The Impossible Machine
Machina Intellecta: A Brief Guide to Significant and
Sometimes Unrecognized Intellectual Figures
This list began as a kind of ontological biography; a
biography of the sources for the major ideas in my life.
However, it has become something more than that; it is a list
of influential minds; the proverbial luminaries who are alone
in a crowd, unless it is a crowd of geniuses; each picturing
other minds equally alone in other rooms, following a similar
impetus to hollow out a little more open space in the world
of free-minds, like tunneling ants.
Emily Dickinson—a profound and prodigious poetic innovator, the author of
some two thousand poems, and one of the founders of the modern poetic
Desiderius Erasmus—renaissance man of letters, critical of art,
extraordinary output of secular and non-secular works. Published a book of
sayings. Some say there are occult connotations in his work, particularly
since he was known for his excellent memory of all subjects; he used
codes and incantations for this purpose (an elaborate mnemonic system).
M. C. Escher—artist who popularized optical illusions as an expression of
paradox and the alternate reality that is art.
el Greco—his sublime landscapes were probably a major influence for
Franz Kafka—author famous for the Metamorphosis, revealing some
sublime and animalistic aspects of the contemporary psyche.
Immanuel Kant—the man who proposed that morality can be known
through reason, although God cannot be known. Known to be difficult
Paul Laffoley—metaphysical artist and Harvard graduate, alive today.
Piet Mondrian—the artist who took Cubism to the limit of formal efficiency,
influencing the formation of the de Stijl school.
Friedrich Nietzsche—enigmatic philosopher and professor known for his
statement that “God is dead”. His book Thus Spoke Zarathustra is
remembered as one of the most lyrical in philosophy, but also for having
been used as a Nazi text for morale.
Theodore Roethke—considered one of the greatest poets of the recent age.
He introduced the concept of focusing on stressed syllables exclusively
whenever possible, to produce "energy" and "motion" in the poem.
Sappho—The most-remembered poetess of the ancient Greeks, known for
her love verses which are singular and apparently without precedent.
Nicola Tesla—prodigious inventor, felt upon his deathbed that the world
abandoned his best ideas. Perhaps the most famous inventor to be
associated with perpetual motion since da Vinci.
J. R. R. Tolkien—author of the trilogy of novels The Lord of the Rings.
Popularized a return to earth religions and magic, within the context of
fantasy, inspiring the Fantasy genre of literature, role-playing games such
as Dungeons & Dragons, and computer games based upon them. May be
associated with Joseph Campbell and George Lucas in the sense that he
perpetuates archetypal symbols.
Lao Tsu—author of the I Ching, central element of Chinese philosophy (esp.
Taoism), and divination. Brings together the two worlds of philosophy and
symbolism, through the use of categories. “The eternal way is the silent
Voltaire—French thinker of the Enlightenment, known for his biting
sarcasm. Author of Candide, a satirical work, which made famous the lines
“grow your garden”.
Ludwig Wittgenstein—author of the Tractatus, one of the origins of the
modern concept of philosophy as science, and specifically a science of
language. Wittgenstein abandoned the ideas in the Tractatus in his later
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