What can be put together can be taken apart

“At an early stage of their discoveries biologists were surprised and fascinated by the fact that living beings, however perfect (or even more perfect) their spontaneity, were always decomposable into an endless chain of closed mechanisms. From this they thought they could deduce universal materialism. But they overlooked the essential difference between a natural whole and the elements into which it is analysed.

By its very construction, it is true, every organism is always and inevitable reducible into its component parts. But it by no means follows that the sum of the parts is the same as the whole, or that, in the whole, some specifically new value may not emerge. That what is ”free”, even in man, can be broken down into determinisms, is no proof that the world is not based on freedom –as indeed I maintain that it is. It is simply the result of ingenuity –a triumph of ingenuity– on the part of life.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin — The Phenomenon of Man (1955)

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Motion and Change and Its Perception

“Motion has from an early time been criticised severely, and it has never been defended with much success. (…) Motion implies that what is moved is in two places in one time; and this seems not possible. That motion implies two places is obvious; that these places are successive is no less obvious. But, on the other hand, it is clear that the process must have unity. The thing moved must be one; and, again, the time must be one. If the time were only many times, out of relation, and not parts of a single temporal whole, then no motion would be found. But if there time is one, then, as we have seen, it cannot also be many.”

F. H. Bradley — Appearance and reality (1893)

El Ingenioso Hidalgo de Don Quijote de la Mancha

“En resolución, él se enfrascó tanto en su lectura, que se le pasaban las noches leyendo de claro en claro, y los días de turbio en turbio, y así, del poco dormir y del mucho leer, se le secó el cerebro, de manera que vino a perder el juicio. Llenósele la fantasía de todo aquello que leía en los libros, así de encantamientos, como de pendencias, batallas, desafíos, heridas, requiebros, amores, tormentas y disparates imposibles, y asentósele de tal modo en la imaginación que era verdad toda aquella máquina de aquellas soñadas invenciones que leía, que para él no había otra historia más cierta en el mundo.”

Miguel de Cervantes

Philosophy: Preparation for Death

“… that philosophy itself is nothing else than a preparation for and meditation on death. Death and philosophy have this in common: death separates the soul from the body; philosophy draws off the mind from bodily things to the contemplation of truth and virtue: for he is not a true philosopher who is led away by bodily pleasures, since the senses are the source of ignorance and all evil. The mind, therefore, is entirely occupied in meditating on death, and freeing itself as much as possible from the body. How, then, can such a man be afraid of death? He who grieves at the approach of death can not be a true lover of wisdom, but is a lover of his body.”

Plato (Apology, Crito, and Phaedo of Socrates)

Questions-and-Answers on the “Roots and curiosity” project

Why were you interested in being a part this project?

Because switching from physics to biology was not enough for me. True interdisciplinary means to be able to speak with, act like, and think as a scientist, an artist, a therapist, or a philosopher. In fact, all these labels just screw up reality. For instance, have you noticed that the second thing (the first is usually your name) that one asks you in a scientific encounter is what is “your position” (whether you are a postdoc, a PhD student, or a PI)? I am more and more tempted to let them know about “my momentum”…

Did this project change the way you think about science?

Not the way I think about science, but the way I do science. According to current standards, I am a worse scientist after this project because there are no figures of merit that take into consideration the experience I had with those wonderful people (perhaps the a-index…). According to my standards, I am not only a better scientist but also a more complete human being after that. Art (in particular working with a dancer) has taught me that I can dare to ask myself and answer myself the questions I pose to a rat or a fly in the lab. But it is more comfortable let the animal do it…

Did this project change the way you think about art?

Yes. And also the way some of the artists produce art, I hope… It changed the way I think about art mainly because now I can base my ideas on concrete experience; they are not floating in the air. I can now ground my theories, biases, and preconceptions about art on a personal perception and memory, rather than on a piece of text or what somebody else might say about art.

What was the biggest challenge for you in this project?

To let the myth of the absolutely creative, brave, and disinterested artist fall. They are just like us (“zoon politikon”): they have to eat, shit, sell their stuff, do things they don’t like, be disciplined, cope with institutional bullshit, etc. After that, if there is some free spacetime, then the true “roots of curiosity” may sprout (but always indifferent to the cultural operating system). Actually, I believe the project really starts now, because now it is self-paced and not instructed anymore.

Reflex Behavior

“The scientific analysis of behavior was defined first in opposition to the givens of naive consciousness. If I am in a dark room and a luminous spot appears on the wall and moves along it, I would say that it has “attracted” my attention, that I have turned my eyes “toward” it and that in all its movements it “pulls” my regard along with it. Grasped from the inside, my behavior appears as directed, as gifted with an intention and a meaning. Science seems to demand that we reject these characteristics as appearances under which a reality of another kind must be discovered. It will be said that seen light is “only in us.” It covers a vibratory movement, which movement is never given to consciousness. Let us call the qualitative appearance, “phenomenal light”; the vibratory movement, “real light.” Since the real light is never perceived, it could not present itself as a goal toward which my behavior is directed. It can only be conceptualized as a cause which acts on my organism. The phenomenal light was a force of attraction, the real light is a vis a tergo. This reversal immediately poses a series of questions.”

Maurice Merleau-Ponty