[NetBehaviour] NetBehaviour Digest, Vol 1326, Issue 1

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Mon Jul 26 18:38:28 CEST 2021

Hi Anthony,

Super interesting reference to Thomas Nail's work!  I wonder if "Being and Motion" is a reference to "Being and Time"?  My philosophy reading is even patchier than my Joyce.

In my research about Leonardo, much of which has consisted of emailing art historians to ask for recommended reference works, I have noticed that most art historians create a boundary around Leonardo that places him "outside" the circle of philosophers.  I find this to be an obstacle to making his work comprehensible.  He certainly avoided belonging to any philosophical school in his own day, and for myriad reasons worked in dozens of different fields, but there is a vast amount of his writing that cannot be described as anything other than the philosophy of motion.  Even better, he used visual means of articulating his philosophical views, so I would be curious to ask Nail if he has looked at any of Leonardo's writings or (as you point out may be lacking in his approach) imagery.

Here is a quote from Leonardo's notebooks (all of which must be taken with a grain of salt) of the sort which has prompted the above kind of question:

"If you condemn painting, which is the only imitator of all visible works of nature, you will certainly despise a subtle invention which brings philosophy [italics mine] and subtle speculation to the consideration of the nature of all forms — seas and plains, trees, animals, plants and flowers — which are surrounded by shade and light. And this is true knowledge and the legitimate issue of nature; for painting is born of nature — or, to speak more correctly, we will say it is the grandchild of nature; for all visible things are produced by nature, and these her children have given birth to painting."

This coincidentally appears on the front page of Wikiquote today (Aldous Huxley on experience):

"The poet is, etymologically, the maker. Like all makers, [they require] a stock of raw materials — in his case, experience. Now experience is not a matter of having actually swum the Hellespont, or danced with the dervishes, or slept in a doss-house. It is a matter of sensibility and intuition, of seeing and hearing the significant things, of paying attention at the right moments, of understanding and co-ordinating. Experience is not what happens to a [person]; it is what a [person] does with what happens to [them]. It is a gift for dealing with the accidents of existence, not the accidents themselves. By a happy dispensation of nature, the poet generally possesses the gift of experience in conjunction with that of expression. What [they say] so well is therefore intrinsically of value."
~ Aldous Huxley ~

All best,


PS -- not sure if I posted this before, but it's a poem I wrote in early June:

If you really want to try to write
To listen is the easy early step.
And not to targets set you by adepts
But lingered sounds around a pool by night.
Not just to whorls of darkness and of blight
For magic shadows of a hand that slept
Half a millennium, although it kept
A fast, can indicate and trace the light.
A thread under a spider’s touch will quiver
In rain, a cruel sun, or raging storm
The glands from which it flowed shattered and broken
Yet since the birth of time a sinuous river
Has nested births and spun the wheel-spoke form
From which the dream of touch has never woken.

PPS -- in his 2019 book Theory of the Image Nail does appear to be looking very much at the visual.  Based on the table of contents, the book discusses many topics dealt with by Leonardo and appearing (I would propose) in the Mona Lisa (Esperienza) including confluence, knots, experience, percussive light, Lucretius, etc. as well as  Leonardo's fascinating Deluge images from late in his career.
I see that the table of contents of Being and Motion does allude to Being and Time, as well as other topics I see well represented in Leonardo's work (and his portrait I believe to be of Esperienza) such as interval, continuum, circulation, knot, conjunction, etc.  My philosophy reading is too weak for me not to get confused by discussions of logos and phenomenology, sad to say.  🙂  However I found Joost Keizer's book Leonardo's Paradox to be very interesting about writing as kinetic and visual; his article on allegory, words, and "moving" images also gets at some ideas which are interesting re the Nail topics.

From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org> on behalf of Anthony Stephenson via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Sent: Monday, July 26, 2021 10:41 AM
To: netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Cc: Anthony Stephenson <aps0loot at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] NetBehaviour Digest, Vol 1326, Issue 1

an early anthology I did, "Individuals:
Post-Movement Art in America" - the title referring to eliminating
boundaries and stop defining movements in order to experience what artists
were actually doing outside boundaries.

Ah yes, I mentioned how I had enjoyed this book when I had applied to your graduate studies class at UCLA.
Also, pardon my obviousness, I have no doubt that you have considered liminality. My interjection was simply an attempt to get you to expand on some of these edge and boundary ideas. Thank you.

Can you say more how the liminal or edge/border applies to NFTs? I can see
how ownership is blurred, but then isn't it (re)defined in terms of the
contract and purchase, perhaps morphing but not challenging the concept?

I'm not sure if I could do that here, but as a layer of abstraction, a limit or boundary is defined. While at a more mundane level, it is theoretically possible to seize total control of such a legally defined "object" and restrict and/or control its affects as such – defining its level of liminality. I mean, other than that, a NFT is little more than DRM metadata.


"Liminal" is a word that I had to look up, because my working definition of it (blurry, tentative) I know is wrong, though I was recently reminded that "limnology" refers to the study of lakes.  Having looked it up, I see it means something like "transitional" or "on either side of a boundary," kind of like a bridge state.  Ovid's Metamorphoses, and Tolstoy's reference to same, are related as well.  If we take a snapshot of a transition, and say "this is what it is," we err.

Humans are perhaps the organism most capable of snapshots, and this may well be one of our least adaptive instincts during the present crises.  Snapshots lose flow, and disconnect from reality both external and otherwise.

I recently finished Thomas Nail's "Being and Motion". In it he attempts to present an Ontology of Motion – essentially, everything is moving. Yet even in this we see him getting distracted by anthropomorphic asides. It starts off good, with an emphasis on physics, but the middle gets bogged down with his (historically philosophical) focus on God. Later, he again tries to get his models to fit the media he knows (writing, printing, etc.) and it just seems contrived. Still, there were some good ideas in it.


- Anthony Stephenson



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