Thinking On, With, Through, and Against Paper in the Mid–1660s
This chapter focuses upon a single artifact: the paper model of Richard Towneley’s telescopic micrometer that Robert Hooke fashioned in the fall of 1667. Cut, pasted, patched and apparently wounded, Hooke’s fragile model needs to be seen, I argue, as positively kaleidoscopic in its philosophical generativity. The chapter shows how Hooke’s model began as a picture and then matured as an object at a nexus of technological competition, artistic skill, and frankly wild speculation among leading French and English experimentalists, before giving birth to varieties of conceptual shape-shifting that targeted and liquidated nothing less than art itself. Having set out its micro-historical backstory and conflicted relations with art, I then elaborate the philosophical force of the procedures by which Hooke drafted, cut apart, and pasted his paper micrometer while fantasizing about machines, the machine-like bodies of animals he was then dissecting in landmark anatomical experiments, and the genesis of those animal bodies he was modeling through studies of paper-making. The chapter concludes by showing how Hooke attempted to theorize the cognitive agency of artifacts like his paper micrometer by redeploying his own pivotal ideas on celestial mechanics and attraction at a distance.
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