David Bates



PhD (History), University of Chicago


  • 7315 Dwinelle Hall
  • OFFICE HOURS: sign up on Google Calendar here.


Research Interests

European Intellectual History
Media and Technology
Cognition and Epistemology
Political Thought
Artificial Intelligence

  I received my PhD in European History from the University of Chicago. Since coming to Berkeley in 1999, I have been working on two main research tracks: one on the history of legal and political ideas, and the other on the relationship between technology, science, and the history of human cognition. My undergraduate courses and graduate seminars are usually divided between these two main topic areas. My new book project will bring these interests closer together, as my research now focuses on the connections between reason, technology, war, and political organizations as they develop in the age of cybernetic systems theory and the … read more

“The Political Theology of Entropy: A Katechon for the Cybernetic Age,” special issue on Cybernetics and the Human Sciences, History of the Human Sciences, forthcoming.
“Automatisation et erreur,” in Bernard Stiegler, ed., La verité du numérique (Paris, Editions FYP, forthcoming).
"Rousseau and Schmitt: Sovereigns and Dictators," in Helena Rosenblatt and Paul Schweigert, eds., Thinking with Rousseau From Machiavelli to Schmitt (Cambridge University Press, 2017). (pdf)
"Insight in the Age of Automation," in Darrin McMahon and Joyce Chaplin, eds., Genealogies of Genius (McMillan Palgrave, 2015). (pdf)
"Automaticity, Plasticity, and the Deviant Origins of Artificial Intelligence," in David Bates and Nima Bassiri, eds., Plasticity and Pathology: Formations of the Neural Subject (Fordham University Press, 2016). (pdf)
"Catastrophe and Human Order: From Political Theology to Political Physiology," in The TIme of Catastrophe, ed. Austin Sarat et al. (Ashgate, 2015). (pdf)
"Penser l'automaticité sur le seuil du numérique," in Digital Studies: Organologie des savoirs et technologies de la connaissance, ed. Bernard Stiegler (Editions FYP, 2014). (pdf)
"Unity, Plasticity, Catastrophe: Order and Pathology in the Cybernetic Era," in Catastophe: History and Theory of an Operative Concept, ed. Andreas Killen and Nitzan Lebovic (De Gruyter, 2014). (pdf)
"Cartesian Robotics," Representations, 124 (2013): 43-68. (pdf)
"Enemies and Friends: Arendt on the Imperial Republic at War," History of European Ideas 36 (2010): 112-24 (pdf)
“Super Epistemology,” in Dan Edelstein, ed., The Super Enlightenment: Daring to Know Too Much (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2009) (pdf)
“Creating Insight: Gestalt Theory and the Early Computer,” in Jessica Riskin, ed., Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Theory of Artificial Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 237-259 (pdf)
“Political Theology and the Nazi State: Carl Schmitt’s Concept of the Institution,” Modern Intellectual History 3: 3 (Nov. 2006): 415-442 (pdf)
“On Revolutions in the Nuclear Age: The Eighteenth Century and the Postwar Global Imagination,” qui parle 15 (Fall 2005): 171-195 (pdf)
“Crisis between the Wars: Derrida and the Origins of Undecidability,” Representations 91 (Summer 2005): 1-27 (pdf)
“Political Unity and the Spirit of Law: Juridical Concepts of the State in the late Third Republic,” French Historical Studies 28: 1 (Winter 2005): 69-101 (pdf)
Legitimität and Légalité: Political Theology and Democratic Thought in an Age of World War,” in Religion und Nation / Nation und Religion: Beiträge zu einer unbewältigten Geschichte, ed. Michael Geyer and Hartmut Lehmann (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2004) (pdf)
“Cartographic Aberrations: Epistemology and Order in the Encyclopedic Map,” in Daniel Brewer and Julie C. Hayes, eds., Using the “Encyclopédie”: Ways of Knowing, Ways of Reading (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2002) (pdf)
“Idols and Insight: An Enlightenment Topography of Knowledge,” Representations 73 (Winter 2001): 1-23 (pdf)
Creative Negations: Defining the Space of Politics in Revolutionary France (Berkeley, CA.: Doe Library, University of California, 2000) (Morrison Inaugural Lecture) (pdf)
“The Mystery of Truth: Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin’s Enlightened Mysticism,” Journal of the History of Ideas 61:4 (October 2000): 623-655 (pdf)
“Rediscovering Collingwood’s Spiritual History (In and Out of Context),” 35:1 (February 1996): 29-55 (pdf)

“L’entropie et le politique,” Info-tropy: Information and Entropy, INRIA (French National Institute for Computer Science and Applied Mathematics) and Institut de recherche et d’innovation, Paris, June 20.

“Human Minds, Intelligent Machines: the Contemporary Crisis of the Humanities,” plenary lecture, Our Uncommon Ground: Modern Languages and Cultures for the 21st Century, Durham, UK, April16.

“Thinking Machines: Exosomaticization and the Embodied Mind,” Exemplary Affect: Rethinking the Roots of Modern Sensibility, Indiana University, Bloomington, April 6- 7.

"Thinking Outside the Body: On the Technical Evolution of Intelligence," The Stephen Straker Memorial Lecture, Science and Technology Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, March 7, 2018.
"Un réseau peut-il être intelligent? Raison à l'age de l'apprentissage profond," Les entretiens du nouveau monde industriel 2017, Bêtise et intelligence artificielles, Pompidou Center, Paris, Dec. 19, 2017. Video available

"A Katechon for the Cybernetic Age," Political Theory Workshop, Political Science Dept., University of Pennsylvania, Oct. 12, 2017.

"Le Katechon et le concept du politique cybernétique," [The Katechon and the cybernetic concept of the political]  Académie d’été de pharmakon.fr, Epineuil le Fleuriel, France, July 24-7, 2017. Video available
“L’intelligence artificielle et l’objectivité de la connaissance: la pharmacologie de la boîte noire,” [Artificial Intelligence and objective knowledge: the pharmacology of the Black Box] Intelligence artificielle et épistémologie des « boites noires», ANR-Epistémé, Centre Pompidou, Paris, June 28-9. 
“The Critique of Automatic Reason [Malabou /Meillassoux / Machine-Learning],” Speculative Reason: Aporia or Transition?, University of California, Irvine, April 28, 2017.
“Prosthetic Minds: Exosomatic Evolution and the Computer in Postwar Thought,”  Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences – CNRS/NYU, New York University, March 17, 2017.
“Habits of Reason: The Enlightened Nervous System,” Workshop in Honor of Keith Michael Baker, Humanities Center, Stanford University, Feb. 4-5, 2017.
“L’Intelligence Artificielle, est-elle un organe exosomatique?,” Les Entretiens du nouveau monde industriel 2016, Penser l'exosomatisation pour défendre la société,  Pompidou Center, Paris, Dec. 14, 2016.
“A Concept of the Political for the Cybernetic Age,” Cybernetics and the Human Sciences, Remarque Institute, New York University, Dec. 3, 2016.
“Cybernetic States of Emergency,” Rethinking Political Bodies, workshop, UC Berkeley, Oct. 8, 2016
“On Creative Thinking in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” Creativity, Cognition, and Critique, conference, Humanities Center, UC Irvine, May 21, 2016.
“ ‘…what worries me is the addition of modern technology to the old system’: On the Pathology of intelligent Machines,” Deep History: A Workshop on Gregory Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind, UC Irvine, April 21, 2016
“Imagination and Automation,” Symposium on the Imagination, Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley, Feb. 19, 2016
“Artificial Plasticity and the Nature of Human Intelligence,” Keynote Lecture, Passionate Disattachments: The Work of Catherine Malabou, Conference, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont., Canada, Feb. 6, 2016.
“Interruption, Failure, Error: Cognitive Systems in the Age of Reason,” Toward a History of Error, Colloquium, Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftesgeschichte, Berlin, Dec. 17-18, 2015
“Cybernetic Error and the Origins of Artificial Intelligence,” Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media (ICAM), Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg, Germany, Dec. 15, 2015.
Invited participant, Blumberg Dialogues on Astrobiology and Society, John. W. Kluge Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., August 5-6, 2015.
"L'inactualité du machiavélisme" [On the irrelevance of Machiavelism today], Actualités du machiavélisme, Centre Raymon Aron, EHESS, Paris, June 9, 2015. Video available.
Seminar Participant, "Philosophy and the Web," Google, March 31, 2015.
"Errant Minds, Intelligent Machines, Deviant Computers," Digital Cultures series, University of California, Davis, March 12, 2015.
"Esprits, oracles, télépathes: au-delà du mécanisme de la pensée selon Turing" [Spirits, oracles, telepaths: beyond the mechanism of thought according to Turing],  Lire Turing Aujourd'huiDigital Studies seminar, Institut de recherche et d'innovation, Paris, Jan. 13, 2015 (via Google Hangout)
"Interruption, Failure, Error: Thinking Technologies in the Digital Age," Science Studies Colloquium, University of California, San Diego, Jan. 26, 2015
"Numérisation et théorie de la faille" [Digitization and the theory of failure], La vérité du numérique: recherche et enseignement supérieur à l'époche des technologies numériques,  Centre Pompidou, Paris, Dec. 5, 2014. Video available
"An Artificial History of Natural Intelligence," Post-Humanities Series, Humanities Center, Lehigh University, Oct. 23, 2014
"Thinking Technologies: An Artificial History of Natural Intelligence," Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society, UC Berkeley, Sept. 25, 2014
"L'amplification de l'intelligence: penser avec les machines après la guerre" [The amplification of intelligence: thinking with machines after the war], Digital Studies Seminar, Institut de recherche et d'innovation, Paris, March 25, 2014. Video available
"Psychologies of the Automaton," Le nouvel âge de l'automatisation: algorithmes, données, individuations, Pompidou Center, Paris, Dec. 16-17, 2013. Video available


Nima Bassiri (PhD, 2010) Dislocations of the Brain: Subjectivity and Cerebral Topology from Descartes to Nineteenth-Century Neuroscience
James Harker (PhD, 2010) The Limits of the Mind: Cognition and Narrative Form in the Modernist Novel
Alenda Chang (PhD, 2013) Playing Nature: The Virtual Ecology of Game Environments
Katherine Chandler (PhD, 2014) Drone Flights and Failures: The United States's Secret Trials, Experiments and Operations in Unmanning, 1936-1973 (co-chair with Charis Thompson)
Claudia Salamanca (PhD, 2015) The Construction of the Colombian Territory: Images of the Colombian Armed Conflict, 2002-2010 (Co-chair with Samera Esmeir)
Osita (IK) Udekwu (PhD, 2017) Programming Insight: Human and Machine Intelligence in the Petabyte Age
Stacey Moran (PhD, 2017) Feminist Materials: Quantum Physics and Critical Writing Practices for New Material Feminism
Nicholaus Gutierrez (ABD) on the virtual and computer graphical systems
Ryan Ikeda (ABD) Aesthetics and Media Technology
Kathleen Powers (ABD) The Question of Life and Cybernetic Thinking
Thomas Gilbert (ABD) Moral Psychology of the Automated Economy