How does the History of Ideas “Move”? Metaphors that are going somewhere.

Thought moves. Whether with fluidity or rigidity, the movements of thought may remind us of the movements within Glenn Gould’s performance of Mozart’s Sonata No. 10 in C Major: rising and falling, bifurcating – a strange mirage of continuity and discontinuity. The movement of thought can also be articulated rhythmically, like the hammering of the…

Why was everyone all always talking about Attention?

  Attention is a central concept in our thinking. Few concepts have changed as dramatically throughout their diverse and sordid histories, and few have had as many theoretical or incestuous liaisons. Yet “attention” has manage to convince us that its meaning is atemporal, or at least consistent. In the 1700s, attention was entangled with Reason, and they…

Punctuated Equilibrium as metaphor

Beloved paleontologist and essayist Stephan Jay Gould often struggled with the idea of progress that haunted the pages of Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species. For many historians of science, and for Gould himself, Darwin’s belief that the current, living, plethora of species were more advanced forms of their extinct relatives, is most likely…

Virgil’s Exclusion

In Dante’s poetic epic The Divine Comedy, the pagan-Virgil serves as the Christian-Dante’s guide and teacher throughout the rings of the Inferno and ranges of Mount Purgatory. Virgil’s own epic poem The Aeneid had a profound effect on the “real-life” Dante, yet Dante recognized that Virgil and his Aeneid were articulations of a particular time,…

Gaston Bachelard

Gaston Bachelard is for me one of the silent giants of contemporary philosophy. Well, to use Mill’s term this is only “half-truth”. Bachelard’s work still remains aloof to the English world. He was one of the last of a breed of early 1900s French epistemologists for whom a non-positivist study of science was a window into…

Destination SkyNet: Human Anxieties about Humanizing Technology

Consider this exhibit at the World Economic Forum in Davos: Paola Antonelli, the Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MOMA is the force behind the “Talk to Me” exhibit, which explores the world of communication between people and things. The exhibit considers how designers seek to enable a nonverbal dialogue through clever design. As…