Lines of Thought

Discourse, Architectonics, and the Origin of Modern Philosophy

Lines of Thought
Book Pages: 176 Illustrations: Published: April 1996

Art and Visual Culture > Architecture, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Theory and Philosophy

It is considerably easier to say that modern philosophy began with Descartes than it is to define the modernity and philosophy to which Descartes gave rise. In Lines of Thought, Claudia Brodsky Lacour describes the double origin of modern philosophy in Descartes’s Discours de la méthode and Géométrie, works whose interrelation, she argues, reveals the specific nature of the modern in his thought. Her study examines the roles of discourse and writing in Cartesian method and intuition, and the significance of graphic architectonic form in the genealogy of modern philosophy.
While Cartesianism has long served as a synonym for rationalism, the contents of Descartes’s method and cogito have remained infamously resistant to rational analysis. Similarly, although modern phenomenological analyses descend from Descartes’s notion of intuition, the “things” Cartesian intuitions represent bear no resemblance to phenomena. By returning to what Descartes calls the construction of his “foundation” in the Discours, Brodsky Lacour identifies the conceptual problems at the root of Descartes’s literary and aesthetic theory as well as epistemology. If, for Descartes, linear extension and “I” are the only “things” we can know exist, the Cartesian subject of thought, she shows, derives first from the intersection of discourse and drawing, representation and matter. The crux of that intersection, Brodsky Lacour concludes, is and must be the cogito, Descartes’s theoretical extension of thinking into material being. Describable in accordance with the Géométrie as a freely constructed line of thought, the cogito, she argues, extends historically to link philosophy with theories of discursive representation and graphic delineation after Descartes. In conclusion, Brodsky Lacour analyzes such a link in the writings of Claude Perrault, the architectural theorist whose reflections on beauty helped shape the seventeenth-century dispute between “the ancients and the moderns.”
Part of a growing body of literary and interdisciplinary considerations of philosophical texts, Lines of Thought will appeal to theorists and historians of literature, architecture, art, and philosophy, and those concerned with the origin and identity of the modern.


“An engaging and original piece of work—a very good book. Lines of Thought will take a respected place amongst interdisciplinary studies of philosophy.” — Jonathan Ree, Middlesex University

“An excellent, highly disciplined reading; a truly interdisciplinary achievement. One of the most striking qualities of this book is the way in which Brodsky Lacour opens up broader historical, philosophical, and literary perspectives, pertaining particularly to present discussions of Modernity and deconstruction, by strictly pursuing her rigorous reading of Descartes’s and Perrault’s texts. The basis for such a mediation is the author’s excellent literary analyses and her impressive understanding of philosophical and mathematical issues. In thinking through the figures of line and architecture in and as thought and discourse, she unfolds a certain construction of modern subjectivity and contemporary theoretical problems in a highly illuminating way.” — Rainer Nagele, The Johns Hopkins University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Claudia Brodsky Lacour is Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and Directeur de Programme at the Collège International de Philosophie, Paris.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments viii

Notes on the Text ix

Preface: What Is ModerN? 1

Part 1. Descartes' "Design"

1. Triaté or Discours de la méethode 11

2. Autobiographical Discourse: "Fable" as "Tableau" 18

3. The "Discourse" of Thinking: Architectural Design 32

4. The Things a Thinking Thing Thinks 38

Part 2. The Discourse of Method

5. Letters and Lines: Algebra and Geometry in Descartes' Géométrie 49

6. Writing and Intuition 68

Part 3. Thinking As Line

7. The Cogito and Architectural Form 87

8. Staircase as Labyrinth: Eudoxe on Method 111

9. Postscript: Architectural Theory after Descartes 117

Epilogue: The Line between Aesthetics and Knowledge 141

Bibliography 151

Index 161
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1774-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1777-7
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