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Pataphysical Essays (Imagining Science) (edition 2012)

by René Daumal, Thomas Vosteen (Translator)

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Member:arcanacoelestia
Title:Pataphysical Essays (Imagining Science)
Authors:René Daumal
Other authors:Thomas Vosteen (Translator)
Info:Wakefield Press (2012), Paperback, 116 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:pataphysics, bizarre, surrealism

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Pataphysical Essays by René Daumal

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"Pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments" Daumal quotes [a:Alfred Jarry|41534|Alfred Jarry|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1256164961p2/41534.jpg] as saying. This means nothing to me. However, Daumal goes on to quote him saying this:

"It will study the laws governing exceptions," and that made so much more sense to me. Science in general is trying to come up with rules for the generalizing of everything. Pataphysics is the opposite. As a computer scientist (aka programmer), I have come up against this very conflict within myself. The scientist in me wants everything to be the same, homogenous, one big picture that works in every case. This is a dream for a programmer because it makes the job so much easier.

The hardest problems I've ever had to tackle as a programmer have always been those where exceptions creep in. And always there are exceptions! Why? Because computers do not work with computers alone, computers interact with human beings, who are prone to act irrationally and inconsistently.

But the other non-scientist/artist/writer part of me understands this and even celebrates the exceptions! The computer program should not define human behavior, it should yield to human behavior. It should become invisible in the face of the human. And exceptions make the human, because none of us are alike, i.e. each human being is irreducible ("The particular is absurd [...] The particular is revolting"). I think this may be why I'm attracted to writers who struggle with similar issues, writers like Musil and philosophers like Wittgenstein. And now René Daumal.

Speaking of Wittgenstein, Daumal's version of pataphysics reminds me a lot of Wittgenstein's language games (but with a more scientific and literary edge to it, rather than a math and logical edge): "pataphysical sophism is a proposition which brings into play syllogisms in a nonconclusive mode, but which become conclusive as soon as certain terms are changed in a manner that the mind grasps as quite obvious [...] the object of pataphysical knowledge is none other than the very law governing these changes [...] The reality of thought moves along a string of absurdities, which is true to the great principle that evidence cloaks itself in absurdity as its only means of being perceived. [...] Just as pataphysics as knowledge is the reverse and exact mirror opposite of physics, it probably can also have a powerful effect against attempts to streamline work when applied to the flow of production." (italics Daumal's).Ultimately pataphysics comes down to a game of language that twists perception beyond its limits. And when I say game, I mean it in the very consequential Cortázarian sense of play, or the serious almost spiritual element that Wittgenstein brings to his language games. Even the pataphysical laughter that Daumal mentions as a key component is a way of transcending an individual's consciousness: "The revelation of laughter will come to every man, but there will be nothing joyful about it [...] the obvious becomes absurd, light is a black veil and a dazzling sun slumbers, whereas my eyes do not."

I find this opening essay very intriguing because it wrestles head on with the forward dash of science. And instead of rejecting it outright or adopting it fully, it creates a third reality, one that assimilates science through a field of laughter into a parallel universe that makes us more human instead of less.

Not to give you the wrong impression, the essay on pataphysics is only a small portion of this book. The rest is filled with glorious pun-ridden prose-poem-like pataphysical particulars. It is almost impossible to explain or review this portion, but it is a pleasure to read: 2. ON INTELLECTUAL GELOIDS, PLUMS EXCEPTED

A projection on a horizontal plane of psychic activity, represented, for example, by A HUMAN FACE PHOTOGRAPHED AT THE PRECISE MOMENT OF PARAMNESIA, furnishes on a protoplasmic mass sensitized by potassium bichromate, after its solution and digestion by the aqueous medium of non-insolubilized salts, a sufficiently approximate image of the static intellect, in the best conditions of visibility. The odor, thanks to the idea of God, is pestilential. ( )
  JimmyChanga | Sep 11, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0984115560, Paperback)

Pataphysics: the science of imaginary solutions, of laws governing exceptions and of the laws describing the universe supplementary to this one. Alfred Jarry's posthumous novel, Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician, first appeared in 1911, and over the next 100 years, his pataphysical supersession of metaphysics would influence everyone from Marcel Duchamp and Boris Vian to Umberto Eco and Jean Baudrillard. In 1948 in Paris, a group of writers and thinkers would found the College of 'Pataphysics, still going strong today. The iconoclastic René Daumal was the first to elaborate upon Jarry's unique and humorous philosophy. Though Daumal is better known for his unfinished novel Mount Analogue and his refusal to be adopted by the Surrealist movement, this newly translated volume of writings offers a glimpse of often overlooked Daumal: Daumal the pataphysician. Pataphysical Essays collects Daumal's overtly pataphysical writings from 1929 to 1941, from his landmark exposition on pataphysics and laughter to his late essay, "The Pataphysics of Ghosts." Daumal's "Treatise on Patagrams" offers the reader everything from a recipe for the disintegration of a photographer to instructions on how to drill a fount of knowledge in a public urinal. This volume also includes Daumal's column for the Nouvelle Revue Française, "Pataphysics This Month." Reading like a deranged encyclopedia, "Pataphysics This Month" describes a new mythology for the field of science, and amply demonstrates that the twentieth century had been a distinctly pataphysical era.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:06 -0400)

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