction of the triple thesis in The Fundamental Concepts ultimately depends upon the concept of projection as the basis of the as-structure. As ʻthe fundamental structure of world-formationʼ, projection is that which primordially opens access to being as being, and therefore opens the ontological difference. Projection, that leaping ahead of itself of Dasein even as it falls back into its thrown facticity, is the irruption of the ʻbetweenʼ of the ontological difference, and the ʻasʼ designates the structural moment – the relational separation – of that originarily irruptive between. Man is world-forming in so far as ʻprojection raises us away into and thus unveils the dimension of the possibleʼ, and this opening of the possible binds us to the actual as a project of formation (FCM 362, 364–5).

These two distinctions grounding Heideggerʼs triple thesis – the distinction of man from animal on the basis of projection, and the distinction of the stone from the animal or the plant on the basis of its nothaving-access – are taken up and challenged, in turn, by Bernard Stiegler in Technics and Time and JeanLuc Nancy in The Sense of the World. [10] Agambenʼs analysis of the anthropological machine concentrates on the logical aporia of the genesis of language as that which falls into the irremediable fracture between man and animal. Stiegler carries out an excavation of this fracture, cataloguing its mineral deposits. For Stiegler, what we find in this fracture is the stone. Working from theories of technological vitalism developed by Simondon and Leroi-Gourhan, Stiegler elaborates an account of the rift between animal and man as the site of a genetic drift whereby cortical evolution is codetermined by a process of technical evolution, a ʻdouble emergence of cortex and flintʼ. For Stiegler, it is this problematic – the paradox of ʻthe technical inventing the humanʼ and ʻthe human inventing the technicalʼ – that precedes the logical aporia of the genesis of language, along with any possible distinction between man and animal. While Heideggerʼs triple thesis mediates the difference between stone and man through their respective difference from the animal, and while Agamben elides the stone altogether by focusing exclusively on ʻman and animalʼ, Stiegler confronts man directly with the inorganic matter that enables his evolution. ʻCorticalizationʼ, he writes, ʻis effected in stoneʼ (TT 155, 137, 134).

Although Stieglerʼs analysis of Heideggerian ontology is devoted primarily to the analytic of Dasein in Being and Time, the consequences of that analysis for the distinctions deployed in the 1929/30 seminar are clear. Projection is effected by the temporalizing torque generated by that ʻleaping ahead of oneselfʼ constitutive of anticipation and that ʻfalling back into everydaynessʼ conditioned by Daseinʼs thrownness within a context of factical existence. [11] According to Stieglerʼs analysis, both anticipation and the constitution of facticity depend upon a technical exteriorization of memory that founds historicity and opens futurity. Thus, technics makes projection possible, and the world-formation constitutive of Dasein in fact has its groundless ground in ʻnonorganic organizations of matterʼ (TT 17). Projection is the structural coupling of man and material thing that Stiegler calls ʻa ʻmirror proto-stageʼ in the course of which the differentiation of the cortex is determined by the tool just as much as that of the tool by the cortex: a mirror effect whereby one, looking at itself in the other, ʻis both deformed and formed in the processʼ. In other words, world formation is an irreducibly double process, a ʻdouble plasticityʼ by which the inorganic object and the human are informed of and by the other. In Technics and Time, the essence of man falls into an opening within the fracture between animal and man: the de-fault of origin between cortex and flint. The question posed by this analysis to the ontological schema of Heideggerʼs 1929/30 seminar is: ʻwhat plasticity of gray matter corresponds to the flake of mineral matter?ʼ (TT 158, 142, 135). For our purposes here, however, there are two problems with Stieglerʼs account of the ʻinvention of the human.ʼ The first is that his writing occasionally imports anthropomorphic language into descriptions of processes of genetic drift. The cortex and the tool are involved in a ʻmirror proto-stage … whereby one look[s] at itself in the other [lʼun se regardant dans lʼautre]ʼ. Such a visual metaphor begs the question of ʻaccessʼ grounding Heideggerʼs distinction between life and non-living being. The second problem is that, for Stiegler, the stone is only included in the event of world-formation in so far as it functions as a ʻtechnical objectʼ – an ʻinorganic organized beingʼ as opposed to the evidently unorganized ʻinorganic beings of the physical sciencesʼ. Beginning his study with a critique of the Lamarkian distribution of physical bodies into two classes – ʻthe non-living, inanimate, inertʼ and the organic being – Stiegler elaborates the ontology of technical objects as ʻa third genre of “being”ʼ. Technical objects, Stiegler argues, ʻhave their own dynamic when compared with that of either physical or biological beings, a dynamic, moreover, that cannot be reduced to the “aggregate” or “product” of these beingsʼ. ʻThere is a historicity to the technical objectʼ, he writes, ʻthat makes its descriptions as a mere hunk of inert matter impossible.ʼ Thus, for all of Stieglerʼs attention to the agency of stone in the event of projective temporalization, the non-living being only has access to world or contributes to world-formation in so far as it ceases to function as a ʻmere hunk of inert matterʼ by becoming structurally coupled with life, and this constitutes a ʻbecoming-organicʼ (TT 17, 1, 17, 71). In Technics and Time, the ontology of ʻmerelyʼ inert being – introduced on page 1 and recurred to only in contradistinction to the dynamism of the technical object – is ultimately left aside in a manner similar to Agambenʼs abandonment of the stone.

It is precisely this question of whether or not such a ʻmerelyʼ inorganic being has any sort of ʻaccessʼ to world – outside of any necessary relation to life – that Jean-Luc Nancy takes up in a chapter titled ʻTouchingʼ in The Sense of the World. Nancy is one of the few thinkers to challenge Heideggerʼs determination of ʻphysical beingʼ directly, quoting the 1929/30 seminar at length:

The stone is without world. The stone is lying on the path, for example. We can say that the stone is exerting a certain pressure upon the surface of the earth. It is ʻtouchingʼ the earth. But what we call ʻtouchingʼ here is not a form of touching at all in the stronger sense of the word. It is not at all like that relationship which the lizard has to the stone on which it lies basking in the sun. And the touching implied in both cases is above all not the same as that touch which we experience when we rest our hand upon the head of another human being … Because in its being a stone it has no possible access to anything else around it, anything that it might attain or possess as such. (SW 59)Nancyʼs questions for Heidegger are as follows: ʻWhy is access determined here a priori as the identification and appropriation of the other thing?ʼ; ʻWhy could the world not also a priori consist in beingamong, being-between, and being-against? In remoteness and contact without “access?” Or on the threshold of accessʼ (SW 59–60). It is this ʻthresholdʼ of access that Nancy identifies with the taking-place of ʻsenseʼ. Heidegger fails to situate the object at this threshold, Nancy argues, because he ʻapparently fails to weigh precisely the weight of the stone that rolls or surges forth onto the earth, the weight of the contact of the stone with the other surface, and through it with the world as the network of all surfaces. He misses the surface in generalʼ (SW 61). For Nancy, the surface designates the interface of the ʻtoward-itselfʼ and the ʻin itselfʼ – an interface that is the world where sense takes place. ʻThe différance of the toward-itself, in accordance with which sense opens, in inscribed along the edge of the “in itself”.ʼ The world of sense, or the sense of the world, consists in ʻmatter forming itself, form making itself firmʼ, and if the stone does not ʻhaveʼ access, it is not therefore without world. Rather, on the outside of predication, it is world that without. World-forming takes place along the surface of that exteriority where ʻall bodies, each outside the others, make up the inorganic body of senseʼ (SW 62–3).

Stieglerʼs intervention into the determination of Heideggerʼs ontological categories is to fold nonliving being directly into manʼs essence as Dasein by demonstrating the dependency of projection upon the inorganic materials that enable exteriorization. Nancy challenges the worldlessness of the stone by describing the contact of material surfaces as that which forms world by forming the distributed being of sense. These interventions matter in so far as they situate non-living being within the formation of world that Heidegger accords only to Dasein, while situating world outside the predication of access that Heidegger reserves only for ʻlifeʼ.

For Agamben, ʻWestern politics is, in its origin, biopoliticsʼ, but in The Open the site of the biopolitical is determined only as the conflict ʻbetween the animality and the humanity of manʼ that constitutes ʻthe decisive political conflict in our cultureʼ (TO 80). Stiegler and Nancy help us register the degree to which this conflict itself depends upon the exclusion of a third term: the physical being of inorganic matter – an exclusion that founds the category of the biological.

Threshold (physical being)

Every limit concept is always the limit between two concepts.

Giorgio Agamben, Homo SacerAs I have already suggested, the necessity, today, of including non-living being within the order of the biopolitical – and of opening biopolitics to its outside – is made particularly pressing by the research and development programme of nanotechnology, which seeks to fabricate nonorganic entities bearing those capacities for environmental stimulus and behavioural response that Heidegger ascribes to life, ʻthe kind of being that pertains to animals and plantsʼ (FCM 191).

In order to ʻexemplify the general structure of the environment proper to all animalsʼ, Agamben refers to the behaviour of a tick described by Heideggerʼs primary reference on animal behaviour, Jacob van Uexküll. As Agamben notes, the behaviour of the blind and deaf tick is entirely regulated by a very minimal array of sensory data, or ʻcarriers of significanceʼ: the sensitivity of its skin to light, the odour of butyric acid emitted by mammals, the temperature of 37 degrees celsius corresponding to that of mammalian blood, and the tactile properties of its preyʼs skin. The lifeworld of the tick described by van Uexküll consists entirely in the absorption of these sensory triggers, by which it locates and consumes the nourishment that it requires to reproduce before dying. [12]

It is precisely this sort of relation to an environment – the captivation of an entity by sensory disinhibitors – that scientists are attempting to engineer into polymers, bio-synthetic materials, and nano-scale sensors and actuators that are ʻnot without access to their environmentʼ. [13] The procedure of nanoscience and technology is often to study structures and processes of organic life – such as viral architecture, bacterial self-replication, molecular self-assembly, and biological stimulus/response systems – in order to replicate those structures and processes in material contexts that are not confined by the cellular organization or the chemical requisites of the organism. [14] It is crucial to note that this research and development programme relies upon precisely the decoupling of a ʻmode of beingʼ from any essential determination by physico-chemical structure – precisely the decoupling for which Heidegger argues in his analysis of world. Nanotechnology studies the physio-chemistry of life in order to replicate the phenomenon of living being in ʻnon-livingʼ matter.

Minoru Taya, for example, director of the Center for Intelligent Materials and Systems at the University of Washington, characterizes biological systems as ʻideal adaptive structures with smart sensing capabilitiesʼ. ʻThe knowledge gained from studying biological mechanismsʼ, he notes, ʻare key input for designing adaptive structures and intelligent materials.ʼ Among other things, Taya studies the principles of touch and light sensing in plants for their applicability to trigger, modify and control actuation mechanisms in intelligent materials, and he investigates the potential of artificial, polymer gel-based actuators as an alternative to biological, filament-based muscles. [15] But while Tayaʼs research involves microand macro-scale materials, one application with the potential to link those largerscale levels with nanoscale technology are the ʻnano skinsʼ designed by Pulickel Ajayanʼs research team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Nano-skins are flexible hybrid composite materials consisting of a polymer substrate embedded with organized arrays of carbon nanotubes – cylindrical tubes of hexagonally organized carbon atoms more than 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Since the composite membranes operate as field emitters, they are being developed as a template for flexible electronic devices. And because the nanotube arrays maintain their high conductivity and electrical sensitivity when embedded in the polymer, they could be used as adhesive structures, pressure sensors or gas detectors. [16] They also represent a promising step towards the sort of bio-mimetic sensors described by Taya, in so far as carbon nanotubes have the capacity to convert mechanical signals into electrical signals – one of the key functions of epidermal cells in plant and animal stimulus/response systems. As Ajayan has demonstrated with a research team at the University of Akron, nanotube arrays embedded in polymers can be used to mimic the action of microscopic sensory hairs on epidermal surfaces, which in the actuation Courtesy of Rensselaer/Yung Joon Jungsystem of the Venus flytrap, for example, serve to carry mechanical stimuli to a receptor cell which then converts those stimuli into an electrical signal, propagating ion flow through neighbouring cells and activating the plantʼs motile action. [17] This bio-mimetic capacity of nanoskins is particularly notable when considered alongside the work of MIT engineers on macro-scale solid compounds that expand and contract through ion flow. Starting with compounds commonly found in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, the MIT research team led by Yet-Ming Chiang and Steven Hall has developed prototypes of electrochemically actuated ʻmorphing materialsʼ that offer ʻa synthetic counterpart to the nastic actuation mechanism in plantsʼ. [18]

The capacity of nanoscale materials to operate as mechanical sensors and electrochemical signals – and the potential of coupling of such sensors to actuation mechanisms – is also demonstrated by the DNAwrapped carbon nanotubes engineered by Michael Stranoʼs research team at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. The sensors designed by Stranoʼs team consist of a strand of DNA wrapped around a single-walled carbon nanotube ʻin much the same fashion as a telephone cord wraps around a pencilʼ. [19] Exposed to the ions of certain atoms, negative charges along the strand of DNA are neutralized, altering its shape and reducing its surface area. This shift perturbs the electronic structure of the carbon nanotube, altering its emission energy – a process that is reversed when the DNA is no longer exposed to such ions.

S t r a n o ʼ s team reports that ʻthe nanotube surface acts as the sensor by detecting the shape change of the DNA as it responds to the presence of target ionsʼ, and this response can be measured, enabling the detection of low concentrations of mercury ions in mammalian cells and tissues. [20] The project of researchers like Deborah Estrin, Founding Director of the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at UCLA, is to integrate such nanoscale devices into ʻmassively distributed collections of smart sensors and actuators embedded in the physical worldʼ. Such networks would not only operate both in and outside the bodies of that worldʼs ʻliving inhabitantsʼ; they would also have to function as ʻself-configuring systems that adapt to unpredictable environments where pre-configuration and manual intervention are precludedʼ. [21]

It is not at all my intention to argue here that the entities fabricated by nanotechnology, nor the distributed networks into which they may eventually be embedded, are ʻaliveʼ, nor that the category of ʻlifeʼ should be expanded to include them. Nor is it incumbent upon my argument to demonstrate that such entities share ʻthe kind of being that pertains to animals and plantsʼ. My argument, rather, is that if the ʻway of beingʼ called ʻlifeʼ is to be determined as ʻnot without access to what is around it and about itʼ (FCM 198), and if that way of being is to be delimited by the material objectʼs ʻnot having accessʼ, then this determination and this delimitation are thrown into crisis by the entities that nanotechnology is in the process of fabricating.

Consider the threshold at which we are situated from the ʻother sideʼ of the limit concept – access – that is articulated by Heidegger as the limit between two other concepts, living and non-living being. If nanotechnology indicates a vector along which the material object attains access to its environment, Agamben relates a story about van Uexküllʼs tick that indicates a counter vector, along which the animal is effectively denied access to its world, deprived of any sensory stimuli in a modality of being similar to that of Heideggerʼs stone – while nonetheless remaining ʻaliveʼ. Agamben relays van Uexküllʼs brief reference to a certain tick that, in a laboratory in Rostock, ʻwas kept alive for eighteen years without nourishment, that is, in a condition of absolute isolation from its environmentʼ. ʻHow is it possibleʼ, Agamben asks, ʻfor a living being that consists entirely in its relationship with the environment to survive in absolute deprivation of that environmentʼ (TO 47). ʻPerhapsʼ, he conjectures, ʻthe tick in the Rostock laboratory guards the mystery of the “simply living being”, which neither Uexküll nor Heidegger was prepared to confrontʼ (TO 70). In other words, the isolated tick becomes Agambenʼs figure for ʻbare lifeʼ, the threshold state with which, as he argues in Homo Sacer, the biopolitical body of the West is now completely identified. In calling for a ʻcompletely new politicsʼ, Agamben argues that ʻthis biopolitical body that is bare life must itself … be transformed into the site for the constitution and installation of a form of life that is wholly exhausted in bare life and a bios that is only its own zoē.ʼ ʻTodayʼ, he writes, ʻbios lies in zoē exactly as essence, in the Heideggerian definition of Dasein, lies (liegt) in existenceʼ (HS 188).

Courtesy of University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign/HellerBut in specifying that the tick can survive in its state of deprivation ʻwithout, however, either ceasing to be an animal or becoming humanʼ (TO 70), Agamben himself perhaps fails to confront the consequences of Heideggerʼs ontological schema for the condition of this biopolitical body, since the condition of ʻnothaving-accessʼ would have to specify, precisely, the becoming-stone of the animal. As a non-living being, ʻthe stoneʼ, writes Heidegger, ʻcannot be dead because it is never aliveʼ (FCM 179). But the tick becomes, paradoxically, a stone that remains alive. It attains the state of non-living being, deprived of any and all access to its environment, yet nonetheless retains the capacity to die. The tick does indeed occupy the zone of indistinction where we find ʻneither an animal life nor a human life, but only a life that is separated and excluded from itselfʼ (TO 38). But the tick occupies this zone of bare life in the modality of non-living being. In fact, this utterly paradoxical being escapes any of the categories of stone, animal or man designated by Heidegger. In the becoming-animal or becoming-plant of the ʻmaterial objectsʼ engineered by nanotechnology, and in the becoming-stone of the animal exemplified by the isolation of the tick in the Rostock Laboratory, Heideggerʼs triple thesis undergoes an implosion on the outside of the binary distinction between man and animal that Agamben deconstructs. And this outside is, of course, also the inside of that distinction, in so far as it is the ground upon which the zoē common to man and animal, and to all living beings, can be delimited in the first place.

ʻEvery limit concept is always the limit between two conceptsʼ, we read in Homo Sacer (11). But what if, sometimes, a limit concept like haplōs being, or the open, were not the limit ʻbetweenʼ two concepts, but rather a limit traversing (at least) three, such as ʻstoneʼ/ʻanimalʼ/ʻmanʼ? Or in Agambenʼs terms: to include non-living being within the order of the biopolitical while thinking the site of biopolitical struggle beyond the frame of biological existence would be to expose bare life to its outside by thinking ʻphysical beingʼ as a limit concept that includes zoē and bios as and along with ʻmaterial thingsʼ. How can we think physical being not as that being-without-access that Heidegger assigns to the stone, but rather as a threshold condition of ʻall bodies, each outside the othersʼ (Nancy, SW 63)? And how are we to articulate and position such a concept as conditioned by the incipient nanotechnological programme of ʻdesigning a new material worldʼ? [22]

If the global distribution and integration of multiscale sensor/actuator systems envisioned by the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing brings us to the limit at which the entire physical world is ʻnot without accessʼ to itself, it may be one of the earliest enabling technologies of nanoscale research and fabrication, the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM), that most elegantly demonstrates the singular case of sense – the limit case of ʻbeing-towardʼ. Moreover, it situates this limit precisely at an interface which Stiegler leaves unthought: not only that between ʻmanʼ and ʻtechnical objectʼ but also that between the technical object and the ʻmere hunk of inert matterʼ.

The STM is capable of producing images of single atoms through a ʻtactileʼ interface (since single atoms are too small to refract light). The basis for its operation is the quantum mechanical phenomenon of electron tunnelling, whereby an electron ʻjumpsʼ between two proximate atoms. When a tiny conducting needle, narrowing to a single atom at its tip, is brought into proximity with a conducting or semi-conducting surface, electrons ʻtunnelʼ between the atomic tip and the atoms of the sample. A current can be established at this interface by applying voltage between the tip and the sample, and since the magnitude of that current is minutely sensitive to the distance between the two conductors, it can be used to establish a feedback loop that will adjust the position of the tip in accordance with the atomic topography of the sample. Mounted on a piezoelectric transducer that adjusts its height with finite control, the tip is scanned across a surface, rising or falling in accordance with the atomic terrain it encounters. As it moves, the position of the tip is measured and converted into a digitally mediated visual map of the sampleʼs atomic structure. The STM can also operate in a positioning mode, whereby single atoms can be manipulated by the tip with exact precision. [23]

In the case of the STM, our ʻaccessʼ to any information whatsoever about this particular environment is conditional upon the being-toward of two atoms and Courtesy of Institut für Allgemeine Physikupon the being-between of the electrons exchanged through a network of surfaces. It is conditional upon the being-with of the interface. But in the first atomic positioning experiment in 1989, this profound evocation of ʻthe threshold of accessʼ was used to inscribe the sign and seal of a multi-national corporation whose international business machines were instrumental to the administration of the biopolitical horrors analysed by Agamben in Remnants of Auschwitz. [24]

If the thirty-five xenon atoms used to spell I–B–M, [25] quivering at the threshold of sense, are the non-living harbingers of the ʻunprecedented biopolitical catastropheʼ of which Agamben warns in the final sentence of Homo Sacer, then what we require is a suturing of ontology to politics that would include their physical being as at once otherwise than living, otherwise than without access, and otherwise than ʻmerelyʼ inert matter.

World without, non-living (nothing-otherthan-object)

It is only in turning to stone that the threshold presences at all. Martin Heidegger, ʻLanguageʼHow can physical being be situated as a limit concept traversing at least three concepts – those demarcated by Heidegger as stone, animal and man? And how could the limit of physical being be thought as the open?

Even if world formation remains the exclusive privilege of ʻthe Da-sein in manʼ throughout his oeuvre, there are nonetheless indications in Heideggerʼs later work that are conducive to the construction of such a concept. Nanotechnology has become perhaps the most insistent technocultural signifier of what Heidegger, in ʻThe Age of the World Pictureʼ, calls ʻthe incalculableʼ:

the simultaneous appearance of ʻthe giganticʼ and of a ʻtendency toward the increasingly smallʼ which signifies the limit of modern technologyʼs ʻautonomous transformation of praxisʼ. The incalculable, Heidegger writes, is ʻthat which, withdrawn from representation, is nevertheless manifest in whatever is, pointing to Being, which remains concealedʼ. If, however, the incalculable is the withdrawn index of Being itself – its ʻinvisible shadowʼ – it nevertheless remains the case that, within Heideggerʼs thinking, that which it indexes can only be accessed in its concealment by man, ʻthe shepherd of Beingʼ. According to Heidegger, ʻman will know, i.e., carefully safeguard into its truth, that which is incalculable, only in creative questioning and shaping out of the power of genuine reflection.ʼ [26]

But one should remain alert to a significant tension inherent to the manner in which ʻthe powerʼ of such ʻgenuine reflectionʼ is figured in Heideggerʼs writing. In fact, the modality of manʼs being through which he is opened to world has less to do with questioning than with being-in-question, less to do with shaping than with being-shaped, and less to do with the power of genuine reflection than with a powerless exposure to exteriority. The rhetoric in which the world-forming capacity of man is described suggests that it involves a veritable becoming-object. If the stone is that which ʻcrops up here or there, amongst and amidst a host of other thingsʼ, passively given over to the contingencies material existence, then man only attains access to world in so far as he approaches the threshold of this modality of being:

That which is does not come into being at all through the fact that man first looks upon it, in the sense of a representing that has the character of subjective perception. Rather, man is the one who is looked upon by that which is; he is the one who is – in company with itself – gathered toward presencing, by that which opens itself. To be beheld by what is, to be included and maintained within its openness and in that way to be borne along by it, to be driven about by its oppositions and marked by its discord – that is the essence of man in the great age of the Greeks. [27]

The being spoken of here is neither an organism behaving in response to its ʻownʼ environment, nor a reflective subject. It is an entity that is looked upon by that which is, borne along, driven about, and marked by discord. Heidegger says of the stone: ʻif we throw it in the meadow then it will lie wherever it falls. We can cast it into a ditch filled with water. It sinks and ends up lying on the bottomʼ (FCM 197). Although the utterly callous ʻcomportmentʼ of this scenario Courtesy of IBM Almaden Labs/EiglerCourtesy of IBM Almaden Labs/Eigleris all too obvious, it is nevertheless this aggressive activity of subject that man must exchange for the passivity of the object before he will be gathered into the open. Agamben tells us that ʻprecisely because the world has been opened for man only by means of the suspension and capture of animal life, being is always already traversed by the nothing; the Lichtung is always already Nichtungʼ (TO 80). But here, at the very pivot of Heideggerʼs thinking of Being, it is not the suspension and capture of animal ʻlifeʼ that opens world. Rather, world opens through the suspension and capture of ʻmanʼ by physical being.

Even if this is a strategically tendentious reading of this passage in Heidegger (since man ʻis the oneʼ through whom this suspension occurs), we can nonetheless recognize that ʻthe essence of manʼ and the opening of world is situated here at the threshold of physical being – the same threshold at which we found Agambenʼs tick, and at which, from the other side of ʻaccessʼ, Nancy situates the stone. And it is within this threshold that we encounter those ʻincalculableʼ entities engineered by nanotechnology. Through this threshold, any entity whatever is exposed as other than itself, precisely in so far as it is nothing other than itself. The name that we will momentarily assign to this chiasmic threshold – at which an object is opened to world through its openness to other entities, and at which world is opened to any living entity in so far as it approaches the condition of the object – is nothingotherthan-object.

Within the broadly Heideggerian frame in which we have been working, the question of physical being, qua being, is the question of how any entity whatever is traversed by the nothing. Nothing, for Heidegger, is that ʻconcealed essence of Beingʼ towards which the invisible shadow of the incalculable points. In the penultimate appendix to ʻThe Age of the World Pictureʼ, Heidegger inscribes the following famous sentences:

But Nothing as that Nothing which pertains to the having-of-being is the keenest opponent of mere negating. Nothing is never nothing; it is just as little a something, in the sense of an object [Gegenstand]; it is Being itself, whose truth will be given over to man when he has overcome himself as subject, and that means when he no longer represents that which is as object [Objekt].

We should take a moment to work through the obvious inadequacy of the English term ʻobjectʼ to the distribution of Heideggerʼs German terminology in these formulations. Nothing is never something, ʻin the sense of Gegenstandʼ, and the truth of Being itself will be given over to man ʻwhen he no longer represents that which is as Objektʼ. While ʻsomethingʼ is given as the sense of Gegenstand, it is ʻthat which isʼ that is represented by the subject as Objekt. One might formulate the relation between these two senses of ʻobjectʼ as follows: it is only in so far as it is represented as Objekt that ʻthat which isʼ, for a subject, becomes Gegenstand; or, it is only in so far as Nothing is represented by a subject as an object that it appears to be something, which it is not. It is crucial to note here that it is not so much its ontological status that divides ʻthat which isʼ from the category of Objekt. Rather, it is the representation of ʻthat which isʼ as Objekt that divides the subject from the truth of Being by converting it into Gegenstand – an object for a subject. [28]

We can begin to follow the consequences of this logic towards a concept of physical being in its openness to world. Nothing is never Gegenstand, or that which man represents as Objekt, so Being itself will only be identified with Nothing as that which is other than ʻsomethingʼ or Objekt-for-a-subject. But in so far as it is ʻnever nothingʼ, Nothing, or Being itself, is nothing other than Objekt, subtracted from its representation as such by a subject. Attempting to convey this complex conceptual nexus in English, one could therefore formulate the paradoxical relation of Being itself to the object in itself (Objekt in sich) as follows: that which is nothing other than object is Nothing, that which is other than ʻobjectʼ. The concept that includes this irreducible duplicity – this immanent otherness of that which is never nothing and yet not something – could thus be named nothing-otherthan-object. This concept excludes Gegenstand from its referential field, and it therefore does not involve any representation by a subject of that which is as Objekt. Returning to the consequences of Heideggerʼs thinking of man in his essence as ʻthe one who is looked upon by that which isʼ, we might then say that man overcomes him/herself as subject – ceases to represent that which is as object – precisely in so far as he/she becomes nothing-otherthan-object.

Thought as nothing-otherthan-object, the open transpires neither through the boundless life of the animal celebrated by Rilkeʼs Eighth Duino Elegy, nor through manʼs ʻpower of genuine reflectionʼ, but rather through a projectivism proper to physical being, thought here as a category traversing stone, animal and man. That cognate of the open, Nothing – or Being itself – is nothing other than the otherness of objects to each other, and nothing other than the otherness of objects to identity. Such a conceptualization of physical being, qua being, affirms Heideggerʼs thinking of Being as the opening of world, but it thinks the distribution of the opening of the ontological difference equally among all entities, such that any entity whatever, and every entity at once, is ʻthe shepherd of beingʼ. Within a Heideggerian frame, nothing-otherthan-object thus operates as the limit concept we have been seeking. It specifies a threshold condition common to nonliving, living and human being, and therefore passing between and through three categories as we find them in Heidegger: ʻstoneʼ, ʻanimalʼ and ʻmanʼ. It specifies the suturing of any entity whatever to ʻBeing itselfʼ as the threshold upon which it is open to world through its exposure to an outside. Such a concept does not imply that there is ʻno differenceʼ between discrepant types of entities. Rather, it affirms the difference in the modality of being of every entity, while recognizing differentiation itself as that ʻessenceʼ of physical being that is indifferent to any particular qualification of being-there.

Let me close by situating this concept, nothingotherthan-object, more precisely in relation to Agambenʼs thinking of the biopolitical, of which this essay has been persistently critical. In Homo Sacer, Agamben calls for a suturing of ontology to politics that would think the ʻspace of exception in which a purely bare life, entirely controlled by man and his technology, appears for the first timeʼ (HS 164). ʻBiopowerʼs supreme ambitionʼ, Agamben writes in Remnants of Auschwitz, ʻis to produce, in a human body, the absolute separation of the living being and the speaking being, zoē and bios, the inhuman and the human – survival.ʼ It is this ʻessentially mobile threshold that, like the borders of geopolitics, moves according to the progress of scientific and political technologiesʼ [29] that biopolitics attempts to track and to specify. But because in Agambenʼs discourse this mobile threshold is never situated precisely between living and non-living being, but only between variant concepts of life, or between life and death, it cannot specify the site at which powerʼs ʻsupreme ambitionʼ operates in the case of nanotechnology.

It has been my argument that nanotechnology forces us to confront a threshold at which non-living being is not-without-access, nor without world, and I have also argued that the projective opening of world through ʻthe Da-sein in manʼ itself occurs at the threshold of physical being. Nothing-other-than-object has been posited as a concept adequate to this sort of mobile threshold – one that does not only pass between life and death or man and animal, but that passes through and between the physical being proper to all entities in their being-there. Such a concept should not, however, be taken merely as a celebratory deconstruction of the Heideggerian schema stone/animal/man, or of Agambenʼs framing of biopolitics. It is intended, rather, as a constructive manoeuvre – positioned at once within and yet refractory to Heideggerʼs discourse on technology – towards a sombre reckoning with those contemporary operations of corporate technoscience that aspire to the absolute domination not only of bare life but of physical being: as nanotech enthusiast K. Eric Drexler puts it, to ʻnearly complete control of the structure of matterʼ. [30]

An ethics and a politics capable of engaging this technoscientific horizon of the twenty-first century will have to think not only the biopolitical body of the West, but also the non-living sense of the world, or world without, non-living. The threshold of haplōs being at which that which appears is sutured to that which is – the very opening of world which power occludes and over which it attempts to exert control – cannot simply be conceived of as zoē, but has to be thought through physical being. For if physical being is what has always been excluded from the opening of world then this exclusion amounts to the closure of world and the failure of any effort to link politics with ontology. And if the first imperative of any ethics or politics is to think that which it excludes as the limit to which it must be addressed, the concept nothingotherthan-object is posited here as a first step towards such a thinking. But it is only a first step, in so far as it challenges us to extrapolate from this aporetic limit within Heideggerʼs thought – and its contemporary redeployments – another approach to the inorganic open altogether. [31]


1. ^ Giorgio Agamben, ʻAbsolute Immanenceʼ, in Potentialities, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1999, p. 238.

2. ^ Critical Inquiry, vol. 28, no. 1, Autumn 2001. The essays in Brownʼs special issue, along with some additional material, have been gathered into a book: Bill Brown, ed., Things, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2004.

3. ^ See Bruno Latour, Pandoraʼs Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1999, and ʻWhy Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concernʼ, Critical Inquiry, vol. 30, no. 2, Winter 2004, pp. 225–48; Graham Harman, Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects, Open Court, Chicago, 2002, p. 216, and Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things, Open Court, Chicago, 2005.

Latourʼs important article on matters of concern – and its eventual inclusion in Bill Brownʼs volume Things – provides an opportunity to address my decision in this article to focus upon the term ʻobjectʼ rather than ʻthingʼ. This decision is particularly crucial given the extensive engagement with Heidegger that my conceptualization of the object involves. As Latour notes, ʻall [Heideggerʼs] writing aims to make as sharp a distinction as possible between, on the one hand, objects, Gegenstand, and, on the other, the celebrated Thing.ʼ ʻWhat would happenʼ, Latour asks, ʻif we tried to talk about the object of science and technology, the Gegenstand, as if it had the rich and complicated qualities of the celebrated Thing?ʼ (233). Suggesting that we consider all objects with the same ʻenthusiasm, engagement, and complexityʼ that Heidegger reserves for his primary exemplar of das Ding, the jug, Latour argues that ʻHeideggerʼs mistake is not to have treated the jug too well, but to have traced a dichotomy between Gegenstand and Thing that was justified by nothing except the crassest of prejudicesʼ (234). But despite his desire to erase this dichotomy, Latourʼs rhetoric nonetheless preserves it by suggesting that while certain very complex objects (like dolomite, or Einsteinʼs Patent Bureau electric coordination of clocks in Bern) demand treatment as Things, or gatherings, or matters of concern, other evidently less complex objects (a standard ʻbanal rockʼ [234]) are reducible to matters of fact. ʻThings that gather cannot be thrown at you like objectsʼ, he writes. They are ʻhighly complex, historically situated, richly diverse matters of concernʼ (237). To my mind, this rhetorical decision leaves the English term ʻobjectʼ unrecuperated, suggesting (like Heidegger) that only those objects which are sufficiently complex to be considered Things are worthy of philosophical attention. Thus, throughout this article, the term ʻobjectʼ will be applied indifferently to ʻbanal rocksʼ and to the ʻcomplexʼ objects fabricated by nanotechnology. The Heideggerian rumination on das Ding will be left aside entirely, since the issue here will be the recuperation of the self-difference and openness to world of any object whatever. The concept ʻnothing-otherthan-objectʼ that is developed in the final section of this article emerges rather out of Heideggerʼs differential usage of the two German terms Gegenstand and Objekt, whose discrepant denotation is elided by the English term ʻobjectʼ.

Nothing-otherthan-object constitutes an attempt to mark the physical being, qua being, of the object, in a manner that acknowledges the impossibility of ʻrepresentingʼ, as a subject, that which is Objekt. See note 28, below.

4. ^ Nadrian C. Seeman, ʻNanotechnology and the Double Helixʼ, Scientific American, vol. 290, no. 6, 2004, pp. 65–75; Daniel A. Heller et al., ʻOptical Detection of DNA Conformational Polymorphism on Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubesʼ, Science, vol. 311, no. 5760, 2006, pp. 508–11; Steen Rasmussen et al., ʻTransitions from Nonliving to Living Matterʼ, Science, vol. 303, no. 5660, 2004, p. 936. See also Bernard Yurke et al., ʻA DNAFuelled Molecular Machine Made of DNAʼ, Nature 406, August 2000, pp. 605–8; and Andrew Turberfield, ʻDNA as Engineering Materialʼ, Physics World, vol. 16, no. 3, March 2003, pp. 43–6. Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical tubes of hexagonally organized carbon atoms more than ten thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. They can be ʻgrownʼ through induced self-organization in a laboratory. On the speculative performance of the ʻalready unfoldingʼ future in what he calls ʻnanorhetoricʼ, see Colin Milburn, Nanovision, forthcoming from Duke University Press.

5. ^ Geoffrey A. Ozin and André C. Arsenault, Nanochemistry: A Chemical Approach to Nanomaterials, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, 2005, p. 32.

6. ^ Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker, Indiana University Press,

Bloomington, 1995, p. 177. Cited hereafter in text as FCM.

7. ^ Akira Lippit, Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2000; Giorgio Agamben, The Open: Man and Animal, trans. Kevin Attell, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2004). Derridaʼs seminar on ʻThe Beast and the Sovereignʼ took place at the University of California at Irvine, 2002–04. The seminar is as yet unpublished.

8. ^ Agamben, The Open, p. 92. Cited hereafter in text as TO.

9. ^ Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1998. Cited hereafter in text as HS.

10. ^ Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus, trans. Richard Beardsworth and George Collins, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1998. Cited hereafter in text as TT. Jean-Luc Nancy, The Sense of the World, trans. Jeffrey S. Librett, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1997. Cited hereafter in text as SW.

11. ^ Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1962. On anticipation, see paragraphs 61 and

62. ^

On falling and thrownness, see paragraph 38.

12. ^ Van Uexküllʼs description of the tickʼs Umwelt is quoted by Agamben in The Open, p. 46.

13. ^ Sarah Tomlin defines such so-called ʻsmart materialsʼ in a manner that precisely evokes Heideggerʼs determination of living being as ʻnot without accessʼ to an environment by which it is bound in captivation: ʻTo qualify as truly “smart”, a material has to sense changes in its environment and respond to them in an appropriate way. It must also do this reliably, over and over again.ʼ See ʻGetting to Grips with Smart Materialsʼ, Nature: Materials Update, April 2002, [archive]–4.html (accessed 15 May 2006).

14. ^ On the rhetoric of ʻpostbiological lifeʼ and of the ʻpostvitalʼ that accompanies nanotechnologyʼs disintegration of the organism, see Colin Milburn, ʻNano/Splatter:

Disintegrating the Postbiological Bodyʼ, New Literary History 36, 2005, pp. 283–311.

15. ^ Minoru Taya, ʻBio-inspired Design of Intelligent Materialsʼ, Smart Structures and Materials 2003: Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices, July 2003, pp. 54–65.

16. ^ Yung Joon Jung et al., ʻAligned Carbon NanotubePolymer Hybrid Architectures for Diverse Flexible Electronic Applicationsʼ Nano Lettters, vol. 6, no. 3, 2006, pp. 413–18.

17. ^ Taya, ʻBio-Inspired Designʼ, pp. 54–5.

18. ^ Yukinori Koyama et al., ʻHarnessing the Actuation Potential of Solid-State Intercalation Compoundsʼ, Advanced Functional Materials 16, 2006, p. 498. The authors note that such materials ʻcould enable generalized, large-scale structural actuation, future applications of which could include shape-morphing hulls and wings for air and water vehicles, robotics, and other ʻsmartʼ or adaptive structuresʼ (492).

19. ^ University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ʻDNAwrapped Carbon Nanotubes Serve as Sensors in Living Cellsʼ, Science Daily, 27 January 2006, [archive] (accessed 20 May 2006).

20. ^ Daniel A. Heller et al., ʻOptical Detection of DNA Conformational Polymorphism on Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubesʼ, Science, vol. 311, no. 5760, 2006, p. 510.

21. ^ See the Center for Embedded Network Sensing homepage at [archive],43783&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL.

22. ^ Gregory B. Olson, ʻDesigning a New Material Worldʼ, Science, vol. 288, no. 5468, May 2000, pp. 993–8.

23. ^ One of the clearest descriptions of the STM and its applications is provided by Charles Lieber in ʻScanning Tunneling Microscopyʼ, Chemical & Engineering News, April 1994, pp. 28–43. On atomic positioning, see Don Eigler, ʻFrom the Bottom Up: Building Things with Atomsʼ, in Gregory Timp, ed., Nanotechnology, Springer Verlag, New York, 1999, pp. 425–35.

24. ^ See Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust, Three Rivers,

New York, 2002.

25. ^ On the fabrication of the atomic IBM logo, see D.M.

Eigler and E.K. Schweizer, ʻPositioning Single Atoms with a Scanning Tunneling Microscopeʼ, Nature 344, 1990, pp. 524–6.

26. ^ Martin Heidegger, ʻThe Age of the World Pictureʼ, in The Question Concerning Technology, trans. William Lovin, Harper & Row, New York, 1977, pp. 135, 116, 154, 135–6; The Turningʼ in ibid., p. 42.

27. ^ Ibid., p. 131.

28. ^ Such a reading of the relation between the concepts Gegenstand and Objekt corresponds with Dominique Pradelleʼs assessment of their Kantian distribution, such that Gegenstand signifies the phenomenal object of appearance and Objekt signifies the noumenal thingin-itself. My reading of Heideggerʼs formulations intends to be rigorously, if perhaps counter-intuitively, true to this conceptual distribution: if it is Objekt that signifies the thing-in-itself, it is the representation of the thing-in-itself as Objekt that converts it into an object for a subject, or Gegenstand. See ʻGegenstand/Objektʼ, trans. David Macey, from Vocabulaire Européen des Philosophies: Dictionnaire des Intraduisibles, ed. Barbara Cassin, in Radical Philosophy 139, September/October 2006, pp. 21–31. 29. Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen, Zone, New York, 1999, pp. 155–6.

30. ^ K. Eric Drexler, ʻMachines of Inner Spaceʼ, in Nanotechnology Research and Perspectives: Papers from the First Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology, ed. B.C.

Crandall and James Lewis, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1992, p. 326.

31. ^ This article is drawn from the first chapter of a dissertation project entitled ʻThe Materials: Technoscience and Poetry at the Limits of Fabricationʼ, which attempts to construct the conditions of such an

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