The gruesome dispassion of genius

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posted on Jan, 27 2009 @ 10:49 AM
I was researching visual illusions recently, and I ran across this experiment that Isaac Newton performed on himself:

He was curious about visual phenomena, so he actually poked his own eye with a needle, to see what effect it would have:

I tooke a bodkine gh & put it betwixt my eye & [the] bone as neare to [the] backside of my eye as I could: & pressing my eye [with the] end of it (soe as to make [the] curvature a, bcdef in my eye) there appeared severall white darke & coloured circles r, s, t, &c. Which circles were plainest when I continued to rub my eye [with the] point of [the] bodkine, but if I held my eye & [the] bodkin still, though I continued to presse my eye [with] it yet [the] circles would grow faint & often disappeare untill I removed [them] by moving my eye or [the] bodkin.

If [the] experiment were done in a light roome so [that] though my eyes were shut some light would get through their lidds There appeared a greate broade blewish darke circle outmost (as ts), & [within] that another light spot srs whose colour was much like [that] in [the] rest of [the] eye as at k. Within [which] spot appeared still another blew spot r espetially if I pressed my eye hard & [with] a small pointed bodkin. & outmost at vt appeared a verge of light.

That started me thinking about the psychology involved in doing something like that. The very idea of poking and prying at my eye with a 'small pointed bodkin' makes me cringe - but Newton apparently had no problem with it!

Is there some dispassionate psychological twist, that perhaps contributed to him being such a notable scientist?

We could mention extreme examples, I guess: the experiments of Mengele are at the far-dark end of the spectrum, obviously pathological in their inhumanity. But, in some other degree, is this phenomena a good thing? Does it somehow contribute to thinking, and experimenting, 'outside the box'?

Would anyone here undertake the eye-poking experiment, with the same level of calm, dispassionate curiosity as Newton?

How else does this exhibit itself in society? When and what would make it pathological, and when would it be beneficial?

posted on Jan, 27 2009 @ 10:52 AM
I think there always has to be an element of dispassion to proceed in science.

Stem cells is a good example of this... we are just beginning to get over the stigma that these are "potential humans" and proceed with the research that would help untold numbers of actual humans.

posted on Jan, 27 2009 @ 11:00 AM
reply to post by Ian McLean

That is amazing!
I have no issues touching my eyeball with my finger (which freaks some out)but sticking a needle in and pushing the eyeball up and such is just ......wrong.
However, as you said... i think perhaps this did lead to him having an "advantage" in his thought process and "out of the boxness"

Really interesting thread and it certainly makes you think of some of the things people will put themselves through in the name of "science" or philosophy.

As you said, Mengele was way too far, actually quite sick to be honest, but it makes you think what have people done through time and down the ages that hasn't been recorded or spoken about.. truly intriguing yet truly horrifying.

Mengele did some stuff to eyes if i remember correctly, trying to dye them with chemicals and such?
His experiments are truly the stuff of nightmares.

[edit on 27/1/09 by blupblup]

posted on Jan, 27 2009 @ 11:08 AM
Yes, let's ignore the Light of the Soul. That couldn't tell us anything of the condition of Being.

You know you are in the lowest levels of 'hell' when...there is no inner light.

Science is the outward expression of guided Inner Knowing, slowly revealed at first, then faster and faster as the physical vehicle becomes more aware of the Process.

Good luck with the science research: it's a ghoul which most men are willing to serve in their light blindness (apt statement for this thread).

posted on Jan, 27 2009 @ 11:26 AM
That sent chills down me. He's more hardcore than I would ever be. I guess there are somethings I don't want to know. I'm also not interested in what it feels like to lose a limb.

posted on Jan, 27 2009 @ 11:28 AM
Curiosity killed the cat.
But what he found out, brought him back.

posted on Jan, 27 2009 @ 12:47 PM

Originally posted by SS,Naga
Science is the outward expression of guided Inner Knowing, slowly revealed at first, then faster and faster as the physical vehicle becomes more aware of the Process.

Good luck with the science research: it's a ghoul which most men are willing to serve in their light blindness (apt statement for this thread).

Are you saying that Newton was 'light blind' and serving the 'ghoul' of research, or that he was more focused on inner light, and less concerned with the physical?

Interesting how some yogi are able to also show such physical disregard.

posted on Jan, 28 2009 @ 10:40 AM
Some more interesting information:

Newton’s interest in performing these experiments, however, was not confined to making optical or anatomical discoveries. As the entries in his earlier philosophical commonplace book indicate, Newton was also concerned with the way in which apparent sensations might in fact be the product of imagination and with the question of whether what one saw might be controlled by the nerves, and thus perhaps by the soul itself, rather than by some mechanical process of experience.


Although these investigations perhaps seem hazardous to us, Newton was far from being the only one of his contemporaries to regard his own body as a suitable object for experiment. His reports of his experiences retain throughout a detachment which appears clinical, yet in fact these were potentially some of the most moving as well as the most painful experiments that the young Newton could have performed. This was because the demonstration of how active spirits or the soul might affect perception could also be a powerful weapon against materialism and its bed-fellow, atheism.

posted on Jan, 28 2009 @ 11:10 AM
man thats so cool lol

I dont think sticking stuff in ur eye is bad "not that i say stick stuff in your eye" !!

but he wanted to find out something so he used his own body as his lab rat..

The guy took it to the limits to find it out.

I mean people stick things in very odd places for fun and fasion, so what is wrong with sticking something in the eyeball to find out a theory / idea about a very real question he wanted answering??

I think its cool and S+F

[please dont stick stuff in your eye for random fun]

hey Ian ur avatar is mind bending!!! very very cool

[edit on 28-1-2009 by theresult]

posted on Jan, 28 2009 @ 11:27 AM
Here is another guy who was willing to go a long way for science. Meet the American doctor Stubbins Ffirth (1784 - 1820):

The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793, the largest yellow fever epidemic in American history, killed as many as 5,000 people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – roughly 10% of the population. Ffirth joined the University of Pennsylvania a few years later and studied the disease that had so significantly impacted the area. He set out to prove that it was not a contagious disease, and was so sure of his theory that he began performing experiments on himself.

Ffirth decided to bring himself into direct contact with bodily fluids from those that had become infected. He started to make incisions on his arms and smeared vomit into the cuts, then proceeded to pour it onto his eyeballs. He continued to try and infect himself using infected vomit by frying it and inhaling the fumes, and, when he did not become ill, drank it undiluted. Endeavoring to prove that other bodily fluids yielded the same results, Ffirth progressed on from vomit, and would go on to smear his body with blood, saliva, and urine. He still managed to avoid contracting the disease and saw this as proof for his hypothesis. However, it was later shown that the samples Ffirth had used for his experiments came from late-stage patients who were no longer contagious

posted on Jan, 28 2009 @ 11:29 AM
I'm sure you've all heard it before but there's a very fine line between genius and insanity.
Sorry, but sticking spikes in your eye is not the behavior of a sane man.

posted on Jan, 28 2009 @ 02:27 PM
I'm not quite sure if this qualifies him as a 'genius', but:

Daniel Alcides Carrión García (August 12, 1857 – October 5, 1885†) was a Peruvian medical student after whom Carrion's disease is named. He described the disease in the course of what proved to be a fatal experiment upon himself in 1885, in order to demonstrate definitively the cause of the illness. He was inoculated by close friends with blood from a wart between the eyes of 14 year old boy[1]. His aim was to prove a link between the acute blood stage of Oroya fever with that of the later chronic form of the disease Verruga Peruana typified by numerous red wart-like dermal nodules. Neither the cause nor mode of transmission of Oroya fever was then known and, furthermore, the relationship between the acute and chronic forms of the disease was not proven. After his death from the disease, his friend was arrested and tried for murder.

This is fun! I'm going to go see how many more of these I can find and then leave it to finer minds than mine, i.e. the Beloved Debate Champion Ian M. et al, to interpret what it means.

posted on Jan, 28 2009 @ 11:33 PM
Maybe this is just proof that although some peoples ideas may come off as completely insane, they just might have a very good reason for doing it and it could even turn out to be beneficial in the long run.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 02:04 AM
Dispassion? Hardly. The poster who suggested earlier that sticking a knitting needle into your eyesocket is insane behaviour was right.

Newton was anything but dispassionate. He was passionate like a crazy man. He flew into tempers. He fought with all his friends. He got embroiled in fueds that lasted years. He wrote deranged letters to John Locke and Samuel Pepys. He was insanely egotistical and sometimes revoltingly boastful. He had breakdowns. He fell on the floor and gibbered.

Dispassionate genius is, frankly, a contradiction in terms. It's dullards who lack passion. Geniuses possess it in heaping measure. It's a qualification for the job.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 04:57 PM
I don't know, I might be willing to stick a spike between my eyeball and the eyesocket if I'd dissected enough mammals' heads to be really confident I wouldn't accidentally stick it into my eyeball. And if my hands were super-steady, which they're not.

I'm inclined to agree thought that it's not dispassion on the part of geniuses that allows behavior like that. I think it's that the drive for knowledge or expression overwhelms the drive for self-preservation. And that just might be a very good thing

I decided that after researching one of Kinglizard's questions in his avatar art history challenge. He asked which of the images he uses was produced by an artist at his home in the waning years of his life, while a disabling disease took over his body.

A surprising number of great artists apparently overcome incredible obstacles to continue their work – maybe Newton's eyeball-poking is just a scientific version of Renoir strapping his brushes to his wrists because his hands were so afflicted by rheumatism that he couldn't hold them, for instance

posted on Feb, 1 2009 @ 07:53 PM
You gotta love Newton, I read a recommendable book called the Short history of nearly everything, (bout a 1000 pg book! not short at all) Newton also did aton of other crazy things, they dont teach you anything in school anymore, just whatever the teachers discretion is on the topic.

posted on Feb, 1 2009 @ 08:03 PM
I have a confession to make ,I would have stuck the needle in something else s eye to try it out first..

what does that say about me ?

I have dissected dead animals to find out whats inside them
but I haven't ever killed anything just to do that

posted on Feb, 1 2009 @ 08:13 PM
The way its described it sounds like he stuck it in between his eyes ( 3rd eye area)

posted on Feb, 1 2009 @ 08:17 PM
It's all about why you do something. He did it for learning and to sate his curiosity. But i'm sure he would be labeled mental if he just did it for fun all the time.

posted on Feb, 1 2009 @ 08:24 PM
I dont know that I would say that he was "dispassionate." I think his passion was intense. For some, the love of knowledge or wisdom exceeds the love of the physical self or personal beliefs and ideas.

And, I believe that this "passion for knowing truth" (as much as any human is capable) is necessary for "genius." You dont make great discoveries by making your research conform to your beliefs or cherished assumptions. You make great discoveries by being willing to look at a thing for what it really is, as divorced from your own bias as it is possible to be.

I think that this passion for knowing truth is problematic when you think it gives you the right to experiment on others without their informed consent. If you choose to do it to yourself, or others who are consenting, (or dead and not by your hand) you are within your right.

One of the things you see when you look at the world with less personal bias is that every living thing desires not to suffer, and that in the grand scheme of things, there is no objective justification for elevating your desire to know above the desire of another not to suffer. It is selfish and self interested to do so.

And, I personally think that there are many who use "research" as justification for their own cruel impulse, (Mengele for instance) rather than cruelty simply being a side effect of a truly "dispassionate" mind set. If "dispassion" does not extend equally to yourself and your desires as to others, it really isnt dispassion at all is it? Its just the most abhorrent form of self interest.

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