Figuring Lacan: Criticism and the Cultural Unconscious by Juliet Flower MacCannell

By Juliet Flower MacCannell

Lacan when it comes to cultural feedback

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A new method Early in 1619, Descartes solved the long-standing mathematical problem of trisecting an angle, using a proportional compass of his own devising, and he discovered algebraic solutions to several classes of cubic equations. This work gave him new insights into the relation between geometrical constructions and algebraic equations. His proportional compass was constructed of rigid straight edges that hinged and slid over one another to create fixed proportions (in a continuous manner, as the device opened and closed).

Descartes’ first moral precept is a version of this advice, “to obey the laws and customs of my country” (6:22–3). 11 OVERVIEW AND SYNOPSIS Although familiar with the revival of philosophical skepticism, Descartes was not inclined toward becoming a skeptic. He treated many of his opinions as doubtful, as skeptics also do. But his aim was to eradicate incorrect opinions by retaining only those that were certain. In uprooting his errors, he says, “I was not imitating the skeptics, who doubt only for the sake of doubting, and pretend to be always undecided; on the contrary, my whole aim was towards certainty” (6:29*).

These problems encouraged Descartes to think of material things as composed of small round spheres, or atoms, of matter. Some short writings remain (10:67–74) in which Descartes took this “atomistic” approach (later rejected in favor of infinitely divisible corpuscles). In December 1618 he completed his first book, the Compendium on Music, written in Latin and dedicated to Beeckman (published posthumously in 1650). A new method Early in 1619, Descartes solved the long-standing mathematical problem of trisecting an angle, using a proportional compass of his own devising, and he discovered algebraic solutions to several classes of cubic equations.

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