Diderot’s Ontology Between Form and Formlessness
AbstractIn Diderot’s thought formlessness is an important, yet latent concept. With Diderot, the concept is originally physiological. Formlessness is characteristic of a living mass called “bundle” which is the basis for animal embryonic development. In this development, organs are formed by epigenesis from fibres of the bundle. As organs are differentiated, the indeterminate sensibility of the bundle is differentiated into senses. The differentiated body can only function as a hierarchy in which the transformed original bundle dominates the whole. Ideally one can reduce the formed body to formlessness by simply retracting its fibres. A similar, but actual formless body is the uterine mole, a medical phenomenon described by Diderot. A mole is formed in pregnancy or outside pregnancy. It is irrevocably fixed in its indeterminate form and vegetative sensibility. It is functional neither as an organ nor as an animal. A living mass with no potentiality or function, the mole represents a negation of Diderot’s conception of life.
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