Issue #71 April 2024


Mechanism sought to flatten. What it seemed to take issue with was the asymmetry inherent in the notion of ‘powers’ contained within objects, and unmoved movers setting everything into motion, as if a cause from up high. Contrary to this, it seemed to have offered a sublimely despiritualized, decentralized, and symmetrical vision of the universe. Every quanta of movement identical and accounted for as it was dispersed and fragmented through a universal structure of mechanisms.

But as the amassing perplexities attributable to mechanism began to grow, new, rogue notions become visible. If mechanism was a project of flattening, the new thought was to reintroduce striation and depth, by appropriating the mechanist’s term of art, ‘force’. At each point of mobile contact within a mechanism, something is transferred, something happens. The name for this transfer is ‘force’ and the result was for the flatness of mechanism to fall away into a depth of forces. Vitalism is an example of this counter-movement, but so would be the psychological ‘electronics’ of Freud, or even the early chemists and their experiments in galvanism.

It’s easy to get carried away. When one totalitizes forces rather than mechanisms, the trap is to fall back into a flatness and forget what the new notion of force was summoned to do. One may say “everything is energy”, and be indistinguishable from the mechanist. Descartes infamously thought that animals, being complex mechanisms, couldn’t really experience pain, but merely automatically reacted in ways we associated with the sensation. If everything is energy (whatever this could mean) it seems the same conclusion arises. What’s essential is to not forget that dynamic notions, forces, are summoned precisely to introduce depth via novel asymmetries. These asymmetries are antithetical to the totalitizing ‘everything’ or ‘all’. A becoming is always at most 7/8ths of a being. Nevertheless, the strength of vitalism was not merely to reject the artificial in the name of the ‘real’, but to show that the ways in which mechanism flattens its ‘data’ are closely tied to the way our natural perception works. A schism announces itself, a problem at the heart of philosophy: how is thought to relate to our natural perception? Is it a systematised version of it, or something else completely? Is there an incapacity for thinking at the heart of our very being? And if so, what are we to do about it? The urgency of these questions becomes apparent in a time, where the mechanistic tendencies threaten the very conditions of life.

Cover illustration: Walter Quirt, “Happiness in Fast Tempo”, (1940), [detail]


April 2024


“Would Humanity Be Healthier Without The State?”

by A. Scott Buch

The Power of All Powers: Yogic and European Philosophies of Power in Conversation

by Aamir Kaderbhai

Understanding Edgar Allan Poe

by Ermanno Bencivenga

Diverse Thoughts on the Lightly Enlightened, circa 17th Century France

by Trent Portigal