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Showing posts from October 24, 2010

sun, king, and heart: circulation of the blood 2

Part two William Harvey was acquainted with Francis Bacon – of course. Harvey was, after all, a physician at James I’s court. He remarked to John Aubrey that Bacon “wrote philosophy like a Lord Chancellor.” This remark has been taken to mean that Bacon was, in Harvey’s eyes, no philosopher. And yet, it is not simply a disparagement – a meaningless quip. For what does it mean to write philosophy like a Lord Chancellor? Could it mean that Bacon’s administrative rationality – or his sense of stratagems – prevented him from understanding nature (which is presumably what Harvey is getting at – as Harvey was not interested in larger metaphysical issues)? And yet, were not Harvey and Bacon part of the same ‘team’, the team that turned upon a culture of reading – in which the sacred book emblematized the value of books – in favor of seeing, using instruments, measuring? Harvey, as Walter Pagel has pointed out, did not derive his conclusions about blood circulating in a the closed system from

Dethroning the heart: 1

“He did delight to be in the darke, and told me he could then best contemplate.” (John Aubrey, Life of William Harvey) Barthes, in his Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes wrote that of the tropes, the one that most aroused his suspicion was analogy: “Saussure’s bete noire was the arbitrary (of the sign). His is analogy. The analogical arts (cinema, photography), analogical methods (academic critique, for example) are discredited. Why? Because analogy implies an effort of Nature: it constitutes the natural as the source of truth; and what adds to the cursed state of analogy is that it is irrepressible: as soon as we see a form, it is necessary that it resembles something. Humanity seems condemned to the analogy. … Outside of these transgressions, the beneficial opposite to the perfidy of Analogy is simple structural correspondance: homology, which reduces the appeal to the first object to a proportional allusion (etymologically, that is to say, in the happier times of language, analogy

Descola on Nature and culture

When Nicolas Coeffeteau, in the Tableau of the Human Passions (1631), wants to demonstrate that all creatures are endowed naturally with what we would call the fight or flight response, he uses an example that sets him immediately outside of our modernity: “For we see, with other corruptible creatures, that they have not only an inclination and a power to search out things that are agreeable to them, and to flee those which can do them harm; but in addition to this they have another for resisting and combating that which gets in the way of their actions, or destroys their being. As, for example, first is not only endowed with lightness for lifting itself higher, but it has similarly received from the nature heat, by means of which it resists and combats all that is contrary to its action.” This comparison seems to violate a deep categorical borderline between the living and the non-living – as well as other borderlines that divide the living according to properties that we ascribe t