The primary intentions of a philosophical physician

August 30, 2016 by Dr. Geyser

The author lays his idea on the marble table of the café. Lengthy meditation, for he makes use of the time before the arrival of the glass, the lens through which he examines the patient. Then, deliberately, he unpacks his instruments: fountain pens, pencil, and pipe. The numerous clientele, arranged as in an amphitheater, make up his clinical audience. Coffee, carefully poured and consumed, puts the idea under chloroform. What this idea may be has no more connection with the matter at hand than the dream of an anesthetized patient with the surgical intervention. With the cautious lineaments of handwriting the operator makes incisions, displaces internal accents, cauterizes proliferations of words, inserts a foreign term as a silver rib. At last the whole is finely stitched together with punctuation, and he pays the waiter, his assistant, in cash.

—Walter Benjamin, “Polyclinic,” in Reflections, 1978. Translated by Edmund Jephcott.

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