Tuesday, March 6, 2018

collect(ive






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The starfish: it has pincers close to its mouth in order to feed itself, but these pincers function on their own account. The animal pinches everything found in its way; it would pinch itself if nature had not used a subterfuge by covering its skin with a chemical product that exercises an inhibitory effect. There is thus no unity of the living being which unfurls itself toward the outside. Phenomena of behavior are sewn together: it is a collective animal.


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Let’s take the marine worm, which is crested by a mobile tube with a mouth and tentacles, and which anchors itself in the sand. Everything happens as if the animal were two: the animal that eats and the animal that moves. They never coexist: the animal that eats has an oval and flat form, muscles at rest, accelerated respiration, red corpuscles falling to contact the soil; it is incapable of movement. The animal that moves is activated by the contact of the skin on its back with the soil, affected by cyclones or by an overly intense sunlight. These are monotonous movements, very rarely swimming, above all foraging, in order to penetrate the sand, for hours at a time with regulations by external stimuli or by results. Such an animal doesn’t have enemies, in fact it lives very deeply in the sand. In transporting itself the body takes on another aspect: an elongated cigar.

—Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Animality: The Study of Animal Behavior



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