Pharmakon, the Greek word meaning both poison and medicine, has emerged as an important philosophical concept following Derrida’s re-examination of its role in Plato’s Phaedrus, where it was applied to writing. For Derrida, the pharmakon signaled the production of différance. Bernard Stiegler has since broadened the scope of the concept to include the ambiguous potential of all technè. He has proposed the concept of pharmacology (positive and negative) requiring a general organology that includes all artifices (tools, machines, prosthetics, recording and communication devices) that inform the politics and ethics of care (health vs. disease). Drawing on Leroi-Gourhan, Stiegler has insisted on the historical co-evolution of pharmakon with the process of hominisation: from the first flint tools and the earliest forms of writing, to the advanced information-driven society we live in today, the pharmakon has been articulated at each step. Like all drugs, the pharmakon of digital technology requires appropriate care. Today we face a new pharmacological horizon, urging us to reflect on the seeming harmlessness of the digital traces we count on.


Topics include:

  • Remedy-poison, normal-pathological (Canguilhem)
  • Pharmakos: the witch hunt, the scapegoat, the outcast, and the politics of exclusion (Girard, Foucault)
  • Progress: the pharmacology of enlightenment (Adorno and Horkheimer to Stiegler)
  • Relation between pharmacology and ecology (A. Gorz)
  • Undecidability, unpredictabily, chaos.
  • The tragic dimension of pharmakon (Nietzsche)
  • Positive and negative pharmacology (Lyotard, Carr, Malabou)
  • Pharmacology of markets and economics