From je ne sais quoi to quantified self. A philosophical agenda

Simona Chiodo


The notion of je ne sais quoi, whose rise characterises the decades in which the first scientific revolution marks a turning point in Western culture, tries to identify the human capacity for grasping what exceeds knowledge resulting from logos. But the further steps of the triumph of logos, starting from the second scientific revolution and its further developments, increasingly determine its fall. Moreover, the recent history of Western culture may be read as follows: we have been increasingly entrusting our understanding of what is and our prediction of what will be to an even more restricted form of rationality coinciding with logos, first, by progressively restricting logos to computation and, second, by progressively externalising computation from our minds to technologies, specifically algorithmic technologies. As such, should we think that computation is increasingly occupying the realm of je ne sais quoi by increasingly reckoning the unreckonable? The answer seems affirmative. In what follows, I shall critically focus on a promising case in point to try to understand the radical move from je ne sais quoi to computation: the case of the quantified self, which is addressed by medical humanities and sociology, but quite disregarded by philosophy – alternatively, I shall at least try to introduce the reasons why the case of the quantified self deserves a specifically philosophical study, starting from aesthetics and epistemology.


Quantified self; Computation; Je ne sais quai

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