Workshop "Thinking the Problematic"

// Complexity or Control // Workshop //  June 22 – 23, 2017 //
»Thinking the Problematic«


The figure of the problematic continues to resurface and to haunt both epistemologies and ontologies. From its inception in French historical epistemology it transverses any distinctive division of thoughts and concepts. Our workshop engages in a two day discussion on the contemporary presence of the figure of the problematic and asks how to accept the obligations its decentering forces offer.


Thursday June 22, 2017


Welcome and Introduction by Erich Hörl and Oliver Leistert (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg)


Session 1: Genealogies of the Problematic

Craig Lundy (Nottingham Trent University)
»Bergson's Problematic Methodology and the Pursuit of Metaphysical Precision«

Jean-Bapiste Vuillerod (Université Paris Nanterre)
»Louis Althusser and Jacques Martin, Readers of Hegel: Two Ways of Thinking the Problematic«

Thomas Ebke (Universität Potsdam):
»“The problem itself persists”. Problems as missing links between concepts and theories in Canguilhem’s historical epistemology«


Session 2: The Problematics of Transdisciplinarities and Sustainability Sciences

Patrice Maniglier  (Université Paris Nanterre)
»Problem Sharing«

Esther Meyer (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg)
»The Problematic of Transdisciplinary Sustainability Sciences«

Isabell Schrickel (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg)
»On the Economy of the Problem in the History of Systems Thinking«

18.30Public Lecture (Hall 5) by Celia Lury (University of Warwick)
»Composing methods: on the limits of problem spaces in a time of rendition«
Friday June 23, 2017

Session 3: Ethics and Politics of the Problematic

Didier Debaise (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
»False Problems and their Pragmatic Effects«

Martin Savransky (Goldsmiths, University of London)
»The Scientist and The Oracle: On the Generativity of the Problematic«

Dimitris Papadopoulos (University of Leicester)
»chemistry + ecology = ?«



13.30Structured inclusive discussion moderated by Erich Hörl
15.00Coffee Break


Collective Wrap Up and Outlook

Context (Section)


Recently, the figure of “the problematic” has re-emerged in areas as different as sociology, philosophy, and sustainability sciences, but its persistence in certain traditions of European philosophy enjoys a much longer history. One of its early manifestations can be found in Henri Bergson’s (1889) concern with the ‘false problems’ that characterize not only modern metaphysics but the articulation of modern culture as such.

The breakthrough of the problematic of “the problematic” can be found in the works of Gaston Bachelard (1949), whose endeavour to historicise and thus re-adjust the relation between philosophy and the sciences mobilised a problematisation of pertaining misleading trajectories fostered by an universal rationalism and an ahistorical epistemology.

Notably, French post-war theory continued to explore the potentialities of the problematic. Most prominently Georges Canguilhem (1966), Gilbert Simondon (2005) and Gilles Deleuze (1992), among others, have put the figure of the problematic to work and tested it in relation to a plethora of practical and speculative concerns. Simondon, for instance, explored the potential of the problematic when he defined the process of individuation as a development of a problematic within and through a milieu. Just like Deleuze, he replaced dialectical reasoning and the negative with an affirmation of the problematic.

Today, a swift radicality of the figure of the problematic continues to haunt both epistemologies and ontologies. In its most radical potential, the problematic transverses any distinctive division of thought. While we certainly welcome that the notion of the problematic has resurfaced in many different discourses more recently, we also witness a tendency to integrate it and contain it into pre-defined fields and concepts, with the potential effect of neutralizing the otherwise radical potentiality of the problematic.

The figure of the problematic resonates well with post-disciplinary ideas of sustainability and transdisciplinarity. This has led us to the hypothetical assumption that there is an undercurrent of the problematic which surfaces now and then and offers its decentering force to those who would accept the obligation.

With this workshop we intend to curve out and put to test if and how today the figure of the problematic can be a device to instigate a decentering of established lines of reasoning which divide and rule over the legitimacies and sanctioned practices in different disciplines.

The figure of the problematic is a research question of "complexity or control? paradigms for sustainable development" (CCP):

This workshop is a collaboration between CCP and Martin Savransky (Goldsmiths, University of London). CCP is part of the Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation (CGSC). The CGSC is a collaboration between Leuphana Universität Lüneburg and Arizona State University.

Host & Organisation


Complexity or Control?
Paradigms for Sustainable Development


Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
Campus Building 14
Universitätsallee 1
21335 Lüneburg