Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lavoisier's Tongue

Antoine Lavoisier by Louis Jean Desire Delaistre, after Boilly
There's a famous anecdote about the great chemist Lavoisier. It’s one of those vignettes that may very well be a piece of apocrypha like the notion that Catherine the Great had sex with her horse. As the nobleman and scientist was about to be guillotined at the time of the French Revolution, Lavoiser decided to test limits of consciousness. He would blink after his head was cut off. He was successful at his attempt, which was also inadvertently an illustration of Descartes’ cogito ergo sum. There wasn’t much of him left, but since he still possessed reflexive self-consciousness, he “was.” But Lavoisier sounds like the kind of guy who asked for little and got less. It’s interesting to ponder what other things he might have done had he put his “mind to it.” It’s not clear whether he was given a last meal, but it surely was nothing compared to the fare he might have gotten in a really good Paris bistro, say the Aux Pied de Cochon of it’s time. Here’s where dualism, the mind body problem really finds a happy resolution. With just his head Lavoisier could have eaten all the onion soup, with its cheese topping, and fresh baguette and butter he wanted and not have had to worry about gaining weight. And what if  Lavoiser had really been able to get his head going. It’s probably a redacted scene from Un Chien Andalou, but imagine the head placed on a pedestal and perorating on politics or even wagging its tongue at the fetching looking young ladies at the local brothel?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.