PDF Download of Whoroscopy 

Published in the exhibition catalogue for Descartes' Daughter at the Swiss Institute, curated by Piper Marshall, September 19–November 3, 2013

Where an exit from the transcendent ego, Descartes’ infamous Cogito ergo sum? How a turn from consciousness grounded in Kant’s “I”, the One as analytic self-consciousness becoming a systemic rational?

The Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (a vocal critic of Descartes in his own time) was exiled from his own Sephardic community of Amsterdam as a young man for decrying the existence of a providential God. Subsequently, Spinoza used Ladino, the Spanish idiom spoken by Sephardim, only once in his written work, to introduce the archaic phrase “pasearse” which literally means “to walk-oneself.” A loose translation into modern Spanish would be “pasear” or “dar un paseo,” to take a walk, but the archaic verb form insisted upon by Spinoza is both agent and patient, active and passive, an infinitive that refers the agent to herself as immanently present and therefore cause: “to visit oneself” and “to show oneself visiting.”

Why might this be of importance? Because it is the split of self without duality that Spinoza claims in “pasearse,” a turning outward and inward at the same time, the becoming of self in the infinitive form. What follows is an experiment in literary “pasearse,” simultaneously a visitation inspired by the exhibition Descartes’ Daughter, and a surrogate form of writing put in direct dialog with Samuel Beckett’s 1930 poem Whoroscope (included for reference) wherein the young Irish writer lays out a darkly comic rejoinder to Descartes’ vision.

Both pieces include ninety-eight lines with corresponding endnotes.

––Fionn Meade
Copryright Fionn Meade unless otherwise stated