Soft Matter: The Valorization of Mud 05

Soft Matter: The Valorization of Mud 05


From Earth and Reveries of Will 泥土與意志的幻想

By Gaston Bachelard 巴舍拉

Translated by Springhero 雄伯


Sartre would return to an existentialist study of sticky, viscous matter in Being and Nothingness. But this time he would forgo the device of a fictional character with a right to his idiosyncracies. The philosopher here takes viscosity as a serious object of study, demonstrating by the density of his remarks the importance of positive, real experience for concrete philosophical meditation.



In, as we might say, “ working” this theme, Sartre makes clear his view that matter is a revelation of being, that is to say of human being: “ The simple revelation of the substance of those objects by which the child is surrounded expands the child’s horizons to the extreme limits of being and offers at the same time clues for deciphering the essence of the human condition.”



Matter, in fact, gives us the sense of hidden depths; it compels us to unmask superficial being. And this is precisely what Sartre does when he unmasks the viscous. In this vein, it is certain that studies could be multiplied.



Broad examination of viscosity would lead to more specific studies, say of pitch or honey, that would reveal matter’s powers of individuation. Pitch, for instance, is the stuff of unremitting anger, of aggressive melancholy—melancholy in the material sense of the term. It is enough to read the writings of the shoemaker Jacob Boehme to recognize that pitch is, in the Sartrean sense, a key to his entire oeuvre.

廣泛的審查黏性,我們將得到更明確的研究,例如瀝青跟蜂蜜,更可看出個別化的力量。例如,瀝青是憤怒不已、憂鬱侵奪的物質,從這個詞語的物質含義而言,確實是憂鬱。我們只要閱讀一下鞋匠Jacob Boehme 我們就會體會到,就沙特而研,瀝青的黏性足以形容他一生之所以契而不捨地著作。


On the theme of viscosity, however, we can recognize a difference between existentialism of real matter and a doctrine of the material imagination. For me, the material imagination of soft substances is essentially concerned with labor. Viscosity, then, is only a passing offense, a skirmish between reality and the laborer in which the dynamism of the latter ensures victory.



Active material imagination of this sort is scarcely affected by the vertigo Sartre invokes when he writes of viscosity: “ It is a soft and yielding action, a moist and feminine sucking; it lives obscurely under my fingers, and I feel a dizziness that draws me as the bottom of a precipice might draw me. There is a quasi-tactile fascination in slimy things, a sense of appropriation I am unable to arrest but which continues.”



It continues, no doubt, if we take no action, if we experience viscosity on its own terms! But if we work viscosity, all is changed. For one thing, in kneading, if dough sticks to the fingers, a sprinkling of flour is enough to clean the hands. We can domesticate the viscous though an indirect attack with dry matter. At the mixing bowl we are demiurges. We determined the destiny of the matter.



Our struggles with viscous matter cannot be described parenthetically. Only the gaze can bracket in this way, permitting us to close our eyes and put off introspection until tomorrow, occupying ourselves for the time being with outward appearances. Working hands, hands animated by reveries of work, engage themselves. They take sticky substances and impose a hard future upon them according to a calculated timetable of progress.




In fact, hands think only as they squeeze, only while kneading, only while in action. Hands that fail to triumph by force, get bogged down or grow enervated in defeat, are no longer hands but mere envelopes of skin. They are afflicted by viscosity as a nose or cheek or upper arm might be. They are no longer powerful doers. They are themselves undone. It is amusing to observe that those who fear viscous matter spread it everywhere.



And, of course, passive hands imagine nothing. At the least contact with something viscous they slip back into so-called “ existentialist experience.” Contact with viscous matter may cause them to retreat into regression, experience the masochism of leeches, the vertigo of annihilation.



This may be the nature of existence, but the creative imagination desires something else. Ultimately, the material imagination derives not from phenomenology but ,as we have shown , on many occasions, from human activity or dynamology.



The forces discovered through experience the material imagination takes as its own, until at last the imagination sees itself as an active genius. If it were necessary for me to experience sliminess, I would become slime. I would set limed snares in the thickets ( God forbid!), playing songs of hypocrisy on my pipes.




Soft Matter: The Valorization of Mud 05


Earth and Reveries of Will 泥土與意志的幻想

By Gaston Bachelard 巴舍拉

Translated by Springhero雄伯


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