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By Leif Weatherby

Round 1800, German romanticism constructed a philosophy this research calls “Romantic organology.” clinical and philosophical notions of organic functionality and speculative proposal converged to shape the discourse that Transplanting the Metaphysical Organ reconstructs—a metaphysics intended to theorize, and finally adjust, the constitution of a politically and scientifically destabilized world.

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73 It was a building block for organs, as Schwann wrote: The same process of formation and transformation of cells inside a structureless substance repeats itself in the formation of all organs of an organism, just as it does in the formation of new organisms, and the basic phenomenon through which productive force expresses itself in nature is thus the following: first there is a structureless substance there, which lies either inside of or between cells that are already present. 74 Organs are no longer the lowest functional unit.

I will be disputing that tag, but organology is meant to be general in the sense that the problem of the organ transcends the empirical limits of any slice of reality or any discipline constituted to address only that slice. Indeed, one crucial element of the narrative that follows is that organology was articulated just before the institutional crystallization of the disciplines, especially the university’s organization of the sciences, with which it might be taken to be in competition. This is both why it is of special relevance to the humanities today, and why its history has largely remained unearthed up to the present.

Hölderlin’s use of “organ” is an extension and literalization of the analogy of animal body to human reason proposed by Kant and Herder. The species of that body—German Art—becomes the Art or genre of a literary metaphysics. The tragedy became an organ of cognition in Hölderlin’s work, the organ’s concreteness used to denote both nonabsolute knowledge and its relation to a putative absolute knowledge presented in the tragic form itself. Empedocles, whose self-proclaimed apotheosis as nature’s god led to his political ostracism and eventual suicide by volcano, was the figure of that cognitive tension.

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