By Mark Noble

In American Poetic Materialism from Whitman to Stevens, Mark Noble examines writers who proportion the idea that personhood could be understood as a fabric occasion. via new readings of Whitman, Emerson, Santayana, and Stevens, Noble uncovers a literary heritage wrestling with the results of its personal materialism, and asks what this account of shared materiality can let us know concerning the such a lot profoundly secular versions of the trendy topic. At a second while numerous new types of the connection among human event and its actual flooring move between severe theorists and philosophers of technological know-how, American Poetic Materialism explores poets who've lengthy requested what our materiality can let us know approximately our customers for brand spanking new types of our fabric selves.

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To an invincible ignorance on which our happiness depends” (75). La Mettrie thus recommends a strategic response to a common problem faced by atomists who attempt explanations of a link between materiality and consciousness. The history of philosophical materialism involves repeated encounters with this relatively straightforward paradox: assertions that reality is comprised exclusively of physical substance rely on a foundational idea – the atom – that is itself curiously insubstantial. The atom, from Democritus onward, owes its exceptional durability and ubiquity to a tenuous set of features that must be imagined because they cannot be observed.

This chapter sketches an intellectual history in which such difficulty recurs in writing that links all human cravings – our universalisms and our particularities – to a common material ground. ” I argue that such writing designates an underground tradition in materialist thinking, one vexed by both the desirability and the untenability inherent in alignments of experience with physical reality. Aporetic materialism negotiates between the extraordinary gains and peculiar losses that follow from the conversion of persons to atoms, for instance, though without resolving that tension in any definitive way.

15 For La Mettrie, a thoroughgoing materialism thus also posits the anima in the animal: It is the source of all our feelings, pleasures, passions, and thoughts, for the brain has its muscles for thinking as do the legs for walking. I mean that impetuous autonomous principle that Hippocrates calls ενορμων or the soul. This principle exists and is seated in the brain at the point of origin of the nerves through which it exercises its rule over all the rest of the body. ” La Mettrie nevertheless insists that we resist the temptation to imagine this machinal soul as an immaterial thing: “[a]n intelligent person ought to use it only to name the part in us that thinks” (59).

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