In We Have Never Been Modern Bruno Latour quotes Leviathan and the Air-Pump (1985) in which Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer ‘examine how Boyle and Hobbes fought to invent a science, a context, and a demarcation between the two’. The plaque above is in the wall of University College in the High Street, Oxford, behind which is a domed building containing the Shelley Memorial. Latour borrows Shapin and Shaffer’s text to develop his summary of ‘The Modern Constitution’. In another section (pp. 65-67) ‘Who Has Forgotten Being’ he tackles Heidegger: ‘Heidegger […] and his epigones do not expect to find Being except along the Black Forest Holzwege … [they say] “We are keeping the little flame of Being safe from everything, and you, who have all the rest, have nothing.” On the contrary: we have everything, since we have Being, and beings, and we have never lost track of the difference between Being and beings.’

Hobbes was born and educated in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, which I had meant to visit since buying a postcard of Turner’s watercolour Malmesbury Abbey in about 1994. I went there in 1999 to interview James Dyson at his company’s site on the outskirts of the town, but it was dark when we left, and I didn’t have time to look for Turner’s viewpoint. I detoured there again briefly last August, and took a few photographs. I didn’t find Turner’s viewpoint then either, but a tourist information website suggests it might be accessible.

PK 5 March 2008

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