Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Joining and Disjoining - by Samuel Butler (England, 1835-1902)
These are the essence of change.
One of the earliest notes I made, when I began to make notes at all, I found not long ago in an old book, since destroyed, which I had in New Zealand. It was to the effect that all things are either of the nature of a piece of string or a knife. That is, they are either for bringing and keeping things together, or for sending and keeping them apart. Nevertheless each kind contains a little of its opposite and some, as the railway train and the hedge, combine many examples of both. Thus the train, on the whole, is used for bringing things together, but it is also used for sending them apart, and its divisions into classes are alike for separating and keeping together. The hedge is also both for joining things (as a flock of sheep) and for disjoining (as for keeping the sheep from getting into corn). These are the more immediate ends. The ulterior ends, both of train and hedge, so far as we are concerned, and so far as anything can have an end, are the bringing or helping to bring meat or dairy produce into contact with man's inside, or wool on to his back, or that he may go in comfort somewhere to converse with people and join his soul on to theirs,or please himself by getting something to come within the range of his senses or imagination.
A piece of string is a thing that, in the main, makes for togetheriness; whereas a knife is, in the main, a thing that makes for splitty-uppiness; still, there is an odour of togetheriness hanging about a knife also, for it tends to bring potatoes into a man's stomach.
In high philosophy one should never look at a knife without considering it also as a piece of string, nor at a piece of string without considering it also as a knife.
- Samuel Butler, The Note-Books of Samuel Butler:Selections, ed. Henry Festing Jones (London: Jonathan Cape, 1921), 21
Posted by C.J. Schneider at 13:35