Archive | October 2017

Adtrackers and Mind Parasites

A brief diversion from the theme of the Newtonian universe while I vent about adtrackers, internet bots, mind parasites, and “the global brain”.

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The House That Newton Built

[Newton] pushed open a door that led to a new universe: set in absolute time and space, at once measureless and measurable, furnished with science and machines, ruled by industry and natural law. Geometry and motion, motion and geometry: Newton joined them as one.” — James Gleick, Isaac Newton.

In yesterday’s post, I began a critique of James Gleick’s biography of Isaac Newton, which I found riddled with misunderstandings and errors. Today, I would like to conclude that critique. If one thing is true about Newton, though, it is that we have been the inheritors of that worldview, even unconsciously, — so much so that it has constituted our “common sense” and, consequently, the very structure of our consciousness and our understanding of “modernity”. It has conditioned our perceptions of reality, and has even constituted our social and political arrangements and even reformed our language so that we speak of “individuals” and “masses”, or of momentum, or inertia or social “forces”, or “gravity of events”, and so on. We frame social movements in terms of Newtonian dynamics. We have re-engineered our social systems to reflect the picture of the Newtonian-Cartesian cosmos.

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Blake, Newton, and The Megamachine

I raced through James Gleick’s biography of Isaac Newton last evening, who Gleick describes as “the chief architect of the modern world”. Although I could get disputatious with him about that characterisation of Newton as the architect of the modern world (and therefore of the mental-rational structure of consciousness) it has some merit. But one could say as much about Rene Descartes, too, and when we often speak of the “Newtonian-Cartesian world view” or the “Cartesian-Newtonian paradigm” as we so often do, it is in that joint sense.

At the same time, neither Newton nor Descartes are understandable as separate from the invention of perspective by the Renaissance artists. Perspectivism laid the foundation for the “objective attitude” and new approach to reality that informed both Newton and Descartes, as cultural philosopher Jean Gebser (among others now) has described that in his Ever-Present Origin. Da Vinci, as the perfecter of perspectivism, could just as well be called modernity’s “chief architect”, which is why his Vitruvian Man and his Mona Lisa have become even iconic of the Modern Age.

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