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Experience, time and the religious: from classical subject to technological system.

The notion of experience has long been central to social and cultural theory. Perhaps most centrally we have encountered it in Walter Benjamin's notion of 'shock experience'. (1) Shock experience is central to Benjamin's understanding of urban modernity. In shock experience everyday continuity and predictability is interrupted by the quick and jarring succession of movements of, for example, the automobile assembly line or the succession of images in cinema. This sort of experience is rendered in German as Erlebnis and we encounter it more recently in the sociological work of Gerhard Schulze on 'Die Erlebnisgesellschaft'. (2) But there is another equally central notion of experience, this time as the German Erfahrung. This is less the shock of a succession of experiences, but the sort of empirical experience upon which knowledge is grounded. We encounter it at the outset of modernity in Francis Bacon's thinking on the experiment in scientific method: indeed in French the English 'experiment' is rendered as l'experience. And it appears, as empiricism becomes more explicitly formulated, in Locke and in Hume. Both Erlebnis and Erfahrung, as all experience must be, are very much based on perception. But Erlebnis is experience as immediate perception of, for example, the spectacular, that is connected with the disruption of the everyday. (3) The second kind of experience (Erfahrung) is also a question of sense perception, yet is tied into knowledge and the process by which we acquire knowledge.

Both types of experience are an important stake in today's global information culture. The age of technological media gives us a society of the image, of the interface, of surfaces in which the volumetrism of classical and neo-classical columns is flattened out into the surface of Robert Venturi's decorated shed, (4) or the hundred foot high building side images of today's Downtown Los Angeles. (5) It gives us the proliferation of media screens, not just in private but in public spaces, the giant public World Cup screens in one hundred city central squares, electronic adverts, the subways full of smartphone screens, of iPads, Kindles, MacBook Air and a further array of portables. It is the interface society of Google Maps, satellite navigation and the proliferation of GPS apps. So we experience images more than ever, we experience interfaces; we experience, indeed, information. The very ubiquity of images made possible by technological media seems destined to end the age of reading: to inflate the imaginary at the expense of the symbolic as the image displaces narrative and discourse. The book, as in Walter Benjamin's reflections on the novel in 'The Storyteller' brings to bear a certain temporality of experience. Benjamin's novel incorporates the finitude of a life, the finitude and impending end or death of the narrative, the protagonist, the author and the reader: the author writing against his own death. (6) Yet the images and information of our technological media are spatially ubiquitous, and temporally, in contrast to the novel's finitude, seemingly infinite. To die online is at the same time somehow not to die at all. As death's future partakes of a (this time secular) infinite, memory as preserved in software, hardware and share-ware recedes into an infinite past. Knowledge itself, so central to any substantial thinking of experience also takes on temporality. The power of knowing becomes a question of random access memory. There is a re-birth of knowing through Platonic anamnesis: through an unforgetting that is incorporated in a million and one storage devices.

In technological media's virtual society, we seem even to experience virtually. Taken more seriously, this is a contradiction in terms, because by definition we can only experience what is actual. Yet we encounter, we engage--it seems chronically--with a dimension beyond the actual, beyond the appearances of the object. In our most systematic thinker of experience, Immanuel Kant, experience entails objects. There is no experience without the object. Yet contemporary art--and its 'shock of the new'--overwhelms our faculty of perception in what Jean Francois Lyotard called variously the 'post-modern' and 'technological sublime'. (7) Further, contemporary art--whether in performance, multimedia installations or site-specific interventions--is famously art without objects: it is post-object art. Indeed conceptual art does not address the sensibility, goes not through the materiality of perception, but connects us directly to the realm of concepts. Artistic experiment here is disconnect with sense data and is in this sense beyond experience. The centrality of algorithms to new media also takes us to a place that is beyond experience. Software writers write algorithms that generate the data the words, images and sounds we encounter on the screen. We encounter an interface but we never experience--we never encounter--an algorithm. Our cities and city planners often think thinking in terms of fractals and fractal geography. For example urban sprawl is commonly analysed in terms of fractals. (8) Yet we never see these fractals, which instead are generative or underlie urban experience. This essay will investigate the nature of such 'technological experience'.

To address experience is always to take a position with respect to Immanuel Kant. In what follows I want to give an account of Kant's notion of experience (Erfahrung). Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is about the conditions of possibility of experience, which is defined in terms of 'a priori synthetic judgements'. There is more than experience as stake here. And this is because the fundamental condition of possibility of experience is the modern subject itself. Thus in the Critique of Pure Reason, where we find what classically constitutes experience, we also find the most analytically incisive conceptualization of the modern subject. Kant defines the modern subject as the 'unity of apperception'. The Kantian unity of apperception is the basis for the modern subject as formulated in Hegel, Marx and Weber.

I will then address technological experience as theorised by phenomenology, and in particular Bernard Stiegler's Heidegger-influenced work on technics and time. (9) Here time is just as important as technics. If Kant's subject and its experience take place through and in time, then for Heidegger and Stiegler, experience--and subjectivity--fundamentally is time. (10) What Stiegler does is to recast this temporal subject of experience as technological. Stiegler and particularly Heidegger understand this temporality of experience in terms of the imagination or the imaginary. This stands in marked contrast to what might be now the dominant paradigm in cultural and social theory, which features not the imaginary but the real. Thus for Badiou, (11) Lacan and Zizek, if capitalist domination works through ideology and the symbolic, then the attack on such domination will take place through the real. Cultural studies for decades--from the time of for example Pam Cook's Cinema Book (12)--has understood the imaginary as a site of the reinforcement or reproduction of dominant relations of class, gender, ethnicity in capitalism. This is the reproductive imaginary, whose conceptual basis is in the work of the early Lacan. (13) But Heidegger, Stiegler and others give us a very different concept of the imaginary or imagination: not a reproductive, but a productive imaginary. Kant's notion of experience, unlike empiricism, depends upon the a priori categories of 'the understanding'. These categories of the understanding are also very much a basis for the subsequent notion of the symbolic in social and cultural theory. So in a very important sense, there is a shift from Kant to phenomenology, in which experience and subjectivity is displaced from the symbolic to the imaginary.

In this context we critically address Badiou and implicitly what has come to be called 'speculative realism'. (14) Here we see that Badiou's notion of the real entails not a recasting of, but a 'subtraction' from experience. We will discuss this in Badiou's critique of Kant, and will follow this line of inquiry through critical consideration of Badiou's (15) and Zizek's (16) notion of the religious. This idea of the religious understands it--via St Paul's Christology--as the opening of a void in the multiplicity of the real: a subtraction from the unity of (symbolic) experience. In contrast we will further develop our notion of technological experience via another concept of the religious drawn from Philip K. Dick's very different Christology. (17) Here the Holy Spirit is reconceived as the experience of a technological system: of Dick's VALIS (vast, active, living, intelligence (information) system. Such a non-linear vital information system is itself temporal and is part and parcel of the late Dick's Gnostic Christianity. Badiou's and Zizek's Christology works primarily as a means of opening up a new politics, a 'new communism' of the real. In contrast Dick's Gnostic religious in conjunction with Stiegler's temporal technics gives us a phenomenological and machinic imaginary of communicational experience in our global information culture.


Kant's First Critique is notably an engagement with British empiricism and largely an endeavour to save knowledge from David Hume's scepticism. For Hume the empirical was a succession of sense representations that remained no more than associations, thus problematising any claims to causal knowledge. For Kant the empirical and indeed experience only exist when the concepts of the understanding impose a rule (of say, causation) on this succession of representations. For Kant an 'inner sense' (18) gives us this succession of representations (Vorstellungen). (19) Indeed time itself is a representation that provides a frame for the relation of representations in our inner state (p91). Kantian apodictic knowledge and experience are based on rule-bound determinations of 'the manifold' Mannigfaltige" (20) of appearances or representations. (21) The manifold consists of a succession of 'appearances', but these appearances only become 'empirical' for Kant, only become objects, when we determine them via the concepts of the understanding. The Kantian manifold thus consists of the intuition's indeterminate representations, and these only become empirical or experience when determined by the understanding. Kant insists on not just synthetic knowledge, but knowledge as incorporated in synthetic judgements. Knowledge and experience consist of 'a priori syntheticjudgements'. (22) Kant's idea of experience is perhaps best comprehensible in contradistinction to Francis Bacon. The Preface to the Second Edition of The Critique of Pure Reason speaks of the 'road to science', the 'sure path to science', via first the mathematics of the ancients (Greeks), but then via the natural science of the moderns, first and foremost in the publication of Bacon's Novum Organon in 1626. Indeed Kant himself saw the Critique of Pure Reason as establishing a third branch of science, after mathematical and natural science, i.e. metaphysics (p23). This third, metaphysical branch of science will also deliver certain or apodictic knowledge through experience. Whereas Kant started from the metaphysical, the apriori and judgement, Bacon started from the rejection of metaphysics. Bacon gives a, not a priori, but a posteriori knowledge based on, not judgement but 'experiment'. Bacon set up his 'new organon' in contraposition to Aristotle's Organon. Aristotle's students had collected all of his works on logic under the title of Organon, which is a tool or an instrument. If the old organon yields knowledge through logic, the new organon does so through experiments. Francis Bacon talks indeed about two modes of experience, one 'accident' and the other 'experiment'.

There remains simple experience; which, if taken as it comes, is called accident, if sought for, experiment. The true method of experience first lights the candle [hypothesis], and then by means of the candle shows the way [arranges and delimits the experiment]; commencing as it does with experience duly ordered and digested, not bungling or erratic, and from it deducing axioms [theories], and from established axioms again new experiments (Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, 1620).

If Aristotle's old organon contrasted accident with substance then Bacon's new organon will contrast accident and experiment. Experiment, (though guided by hypothesis and replication) is the thus the new substance. (23) Our point is mostly in regard to Bacon's contrast of 'sought for' experience versus 'as-it-comes' experience. Neither Baconian experiential mode entails judgment. Kant wants us to approach experience as a sort of tribunal. To seek for and to judge are two very different modes of endeavour or activity. To judge already presumes an a priori, already presumes metaphysics as the condition of possibility of experience and knowledge. (24)

The empirical for Kant is thus a question of judgement, a question of synthesis through the concepts of the understanding. By contrast empiricism would be prior to the understanding and a question of the mere association of representations in, not the understanding but the imagination. In the First Edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, in the section on the Transcendental Deduction of the Concepts of the Pure Understanding, Kant says that 'sense represents appearances empirically in perception' (p141). He says, further, that the imagination represents appearances in association. This means that the imagination brings together a representation from a past perception with a present perception's representation. This involves the imagination 'reproducing' the past representation to associate it with a present one. Thus the imagination is involved in a process of 'reproduction'. Finally, he writes of 'apperception', which is self-consciousness. Apperception is the fundamental principle of the understanding. It unifies the concepts or categories of the understanding in their synthetic application to the representations of sensibility--whether of perception or the imagination. He goes on to say that apperception in the empirical consciousness yields the identity of the reproduced representations with the appearances whereby they were given; that is, in recognition. Thus Kant conceives the a priori grounds of the possibility of experience in terms of the 'synthesis of apprehension' in intuition, the 'synthesis of reproduction' in the imagination and the 'synthesis of recognition' in a concept (pp131-33). In the synthesis of apprehension the intuition represents the raw material of perception in terms of the forms of time and space. But what about the imagination, which he says, works though a synthesis of association and reproduction? By reproduction in the faculty of imagination (Einbildungskraft) Kant means that a representation from the past is presented in 'association' with a contemporaneous representation (p132). This is consistent with Aristotle's view that imagination was always, by definition, of something not present to an individual. If it is before me, I cannot imagine it. If you cannot fantasise anything that is not before you, then you have no imagination. Kant notes that this association takes place in the sphere of sensibility, not in the sphere of thought. Kant does not do a lot with the Imagination. But it is important to us because of its use in modern and contemporary cultural theory.

The Kantian understanding, through its logical concepts and unified subject in the unity of apperception are similar to the notion of symbol or the symbolic in Lacan. (25) Lacan's symbolic bears a lot in common with Emile Durkheim's contrast of imagination and symbolic in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life." (26) Durkheim works systematically via a contrast between images and symbols in Elementary Forms; building in fact an, as it were, French rationalist critique of the British empiricist anthropologists. The British anthropologists understood totems as images, while for Durkheim they were symbols. Durkheim criticized the British anthropologists for thinking of such totems in terms of imitation. As we have seen already, Lacan understood the images from the mirror phase as emerging through imitation. Indeed Durkheim criticizes the British empiricists for their overvaluing of dreams in such imagings. This again is similar to Lyotard in Discours, figure, who contrasts a language-like and symbolic discursive with a figural that works through a logic of dreams. Finally Lacan's symbolic works not through this a posterior imitation of images but instead through the deductive logic of Saussurean langue. This symbolic deductivism is similar to the rites and rituals, which again deductively constitute the social symbolic in Durkheim. Indeed Durkheim literally understood his symbol as a social a priori. (27)

Symbols fix and images do not. All animals deal in the register of images, only humans in societies in the register of symbols. Durkheim identifies images with the representations of individuals, symbols with the representations of societies. Arguably contemporary societies are more societies of the image, and are constituted through a social imaginary as much or more than a social symbolic: this would seem to be consistent with trends to contemporary flimsiness of the social bond, the rise of individualization. Kant's logical concepts of the understanding work in terms of Verbindung. Now ' Verbindung' in everyday German can refer to a telephone connection. Communication-connections can break down in the context of social disorganization. Kantian concepts work as Verbindungen: they determine and fix representations. For Kant they fix perceptions to imagined representations from memory. What is the outcome though if concepts do not determine, or do not fully determine these representations of the imagination? What if they are left partly indeterminate, or overdetermined as in the dreams of unconscious mind. What if the synthesis of recognition does not take place? Or goes awry? What happens if mis-recognition takes place? Or disguise? What happens to such conceptual and even social Verbindungen? If the social symbolic is fixed, the social imaginary is more fluid, more protean, less determinate. What happens when experience refuses to come under the spell of judgment and insists instead on Baconian experiment? Is this the direction that technology and globalization are taking experience? The imaginary also does not have the unity that the symbolic has. It is no wonder that so much of postmodernism looks to be a question of images and the imagination. Even in semiotics, the image can iconically represent in the absence of a system. By contrast, the symbolic, langue and Kant's 'understanding' always require a system.

In the Critique of Pure Reason's Second Edition Kant specifically defines experience as 'empirical knowledge' and argues that such experience is constitutive of the object. This definition is in the context of the assumed unity of apperception. The Second Edition's section on the Deduction of the Pure Concepts of the Understanding is crucial here. It is the most fundamentally rewritten section of the Second Edition. Its focus is less on the categories of the understanding, but instead on this unity of apperception. In the First Edition Kant calls this primarily the 'transcendental unity of apperception'. He distinguishes transcendental from 'empirical consciousness of self which is according' to determinations of our state of inner perception and hence always changing. Kant's unity of apperception must be transcendental and a priori to yield the necessary stability 'and necessary unity of the synthesis of all appearances according 'to concepts, that is according to rules' (pp136-7). In the Second Edition he calls it mainly the 'synthetic unity of apperception'. The unity of apperception is synthetic in that it synthesises the manifold of representations. The intuition gives the manifold of representations. The understanding synthesizes this manifold. The understanding does this primarily through the unity of apperception. The unity of apperception is the ground of the categories' binding-action and the basis for the unity of experience. In the Second Edition, it seems to be the unity of apperception that is doing both the binding (synthesizing) and the unifying. This is much more than a condition of possibility but the very dynamic principle of the understanding's active work on the passivity of the intuition. The intuition passively represents, and the understanding actively (again through representations) synthesizes.

Kant's unity of apperception gives us a more consistently modern notion of the subject than the Cartesian cogito. Whereas Descartes retains the remainders of ancient thinking in conceiving the subject as thinking substance, what Kant does is to de-substantialize the subject. Kant is less concerned with what the subject is than with what the subject does. Kant claims that we can have knowledge through appearances, through experience. Modern subjectivity is quite incomplete without such experience. This is what is at stake in the synthetic dimension of the unity of apperception. Descartes gives us a unity of apperception: indeed, a transcendental unity of apperception. But such a unity of apperception relates to experience per se, only when it is synthetic. Indeed unity is already entailed in a priori apperception. Apperception is a priori self-consciousness, which, unlike empirical self-consciousness, is consciousness of a unified self. Kant underscored in the Critique of Practical Reason that the subject of the First Critique is in the realm of practice very much a subject of instrumental reason. Max Weber drew on this in Economy and Society in his analysis of the instrumentally rational actor that is at the same time the practical and rationally calculating subject of marginalist economics. At the same time, the Hegelian and Marxian subjects move from the sphere of knowledge to the very practical sphere of production, in which syntheses entail not knowing but actually producing the object. In the master-serf dialectic, the serf does not know but actually synthesizes the object. Here recognition is not understood in terms of Kant's model of the concept determining the content of the appearance's form and giving the object identity via the implicit background of the self-conscious identity of the unity of apperception. (28) It is instead understood in terms of recognition by the serf of his own self-consciousness and potential dignity. The serf, through his reason and work actually synthesizes and makes the object, and then recognizes his own identity, recognises himself as a unity of apperception in the object he makes. It is then that the master too must recognise the serf's identity. By the same token, we can the Marxian subject as a synthesizer of use-value and exchange value, engaged in the politics of recognition.

Kant compares intuition's categories of space and time with the understanding's unity of apperception. These are two principles at work in the intellectual work of understanding and two in the sensibility of the intuition. In the intuition there is, on the one hand, space and time and, on the other, the process of intuiting phenomena. In the understanding there is the unity of apperception and the logical categories' synthesizing process, which binds logical representations to intuited representations. The unity approaches these latter as a judge, its syntheses creating judgements as apodictically true statements. Space in general and time in general are representations that make it possible for sensibility to intuit the manifold as representations. Space and time's representations are indeterminate and empty forms. These empty forms are determined and given content by the 'spontaneous' activity of the understanding. And syntheses, a priori synthetic judgements, (29) constitute this active determination of intuitions. Kant describes the unity variably as the 'I', the 'I think' and the 'I am'. We might not be aware of our identity as a unified 'I', but nonetheless that representation of the 'I', which is a priori must be there alongside representations of such concepts as causality for knowledge to take place. Kant says in the Second Edition, where the unity is introduced as a 'principle', that the syntheses of the understanding's concepts are at the same time the synthesis of the unity, of the 'I think, in which the 'I' represents itself to itself. It represents itself as not an empirical but as an a priori 'I', existing before any empirical experience. (30)


Phenomenology puts temporality at the heart of experience. Husserl breaks with Newtonian time and its discrete moments. These moments of Newtonian time are in an important sense spatial in that moments are seen as 'points' in time. For Husserl when we perceive a thing or event, the moment of perception comprises not just a present, but an immediate past and future. This past is a 'retention' and the future a 'protention'. Husserl's consciousness, unlike Kant's unity of apperception (self-consciousness), is intentional to--and hence as it were 'coupled' with--its objects. (31) These objects are registered as experiences (Erlebnisse). For Ernst Tugendhat, Husserl's Erlebnisse are intentional acts. Husserl's consciousness is intentional in regard to its objects. It relates to its objects in intentional acts. These Erlebnisse are constitutive of its objects. Husserl's notion of intentionality is taken from the psychology of Franz Brentano. For Brentano psychological consciousness had many modes of intentionality towards its objects: for example, representation, judgement, love and hate. Tugendhat underscores the fact that consciousness is intentional only in the context of an 'intentional objectivity ("intentionale Gegendstandlichkeit). (32) What this means is that objects themselves as objects of consciousness must take on a certain intentionality. This is very unlike the passivity of the Kantian object.

Husserl, unlike Kant, wants to start from the immediate data of these experiences. He starts not with the categories of Kant's understanding, but instead reconstitutes knowledge through temporality. Husserl features the temporal moment of retention, of primary retention that becomes then also a question of memory. In Husserl we get ontological knowledge, not just the epistemological knowledge of things as they are for us, but of the things themselves. This does not happen through immediate experience or primary retention but through secondary retention. The phenomenological reduction becomes possible with secondary retention. (33) Secondary retention brings to bear memory from a previous experience onto the object now being experienced. (34) It comes from much more of a stored memory. Secondary retention is like the imagination. It is through memory, through the anamnesis of secondary retention that we have phenomenological knowledge. Heidegger takes a similar tack. Like Husserl, Heidegger largely breaks with the logical categories of the understanding in his Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, which he wrote at about the same time as Being and Time. Heidegger here relocates time from Kant's intuition to the schema of the imagination. For Heidegger it is protention that is largely at stake in Dasein's encounter with beings and in the ontological structure of Dasein. Thus in Being and Time Heidegger foregrounds 'anticipation' (primary protention), while some equivalent of secondary protention serves as the horizon of Dasein's singular death. (35)

It is here that Bernard Stiegler brings in technology, which is a question of a further, tertiary retention. If secondary retention comprises anamnesis through imagination, 'tertiary retention' presupposes the archiving of memory. Now memory must be sedimented, unlike in the elusive imaginary, in a more or less material substrate, from the signifiers of human language to a set of tools for making dishes and cups. Tertiary retention stores memory in an apparatus, in something like a system. If the imaginary is incorporated in secondary retention, then tertiary retention gives us the symbolic. In Lacan we have two notions of the symbolic. The first which corresponds to the fixity and unity of the Kantian subject which is the symbolic of the commodity and capitalist ideology, and a much more radically temporalized and less determinate symbolic. It is in this second symbolic that technics meets time. For Jacques Derrida such tertiary retention is ecriture, less determinate than langue or the symbolic in its temporalization through the deferral of meaning. Derrida's deconstruction also gives us an indeterminate tertiary protention of the promise of justice, this tertiary deferral of meaning onto, less an ethics than a Kantian and Messianic 'what can I hope'. Walter Benjamin's novel in 'Der Erzahler', which incorporates a future death of both author and reader is also an exploration of tertiary protention. (36)

To understand tertiary protention and technology Stiegler addresses the myths of Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus. Epimetheus in Greek means hindsight and Prometheus foresight. Prometheus and Epimetheus were Titans, sons of Kronus. In the Protagoras, Plato draws on this myth, in which Prometheus was delegated the task of handing out the negative--and Epimetheus the positive traits--to the newly created animals. When it came to the last animal, man Epimetheus, lacking foresight, had run out of positive traits. Consequently Prometheus stole fire and the civilizing arts from the gods to give them to man. Prometheus and his liver paid the price. But man was given the gift of tertiary retention (and protention), of technology. (37) Thus the constitutively temporal technology, stems for Stiegler from the Faute de Epimethee (Epimetheus' error). Epimetheus's error was at the same time man 's constitutive lack, and Prometheus filled this lack with technology. Similarly, philosophical anthropology and Arnold Gehlen have understood man in terms of his Instinktarmut. This poverty of instincts yields a void which is humanity's greatest point of vulnerability but also the source of its Faustian infinity of possibility. Cultural conservatives like Peter Berger and Mary Douglas propose covering man's constitutive lack, with religion's 'sacred canopy'. (38) For Stiegler that void is filled by technology: technology that constitutes an anamnesic archive in both Husserl's consciousness and the Freudian unconscious. The move from Husserl's pure consciousness to the empirical and very impure Freudian unconscious (as well as implicitly the very immanent constitutive lack of philosophical anthropology) is a further step on the route to the conceptual dissolution of Kant's unity of apperception, and the modern subject.

Technology as tertiary protention is a temporalization of a new dynamic symbolic of capitalist domination. It is a symbolic as becoming, through which we can understand equity derivatives and other complex financial products as systematised bets on the future, systematized in an applied mathematics for which Robert C and Myron Scholes were awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize for Economics. It is in this sense, in the technological society, that capital accumulates in the future. The point here is that tertiary protention is concretized in technologies; Merton and Scholes have provided a way of understanding and using stock derivatives such as futures options as just such technologies. As possible futures and as central to neo-liberal capitalism they serve very well as examples of Stiegler's tertiary protention. But technology (as tertiary protention/retention) is not just co-extensive with the symbolic. It is also at the heart of the real. Stiegler's work will also take the final step of dismantling Kantian subjectivity and experience, through his re-conception of Husserl's consciousness along the lines of Gilles Simondon's socio-technical system. We will move in the same direction in a rather different way below. (39)


Alain Badiou dismantles both experience and the subject through his ontology of infinity. This is a mathematics-based ontology. It is perhaps best comprehensible through its difference with the place of mathematics in Kantian experience. (40) When Kant initially addresses space and time in the Transcendental Aesthetic of The Critique of Pure Reason, what he give us is not, as one might expect, initially Newtonian time and Cartesian space. It is instead mathematical time and space. Hence space is conceived along the lines of the figure in Euclidean geometry and time in terms of the succession of the numbers of arithmetic. Most importantly these numbers and figures of mathematics are objects, like the bodies of physics. For Kant all mathematical knowledge is synthetic knowledge of figures and numbers: knowledge of mathematical objects. We see this in the Preface to the Second Edition. (41) Kant insists that experience is necessary for certain or apodictic knowledge. Kant is sure that we have two types of certain and apodictic knowledge, in mathematics and in physics. Unlike most of his contemporaries, who conceived of mathematics as analytic knowledge, Kant insists it comprises synthetic knowledge. For Kant we experience numbers and figures as objects. Kantian intuition comprises an outer and inner sense: the outer sense intuits the world spatially via geometrical figures; its 'inner sense' intuits it temporally as an arithmetic succession of numbers.

Logic for Kant thus consists of analytic and synthetic judgements. Now, both Jacques Lacan and Badiou deliberately break with Kant's mathematics of experience. We discussed above the fundamental homology between Kant's understanding and the symbolic in both Durkheim and Lacan. The Kantian nature of the sociologist's formulations is made explicit in Durkheim and Mauss's Primitive Classifications. (42) Durkheim's discussions in Elementary Forms share the subject-predicate logic of Kant's understanding, and there is a clear homology between them both and Lacan's explicitly linguistic, subject-predicate formulations of the symbolic. (43) Now this subject-predicate imbued symbolic, according to Lacan, is how capitalism constitutes its subjects. (44) As such Lacan seeks to dismantle the remainder of metaphysics at the levels of both thought and capitalist domination through a more multiple constitution of the subject in the real. Lacan understands this real in term of 'the matheme', and Badiou is fully attuned to Lacan's programme. Thus Lacan and Badiou need to--and this is the key point for us--break with experience. They need to 'subtract' subjectivity from experience. They thus understand knowledge and truth in terms of the subtraction from experience. This will comprise, for Badiou not just the truths of the sciences, but also of desire, of the arts and of politics. Lacan subtracts and de-substantialises his subject from the space of Kant's Euclidian geometry, relocating the subject in a topological non-figural geometry of the real, famously deploying the topology of the Borromean Knot as a figure of subjectivity itself. (45) In doing so he also kills off the last bit of metaphysics in the Freudian subject, by re-situating Freud's topography of experience in a topology that is subtracted from experience. For his part Badiou takes the finite number of Kantian time and relocates it in the Unendlichkeit of infinity. At the same time the subject is subtracted from the unity of the One and relocated in the multiplicity of an infinity of infinities. Badiou then engages in a further temporalization of reason and ontology.

Badiou draws on modern set theory to show that we have knowledge of the infinite. (46) This is not synthetic knowledge because, while we encounter the numbers and figures of Kantian time-space, we never encounter infinity. In comparison, even Deleuze and Heidegger still give us notions of synthetic knowledge. In Deleuze we have knowledge of the virtual through the actual, in Heidegger knowledge of being through beings. In both cases this is ontological knowledge: that is, knowledge of the Kantian thing-itself. What phenomenology and vitalism do for the thing-in-itself, Badiou does for the Kantian infinite: instead of infinity being only a Kantian 'regulative idea', Badiou shows that we do actually have knowledge of infinity. Set theory has shown that there are an infinity of infinities and that some infinities are larger than other infinities: for example the set of rational numbers is larger than the set of natural numbers though both are infinite. Cantor's set theory, as well as Riemann's geometry and topology, give us knowledge beyond experience. Thus Badiou breaks with Aristotelian experience (and language) for a real conceived in terms of the Platonic embrace of 'the geometers'. (47) Badiou's Platonism is extended and informed by his distrust of language and of law. With Lacan, for Badiou, language and law presuppose one another, in the coincidence of Oedipus complex resolution, the entry into the symbolic order of language and the acceptance of the law of the father. Badiou's Platonism extends to the rejection of language and linguistic thinking: for him, language as such is Sophistic. (48) This assumption informs his break with Kant's categorical logic. Since Gottlob Frege's late nineteenth century foundational intervention, modern logic has been mathematical. (49) Badiou extends this position in order to reject Heidegger's linguistic and poetic opening onto ontology.

Badiou's programme is to replace the 'One' of Western metaphysics, both ancient and modern, with multiplicity: to develop an ontology of multiplicity. For him, following Althusser, scientific revolutions precede and largely constitute revolutions in philosophy. According to his account, the path-breaking scientific revolution of a later modernity, following Newtonian physics and Darwinian biology, is Cantor's mathematics. If Kant wrote in the footsteps of Newton, Badiou philosophizes in the footsteps of Cantor and Frege. If Kant used Newton to develop a space in which metaphysics or philosophy could pursue the road to Wissenschaft then Badiou uses Cantor to revolutionise ontology altogether. The existence of an infinity of infinities shows no version of the One, whether substance or subject, Being or Dasein, can any longer be at the heart of ontology. If there are an infinity of infinities, then being must be multiple, and subjectivity traversed by this multiplicity. (50) If we as subjects are ensconced in the space and time of experience, whether this is philosophical, political, religious, aesthetic or amorous, then subjects are slaves to the logic of the One. Subjects must subtract themselves from such experience in order to engage with truth and not sophistic language in these various spheres.

The rejection of the One of Greek metaphysics is also for Badiou a rejection of the One of the Judaeo-Christian God. Neither is consistent with modern mathematics' natural infinity. Badiou must equally fully break with phenomenology because he encounters objects and beings from the standpoint of subtraction. Badiou is not interested in apodictic knowledge. For him, philosophy and ontology address not knowledge but truth. Being is multiple, and truth in mathematics is less about exact knowledge than Godelian incompleteness. Kantian knowledge takes place via rules that bind the understanding with the intuition's appearances. Badiouan truth presumes procedures that subtract from appearances and experience. These procedures do not apply to any thing at all. Badiou's rejection of experience in Kantian understanding and the symbolic drives his critique of (Pharisaic) law in his book on Saint Paul. Paul, previously Saul the Pharisee moves beyond law, beyond rules to a direct engagement and faith in God. To reject Pharisaic Law is to support the Christology: the predominance of faith in the Gospel of John rather than the more rule bound Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The Synoptics base the sacred on appearances such as miracles. Unlike John, they are 'experiential' Gospels. For Badiou Paul stands in the place of infinity. If Judaism gives us a fully transcendental God and hence only the possibility of infinity as horizon, then Paul and Christ instantiate infinity traversing the here and now, traversing the 'situations' we are engaged in. Thus Paul, in opposition to Pharisaic rules, embraces this infinity. (51) Unlike the postponement of the infinite in the Judaic end of time, Christianity brings the infinite to the here and now. Yet redemption is not to be achieved by following rules and codes, like Max Weber's Protestant entrepreneur: it is through faith, through an engagement with the infinite beyond experience.


Badiou is a Platonist. (52) Yet his idea as multiple and infinite must at the same time be material. For him, the material concreteness of every 'situation' is somehow carved out of this infinite multiplicity. There are pronounced parallels with Philip K. Dick's thinking in his last novels, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and VALIS. Like Badiou, Dick identifies with Saint Paul against Pharisaic and Roman law. As in Badiou, Christ and Paul very much serve as markers for infinity. As in Stiegler and Badiou there is a certain marked Platonism at work, although it is expressed in terms which are closer to Stiegler's description of anamnesis than to Badiou's account of the full subtraction from experience. Anamnesis is presupposed by Plato's a priori ideas. Either knowledge for Plato's Socrates is found somewhere in something and is thus a posteriori, or knowledge is something we already had and only need to recall. In this sense a priori knowledge is anamnesic. Further, this anamnesic a priori partakes of the infinite. So we can possess it in our knowledge, although we have never learnt it. Thus in Plato's Meno a slave youth is coached by Socrates to remember geometric principles he had never learnt. This knowledge from the past of an immortal soul is somehow always already there. Thus Horselover Fat, protagonist of Dick's VALIS, has a sort of Road-to-Damascus experience, after which could speak in tongues that he never had learnt. (53)

In the technological age, such infinite memory is materialized. This ideational knowledge is materialized in the gene pool, in information, in hardware, in the laser-beams carrying materially-based information in Dick's novels. In VALIS, Horselover Fat is in and out of psychiatric hospitals, in each case assuming that to heal the soul is to heal the body. The protagonists of both Transmigration and VALIS experience their own Annunciations through the material: Fat through a laser beam fired from a distant and future planet, Timothy Archer through a God imbued psilocybin-like mushroom. For both, salvation is bodily. In this sense Dick--unlike Badiou--offers a return to experience. This is a very unKantian experience of, not synthesis of the material by concepts, but the fusion of the conceptual-spiritual and the material.

Dick's own life was pervaded by religious experience, and he conceives Christ as the fusion of the material and the immaterial. Unlike God the Father who is only transcendental, Christ is a transcendental-material double. Even before finding a host on earth in a Son of Man, Dick's holy was material: was information. Christ is only one of a long line of such hosts, the last of which is Horselover Fat or Dick himself. God is VALIS for Dick--a vast active living intelligence system. God is an information system: a non-linear system, always in process. Gnosticism presumes a blind and mechanical creator God. Here Gnostic redemption comes through not just engagement with, nor just faith in and love of God. Salvation comes through knowing God. As in the myth of Daedalus the artificer--who crafts the wings that his son Icarus uses to fly too close to the sun--Dick's characters get very badly burnt in their attempts and successes in knowing and even (as a mushroom) eating God. This is a last step in the defiance of the Kantian assertion of the unknowability of real things. With Husserl/Heidegger we come to know the thing-itself, with Badiou we know the infinite, with Dick we come to know God. This coming to know God is an acquisition of knowledge through experience: religious experience. It is an example of synthetic a priori thought, but surely not of judgement; rather than you synthesizing the object, it is this very material God who synthesizes you. Thus the laser beam transfixes and synthesizes Horselover Fat, a scene exemplifying the ways in which Dick's characters meet their fate in the attempt to know God. We break with the imperatives of law to know Christ-in-Himself, to know Christ as transcendental-material double. This informational and material Christ is reminiscent of Rudolf Bultmann's uberChristianity, whose Gnostic overtones have troubled Benedict Ratzinger. (54) Such a perspective rejects both Protestantism's rule-bound entrepreneurship and its transcendental God in favour of a Catholic immanentism very close to that of Marshall McLuhan, for whom the Baroque light stained glass window--through which light passes, rather than shining directly onto objects below--prefigured the energetics of modern media. (55)

A 'vast active living intelligence system' is at the centre of Dick's notion of the religious, and for the purposes of this paper, a Dickian notion of experience. Though Dick was a science-fiction novelist, I am arguing that this concept is of use for social and cultural theory, opening up a productive way to theorise experience in the age of technological media which is consistent with the way I have drawn on Stiegler above. What I am suggesting is that Stiegler's phenomenology and Dick's Christology can give us a window onto the nature of experience in the contemporary age. I am not arguing for the validity of Gnosticism, but suggesting that thinking through an active living intelligence system as a world that always was in the absence of a Creator God, has important heuristic value for thinking through the swarms, crowds, atmospheres and networks of contemporary information society. Phenomenology takes us part of the way from Kant's classical subject to the contemporary socio-technical system. In making this case, I am not claiming that Kant's linking of experience and the subject was wrong, but only that it is no longer adequate because subjectivity itself has changed. Kant gives us a fulfilled subject, a subject of plenitude, whose experience is governed by the understanding, or what would today--as argued above--be understood as the symbolic. The symbolic in Lacan and Durkheim subsumes particulars under general concepts. The Kantian understanding also lays the grounds for such subsumption. Contemporary cultural theory understands subjectivity--from Derrida to Deleuze to Lacan and Badiou, not in terms of not plenitude but void, not unity (identity) but multiplicity. For example the classical subject is characterised by the plenitude of, say, Rousseauan natural rights, whereas the concept of human rights since World War II has been marred by the void of the Camps that is quintessentially registered by Liebeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin. (56) This essay tracks the movement of subjectivity away from its constitution in the symbolic and the understanding, but our argument is that this need not entail a break with the concept of experience.

Bernard Stiegler, as mentioned above, begins from the very immaterial understanding of subjectivity posited by phenomenology, according to which what consciousness deals with is thought objects; it then shifts register to an effective machine phenomenology, drawing on Simondon. A similar non-linear systems phenomenology emerges in the neuro-phenomenology of Francisco Varela and in Niklas Luhmann phenomenology of communication-systems. In Varela, consciousness becomes a neuronal system, fusing mind and brain. This conception, although materialist, is infused with Varela's Buddhist spirituality. Following Luhmann, it is just a short step from Dick's vast active living information system to the displacement of consciousness by a socio-technical system. Here consciousness is a non-linear socio-technical system. This system, embodying an inner- time consciousness carries out phenomenological reductions that are at the same time communications. These are productive communications such that experience is at the same time production--the production of media, the production of urban space. This brings us back to the above-discussed philosophical anthropology in which humans, unlike other animals, are inscribed with an instinctual poverty, an inherent lack. For Stiegler, the Epimethean lack is exactly where technology emerges: technology which is at once informational and material. This technological supplement develops in this space of human lack until it outstrips humanity altogether. In its technological self-consciousness it and humans themselves become systemic. The socio-technical system now performs its phenomenological reduction in regard to something that is neither object nor a being but instead, as we see in Luhmann, its environment. (57) Now temporal reduction takes place through information exchange between system and environment, operating with other systems in the environment through a process of co- evolution. This structural coupling of such co-evolutionary systems occurs at the level of the non-experienced, the structures at stake being topological in space and infinite in time. (58) Elsewhere we have seen that global culture industries work through such structural coupling with the social imaginary, the coupling occurring at the level not just of the intelligible but of perception: at the level of the imaginary of a meta-stable memory. This imaginary works through the association of phenomena and is thus fundamentally also empirical, hence quintessentially experiential; although ontological, it operates at the level of less the intelligible than the sensible. This is experience in an age of technological media. What we posit here is not, pace Heidegger, ontology against technology: it is a technological ontology.

When Dasein and phenomenology become technological, the distinction between experience and non- experience is effaced. Now not just the ontic but the ontological, comes under the spell of technology. Both Heidegger and Badiou in their commentaries on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, displace (as Kant implicitly did) the importance of the twelve neo-Aristotelian categories of the understanding with a general notion of 'rules', of rules that connect subject and object. Subsequent analysts have made the distinction in such a context to constitutive rules and regulative rules. If we displace the Kantian and even Heideggerian humanist subject with technological subjectivity, then both subject and object come to be seen as such socio-technical systems. If we understand the object as technical system, then at the centre of its being are neither constitutive rules nor regulative rules, but generative rules. Thus with, Alan Turing, we can view the object as a technological system in terms of the generative rules, the algorithms that drive the system. The algorithm at the heart of the system is--as it were--the being of the system. Computer science thus comes not from the study of literature or language, but from mathematics. In the space of our constitutive lack we find not language, but the mathematical. This is not pure mathematics, which is for Badiou a science of nature, but instead the applied mathematics of the 'how to': the recipe, the algorithm. Indeed, a number of struggles in contemporary capitalism are as much around the code (algorithm) as around the commodity. The (socio-technical and bio-technical) code is a commodity-generator. These are then struggles over the mathematical infinite of the beyond-experience.

This technological effacing of the distinction between experience and non-experience is at the heart of struggles around open-source software and the open knowledge economy in general. We might be able to see the forms generated by genetic algorithms, but if we can write the algorithm then we can actually re-create the objects.

It is in the context of this emergent possibility that we can see the possibly convergence of the politics of open source with a new post-Keynesian politics of public goods. Public goods were originally social goods established to counteract the negative externalities of capitalism. Today, we can see the production of public goods as information goods as equivalent positive externalities. (59) Neo-liberalism, unlike liberalism, is based on competition between monopolies. At stake here is a monopoly less on manufacturing property than on intellectual property. We might say with, Proudhon, that intellectual property is theft: theft of the algorithm from the public domain.

In today's cognitive capitalism, cognition operates very differently from the ways that it did in the Kantian Galaxy. Cognition now takes place through a networked technological subjectivity and can result in the production of public goods. In the technological age, a networked self-organizing subjectivity encounters an informational self-organizing object. Crucial to this encounter is the right to the algorithm. Thus in December 2010 antitrust authorities announced a full probe into allegations that Google had abused its dominant position in the internet search market and thus was in breach of European competition rules. Here 'lawyers involved believe that allegations related to Google's search system are the most damaging'. The point there is the question of 'how online search is conducted'. At stake are 'Google's search results based on its proprietary algorithms', while 'how its search ranking works is still largely a secret'. (60) This is a dispute over, not 'the what' of a previous manufacturing capitalism, but of the 'how' (and the algorithm is a 'how') of today's cognitive capitalism. (61) The late Heidegger of 'The Question concerning Technology' was hostile to cybernetics. Yet it makes sense to see the Heidegger's early work and that of Alan Turing as two nearly contemporaneous interventions, both working to temporalize the concept of experience. The early Heidegger dismantles the fixity of categorical determination for the becoming of time. Turing only a decade later publishes 'On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem'. Here Turing was giving a sort of solution to Godel's work on the limits of proof and computation. Godel is integral to Badiou's post-object mathematics. Yet Godel's beyond-experience infinity constitutes the ontological structure of Turing's universal machine. Thus Turing radicalizes Heidegger's temporal critique. But where Badiou finds his temporal infinity in nature, Turing finds his in technology.

Turing accomplishes this by incorporating post-Cantorian mathematics into his understanding of the algorithm and the universal machine. The only problem with his approach is that in his account of the universal machine, Turing assumes an infinitely long tape, which simply dos not exist in any empirical intelligent machine. (62) Thus, at the heart of the algorithm, we find both infinity and finitude at the same time; and experience in technological forms of life is at the same time finite and infinite. However, socio-technical forms of life come to efface the distinction between the finite and the infinite. For the classically modern subject God is infinite, the object is finite and man is--as Foucault notes--simultaneously infinite and finite: he is the transcendental-empirical double. (63)

Contemporary cultural theory, this writer included, seems obsessed by the religious, and the advent of mathematical infinity and its cultural-theoretical incorporation by Badiou makes the question of the religious ever more pressing. The value of Dick's Christian Gnosticism is that it relocates the infinite at the core of technology. The young Augustine was arguably precursor of Dick in being at once Pauline and Gnostic. The struggle around Gnosticism in Christianity that was only resolved in the Fourth Century. For the Gnostics the gospel's good news was the eschatology of the Second Coming; for the consolidating Church it was the already-happened salvation of the individual soul. The Gnostics with Marcion and the younger Augustine were eschatological. But eschatology lost out, as the Church focussed on the salvation of individual souls and the eschatological came to be seen in terms of fear of the Apocalypse, although at the end of the Middle Ages there was--according to Hans Blumenberg--a second 'Gnostic' moment. (64)

In the modern era God and Church come to be understood in terms of such an arbitrary will that nature takes on a radical contingency. This is the main distinction between Western modernity and Antiquity: in antiquity there was order in nature, while in the era of modernity nature comes to be seen as disordered and contingent. Thus modernity needs to impose order. In the absence of any order in nature, the subject needs even to constitute the object. This the context for the development of Kant's theory of the unity of apperception and its corresponding instrumental rationality. This is the context in which Gnostic Dick can see this world, the demiurge-created finite world as blind, mechanistic and legal-deterministic. Dick's eschatology is predicated on the idea of God as a vast active and living intelligence system. The world to come (and for us critique itself) is for Dick not finite but infinite. In this infinite, self-organizing information system, the information is alive. As living systems these would need to be, not just infinite, but at the same time finite. For Dick it is Christ, the Son of Man and surely not God the father (who is understood as the gnostic demiurge) who embodies and ensouls this vast active living intelligence system. Christ is, at the same time, not just the good news, but also the information. In The Order of Things Michel Foucault, classical experience and the Kantian subject appear as man: man as the transcendental-empirical double. In technological experience this transcendental-empirical double (as eschatological critique) is Christ. After humanism and after finitude, this transcendental-empirical is the information.

We have talked about time, experience and technology in this essay. We have fleshed this out through a sort of 'techno-gnosticism' drawing on Philip K. Dick. Let me here set out this position a bit more explicitly. Let me do this in contrast to Badiou's and Zizek's 'evental theology'. Let me in particular draw on the very serious arguments by Zizek in The Monstrosity of Christ. What Badiou develops in regard to St Paul, Zizek does in more theologically sophisticated arguments in regard to Christ. Both Badiou/Zizek and Dick and I endorse a sort of materialist theology in which the subject emerges as a multiplicity. Our difference with Badiou/Zizek is mainly that their materiality and multiplicity is beyond experience in the real, while ours is experienced via perception and the imaginary. Let us look more closely at Zizek. According to his understanding, multiplicity only appears as a subtraction from identity or unity via the event, while our concept of multiplicity is rooted in everyday experience. Zizek in Monstrosity is with Dick--and this essay's 'information theology'--in his focus on Christianity as a religion of the Son. Zizek contrasts this with centrality of God the Father in Orthodox Christianity, in which Christ is the Son of God but does not take on the materiality of the Son of Man. (65) Dick and Zizek are at one in this sort of Son-of-Man materialism. This stands also in contrast to Orthodox Christianity inasmuch as the Holy Spirit is something that emanates not from God the Son but from God the Father. The classical Western Christianity position is that the Holy Spirit is some combination of Father and Son. Now this is important, because, As Milbank elsewhere notes, the Holy Spirit is understood to be the spiritual glue which holds the community of believers together. (66) Here community is understood in terms of Hegel's Sittlichkeit, what Hegel saw as ethical substance or ethical life. What this stands in opposition to is capitalism itself, which for Hegel is more or less synonymous with civil society (burgerliche Gesellschaft).

So clearly Holy Spirit is at the centre of this. Here Milbank is with Dick (and Hegel) in understanding the Holy Spirit to consist not of the unity of Father and Son, but of the materiality, the flesh and blood, the bread and wine of the Son himself. Further, Dick and Zizek both have an affinity with Meister Eckhart and the Gottesfreunde. Eckhart's Gottesfreunde appear from time to time in Dick's late novels, like Divine Invasion. (67) Meister Eckhart, on whom Heidegger drew, is at the heart of Zizek's reading of Hegel, and in particular Eckhart 's notion of the Godhead (Gottheit). Here the Godhead is the original multiplicity, the original contingency from which the God of Thomist substance emerges. (68) Here Zizek's Godhead is already the self-alienated subject. This is Zizek's admittedly one-sided reading of Hegel's notion of Absolute Spirit. For Zizek, what comes first is the multiplicity, i.e. the void of what he and Badiou with Lacan understand as the real. This original multiplicity is what gives rise to the substantial unity of the One, of God as substance. Yet, in Zizek's Hegel, this Absolute Spirit remains shot through with this contradiction which is the combination of void and substance, multiplicity and unity. The space of the real, of the multiplicity, of the void is also the opening of the event. This event is less strictly temporalised in Zizek than it is in Badiou, for whom the event constituting the Holy is Paul's declaration of Christ's Resurrection. Zizek's void is fundamentally Protestant--in contrast to Milbank's and Benedict's much more Catholic God as plenitude and gift. Milbank's God gives, Zizek's ('subtracts or) takes away. Zizek's event is this taking away, this 'kenosis' or emptying out (pp57-8). Thus Zizek's Hegel is thoroughly Kierkegaardian: of the dark night of the soul. With Absolute Spirit as a contradictory unity of void/multiplicity and substance, Christ as God's Son and as Son of Man is riven through by this same self-alienation, and so is the human subject, which is not a self-identical possessive individual, but instead the self-different subject of Lacanian lack. What counts for Zizek, pace Badiou is not the Death and Resurrection but the Incarnation (p37). God dies with the Incarnation, and with the Death and Resurrection the Son and Father are reconciled (and Christianity is all about the reconciliation of God and humanity).

But where does that leave Dick? As a Gnostic he is even more hostile to the creator God, the demiurge, than is Zizek. If the demiurge translates Plato's forms into material forms which are as close as possible to the unity of the good in material life, this for Dick and Gnosticism is nonetheless a malevolent and evil mechanism. Dick's is not a self-contradictory God riven by the ontological difference of void and being, but instead it a, a multiplicity conceived not as not void but as plenitude: as self-organizing and living swarm of information. This for Dick is also what the world is: a world that is not created but instead always was. There is no creator God for Dick, just a world that always was, that now and again produces material-immaterial figures of whom Christ is only one example. If the void is time, the multiplicity-time of number, for Badiou's evental Christianity, then time in Dick's information theory is the temporality of the swarms, the self-producing systems themselves. Time (and evental Christianity) is here beyond experience. Indeed Kierkegaard's void becomes is what Heidegger comes to understand as 'death': instead of the void of self-difference operating in the everyday, it comes at the end of human life and constitutes us (but not other animals) as finite.

What is at stake in Dick's techno-Gnosticism and the media theory at the heart of this paper is not a temporality that is beyond experience, but one that we very much do experience. A such, the argument of this paper's conceptualisation of temporality, technology and experience is directly at odds with 'evental realism'. For Dick, the creating Demiurge is not a real that is subtracted from experience, nor--if we want to Deleuzian terms--is it a virtual subtracted from the actual (which is what the event is for Deleuze). (69) Instead it is understood as a fusion of virtual and actual, of material and immaterial, in an active living intelligence system, in which subjects are joined with the technological. We experience this. We can know this. We know it not through the distance of Kantian categories, but through what starts out as immediate perception. In Dick, you taste God: theology is theophagy, not just in the case of sacramental wine and bread but also in that of the ecstatic mushroom. This is not transubstantiation but the de-substantiation of Christ--not as self-alienated subject--but as system--as vast active living intelligence or information system. It is the system that both experiences and is experienced.

The problem with the evental realism of Badiou and Zizek is its relentless apriorism. At the end of ever chain of conditions of possibility we fing the final a priori, which is the real itself: an unknowable and un-experienceable multiplicity.

Dick's information theology stands in stark contrast to this approach. Where for evental realism, God and the real are irreducibly transcendental, Dick's Christ is so empirical that we can know, taste and eat him. He is so empirical that with the destruction of the Creator God, God the Father disappears altogether, and all that is left is the very material, yet also spiritual, Son of Man. Without a Creator God we see that the world always was and that it stretches back infinitely in time.

Uma Thurman played a starring role in the Paycheck, the 2003 film scripted by Dick and directed by John Woo. Thurman, whose father is a Columbia University professor and a leading Buddhist scholar, apparently saw a very pronounced Buddhist dimension in Dick. (70) Once we understand that the world always was, then we come to see God himself not as Creator but as a spirit-matter fusion of information systems that are also flows and clouds. This approach breaks with the dualism of transcendental and empirical in Western thought, the origin of which is essentially Christian rather than Greek; in the sense that nature and the empirical in ancient Greek thought are a more a matter of order and harmony than Christian chaos and contingency. Dick's breaking with this dichotomy yields a radical immanentism, one never realised in, say. Deluze, whose virtual-actual dichotomy simply repeats evental realism's distinction between the empirical and the transcendental. Numerous commentators have pointed to the commonalities between Buddhism and the religion of China, in particular Daoism. (71) According to Chinese religious traditions, the world always was, and Chinese religious metaphysics is characterised by an indifferentiation of empirical and transcendental. There once was a Chinese personal God, a shangdi ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) in pre-classical China, but well before the emergence of Daoism and Confucianism, Chinese religion comes to replaces this idea of God with the concept of heaven or tian ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), a spatiality, an adverbial presence. In much the same way, vaporous clouds and system and ether are the constitutive elements of Dick's information theology. In Daoism, the clear and distinct of the figure is always in a process of disintegration and becoming a void of indifferentiation. But at the centre of this void is not--as in Christian thought--contingency, or pure accident, nor the void to be found at the root of Badiou and Zizek's plenitude. At the core of Daoist disintegration is the Dao, and the Dao is both yin and yang: both the dark indifferentiation, the entropy of the yin, and the light, the negentropy of the yang. At the heart of the encompassing indifferentiation of the yin is already a new negentropy of the yang. At the heart of Daoist indifference is neither void not plenitude, but void- plenitude and plenitude -void. And this plenitude-void, which is always in process, is not actual: it is neither substance, nor identity nor the unity of the One. But it is nonetheless experienced. With the re-assertion of the East and the renewal of Asian cultural confidence, and with the coming ubiquity of clouds of mediated information, it is this kind of experience that is increasingly at stake in the everyday life--in art, media, society and politics--of our changing global order.


This essay is indebted to many long discussions with Yuk Hui. Various versions of this essay were given at The University of East London, Jena University and Lancaster University. The work on Philip K. Dick is inspired by and indebted to James Burton; see Burton, J. 'Machines Making Gods: Philip K. Dick, Henri Bergson and Saint Paul', Theory Culture & Society, 25, 7-8, (2008): 262-84.


(1.) Walter Benjamin, 'Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit', in Benjamin, Illuminationen. Ausgewdhlte Schriften I, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1977, pp136-169; Howard Caygill, Walter Benjamin. The Colour of Experience. London, Routledge, 1997.

(2.) Gerhard Schulze, Die Erlebnis-Gesellschaft. Kultursoziologie der Gegenwart. Frankfurt, Campus, 1993.

(3.) See also, Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2001 or Scott McQuire, Visions of Modernity: Representation, Memory, Time and Space in the Age of the Camera, London, Sage, 1997.

(4.) Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour Learning from Las Vegas, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1977.

(5.) Downtown Los Angeles is often capitalized in order to distinguish it from LA's other urban centre in west Los Angeles.

(6.) Walter Benjamin 'Der Erzahler. Betrachtungen zum Werk Nikolai Lesskows', in Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, Bd. II, 2, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1977, 438-465.

(7.) Jean Francois Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, Cambridge, Polity, 1993.

(8.) Mike Batty, Paul Longley and Stewart Fotheringham, 'Urban growth and form: scaling, fractal geometry and diffusion-limited aggregation', Environment and Planning A, 21, (1989): 1447-1472,

(9.) Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 1998.

(10.) The Heidegger text at the heart of this essay is (1990) Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Bloomington, IND: Indiana University Press, 1990.

(11.) See especially Alain Badiou, Being and Event, London, Continuum, 2005

(12.) Pam Cook (ed), The Cinema Book, London, BFI Publishing, 1985.

(13.) Jacques Lacan, 'Le stade du miroir comme formateur de la function du Je', Revue frangaise de psychanalyse, 4, Oct-Dec, (1949): 449-55, ('The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I', in J. Lacan, Ecrits, A Selection, London, Routledge, 1977, pp1-7).

(14.) See, Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, London, Continuum, 2008.

(15.) Alain Badiou, Saint Paul. The Foundation of Universalism, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 2003.

(16.) Slavoj Zizek and John Milbank, The Monstrosity of Chnst: Paradox or Dialectic?, Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press, 2009.

(17.) See Philip K. Dick, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, NY, Vintage, 1991 and VALIS. NY, Gollancz, 2001.

(18.) Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, London, Macmillan, 1929, p77.

(19.) Ibid, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Cologne, Anacaonda Verlag, 2009, 89.

(20.) Op. cit., Pure Reason, 1929, p146.

(21.) Das Mannigfaltige der Vorstellungen kann in einer Anschauung gegeben werden', Krtik der reinen Vernunft, op. cit., p146.

(22.) Also on Kant see Bernard Stiegler, La technique et le temps: 3. Le temps du cinema et la question du mal-etre, Paris, Galilee, 2001 (Technics and Time 3: Cinematic Time and the Question oof Malaise, Stephen Barker, trans), Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2011. This treats Kant's formulations in terms of technology. In the present essay I want to instead look at Kant in terms of classical modernity and Stiegler and Dick, etc. in terms of a contemporary, 'technological' modernity. I do agree that humans are always technological animals. But here I use technology to speak about a periodization from a 'classical' to a 'technological' modernity.

(23.) Francis Bacon The New Organon, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000,

(24.) In Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, judgement is based on the interaction of the faculties of the will and the understanding. Ideas, which are not active in the sense that judgement is, are based in the understanding and are innate.

(25.) The locus classicus is Jacques Lacan, 'Fonction et champ de la parole et du langue en psychanalyse', La Psychanalyse, 1: 81166, PUF 1956, Alan Sheridan (trans), in Ecrits, op. cit., 1977, pp30-113.

(26.) Emile Durkheim, Les formes elementaires de la vie religieuse, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1968.

(27.) Ibid., pp85-98. For an in depth account of this as well as Walter Benjamin's distinctions between image and symbol, see Scott Lash, Intensive Culture, London, Sage, 2010, pp79-83, 156-60; and of course Benjamin, Uber Sprache iiberhaupt und iiber die Sprache des Menschen', in Aufsdtze, Essays, Vortrdge. Gesammelte Schriften, Band II-l. Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1977.

(28.) Friedrich Hegel, Phdnomenologie des Geistes, Hamburg, Felix Meiner Verlag, 1988, 120f.

(29.) Frege used the term 'thought' (Gedanke) in p[ace of judgement (Urteil).

(30.) These are not empirical objects nor empirical consciousness as in psychology. Phenomenology unlike psychology presupposes pure consciousness intentional with objects of thought.

(31.) Ernst Tugendhat, Die Wahrheits Begriff bei Husserl und Heidegger, Berlin, De Gruyter, 1984.

(32.) I am grateful for discussions on these points to Gallina Tasheva.

(33.) Bernard Stiegler, 'Persephone, Oedipe, Epimethee', published only in English, Tekhnema, 3, (1996): 69-112, my quotes are from the French version.

(34.) Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Bloomington, IND: Indiana University Press, 1990; Yuk Hui, On the Existence of Digital Objects, Goldsmiths, University of London, PhD thesis, 2011.

(35.) Stiegler, op. cit; Jacques Derrida, 'Force of Law', in D. Cornell et al. (eds), Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, London, Routledge, 1992; Benjamin, op. cit., 'Der Erzahler'.

(36.) Stiegler, Technics and Time, l, The Fault of Epimetheus, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 1998, p185 ff.

(37.) Peter Berger, Sacred Canopy, N.Y., Anchor, 1990; M. Douglas, Purity and Danger. London, Routledge, 2002.

(38.) Stiegler, Technics and Time, l, 22-23, and Stiegler, Pour une nouvelle critique de l'economie politique, Paris, Galilee.

(39.) Badiou and Lacan have a great deal in common here. Lacan's matheme and topology are addressed in his twentieth Seminar; see Andrerw Cutrofello, 'The Ontological Status of Lacan's Mathematical Paradigms', in S. Barnard and B. Fink (eds) Reading Seminar XX, Albany, N.Y. SUNY Press 2002. Lacan's matheme and real are ore geometrical and topological. Badiou's is algebraic and set-theoretical.

(40.) Kant, reinen Vernunft, 30.

(41.) Emile Durkheim. and Marcel Mauss, 'De quelques formes primitives de la classification', Annee Sociologique, 6, (1903): 3-46.

(42.) Jacques Lacan, ' Function and Field', op. cit., pp41-2.

(43.) Louis Althusser, 'Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses', in Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays N.Y., Monthly Review Press.

(44.) Lacan, On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge, 1972-73, Seminar of Lacan, Book XX, N.Y., Norton, 1998.

(45.) See Peter Hallward, Badiou, A Subject to Truth, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

(46.) In Kantian terms this is a move from synthetic to analytic judgements, or better with Frege from synthetic to analytic thought. We introduced Platonic anamnesis above. And in an important sense there were two choices for ancient thought. Either you could find knowledge through concept driven observation as in Aristotle. Or you could pursue analytic knowledge though recalling what you already knew. And the already known hence anamnesic extended beyond the individual as in Plato's famous Socratic example of the youth that through dialectic could be pushed to recall geometrical principles that he had never himself learnt. See also Stiegler, 'Persephone' on Plato and anamnesis.

(47.) Alain Badiou, Theoretical Writings, London, Continuum, 2004, p15.

(48.) The question of experience (intuition) remains in mathematics.

(49.) Badiou, Theoretical Writings, op. cit., pp43-4.

(50.) Badiou, Saint Paul, op. cit.

(51.) Badiou, 'Lacan et Platon: le matheme est-il une idee', in Bibliotheque du College international de philosophie, Lacan avec les philosophes, Paris, Albin Michel, 1991, pp133-154.

(52.) Anamnesis is even more closely tied to the immortality of the soul in Plato. Yet the kind of reasoning and dialectic in which Socrates brings out the knowledge of geometry in the slave youth is very close to knowledge of the forms themselves. The remembering in Dick's VALIS of languages that were never learnt is in contrast a very empirical and material anamnesis. There is a centrality of the material and the empirical in Dick's Christology. And of course Dick, as Burton notes, is working in the medium of fiction. See J. Burton, 'Machines Making Gods: Philip K. Dick, Henri Bergson and Saint Paul', Theory, Culture & Society, 25, (2008): 262-284.

(53.) Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfguration, London, Bloomsbury, 2008.

(54.) See Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, London, Continuum, 2006.

(55.) See Niklas Luhmann, Soziale Systeme, Grundri[] einer allgemeinen Theorie, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1987.

(56.) See Scott Lash and Celia Lury, Global Culture Industry, Cambridge, Polity 2007; Celia Lury (ed), Topology and Cultural Dynamics, Theory, Culture & Society, special issue, forthcoming 2012.

(57.) Yochai Benkler, "Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm', The Yale Law Journal 112, 3: 429-481; Y. Moulier Boutang, Le capitalisme cognitive, Paris, Editions Amsterdam, 2007.

(58.) Financial Times, 1 December 2010.

(59.) I am grateful to Matthew Spencer on this point.

(60.) Michel Foucault, Le mots et les choses, Paris, Gallimard, 1966.

(61.) Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, Cambridge, Mass, MIT Press, 1985.

(62.) Slavoj Zizek, 'The Fear of Four Words: A Modest Plea for the Hegelian Reading of Christianity', in Zizek and Milbank, Monstrosity, op. cit., pp24-109, 28.

(63.) John Milbank, 'Paul against Biopolitics', Theory, Culture & Society, 25, 7-8, (2008): 125-72.

(64.) Philip K. Dick, Divine Invasion, New York, Harper Voyager, 2008.

(65.) Zizek, 'Fear', op. cit., pp33-4.

(66.) Ibid., pp57-8.

(67.) Ibid, p37.

(68.) This is also Benjamin's event (Ereignis), this essay is against the event altogether.

(69.) Frank Rose, 'The Second coming of Philip K. Dick', Wired, Issue 11, 12, December 2003.

(70.) E.g. A.C. Graham, Disputers of the Tao, Chicago, IL, Open Court, 1989.
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