Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Image Quote Comment
“So fully was the possibility of such an occurrence accepted in Caria, that one of that country was actually brought to trial under the following circumstances. The priest of Zeus Hoplosmios had been murdered; but as yet it had not been ascertained who was the assassin; when certain persons asserted that they had heard the murdered man’s head, which had been severed from the body, repeat several times the words, ‘Cercidas slew man on man.’ . . . But it is impossible that any one should utter a word when the windpipe is severed and no motion any longer derived from the lung. Moreover, among the Barbarians, where heads are chopped off with great rapidity, nothing of the kind has ever yet occurred” (Aristotle, De partibus animalium, trans. William Ogle, vol. 5 of The Works of Aristotle, eds. J.A. Smith and W.D. Ross [Oxford: Clarendon, 1912], 3.10). Aristotle’s reasoning situates the motif in a conflict between empirical possibility and desire for inaccessible knowledge. It silences the severed talking head by drowning the testimony of those who claim to hear it in the silence of those who sever heads.