On scientific witches

[Desmanchei-me a rir, quando liguei estas duas passagens – como não se ser sensível ao choque tectónico entre uma cabeça do século XVII e uma do século XX, quando tudo se tornou mais pessoal e pequenino? Bruxas?! Precisamente. Mas não sobre o mesmo fundo…]


«But what exactly is ‘experimental’ reasoning? [If we look at the vast seventeenth-century literature on witchcraft, it is full of reports of careful observations and sworn evidence – even of experiments. Glanvill, the house philosopher of the early Royal Society, regarded witchcraft as the paradigm of experimental reasoning.

– Imre Lakatos (1922-1974), “Science and pseudo-science” (1973). NOTE: Within square brackets [], there are additional passages that Lakatos subsequently included in the text version of his radiophonic talk, published in “Philosophy in the Open” and in “The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes: Philosophical Papers”, vol. 1.


«And if any thing were to be much admired (…), it would be to me matter of Astonishment, that Men (…) are falling into the conceit that there’s no such thing as a Witch or Apparition, but that these are the creatures of Melancholy and Superstition, foster’d by ignorance and design, which, comparing the confidence of their disbelief with the evidence of the things denied, and the weakness of their grounds, would almost suggest that themselves are an argument of what they deny: and that so confident an Opinion could not be held upon such inducements, but by some kind of Witchcraft and Fascination in the Fancy. And perhaps that evil Spirit, whose influences they will not allow in Actions ascribed to such Causes, hath a greater hand and interest in their Proposition than they are aware of.»

– Joseph Glanvill (1636-1680), “Some philosophical considerations touching the being of witches and witchcraft” (1667).


As dobras


O braseiro foi para nós esta noite bálsamo,
quando debaixo da sombra nos picavam os escorpiões do frio.
Cheio de luz talhou para nós cálidas mantas
debaixo das quais não sabe o frio em que estamos.
Alimenta o incêndio numa fornalha que rodeamos
como se fosse uma grande taça de vinho
de que bebemos todos.
Umas vezes consente que nos aproximemos
e outras nos afasta,
como mãe que umas vezes amamenta
e outras nos retira o peito.



São as laranjas brasas que mostram sobre os ramos
as suas cores vivas
ou rostos que assomam
entre as verdes cortinas dos palanquins?
São os ramos que se balouçam ou formas delicadas
por cujo amor sofro o que sofro?
Vejo a laranjeira que nos mostra os seus frutos:
parecem lágrimas coloridas de vermelho
pelos tormentos do amor.
Estão congeladas mas, se se fundissem, seriam vinho
Mãos mágicas moldaram a terra para as formar.
São como bolas de cornalina em ramos de topázio
e na mão do zéfiromartelos para as golpear.
Umas vezes beijamos os frutos
outras cheiramos o seu olor
e assim são alternadamente
rosto de donzelas ou pomos de perfume.

– Poemas de Ibn Sara As-Santarini (Santarém, c. 1043-1123), retirados da antologia de poesia árabe organizada por António Borges Coelho, “Portugal na Espanha Árabe”, volume IV, Empresa de Publicidade Seara Nova S.A.R.L., Lisboa, 1975.


«Pour produire un monstre, c’est une pauvre recette d’entasser des déterminations hétéroclites ou de surdéterminer l’animal. Il vaut mieux faire monter le fond, et dissoudre la forme. (…). Et il n’est pas sûr que ce soit seulement le sommeil de la Raison qui engendre les monstres. C’est aussi la veille, l’insomnie de la pensée, car la pensée est ce moment où la détermination se fait une, à force de soutenir un rapport unilatéral et précis avec l’indéterminé. La pensée “fait” la différence, mais la différence, c’est le monstre. (…) La différence doit sortir de sa caverne, et cesser d’être un monstre; ou du moins ne doit subsister comme monstre que ce qui se dérobe à l’heureux moment, ce qui constitue seulement une mauvaise rencontre, une mauvaise occasion. Ici, l’expression “faire la différence” change donc de sens.» – Deleuze, Différence et Répetition.


«In “Nature?” I have created live butterflies where their wing patterns were modified for artistic purposes. Such changes were achieved by interfering with the normal development of the wing, inducing the development of a new pattern never seen before in nature. The butterfly wings remain exclusively made of normal cells, without artificial pigments or scars, but designed by an artist. These wings are an example of something simultaneously natural, but resulting from human intervention. The artistic intervention leaves the butterfly genes unchanged. Thus, the new patterns are not transmitted to the offspring of the modified butterflies. The new patterns are something that never existed before in nature, and that rapidly disappear from nature not to be seen again. These artworks literally live and die. They are an example of art with a lifespan – the lifespan of a butterfly. They are an example of something that is simultaneously art and life.» – Marta de Menezes, “Nature?” (1999-2000), developed at the laboratory of Professor Paul Brakefield, University of Leiden, Holland, with the scientists: A. Monteiro, M. Bax, K. Koops, R. Kooi and P. Brakefield.


«For both Bicyclus anynana and Heliconius melpomene butterflies, one wing has a ‘natural’ design, whereas the patterns on the other has been artificially modified. (…) This work was produced in collaboration with the biologist Paul Brakefield, who specializes in the evolutionary development of butterfly wing patterning. Unspecified types of ‘modifications’ were applied to the caterpillar during its transition to butterfly pupae. Tools used include microsurgical needles, red-hot cauterizing needles and tools for micrografting. The micromanipulation of the wing imaginal disk results in new, non-intuitive patterns that affect the colour and design elements, such as new eyespots. The wounds are small and heal seamlessly and painlessly because the pre-wing disks do not have nerves. (…) The presumption that these humanly modified butterflies carry out a ‘normal’ life remains untested.» – Nature.


[NOTE: From personal design of Nature to the fabrication of living animals stamped with brand logos is only a small step. Brands everywhere, death everywhere].

The powers of flexibility and normalisation

[My admiration for the flexibility of all these extraordinary persons. They know “what a body can do”.]

About quadrupedal members of Ulas’ family: “No single gene would be responsible for this [“wrist-walking”]. (…) No one was there to encourage (…) children on to their feet”.


«She [Oxana Malaya] could not understand what a mirror is. When she was shown a mirror, she did not even recognised herself, she did not even looked at it.»


“Reptile skill” (crawling) at 4:17.


“The more flexible you are, the more pain you can withstand” [8:15] – Tong Zi Gong is learned and practiced regularly at a very early age, because the skill becomes harder to master once the bones are set. Shaolin arts is about the acceptance of obstacles and using them to develop internal and external force.