Fred Forest - Retrospective
Sociologic art - Aesthetic of communication
Exhibition Generative art - November, 2000
Exhibition Biennale 3000 - Sao Paulo - 2006

> Pierre Restany

> Louis-José Lestocart : Entendre l’esthetique dans ses complexités

> Mario Costa
> Pierre Lévy and Philippe Breton
> Pierre Lévy - Seoul
> Pierre Lévy: Pour un modèle scientifique des communautés virtuelles (Ce texte est dedicacé à Fred Forest par Pierre Levy - Format PDF - French version)


Controversial: when the philosopher meets the sociologist on Internet…

Philippe Breton * and Pierre Lévy * are of brightness academics that make authority, each to their manner, in the approaches and the thought on the development of the networks and Internet…

Their respective analyses, put in evidence in an abrupt way by "Le Monde Interactif" of Wednesday November 29, 2000 with a crossed interview, revealed their wide differences.

To each to judge, now, the arguments of the other. The Web Net Museum wanted to go farther, placing them in a face-to-face meeting, on Internet. On our proposition, they have therefore "sportingly" accepted to debate frontally, on the principle of three questions they ask simultaneously.

By fairness, nor one, nor the other, didn't have their counterpart's answers, before to express oneself.

Here are the results, it will be your turn to judge!

The three questions of Philippe Breton to Pierre Lévy… and the three answers of this last:


PhB - First question: don't you think that a debate between us, I want to say a face-to-face meeting in a same room, would have a much better quality, a much better "intelligence" that this semblance of confrontation by questions in blind, that remind me the test of Turing, otherwise sinister enough on the human level ? (I believe to know (I want to be denied) that you refused such a debate in the setting of the file that "Le Monde interactif" dedicated to our theses and I confess I don’t wait for much of this confrontation.)

PL - I met you face-to-face repeatedly and he didn't seem to me that a marvelous mutual understanding emanated of this setting in presence of the bodies, it is the less that one can say… except maybe a very long time ago, at the time where we were friends. Otherwise, the scientific community, to which you pretend to belong has since a very long time established the tradition of the written debate, since the letters that the father Mersenne made circulate, until the list of contemporary discussions passing by the scientific magazines. It’s what explains my preference for the written debate, at least for what concerns our relations. I don't see what the test of Turing comes to make here.


PhB - Second question: you have the hard tooth against those that criticize the present social order. You rank them in the category of "resentment". But don't you think, of your point of view, that their dispute, whatever the nature of it, does also make part of this what you name the collective intelligence? And if no, doesn't risk your vision of the world to be interpreted on its turn as curiously manicheist?

PL - The classic media oscillate, most of the time, between the bad spectacular news without depth of analysis and the amusing silliness. Those that maintain the present social order the most efficiently, these are the journalists denouncing the rot of the world to length of column and hours of antenna, certainly, but presenting no global understanding nor perspective of emancipation. Marvelous double forced by blockage of the imaginary. Alas, the critical stance is the new conformism, the new conservatism, especially in France. Among the journalists, one takes it of top, one is not sucker, one knows much: no hope, especially! The poets and the enthusiasts are idiots. The originality of thought is ridiculous. A skepticism without interest, an infinite capacity to suspect, the resentment against America and "the market" make themselves pass for intelligence. However a thinker's role is not to repeat what everybody already heard by the channel of the media. I like Internet exactly because this new space of communication makes jump the monopoly of the journalists on the public sphere, because it opens in a remarkable manner the freedom of speech, because it allows one each to make hear his voice, voice of the passion, the rage, the denunciation or the sharing of knowledge. The collective intelligence doesn't limit itself to the freedom of speech but this liberty is its essential condition. The active critique of the present order social pass by the utopian line, but very convenient, of the network, as show it some strong interesting aspects of the anti-internationalization movement.


PhB - Third question: don't you think that there is a major contradiction to affirm regularly, clearly, and with a lot of enthusiasm, that it is on Internet, transformed in a teilhardienne "noosphere", that should happen the major and the best part of our relations and at the same time to take a position of defense and of strategic fold as soon as it is about defending this point of view in public? Doesn't the noosphere rid us of the body and of the physical meeting? Finally, why you don’t assume your radical positions?

PL - You let hear that I would have a program of abolition of the body but that I would not be able to defend this position in public. But if I didn't be able to proclaim this view publicly, do I would affirm, as you say, "regularly, clearly, and with a lot of enthusiasm" the necessary growth of the noosphere? The things are extremely simple: it is not about choosing between the body and the mind. Yes, we will have more and more relations through the intermediary of the network, and it is very well. The man is a being of language, the carrier of the mind, the host of the collective intelligence. Yes we will meet and we will mix ourselves physically more and more, as shows it the rise of the migrations, the tourism, the journeys, the symposia and meetings of all kinds, without speaking of gastronomy sophistication. We are embodied and our bodily condition knows important mutations. It is about the same process of artificialisation and growth of the connections. The car and the telephone. Internet and the plane and the TGV. The walk on a path of mountain and the reading of a poem of Walt Whitmann. It is not "or, or", but "and, and…". Not this or this but a global process of metamorphosis. And the butterfly flies off.

Farewell, Philippe.


The three questions of Pierre Lévy to Philippe Breton and the three answers of this last…


PL - You analyze since several years the "speech of accompaniment" of the new technologies. But what are your perception and your interpretation of the phenomenon itself of growth and perfection of the communication tools?

PhB - I am guided in this interpretation of the development of the communication tools by two simple ideas: the new tools whose humanity endows itself to every stage of its history are carriers of an ambivalent load. Each of these tools can be put as well to the service of the happiness or the misfortune. Therefore I don't share absolutely the optimistic view, sometimes naive, according to which, by nature, the techniques of communication would be bearers of a progress for the humanity. The second idea is that I don't believe that the techniques mark their print to the human societies in a determinism way. Well on the contrary, these are the human societies that are at the source of the innovation process that conditions the shape and the use of our objects. These two ideas are evidently interdependent. To say it otherwise, the anthropology of the techniques doesn't exist, it is only a particular case of the general anthropology. All pretension to read the whole of our anthropological destiny through the only glasses of the techniques made me think about the history that says that for the man with a hammer, the world is reduced to a nail.


PL - You denounce the dangers of a disappearance of the body and the real meetings due to the increasing use of Internet. Yet, the real transportation, the tourism, the journeys, the meetings and the physical meetings of all kinds are in constant increase. Besides, people are more and more attentive to their body, to the quality of what they eat, etc. For me, it is about different modes of only one multidimensional phenomenon of interconnection and opening of the possible. But because you oppose the real and the virtual, how do you explain that the travel agencies are in good and that the airports are always cluttered in full period of development of the cyberespace?

PhB - Today, the physical meeting development is a phenomenon that it would be necessary to analyze more finely. It would be notably necessary to return the efficient increase of the journeys to the increase of the population. This growth is therefore all relative. There is even a negative growth for all populations who try to emigrate, or simply to find temporarily work elsewhere, the most often for economic reasons. The passage of the borders is currently one of the biggest inequalities that is in the world: more you are rich more you are everywhere the welcome, more you are poor and more the borders are impervious to you. Whoever is not a "global". Today, one can communicate relatively easily but a lot less to move physically. But it’s not the essential. What I criticize, it’s the possible effects of a speech that privileges systematically the communication from afar, that valorizes it, and that presents the material world, outside, as most often the advertisement for Internet makes it, like a dangerous world, dirty, repulsive. It would be desirable, and I probably agree with you on this point, that the development of the communications from afar don’t be opposed to the development of the direct meeting. It would be an ideal to reach, but it would be necessary for it that the speech of accompaniment of Internet gives up to what is the core of its appeal: the promise of a generalized virtuality. Are you ready to this renouncement?


PL - You remind to the Catholics that Teilhard de Chardin was not in odor of holiness and you discover in me my religious heresy. What do you think of the Dalai Lama declaration: "We are more five billions of human beings and, in a sense, I think that we have need it’s five billions of different religions."

PhB - Simply, I wanted to underline the contradiction that exists in my opinion between humanism and the new spirituality to the formation of which you participate. I told it, I maintain it and I remind it every time that I speak in public on this question, I respect all beliefs and I fight so that they are considered like respectable. Making that, I also plead for my cause. My critique is double: first the mixing of the techniques with the spirituality, then there is not a true debate on the social and cultural stakes associated to the new technologies. These two points are bound. You are not without remembering you, since you made your thesis on the liberty in Greece, that the democracy was only possible to the separation of the acropole and the agora. A religious belief being indisputable, there is not a possible debate on what it impregnates. The new spirituality that surrounds Internet and that is candidate to give it the sense prevents the debate. It is for it that I criticize it. It is precisely the contradiction in which was Teilhard de Chardin in his will to make communicate the two worlds: the science and the religion. That this new spirituality is individualistic to the sense where each would have a different religion, doesn't change anything to the business.

To you now to make your opinion and… possibly to share it with us!


The Web Net Museum wishes also to be a place of debate…



To Pierre Lévy and Philippe Breton, even if this confrontation didn't drive them to agree, far from there… thank you to Pierre Lévy and Philippe Breton to have answer to our invitation, so spontaneously.

*Philippe Breton, Le Culte d’Internet (La Découverte 2000)

*Pierre Lévy, World Philosophie (Odile Jacob 2000 )

Copyright Web Net Museum


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