Ghastly marionettes and the political metaphysics of cognitive liberalism: Anti-behaviourism, language, and the origins of totalitarianism. History of the Human Sciences. 2020;33(1):147-174.

Winner of the 2020 Early Career Prize

In this essay, I argue that the triumph of cognitivism over behaviorism as psychology's hegemonic theory of mind was caused by what I term "cognitive liberalism," a style of early Cold War political philosophy that located human freedom in the spontaneous capacities of cognition and, specifically, of language. By reading Hannah Arendt's discussion of "totalitarianism" as a behaviorist laboratory, I show that it was no accident that the field on which behaviorism would fail, cybernetics would falter, and cognitivism would triumph would be that of language. The essay connects the cognitive turn with cognate anti-mechanist movements in vitalist biology and antecedents in early 20th century resistance to scientific management to unpack the politics of spontaneity in early Cold War theories of freedom.

L'excès à l'avant-garde de la "data subject": langage et quantification en psychiatrie numérique (Excess in the avant-garde of the data subject: Language and quantification in digital psychiatry). Terrain. 2021, forthcoming.

Copies available in English translation on request

Although quantification has marked psychiatric practice since the rise of experimental psychology, the past two decades have seen an intensified use of data, implemented in tandem with a general move toward big data and “scored societies” across the biosciences. Today, a new, hyper-quantified psychiatry is aiming to map the neurological substrates of affective disorder through extracting neural data from brain implants. The classic story that is often rendered by many critical scholarly accounts about this new form of hyper-quantified psychiatry is that in their drive to render psychiatry profitable to new forms of data capitalism, such technologies evaporate language and the subjective into a cascade of numbers.

This paper examines a case study of a subject enrolled in an experimentation in psychiatry for the first brain implant system coupled to an Artificial Intelligence in order to trouble such easy narratives about quantification. How would our account of quantification change if we saw language not as an extraneous surplus to the experimental production of numbers, but at the heart of how these new technologies of quantification are being developed?