Unreal Nature

November 4, 2017

In the Whiteness of His Paper

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… the basis and aim of every speculation is the extension of continuity …

Continuinig through the essay ‘Introdiction to the Method of Leonardo da Vince’ (1894) found in Paul Valéry: An Anthology (1956: 1977):

… Most people see with their intellects much more often than with their eyes. Instead of colored spaces, they become aware of concepts. Something whitish, cubical, erect, its planes broken by the sparkle of glass, is immediately a house for them — the House! — a complex idea, a combination of abstract qualities.

[line break added] If they change position, the movement of the rows of windows, the translation of surfaces which continuously alters their sensuous perceptions, all this escapes them, for their concept remains the same. They perceive with a dictionary rather than with the retina; and they approach objects so blindly, they have such a vague notion of the difficulties and pleasures of vision, that they have invented beautiful views. Of the rest they are unaware.

… It is certain, in any case, that the basis and aim of every speculation is the extension of continuity with the help of metaphors, abstractions, and special languages.

… Wherever the understanding breaks off he introduces the productions of his mind. It is evident how extremely convenient he can be. He is like a scientific hypothesis. We should have to invent him, but he exists; the universal man can now be imagined. A Leonardo da Vinci can exist in our minds, without too much dazzling them, in the form of a concept … .

… This symbolic mind held an immense collection of forms, an ever lucid treasury of the dispositions of nature, a potentiality always ready to be translated into action and growing with the extensions of its domain. A host of concepts, a throng of possible memories, the power to recognize an extraordinary number of distinct things in the world at large and arrange them in a thousand fashions: this constituted Leonardo.

… From the shell he proceeds to the spiral tumescence of the waves; from the skin on the water of shallow pools to the veins that would warm it, and thence to the elemental movement of crawling, to the fluid serpent. He vivifies. He molds the water round a swimmer into clinging scarves, draperies that show the effort of the muscles in relief. As for the air, he transfixes it in the wake of soaring larks as ravelings of shadow; it is pictured in the frothy flights of bubbles which these aerial journeys and delicate breaths must disturb and have trailing across the blue-tinted pages of space, the dense, vague crystal of space.

[ … ]

… the man who never, in the whiteness of his paper, has seen an image troubled by the possible and by regret for all the symbols that will not be chosen, any more than he has seen, in the limpid air, a building that does not exist; the man who has not been haunted by the intoxication of a distant aim, by anxiety as to means, by the foreknowledge of delays and despair, by the calculation of successive phases, or by the reasoning that is projected into the future to designate the very things that must not be reasoned about even then : that man, however great his knowledge, will never know the riches or the broad intellectual domains that are illuminated by the conscious act of constructing.

My most recent previous post from Valéry’s book is here.

-Julie

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