Friday, January 10, 2014

On the Prosthetic

After spending a few hours this past week trying on new frames and ordering new lenses for distance vision, now seems like a suitable time to think and write about prosthesis, that is, to think through writing as prosthetic, perhaps even to consider that thought itself might be the original prosthesis.

As an application or attachment to that which has come about on its own (namely, my body qua physis), prosthesis shows itself as supplement, that which, in being secondary and optional, nevertheless fulfills and completes what, upon further investigation, was always already unfulfilled and incomplete, making supplementation primordial and necessary.

I find myself inordinately and increasingly relying on technology (qua tekhne). Artifice has become natural for me: clothes, shoes, jewelry, eyeglasses, acupuncture needles, automobiles, vitamins, cellular phone, computer, writing, language, thought, the very idea of something that would or ever could be natural. (This is why I always provoked my students with the question, "What is natural? What do you mean by this word?") I eat when I am not hungry. I drink when I am not thirsty. When I run, I use a GPS-enabled watch and heart rate monitor with special running gear (shorts, shirts, etc.). In this way, even the satellites in orbit around the earth serve as prosthetic devices that enable a new (re-)/connection with my body.

Yet even when I am completely nude, the thought of myself and of my body disrupts any ease I may have had regarding such nudity as natural, original, ideal. The winter dryness makes me aware of my skin in a new and disturbing way. The reflection in the mirror disrupts any interior monologue with the murmuring voice of an other, which may or may not be the double or non-double of my self. Sitting quietly in meditation, I am still privy to this dialog and to the unsettling alterity of others.

The word my keeps getting affixed to everything here. Maybe such notions of "mineness" and "property" are prosthetic as well. Do I really need to employ this usage when I speak about that which is most "my own"? Do I really need to keep saying "I"? (And why does this "I" keep asserting itself even in the interior dialogs I have with myself? Couldn't I somehow forgo this convention and speak with a pure language that would accurately reflect myself in such a way as to make all self-references superfluous? Could such an I ever exist?)

A new thought: civilization arises when humankind begins to rely more on prosthesis than on physis. (There are no new thoughts.) The human being: προσθετική ζώων [the prosthetic animal].

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