Fantastic creature, legendary chimera or imaginary beast, what exactly is a sample? Four thinkers brave fear to face this mysterious creature.
A product of chance, for Empedocles (c. 490 BC)
In his FragmentsEmpedocles describes the appearance of monsters on Earth: † NaquirenCountless heads without necks and arms wandered loose from the trunk, without shoulders, and eyes went here and there without foreheads. Members wandered lonely† † Then the organs came together, and then the monsters appeared. † “Many creatures have arisen with a face and a chest on either side. Livestock with a human face arose, and vice versa. † The pre-Socratic philosopher opposes the prescient view of nature: the latter is arbitrary, so it is necessarily the creator of monstrous creatures. According to him, the monster is the rule and the animal the exception. In the natural state chance reigns. So the perfect being is improbable. The universe and those who inhabit it are born of a contingent assembly. Are we all monstrous living creatures created by chance?
An unfinished being, for Aristotle (384 BC)
The sample is a mistake. It is a being that remains eternally indeterminate because it is unfinished: it has failed to actualize its form. The sample isn’t finished yet, so it’s unpredictable. “Monsters are errors of what happens in view of an end”writes the great thinker of antiquity in his physical† These creatures are as rare as they are unpredictable, they are not the norm. Influenced by mysterious external causes, the monster does not correspond to what usually happens, namely the creation of man or of a harmonious animal. Because it is unusual, the monster “disrupts the established order”† According to AristotleSo the creature is an indecent deviation, and as nature does nothing in vain, it is a final state. Once a monster, always a monster!
A non-existent being, for Montaigne
Only in the gaze of man does the monster exist. In his Taste, the Renaissance philosopher describes his encounter with a child “distorted” † † Her howling seemed to have something special.r […] above his nipples he wastied up and glued to another headless child”† He then wonders about the concept of monstrosity, a term he immediately questions: † What man often sees does not surprise him, even if he does not know the cause. But when what he’s never seen happens, he thinks it’s a miracle. NewWe call that “against nature” which is contrary to custom: there is nothing, whatever it is, that is not in accordance with nature. May this universal and natural reason banish from us the error and the astonishment which novelty brings us, the appearance of the monster is due to a lack of reason and experience.ence. † For Montaigne, it is a matter of going beyond our aprioris, our dogmatic judgment, to see through the monster. The unknown, as soon as it becomes accustomed, loses its hideous features. Monsters don’t exist, but the fear of the unknown does.
A being without a voice, for Paul B. Preciado
The monster does not speak, because we speak in his place. For the philosopher eccentric and trans Paul B. Preciado, the ones who usually do the talking are the ones who define monstrous creatures. In I’m a monster talking to you (Grasset, 2020), describes his own monstrous identity constructed through discourse and clinical practice: † I was assigned the female genderinto, and like the mutated monkey, I extricated myself from this cramped cage, admittedly to enter another cage, but at least this time on my own initiative. I speak to you today from this chosen and redesigned cage of “the trans man”, of the non-binary gender bodye. † Preciado takes the . at “fanaticism of sexual differences” which is based on a binary regime: male and female. The monster would be outside of these gender categories, reinforced in his view by the discriminatory psychoanalytic discourse. “And isn’t this category of the other all the more problematic if the other is ascribed the characteristics of a monster, namely a non-human, different from a human? † Reduced to silence, the monsters here reveal a relationship of submission and domination.