Monthly Archives: October 2015

Uexküll’s Figure 16: The Snail’s Moment

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From Jakob von Uexküll’s A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans:

“A snail [Helix pomatia] is placed on a rubber ball which, because it is floating on water, can slide freely past beneath the snail. The snail’s shell is held in place by a clamp. The snail is thereby free to crawl and also stays in the same place. If one places a small stick at the foot of the snail, it will crawl up on it. But if one strikes the snail from one to three times a second with it, the snail will turn away. However, if the blows are repeated four or more times a second, the snail begins to crawl on the stick. In the snail’s environment, a stick that moves back and forth four or more times a second must be at rest. We can conclude from this that the perception time of the snail takes place at a speed of between three and four moments a second. This has a result that all processes of motion take place much more quickly in the snail’s environment than they do in our own. Even the snail’s own movements do not seem slower to it than ours do to us” (72).

Plates from Cuvier’s Essay on the Theory of the Earth

I’m currently reading through Georges Cuvier’s 1813 Essay on the Theory of the Earth and I love these plates from Robert Jameson, who also wrote the prefaces to the third and fourth English editions of the text.

Front piece for Cuvier's Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813)

Front piece for Cuvier’s Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813)

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EcoMaterialisms: Bichat and Lamarck


This week’s EMC meeting was on Marie François Xavier Bichat (1771-1802) and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). It was also my week to present and I had a lot of fun with these texts, building on our conversations from previous classes and trying to draw some connections to last year’s discussions.

Bichat: Physiological Researches upon Life and Death (1800)

Lamarck: Zoological Philosophy: Exposition with Regard to the Natural History of Animals (1809)

Starting Points:     

  • Reiterating a Critique of Foucault
  • Organized and Brute Matter vs. Living and Dead Matter
  • Physical and Vital Forces: Lamarck vs. Buffon and Bichat
  • Living Bodies and their States: First Proposition
  • Living Bodies and their States: Second Proposition
  • Reactive Power vs. Intussusception

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EcoMaterialisms: Maupertuis and Buffon

This year, the EcoMaterialisms Collective is working through a three-part nexus: histories and theories of the organism in the fall, of ecologies in the winter, and of cosmologies in the spring. Every now and then I’ll post my reflections to the week’s readings along with what those readings were:


  • Pierre Louis Maupertuis (1698-1759): The Earthly Venus
  • Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788): Natural History, General and Particular
    • Ch. 2. Of Reproduction in General.
    • Ch. 4. Of the Generation of Animals.
    • Ch. 9. Varieties in the Generation of Animals.
    • Ch. 10. Of the Formation of the Foetus.
    • Ch. 11. Of the Expansion, Growth, and Delivery of the Foetus.


Also discussed: Foucault’s The Order of Things and Hans Jonas’ The Phenomenon of Life.

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