The Concept of Information in Contemporary Science (1965)

royaumontThe proceedings from the Sixth Symposium at Royaumont in 1962 were titled Le concept d’information dans la science contemporaine (The Concept of Information in Contemporary Science) and were published three years later in Paris in 1965 by Les Éditions de Minuit.

In attendance were Gilbert Simondon, Norbert Wiener, Martial Gueroult, Giorgio de Santillana, Lucien Goldmann, Benoit Mandelbrot, René de Possel, Jean Hyppolite, André Michel Lwoff, Abraham Moles, Ferdinand Alquié, Henryk Greniewski, Helmar Frank, Jiri Zeman, François Bonsack, Louis Couffignal, Albert Perez, Maurice de Gandillac, Ladislav Tondl, Gilles-Gaston Granger, and Stanislas Bellert, among others.

Simondon was a very active organizer and introduced Wiener. The collection is fascinating for a number of reasons, which I won’t go into here (I’m currently finishing a paper about it). Most striking, perhaps, is the fact that a prominent Marxist (Goldmann) and a brilliant mathematician (Mandelbrot) were given equal opportunity to talk philosophically about the concept of information. Just try picturing Frederick Jameson and Peter Higgs having a friendly philosophical conversation about quantum computing in front of Charles Taylor and Timothy Gowers and you get the idea. Mathematicians like Mandelbrot and Wiener were given the same stage as philosophers like Simondon and Hyppolite. Everyone was cordial. Can you imagine?

Some of the papers are pretty scientific, but most of them are not. What you get is a collection of papers given and discussed (the Q & As are included and are revealing) by some of the individuals who heavily influenced Deleuze and a number of other French philosophers. This is an incredibly revealing volume and I will eventually work hard to translate some of the papers that are included.

Simondon’s paper, “L’Amplification dans les processus d’information,” was not included in the proceedings (only the abstract is provided at the very end of the book, along with the topic of Wiener’s response to Simondon), but was published and is available in the collection of his papers titled Communication and Information: Courses and Conferences (La Transparence, 2010).

I compressed all 425 pages into a manageable pdf. It’s in French, at about 50mb.

You can download it here: The Concept of Information in Contemporary Science (53.6 MB).

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5 comments

  1. Matthew Cobb · · Reply

    Thanks a million for the PDF! I had just ordered this on ILL but was getting antsy about reading it – I’m writing a book about the history of the genetic code (think a popular version of Lily E Kay) and am on the chapter that features the Royaumont meeting. I am obviously going to have to read your website!

  2. You’re welcome, Matthew! Your project sounds very interesting. I would enjoy reading it, especially anything relating to Royaumont!

  3. great! the pdf is totally precious.

  4. The french-reading public interested in this topic might be willing to check out an online paper where I analyze the discussion between Lwoff and Wiener during this conference. Together with other aspects, it is part of a larger work in progress, namely a book on the history of cybernetics in postwar France, based on my 2010 PhD dissertation.

    1. This is great! Thanks for sharing, Ronan.

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