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11 DECEMBER 2013

Visceral Theory: Affect and Embodiment

"How can we think or write theory in the wake of poststructuralism? For a number of recent thinkers, one possible answer arrives in the often slippery category of affect, in the attempt to return theoretical attention not only to material conditions but specifically to the body and the intensities that traverse it. Such theorists are critical of the elevation of language over visceral, lived experience and interested in the ways that affects circulate publicly or are transmitted contagiously. 'The skin,' writes Brian Massumi, 'is faster than the word.' In different ways, they theorize affect–which they distinguish from emotion or feeling–as a per–personal and pre–linguistic entity about which they nonetheless attempt to speak. This class will constitute a joint experiment in how to think, write, and deploy the concept or concepts of affect. Readings will include selections from Baruch Spinoza, Sigmund Freud, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Brian Massumi, Kathleen Stewart, Teresa Brennan, Lauren Berlant, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and others. No prior reading will be assumed, but a willingness to struggle with and through nonlinear and experimental writing (both alone and with the group) will be an absolute necessity."

(Abby Kluchin)

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Abby Kluchin • affect • affect theoryBaruch Spinozabody • Brian Massumi • differanceembodimentemotion • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick • feelingFelix GuattariGilles Deleuzeintensities • Kathleen Stewart • Lauren Berlant • material conditions • per-personal entity • poststructuralism • pre-linguistic entity • Sigmund Freudskin • slippery category • Teresa Brennan • theorise affect • visceralvisceral experiencevisceral theory

CONTRIBUTOR

Liam Birtles
06 OCTOBER 2013

Modern medicine evokes a Cartesian mind-body dualism

"If we look at the history of medicine, we can see that it became what it is today because of a sweeping social transformation that modernized Europe centuries ago. Urbanization and commerce, along with Protestantism and the Catholic Counter–Reformation, encouraged new ways of conceiving and interacting with nature. It was within this context that 'scientific medicine' was invented and elaborated. The particular scientific model that became predominant in Europe in the seventeenth century accepted the mind–body dualism of René Descartes, for whom the human body is a self–contained, entirely material machine. His contemporary, Baruch Spinoza, on the other hand, elaborated a more relational view, stemming from a Jewish tradition that regards the body as essential to a complex and ultimately spiritual being, and all beings as mutually dependent.

Spinoza's perspective is no less compatible with scientific medicine than the Cartesian view. For science has two complementary ways of explaining: by taking apart–as atomic physics mainly does–and by bringing into relation–as Einstein's relativity theory does. Spinoza was quite aware of the power of the first approach, as elaborated by Descartes and advanced by technologies such as the newly invented microscope. Spinoza acknowledges that the human body is composed of parts, and those parts of smaller parts still. But he recognizes also that bodies are encompassed by, and can be adequately understood only in relation to, unities larger than themselves, until we reach the widest system of all, which is 'the whole of nature.' Spinoza was an early exponent of what is known today as 'systems theory.'

Medicine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could have taken a more integrative path, in keeping with Spinoza's insight that we are guardians not only of our bodies, taken individually, but of the entire domain of nature with which they are continuous. Instead–for reasons that this essay will explore – mainstream medicine adopted the Cartesian machine model."

(Raymond Barglow, Tikkun Magazine, March 2002)

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16th century17th centuryAlbert Einstein • atomic physics • atomisticBaruch Spinozabodybringing into relation • Cartesian machine model • Cartesian view • Catholiccomplexitycomposed of partscontingencydualismhealth carehistory of medicinehuman bodyintegrative practices • Jewish tradition • Judaism • mainstream medicine • man and nature • material machine • medicinemicroscopemind-body dualismnatureProtestantismrelational aestheticsrelational viewRene Descartessciencescientific medicine • scientific model • self-contained • social transformation • spiritual being • systems theorytaking apart • theory of relativity • urbansation

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
06 JANUARY 2013

Science depends on interpretation, community and tradition

"The beacons of the philosophy of science include Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and Bruno Latour who refute scientism from various angles: arguing that scientific observations are theory and value laden, science takes place within communities, science can be anarchic, etc, all suggesting that science is as dependent on processes of interpretation, community, and tradition as any aspect of the humanities."

(Richard Coyne, 2011)

Excerpted from a letter to the editor, first published in ARQ: Richard Coyne (2011). What's science got to do with it?. Architectural Research Quarterly, 15 , pp 205–206, doi:10.1017/S135913551100073X

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2011anarchic • Architectural Research Quarterly • ARQ • Baruch SpinozaBruno Latour • Chris Argyris • codify • Donald Schon • encyclopaedism • externality • General Systems Theory • GST • Herbert SimonJohn DeweyKarl Popper • letter to the editor • logical positivism • Ludwig von Bertalanffy • optimistic scientism • Paul Feyerabend • Peter Ramus • philosophy of sciencerationalityresearch culturesRichard Coynescience • science communities • science interpretation • scientific knowledgescientific observationsscientific traditionscientismsystematisationsystems theorytechnology as neutralThomas Kuhnvalue ladenVienna Circle

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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