“What do we want Matter to say to Us?” Some Scattered Thoughts


I wrote this post in the middle of the night due to some neurotic insomnia. In fact, I had thought I hit the publish button, but I hit the save key instead. Anyways, what follows are some scattered thoughts, loose connections and possibilities for further interrogation all because in my insomniac state I came across this interesting article, “On Plasticity: Sound Cartographies,” by Miguel Leal via Fido the Yak, who links plasticity to the image:

There is some cause for linking the idea of the plastic with the idea of the image. The word plastic comes from the Greek πλαστῐκός which means “fit for molding” and also, when said of persons, “gifted in sculpture.” (I’m relying upon the Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell and Scott for the meaning of Greek words.) It is related to πλάσσω, which means “to form, to mold” and, in one of its senses, “to form an image of a thing in the mind, to imagine.” (Mold, btw, comes to us by way of the French mouler which means “to hug the figure.”) Another meaning of πλάσσω is “to mold or form by training or education.” A πλάσμα is, among other things, an image or figure. The Greeks thus help us think of the image as something shaped and also, perhaps, shaping. What qualities must the sculpted possess in order to sculpt the sculptor? Leal touches on the idea of a thickness necessary for any plasticity. He says that “in order for matter to show its plasticity it is above all necessary to grant it thickness.” (emphasis mine) The double movement of imagination hugs the figure and draws out the form, unfolding in a milieu the emotional thickness of Play-Doh or the temporal thickness of the plasmatic stream. It is perhaps utlimately the thickness of metaphor, which, in kindness to Leal, I will regard as a πλαστῐκή τεχνῶν.

This idea of thickness is touched upon by Emmanuel Levinas in some of his early writing so I decided to have a closer look at Existence and Existents. Continue reading

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