Persistent, but not Primordial: Emergent Properties of Cognition
This book concludes with a discussion of the emergent properties of cognition. It first considers an essay published in 1942 by Rudolph Wittkower entitled “Marvels of the East: A Study in the History of Monsters,” which documented the transmission of a particular style of ethnographic description (and depiction) from its earliest known sources in hand-copied manuscripts of the fourth century BC to the age of the printing press. The monsters in question fall mostly under this book's definition of “composites.” The book proceeds by examining how the counterfactual properties of composite figures were offset against two distinct forms of intuitive knowledge, one universal and the other historically contingent. It suggests that the specific distribution of composite figures in the visual record must be situated within the institutional dynamics of elite culture, and within particular strategies of governance that first took root during the Bronze Age, including the dissemination of officially sanctioned images through mechanical reproduction.
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