The Invention of the Human

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0 3 Who? What?The Invention of the Human

The Diffkrance of the HumanThe invention ofthe human: without our needing to become complacent with the double genitive, its ambiguity signals a question that breaks down into two: Whoo what does the inventing? Who o what is r r invented? The ambiguity of the subject, and in the same move the ambiguity of the object of the verb invent, translates nothing else but the very sense of the verb. The relation binding the who and the what is invention. Apparently, the who and the what are named respectively: the human, and the technical. Nevertheless, the ambiguity of the genitive imposes at least the following question: what if the who were the technical? and the what the human? Or yet again must one not proceed down a path beyond o below every difference between a who and a what? r To enter these questions, we shall focus on the passage into the human leading from the Zinjanthropian to the Neanthropian. This ground breaking [fizryag], which is that of corticalization, is also effected in stone, in the course of the slow evolution of techniques of stonecutting. An evolution so slow-it still occurs at the rhythm of genetic driftthat one can hardly imagine the human as its operator, that is, as its inventor; rather, one much more readily imagines the human as what is i nven red. T h e emergence of this being-producer, constructor, if not conceiver-begins then in a process of neurological evolution. However, on the one hand, it is no longer strictly a matter of a zoological phenome-

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non: the most archaic technical evolution is already no longer genetically programmed; on the other hand, beyond the Neanthropian, this process continues as pure technological evolution, the organization of the cortex being genetically stabilized. How are we to understand this second rupture? What is at stake between these first two coups of the origin? What epigenetic question does that open up? O n e must first ask what mirage of the cortex is experienced [~Pprouve], as pathbreaking, in the hardness of flint; what plasticity of gray matter corresponds to the flake of mineral matter; what proto-stage of the mirror is thus installed. O n e must then ask what the closure of the cortical evolution of the human implies from the vantage of a general history of life, the closure of the cortical evolution of the human, and therefore thepursiiit o the evolution o the living by other means than Ife-which f f is what the history of technics consists in, from the first flaked pebbles to today, a history that is also the history of humanity-a statement that will lead us to the unusual concept of epiphylogenesis. This investigation will question the possibilities we have of thinking the temporality that arrives in the passage from the Zinjanthropian to the Neanthropian. We shall seek to show thereby that our most profound question is that of the technological rooting of all relation to time-a rooting that quite singularly plays itself out again against the horizon of our most contemporary technology: speed. Leroi-Gourhan broaches this question with the problem of anticipation implied in all acts of fabrication from the first knapped flint tool. We are considering a passage: the passage to what is called the human. Its birth, if there is one. Why should we question the birth of the human? First of all because we have unceasingly, since Hegel, questioned its end (Derrida 1982, 120-21). Even the recent attempts to restore a preHegelian thought of the human are determined by the thoughts of its end: they can only respond to that end, without introducing anything new. For the end of the human cannot be investigated without investigating its origin, just as questioning death is questioning birth in a mirTor. To ask the question of the birth of the human is to pose the question of the birth of death o r of the relation to death. But at stake here will be the attempt to think, instead of the birth of the human qua entity relating to its end, rather its invention o r even its embryonic fabrication or conception, and to attempt this independently of all anthropologism, even if this would mean considering with the utmost seriousness this


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other question: And if we already were no longer humans? For if nothing supports our saying that what is called the human is finished today, we may in any case set down as a principle that what begins must finish. And since Darwin we have known that the human, if it exists, has begun, even though we are unable to think how it began. This is the reason why it is so difficult for us to think how it might end. Rut the fact of not being able to think how it began or how it might end does not prevent the fact that it began and will end. Indeed, one may even think it may have already ended. This analysis based on the work of Leroi-Gourhan will also allow for a dialogue with Jacques Derrida around the concept of diffdrance, as this concept describes the process of life of which the human is a singular case, but only a case. What is in question is not emptying the human of all specificity but radically challenging the border between the animal and the human. Such an aim encounters problems, to be set out in volume rwo of this work, that can be compared to those met in (at least) the relativization of the specificity of alphabetic linear writing. It is a case of the same reasoning starting with different names: (I) if the privilege granted to linear writing by Hegel and Rousseau is logocentric, (2) if metaphysics is logocentric and vice versa, (3) if all metaphysics are humanist and vice versa, (4)then all humanisms are logocentric. To privilege alphabetic writing is to privilege man: phono-logocentrism is always anthropo-logocentrism, whatever philosophy may say on the subject in general. To oppose speech to writing is always also to oppose man to animal in opposing him in the same stroke to the technical. However, it must not be forgotten that if grammatology is not one of the sciences of man, [this is] because it asks first, as its characteristic question, the question of the name of man (Derrida 1974, 83). How does grammatology pose this question? By calling man (or his unity) into question, and by forging the concept of diffdrance, which is nothing else than the history of life. If grammatology thinks the gaphie, and if in so doing it thinks the name of man, this is accomplished by elaborating a concept of diffdrance that calls on the paleoanthropology of Leroi-Gourhan and does so to the extent that Leroi-Gourhan describes the unity of man and the human adventure [no longer] by the simple possibility of the gaphie in general, [but] rather as a stage or an articulation in the history of life-of what I have called differance-as the history of the pammP, while calling on the notion of program (Derrida 1974, 84).

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It must of course be understood in the cybernetic sense, but cybernetics is itself intelligible only in terms of a history of the possibilities of the trace as the unity of a double movement of protention and retention. This movement goes far beyond the possibilities of intentional consciousness. It is an emergence that makes the gmmmPappear as such (that is to say according to a new structure of nonpresence) and undoubtedly makes possible the emergence of the systems of writing in the narrow sense. (Derrida 1974, 84)

T h e grarnm? structures all levels of the living and beyond, the pursuit of life by means other than life, since genetic inscription . . . up to the passage beyond alphabetic writing to the orders of the logos and of a certain Homo sapiens. And it must be thought from out of the process of the freeing of memory described by Leroi-Gourhan: an exteriorization always already begun but always larger than the trace which, beginning from the elementary programmes of so-called instinctive behavior up to the constitution of electronic card indexes and reading machines, enlarges differance and the possibility of putting in reserve (Derrida 1974, 84). In other words, Leroi-Gourhans anthropology can be thought from within an essentially non-anthropocentric concept that does not take for granted the usual divides between animality and humanity. Derrida bases his own thought of diff6rance as a general history of life, that is, as a general history of the grammp, on the concept of program insofar as it can be found on both sides of such divides. Since the gmmm? is older than the specifically human written forms, and because the letter is nothing without it, the conceptual unity that diffirance is contests the opposition animal/human and, in the same move, the opposition naturelculture. Intentional consciousness finds the origin of its possibility before the human: it is nothing else but the emergence that has the grammpappearing as such. We m e lefi with the question of determining what the conditions of s i d ? an emergence of the krarnmp as suchnre, and the conseqirences as to the general histoy of I+ andlor of the grammp. This u d l be our question. T h e history of the gramm? is that of electronic files and reading machines as well-a history of technics-which is the invention of the human. As object as well as subject. The technical inventing the human, the human inventing the technical. Technics as inventive as well as invented. This hypothesis destroys the traditional thought of technics, from Plato to Heidegger and beyond. Diffdrance is the history of life in general, in which an articulation is


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produced, a stage of diffirance out of which emerges the possibility of making the grammP as such, that is, consciousness, appear. The task here will be to specify this stage. We shall refer to a double rupture in the his