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The Vegetative Soul: From Philosophy of Nature to Subjectivity in the Feminine. Front Cover · Elaine Miller. SUNY Press, Aug 1, - Philosophy - pages.
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Promoting a new way to study and illuminate early Greek philosophy, Archaeology and the Origins of Philosophy explores archaeological resources and art historical evidence to contribute Engages the work and career of the philosopher Hugh J.

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Hugh J. Silverman was an Silverman was an inspiring scholar and teacher, known for his work engaging and shaping phenomenology, hermeneutics, psychoanalysis, structuralism, poststructuralism, and deconstruction. As Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literary Clara: or, On Nature's Connection to the Spirit. Part novella, part philosophy, Clara was Schelling's most popular work during his lifetime, and appears Part novella, part philosophy, Clara was Schelling's most popular work during his lifetime, and appears here in English for the first time.

David Hartley on Human Nature. Presents the first complete account of the thought of David Hartley, one of the most Presents the first complete account of the thought of David Hartley, one of the most original minds of the eighteenth century. Thoreau wrote that we have professors of philosophy but no philosophers.

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Applied ethics. The terms organic and organism in the sense of having an organized physical structure as applied to a living being, came into their familiar usage only in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Long after Aristotle, the employment of the word organon from ergon, or work, referred to the opposite of what would now come to mind with the word organic, namely, to a tool or instrument. In French anatomical studies of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, organic referred to the organs of the animal body in analogy with tools, in what was observed to be their mechanical functioning.

According to Phaedrus, by contrast, speech is superior to writing precisely because of its proximity to the living, breathing body.


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Writing, to Plato, is mechanical, distant, and mediate; one strews ink on the page in the way that a flower exposes its pollen to the wind Phaedrus C. For Plato, the plants sexual functioning can be understood in analogy with the artifice and distance of writing.

Elaine P. Miller-The Vegetative Soul

The term organic is thus a prime example of a multiple metaphorical structure that can neither be said to transfer an observation from nature onto a cultural phenomenon, nor conversely a cultural image onto nature, but which performs the complicated intertwining of the two realms that is perhaps inherent in every act of language. The word culture, too, has a complicated history. The original network of meanings surrounding culture linked it to the controlled cultivation of plants in an agricultural setting, the same serious planting that Plato refers to.

The meaning of culture underwent a transition in the eighteenth century from a noun of process, referring to the tending of something usually a plant or animal to a usage that designated everything human that did not spring directly from nature.


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Both thus show the way in which the description of nature can fundamentally change depending on the way in which culture has already been transformed. Friedrich Hlderlin shows his awareness of the cultural assumptions informing the discourse of the organism by using the term organic organisch to designate human activity, the organized reflected principle of spirit and of art in the sense of the Greek techne.

Organic in. Hlderlins theoretical work indicates all human projection onto nature, all giving of form to what inherently cannot be captured in form, whereas aorgic aorgisch refers to nature prior to any human representation of it. Hlderlin understood that every human turn toward nature, whether as a purportedly neutral observing scientist or as an artist, is in some way an appropriation and thus a transformation of it.

The debate that arose in eighteenth-century European literary circles between the relative merits of mechanical and organic theories of literature is ironic, given the etymology of organic. Hlderlins was one of many nineteenth-century efforts to unite mechanical and vitalistic views of nature, to overcome a distinction that he recognized as fruitless. If nature can never be approached by human beings without being altered, or, as Hlderlin put it, formed, then tracing the form such structuring has taken becomes the focus of philosophical inquiry rather than the establishment of an opposition between ways of approaching nature that violate it, and those that follow its natural coming-to-presence, since to approach nature is to transform it.

Both mechanistic and organic models of literature and science rely on essentially the same formation of nature. The notion of organic form resulted from an analogy of the workings of animal organs with perfectly functioning mechanisms, mechanisms that can provide their own motivating force. Whether one considers the building blocks of nature or of literature to be atomistic elements or organized wholes whose purpose lies within themselves, one is assuming that nature consists of self-enclosed bodies that have interactions with each other.

In other words, the form of the human bodywhich is an animal bodyseems to inform both major approaches to nature up until the twentieth century.

Elaine Miller

The ideal of organic form as it came into popular usage in the nineteenth century implicitly rests upon the same image that Plato advocates in the Phaedrus: an animal body with head, torso, and feet, each of which can be easily distinguished from the other and whose limits are somehow prescribed and not exceeded. In reaction to this reductionist understanding of organicity, certain literary and philosophical theories in Germany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries advocated the unfolding of the plant as the form that literary and philosophical creation and human subjectivity take.

These emerged in reaction to mechanistic theories of science, literature, and philosophy rather than to the limitations of thinking natural form as predominantly animal-like. However, the analogies between the workings of the animal body and the functioning of a machine make the advocacy of a plant figure rather than an animal one not as surprising as it might initially seem.

The shift to the notion of vegetable genius. The plant moves around the opposition of inside and outside, for in the process of the metamorphosis of the plant, as Goethe was perhaps the most eloquent in declaring, what was contracted and contained expands and becomes surface; the plant moves beyond the opposition of male and female, for both sexes often exist side by side in the same flower; the plant renders the opposition between passive and active superfluous, for the motivating force of the plant cannot be identified as consciousness or intention.

This is not to suggest that there is some other more originary way of approaching nature; when I discuss an alternative, plant-like notion of the organic or of subjectivity, this will not be put forward as a less aggressive twisting into shape of some preexisting passive reality; such an assumption would simply repeat the traditional oppositional structure between nature and culture.

Nature, then, in the broader argument of this book, refers to that which is symbolized as nature as opposed to culture , although by virtue of being called natural it is sometimes presented as if it were essentially and inevitably figured in a particular way. The opposition is between two sets of symbols that reciprocally define each other, not between two ontologically distinct realms.

Nature will not be understood as a blank slate upon which a human story will be written, nor as a piece of wax that takes on intelligible form only through the seal of human inquiry. Nature is always a symbolized nature. A historical change in the conception of nature, then, both reflects and engenders a transformation in culture, and what I shall try to do here is examine a small segment of this history at a time when a direct challenge was being made to the dominant form of understanding nature, as one large animal organism or as a collection of smaller animal forms.

The animal body became the privileged figure for the organization of speech in Plato and writing after Plato. To see the plant, by contrast, as the metaphor of metaphors, is to focus on the provisionality of plant morphology and the way in which every form of the plant metamorphoses into another; it is also to emphasize the fact that a plant cannot be specified as an individual in the same way that an animal can. A plant-like reading might unfold something like this: one may start with an idea, or start with a very straightforward reading of a text.

Then the seed metamorphoses into a stem, node, or leaf, and without any specific intention on the part of the author it begins to transform itself into something else. Then a commentary, or a poem, or something overheard contributes to the reading, and it metamorphoses again. Ones final reading will never be final, never exhaustive. A truly philosophical reading can perhaps never be envisaged from the outset. The body of a plant is never given in advance. One doesnt know how it will look, how big it will get, which tendrils will extend farthest, how much fruit it will bear.

Its size is not prescribed, and the extent of its metamorphosis can never be predicted. The plant always has one or more open end s , turned toward metamorphosis and toward unspecified growth. In addition, a part of a plant can break off or be cut off from the whole, sprout roots and be replanted as its own individuala seemingly arbitrary part of the plant, not its seed or childa fact that Hegel found monstrous and Goethe fascinating. In a way, we might say that a plant is monstrous, displaying its sexual organs in the form of a beautiful flower. The flower, the symbol of incipient innocent love in human culture, is proffered as a symbol of hesitant hope, of admiration.

Yet what could be a more blatant sign: what we are actually handing each other are truncated sexual organs. In addition to seeing flowers as symbols of beauty, we eat, drink, burn, and inhale plants; we apply them to wounds, make houses from them, clothe ourselves with them.

Plants are a source of intoxication. The plant both is and is not an individual, in the Nietzschean sense. A plant has the comportment of an alert passivity, the attendant receptivity of a flower turning its face toward the sun. Martha Nussbaum writes of the fragility of goodness, of the etymology of the Greek arete as plant; a kind of human worth that is inseparable from vulnerability, an excellence that is in its nature other-related and social, a rationality whose nature is not to attempt to seize, hold, trap, and control, in whose value openness, receptivity, and wonder play an important role.

She continues, What I am after, it seems, is a noncontrolling art of writing that will leave the writer more receptive to love than before. It is interesting to note that the words leaf, Blatt, and feuille all refer to part of a plant and part of a book, as Walt Whitmans Leaves of Grass makes explicit. Only in giving up the guarantee of survival of. The readings of Hlderlin and Nietzsche are intended to illustrate this uneven rhythm, this rupturing of the possibility of continuity.

Kant and Hegel, conversely, are determined survivors, even if to be such is ultimately to deny the fragility of the human relationship to the realm of nature. At the same time, a dialogue of sorts takes place between, on the one hand, Kant and Nietzsche, and on the other, Hegel and Hlderlin, with reference to these very questions.

The Vegetative Soul: From Philosophy of Nature to Subjectivity in the Feminine - Semantic Scholar

If Goethe seems out of place, seems to mar the structure of pairing, of symmetrical opposition, of chiasmic transfer, this is not inappropriate. Goethe appears in this study as an example of one who gave himself the task of attempting an explicitly plant-like way of thinking, and who ruptured any possibility of binary opposition. Two parallel crossings thus result, one between Hegel and Hlderlin, the other between Kant and Nietzsche.