By Karen Pinkus
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Extra resources for Alchemical mercury : a theory of ambivalence
The thing itself is not a quid that might be sought as an extreme hypothesis beyond all hypotheses, as a ﬁnal and absolute subject beyond all subjects, horribly or beautifully unreachable in its obscurity. We can, in truth, conceive of such a nonlinguistic thing only in language, through the idea of language without relation to things. . The thing itself is not a thing; it is the very sayability, the very openness at issue in language. . The presuppositional structure of language is the very structure of tradition; we presuppose, pass on, and thereby—according to the double sense of the word traditio— betray the thing itself in language, so that language may speak about something (kata tinos).
If the gold produced by alchemy is not used (up), 26 Introduction: Lead into Gold spent, passed around, or molded into objects or statues, then can it really be a product? An early modern courtier like J. J. Becher will argue that alchemy should (and indeed, does) serve to produce a product for consumption. Similarly, an alchemist explains: Even so it is with Gold, as long as it is in the form of a ring, a vessel or Money, ’tis the vulgar Gold, as concerning its being cast in our water, ’tis Philosophical; In the former respect it is called Dead, because it would remain unchanged even to the Worlds end; in the latter respect it is said to be living, because it is so potentially; which power is capable of being brought into Art in a few daies, but then Gold will no longer be Gold, but the Chaos of the Sophi; therefore well may Philosophers say, That their philosophical Gold differeth from the vulgar Gold, Which difference consisteth in the Composition.
Does he disappear into the ether as the family is brought down to earth? If the framed scene, the doorsein, takes place after the foreground scene, the scholar is the ﬁgure who slips through the cracks. His status—like theory itself in the ambivalent alchemical couple—is indeterminate in the moral “ending” to this tale. Extending beyond Brueghel/Gallé’s particular image, there is a crucial link between the materiality of engraving and alchemy itself. An exemplary ﬁgure in this link is Albrecht Dürer.