by Arran James
Levi has another interesting post up that opens with a quote from Serres
The theory of simulacra [Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book IV] is a theory of communication: edges, envelopes, wraps, flying through object space, as objects or from transmitters to receptors. We know how these skins are shed, how these delicate carapaces become detached at transmission. And we know how, that is, at what speed, they cross the space of communication. At the end, at reception, the sensory apparatus enters into contact with this delicate film. Thus, sight, smell, hearing, and so forth, are just senses of touch. The theory of simulacra is a singular case of the general theory of flow, communication is one circulation among others, knowledge is no different than being.
Like all philosophers passionately concerned with objective reality, Lucretius was a genius of touch and not vision… Knowledge is not seeing, it is entering into contact, directly, with things [sic.]; and besides, they come to us. (
I wanted to add to this that touch is the primordial sense out of which all other senses develop. I’ve been bogged down but I hope to write something soon on this. Touch is the first sense insofar as at conception we are already touching another body. It is from this symbiotic touching that all other differentiations that will result in an organism capable of all the other senses takes place. Touch is also the primordial sense in so far as it is the case that bodies are not completely withdrawn objects. It is my contention that whatever exists is a body and that all bodies are open to all other bodies in partial and diverse ways; corporealism is transcorporealism and thus no body is ever not interpenetrated by other bodies. Bodies may not always have the cognitive mechanisms for experiential contact with other bodies such that we think of in phenomenological terms, but they do nonetheless make material contact with one another in such a way that we can call all bodies transcorporeal; they become structurally coupled, nested, and or form intermatrices that are, in turn, new bodies. This is to say, with Mereleau-Ponty, that bodies are interwoven in such a way that the flesh of one body is bound up eroto-ontologically with the flesh of other objects. In their instituting interactions bodies of a particular kind, bodies that we call organisms, make contact with one another through various senses but these senses, when actively grasped and affirmed, are nothing more than the sensibility of flesh to itself. It is for this reason that for me all senses are tactile: they are always about ways of making direct contact with other objects. Even smell, though I might be smelling the scent of some no absent flower, is a mode of direct ontological contact between me and the particles that carry that scent, mediated through all the neurophysicological and anatomic matrices that occur in between. Contact does not allow, however, the complete identification of this body with that: the lovers never really dissolve into one another. The at of contact (a term I am taking from the dance world, in the sense of “contact improvisation”) is always an act of negotiating distances and proximities.
In Levi’s post he also points out that a materialist must pay attention to what he calls the thermodynamics of communication. To pick up on this thermodynamic point, I would prefer to stress that bodies- no matter if they are human, mineral, or machine- always have a particular metabolism. This is a thought that first occured to me when I was working with people with eating disorders. Usually, in biology, metabolism refers to the life-sustaining exchanges. Yet can’t this be extended to non-living bodies as well? For instance, the way that capitalist accumulation functions is to metabolise labour power through living bodies in order to generate value. Metabolism is the system of exchanges that any body uses to maintain, expand and reproduce itself. Metabolism involves the bringing into a complex system elements outside of it, whilst generating waste. In capitalism, from its perspective, waste is generated as unnecessary abundance (through the maintenance of artificial material scarcity) and in the production of superfluous bodies and subjectivities: the homeless, the unemployed, the illegal person and so on.
Just quick thoughts for the night before I turn in. Night all.