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Gregory Flaxman and Anne Sauvagnargues: On the Digital (before the Digital)
What does it mean to speak of a pre-history of the digital? In response to recent efforts to read the concept back into the history of philosophy or to render it a kind of ontology, this talk suggests that digital develops in the course of what we call “the ecology and evolution of images.” It’s no coincidence that the “biotechnology” of the hand and its fingers (digits) provide the etymological platform on which the concept of the digital was constructed. In this lecture, however, we aim to consider the coincidence of digitalism and aesthetics, which we trace from the handprints and drawings of our Paleolithic ancestors to the technology of painterly—and especially baroque—perspective. The complicity of these histories is underscored in the philosophy of Leibniz, with whom we associate both the beginning of modern aesthetics and the beginning of the digital. To the impulse to ontologize the digital or to digitize ontology, this talk insists that we look at the digital in the frame of aesthetics, and aesthetics in the frame of “ethology” (Deleuze and Guattari).
Anne Sauvagnargues is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Paris Nanterre. A specialist in aesthetics and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, she is the author of numerous works, including Deleuze and Art(Bloomsbury 2013), Artmachines: Deleuze, Guattari, Simondon (Edinburgh University Press 2016), and Deleuze. L’empirisme transcendantal (Presses universitaires de France 2008, forthcoming with Edinburgh University Press).
Gregory Flaxman is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Author of Gilles Deleuze and the Fabulation of Philosophy (Minnesota, 2011) and editor of The Brain is the Screen (Minnesota, 2000), Flaxman broadly works on the relationship between philosophy and aesthetics (including film, literature, fine art, and increasingly non-traditional media).