Science, Sexuality, and the Body-Instrument Link
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: State University of New York Press
Title Page, Copyright
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To appreciate Dusan Bjelic’s treatment of Galileo’s pendulum it is necessary to understand what it is not. It is not a straightforward contribution to the history of science. Nor is it a “social” or “philosophical” study of science in the usual sense. The book is sociologically inspired, it investigates the fundamental philosophical question of the relationship between experience and the...
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For writing the first part of the book I would like to extend my gratitude to Lucinda Cole, who gave me a fresh perspective on the writings of Michel Foucault and gave me a generous help in the composition of the text. Discussions with Arnold Davidson about Foucault, Mario Biagioli, and James MacLachlan on Galileo were extremely helpful in the narrative invention of “Foucault’s...
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“People used to have sex at these conferences,” a prominent cultural theorist of science from an Ivy League university nostalgically observed at an international conference on science. “Now,” she laments, “all they do is to talk about their work.” Her lamentation seems to miss here a larger point about the growing commerce between rationality and sex, between sexual deprivation...
PART ONE. PLEASURE
1. Time, Pleasure, and Knowledge
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A bob attached to a string fixed to a permanent point vibrates until, influenced by gravity, it rests at the lowest position—this short description sums up the plain mechanics of Galileo’s pendulum. Its material austerity was lush in sexuality as much as in mathematics. In the Neoplatonic worldview, the two do not exclude one another. Because of the fusion between pleasure and abstract rules,...
2. The Perversion of Objectivity and the Objectivity of Perversion
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Some historians of science today reject the notion inherited from the philosophy of science that “objectivity” is an achievement of pure rationality and instead argue that it is an achievement of virtue. They trace the meaning of “objectivity” back to various moral, ethical, and aesthetic discourses, all of which belong to practices of subjectivities. Peter Dear points out that...
3. The Jesuits’ Homosocial Ties and the Experiments with Galileo’s Pendulum
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In 1597, in Manila’s Parish of San Ignacio, a group of Jesuit educators held flagellation exercises during Lent. A group of slaves “sang a solemn Miserere (Psalm 50/51) at the end.”1 In 1645, the Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli decided to take Galileo to task and test his law on the pendulum. With his nine faithful Jesuit brothers, he went through a different type of bodily...
PART TWO. PEDAGOGY
4. The “Body-Instrument Link” and the Prism: A Case Study
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In order to problematize the history of Galileo’s science and represent it as unrecognized erotic improvisation, so far I have emphasized Nietzsche’s claim that every knowledge rests on an injustice done to the body in the name of “timeless ideas,” and Foucault’s call for a method that would vindicate the body.1 But much too often we fall under the spell of this erotic improvisation...
5. The Formal Structure of Galileo’s Pendulum
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Historical representation of Galileo’s pendulum depends on the dominant mode of rationality and its strategic suppression of the body. I have already analyzed in the second chapter Koyré’s dry and strictly textual representation of Galileo’s pendulum as typical for the ways in which we know Galileo’s pendulum today. The main aspect of this representation is formal knowledge of...
6. The Respecification of Galileo’s Pendulum
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The lead balls used here to construct Galileo’s pendulum were obtained from Nasco Science ’96: Understanding Through Hands-On Science catalogue. When I received the catologue, I realized that finding Galileo’s pendulum in a book of hundreds of pages is in itself a method of discovery. I had to engage in holding and looking at the catalogue, and flipping the pages comparing...
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In Civilization and Its Discontents Freud asserts that “civilization is a process in the service of Eros.”1 Elias, moreover, insists that every civilization must incorporate painful discipline; and for Foucault this painful discipline, by imposing restrictions on our pleasures, is still fundamentally responsible for the invention, intensification and proliferation of these pleasures. If we ag...
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Page Count: 221
Illustrations: 1 b/w photograph, 39 figures
Publication Year: 2003