Stretch all your powers of intellect and imagination and see if you can grasp what I’m trying to suggest here.
DIDEROT: It’s possible I have prompted this objection. But perhaps you’d not have made it if you’d considered the difference between the philosophical instrument and the instrumental keyboard. The philosophical instrument is sentient — it is at the same time the musician and the instrument. As something sentient it has the momentary consciousness of the sound it is making; as an animal, it has the memory of that. This organic faculty, by linking the sounds in itself, produces and keeps the melody there. Suppose there is a keyboard with sense and a memory. Tell me if it won’t know and repeat on its own the melodies which you have executed on its keys. We are instruments endowed with sensibility and memory. Our senses are so many keys which are struck by nature surrounding us and which often strike themselves. And there we have, in my judgment, everything which goes on in an organic keyboard like you and me. There’s an impression that has its cause either inside or outside the instrument, a sensation which is born from this impression, a sensation which lasts, for it is impossible to imagine that it is made and extinguishes itself in an indivisible instant, another impression which follows this one, and which similarly has its cause either inside or outside the animal, a second sensation and voices which designate them by natural or conventional sounds.
D’ALEMBERT: I see. And so if this sentient and vital keyboard was now endowed with the faculty of feeding and reproducing itself, it would live and give birth to little keyboards, living and resonating, either on its own or with its female partner.
Philippe de Champaigne
Christ The Only Doctor of Body and Soul (1662)
64″ in × 92″
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Rembrandt van Rijn
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632)
85″ × 67″
Mauritshuis, The Hague
DIDEROT: . . . There can come a moment of delirium when the sensitive keyboard thought it was the only keyboard in the world and that all harmony in the universe was coming from it all by itself.