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Showing posts from June 6, 2021

children of the homunculus

    John Maynard Keynes famously remarked that Newton was the last of the magicians. He was referring to Newton’s fascination with alchemy and the book of Revelations. Keynes was, of course, wrong – there were certainly magicians after Newton. But he was right in the most important respect, which was that the Whiggish history of science, in which Newton figured as a hero of positivism, was founded on a fiction. And it was not an unimportant glossing over of minor Newtonian penchants – according to Dobbs in The Janus Faces of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newton's Thought, one of the great books in the science wars, Newton took his notion of force from the alchemists. In fact, although the positivists still seem not to recognize this, the father of positivistic physics, quite purged of alchemical crap, is Descartes. The only problem with Descartes notion of vortices is that they are, mathematically, crap, as Newton proved. In place of the vortices – which at least adhere to the old

poison and writing

“- When do you write? - Not all the time. - So you aren’t a writer? -I am a writer just as a venomous beast stings at some time or another, when it is provoked, when it is stepped on, when it is attracted. The venom can be an erotic juice.” This note, in Hervé Guibert’s   journal, The mausoleum of lovers , seems to me an antidote to the Stendhalian model of the mirror. As is usual with Guibert, it puts a premium on the body as an endless source of secretion and excretion – among which we can count writing, writing in the animal life. Socrates compares himself with a gadfly or horsefly in the Apology: his sting is to arouse the listener from his torpor. And yet, in the Meno, the sting does other work: there, Meno compares Socrates to the narke, a fish with the power to diffuse the water around it with a charge, so that in its neighborhood, or even touching it, a person is shocked and numbed. “And if I may venture to make a jest  upon you, you seem to me both in your appearan