II The Link (or Divide and Conquer)

I may never know God's mind completely. But I can know completely the number of muscles in a frog's leg. And once that is learned, I can begin to know completely the muscles in its neck. And through this calculus, I can know a frog. And then a toad. And once enough people adopt this manner of thinking, knowing the world becomes a problem of man hours, not ontology. Majestic collections of beetles and seaweed were assembled, all ordered in a taxonomy not to reveal their similarities but their differences — for there's a new teleology in town, Positive Knowledge, fueled by scientific order. And for all practical purposes this means of parsing becomes its own end. Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on Grande Jatte Island can be seen as an icon of this change — a painting of individual dots that is partially about the way these dots are combined in the mind to produce color. This is the first Modern painting, according to Hugh Kenner in his The First Moderns, for the epistemology of discontinuity inherent in its style.

What is looked for is what is found, and what we find when we look at the Moderns is that as inquiry shifts from cataloging differences to linking differences by cause and effect, God's mind recedes. Language, once the trace of God's hand, fades to neutrality. And obviously, it's a short hop to the specialized sciences as we know them, as well as genres, history, for example, as distinct from literature and the division of arts from letters. And text from world, as exemplified by structuralist reading, which makes the text a world unto itself.


saying knowing