An Outline of the Introduction to Gilbert Simondon’s 'Individuation in Light of Notions of Form and Information', Part 1

An Outline of the Introduction to Gilbert Simondon’s 'Individuation in Light of Notions of Form and Information', Part 1

I. How do we determine the reality of the individual?

A. Simondon notes two paths

1. The substantialist path - given to and founded on itself; resists the alterity of other individuals

2. The hylomorphic path - defined by the encounter between form and matter, viz., how form distinguishes matter

B. Overcoming Initial Presuppositions

1. Both paths presuppose a principle of individuation prior to explicating either method

2. Inherent to both approaches is the presupposition that individual or the process of individuation is philosophically interesting versus

3. The previous premises expose the method to the risk of overshadowing or making a faulty account of the principle through which the individual is born from its haecceity.

C. Overcoming the Avoidance of the Fact of Ontogenesis 

1. Both the substantialist and hylomorphic schemas avoid direct description of ontogenesis (essentially, this is the problem of composition - how do total mereological sums produce individuals or distinct localities of matter)

2. The substantialist view starts with the individual; the hylomorphic view finishes with it

3. Both views obscure the processual nature of individuation

4. Thus an adequate solution comes in the form of concomitantly explaining the individual, individuation, and all attendant facts about the ontogenesis of a complete system.

D. Simondon’s Methodological Starting Point

1. Considering the operation of individuation as primordial

a. The production of individual is a ‘relative reality’ in relation to the process

b. The production of an individual produces an ‘individual-milieu’ coupling (conjunct), the unexhausted potentials of the pre-individual reality (disjuncts), and the individual itself (consummation of the process and the set of relations)

2. ‘Individuation is ontogenetic only in so far as it is an operation of the complete being’

a. Individuation is a partial and relative resolution to the problem of the individual

b. The process of individuation emerges in a system with which it maintains an incompatibility to 1) other potentials within the system and 2) a certain incompatibility towards itself

i. viz., all things rendered distinct within a system experience themselves as distinct on the basis of a force of incompatibility or impenetrability inherent to the force of individuation (a body without organs)

E. The Failures of Previous Metaphysics of Individuation

1. The problem with prior attempts to conceptualize individuation was that the notion of individuation was described within the limits of a stable equilibrium (being)

2. Ancient philosophy only conceived of being in terms of stability and instability

3. A third term is required to adequately conceptualize individuation: metastability

F. The Concept of Metastability

1. The notion of metastability put forward by Simondon involves establishing the notion of the potential energy of a system, the notion of order, and the notion of an increase of entropy.

a. Viz., Systems are comprised of potential energy, tentative orderings, and incessant breaking-downs of that order. Therefore, the concept of an individual must take into account the ongoing, fluctuating conditions of any given system.

2. Simondon offers the example of a crystal as the paradigm of meta-stability. He admits however that this example is not exhaustive of all of the tendencies he intends to describe. 

a. Why might he have chosen this example? Consider the inherent tendency of certain matters to take form in ways relative to a set of given conditions. The formation and dissolution of crystals is contingent upon a metastable state; the potential to instantiate any of its forms is inscribed within the system

G. The Concept of Supersaturation

1. The concept of supersaturation addresses the problem of the notion of a pre-individual unity.

a. The notion of supersaturation is the concept introduced to explain that which underlies the unity and identity of individuals in a given system.

b. Supersaturation gets at the pre-individual unity, which is to say that it explicates the nature of the metastable reality which underlies continuous and discontinuous relations.

c. This is the aspect of reality which practical science has been remiss to adequately conceptualize

2. Simondon suggests that the pre-individual operates at a quantum level 

a. Question: to what extent did emergent quantum physics play a role in his theory?

H. The Paradigmatic Value of Crystals

1. The genesis of crystals as a paradigmatic example of the process of individuation is not nearly about the encounter between a preliminary form and a preliminary matter. It involves "a metastable system of rich potentials”

2. Meta-stability regards the notions of matter, form, and energy as they precede a system of encounters between matter, form, and energy.  

a. Note: this bears a tangential relationship to Deleuze’s recasting of the ‘will to power’ in his Nietzschean theory of forces

I. The Individuation of Living Beings

1. The notion of meta-stability can also be used to characterize the individuation of living beings.

a. The individuation of physical objects involves abrupt transfigurations of form, matter, and energy

b. The living being, on the other hand, individuates in a dual process, one that involves the individuation familiar to physical objects and the ongoing becoming familiar to being a living being.

2. In living being, there is an individuation which occurs at the individual.

a. Viz., a living individual is itself a system of individuation

b. What constitutes the system of individuation in a living individual is an internal resonance.

c. What do we mean by internal resonance? An activation of feedback which instigate regulation and modulation of the individual being with relation to its interiority/exteriority.

d. Ultimately, an individual is a "system within a system" a note of communication which negotiate between the local system and the milieu with which the locality is situated.