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Machines that remember

Israel Silvestre (French, Nancy 1621–1691 Paris) Design for a theater set created by Giacomo Torelli da Fano for the ballet ‘Les Noces de Thétis’, from ‘Décorations et machines aprestées aux nopces de Tétis, Ballet Royal’, 1654 French, Etching with watercolor and highlights in gold; Sheet (Trimmed): 8 15/16 × 11 15/16 in. (22.7 × 30.3 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1951 (51.501.4161) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/700415

In the first essay to The Enigma of Health, Gadamer opines that the distinction between machines and living beings is the ability to remember. Remembering requires forgetting, for we do not remember the detail of every moment we experience, but specific scents, moments, and sounds. In contrast, the machine simply records all as it happens: the camera captures everything that it is pointed at, and the computer logs every keystroke.

* I am returning to this post months after I originally wrote the first paragraph and closed my draft planning to revise it later that evening. I have since been struck by the phenomenon of abandoning a post I was writing about “machines that remember,” as the title stared out at me from the drafts every time I opened my site.

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Deleuze, Guattari, and Colonialism Studies

Image result for deleuze guattari

My friend Stefania, a graduate student in Latin American studies at UT Austin, asked me why she kept encountering citations of Deleuze & Guattari (D&G) in her work, which focuses on Latin America, Anzaldúa, aesthetics, and colonialism. My path to D&G was through Nietzsche, and I came to research colonialism only after training in Continental philosophy; this is to say I cannot account for my own colonialism studies appreciation for D&G. But, I have some guesses.

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Illness, mental and physical

Frontispiece of “The English Dance of Death.” Rowlandson, Thomas

Determining the origin of health, suffering, and pain as concepts may be futile, but death is prehistoric. Whether we have always thought that that we died of this or that is a different question. The causal logic of disease is not necessarily a universal given.

Key old texts reference disease, whether it’s Revelations 6:8, the Chester Beatty Medical Papyrus, or Babylonian pathology Even the epic of Gilgamesh: “Fate, destiny in its evil aspect; pictured as a demon of the underworld, also a messenger and chief minister of Ereshkigal; a bringer of disease and pestilence.” What currently holds and eludes my attention is the Western division of health by way of the body/mind distinction.

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Disease and what a body can do

Oil painting depicting Claude Bernard, the father of modern physiology, with his pupils.
Oil painting depicting Claude Bernard, the father of modern physiology, with his pupils (pulled from Wikipedia).

I’m in the midst of reading Georges Canguilhem’s The Normal and the Pathological, and thus far the book is a fascinating reading of the history of pathology and physiology. Canguilhem cites copiously from the French physiologist René Leriche as he traces the understanding of pathology as informing physiology, rather than physiology determining pathology by way of establishing the normal function of something and thereafter deriving pathology from the lack of normal functioning. Leriche writes: “At every moment there lie within us many more physiological possibilities than physiology tells us about. But it takes disease to reveal them to us” (107).¹

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