Saturday, April 18, 2015

The future of knowledge

I'm only on page 51 of Tom McCarthy's Satin Island, and I think it's extraordinary.
5.7 His most famous riff, perhaps, was about knowledge. Not knowledge of anything in particular; just knowledge in and of itself. Who was the last person, he would ask, to enjoy a full command of the intellectual activity of their day? The last individual, I mean? It was, he'd answer, Leibniz. He was on top of it all: physics and chemistry, geology, philosophy, maths, engineering, medicine, theology, aesthetics. Politics too. I mean, the guy was on it. Like some universal joint in the giant Rubik's Cube of culture, he could bring it all together, make the arts and sciences dance to the same tune. He died three hundred years ago. Since Leibniz's time (Peyman would go on), the discipline have separated out again. They're now on totally different pages: each in its own stall, shut off from all the others. Our own era, perhaps more than any other, seems to call out for a single intellect, a universal joint to bring them all together once again — seems to demand, in other words, a Leibniz. Yet there will be no Leibniz 2.0. What there will be is an endless set of migrations: the process. No one individual will conduct this operation; it will be performed collectively, with input from practitioners of a range of crafts, possessors of a range of expertise. Migration, mutation and what I (Peyman affirmed) call "supercession": the ability of each and every practice to surpass itself, break its own boundaries, even to the point of sacrificing its own terms and tenets in the breaching; and, in the no-man's-land between its territory and the next, the blank stretches of the map, those interstitial zones where light, bending and kinking round impossible topographies, produces mirages, fata morganas, apparitions, spectres, to combine in new, fantastic and explosive ways. That, he'd say is the future of knowledge.
I'm reading slowly, fully considering every paragraph, smiling over how these ideas dance. It's meditative, but in a cerebral way, not emotionally. It makes me feel smart.

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