Bernard Stiegler on Transgenerational Memory and the Dual Origin of the Human

Theory, Culture and Society 33 (3):151-173 (2016)
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Abstract

This article reconsiders Stiegler’s account of the emergence of the human species in light of research in the field of transgenerational epigenetics. Stiegler traces this emergence to the appearance of technical artefacts allowing for the intergenerational transmission of acquired memory that would otherwise die along with the organism. This is taken to constitute a rupture in the history of life. The argument that I develop critiques Stiegler’s account at two levels: On the empirical level I argue that emerging neo-Lamarckian developments in the life sciences pose a challenge to the terms in which the specificity of the human is outlined and the notion of the rupture with life that its emergence constitutes. On the logico-transcendental level, I contend that in its account of the rupture, Stiegler’s narrative repeats the logic of the ‘dual origin’ that he ascribes to Rousseau and Leroi-Gourhan in their respective accounts of the origin of the genus Anthropos.

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