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Contribution : Mont Aiguille and Knowledge

30 April 2015

Today, we are posting another contribution (or 'grievances'/'doléances' in French) written collectively by the members of GECo (Isabelle Stengers, Didier Debaise, Aline Wiame et Nicolas Prignot), during the Diplomatic Writing Week, which took place July 2014 at the École des Mines in Paris. It is entitled Mont Aiguille and Knowledge? Find below its beginning:

Mount Aiguille has three functions: it introduces us to the notion of the immutable mobile; it defines the meaning of rectified knowledge; and it shows the absurdity of the bifurcation of nature (introducing [REP]). Overwhelming!

What is at stake : What is at stake : disentangling these functions is especially important because the work that is described (making the mountain ‘accessible’) is so interesting: it allows the wonderful definition of rectified knowledge to be understood in terms of access to what is ‘distant’, where ‘distant’ can also signify what is ‘indifferent’ – Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me! … Let’s imagine a Mont Aiguille that is touchy, ticklish, shifting its relief every night because it doesn’t appreciate the way in which surveying poles have been laid out upon it; or a Mont Aiguille that is accommodating, causing new peaks to surge into view because that’s what we’re interested in. It can’t be stressed enough: the work of producing accessibility presupposes indifference, and the key to understanding [REF] is connecting rectified knowledge to this presupposition. What we study must remain indifferent to the questions we put to it, and we must always be able to start over again. By contrast, the facts generated by social psychology have only a short lifespan (only as long as the guinea pigs understand the meaning of the situation in which they have been placed and what is expected of them). Therefore [REF] threatens to unify the sciences according to an ideal that is different from their own, by the production of a whole mass of pseudo immutable mobiles, and even by justifying certain contemporary practices that claim to be productive of rectified knowledge whilst disposing of their objects. This is exactly where Whitehead’s bifurcation of nature is in alliance with the institution of ‘Science’: it insists on the idea that what we study responds to our enquiries in an indifferent way; if not, then Science itself is impossible. Gaia, the ticklish one, has helped us to see that we can no longer reckon on the indifference of Science – she is not like the Mont Aiguille that is given to us by the cartographers [...]

Please click the following link to access the complete contribution on the English version of the site.

(Kindly translated by Michael Thomas, Timothy Howles and Stephen Muecke)

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