Introduction: Isabelle Stengers and the Dramatization of Philosophy


In what may seem like an uncharacteristic passage by someone who otherwise described himself as the typical example of the Victorian Englishman, Alfred North Whitehead once wrote that “[t]he notion of pure thought in abstraction from all expression is a figment of the learned world. A thought is a tremendous form of excitement” (Modes 36). It is the patterned signature of its expression that not only gives thought its own distinct character, but also propels it out into the world, exciting its environment with a new variation of interests. Without this ability to repattern, even if just slightly, the atmosphere of feeling in which they are immersed, to make a difference by shifting the way in which a situation may matter, thoughts would all be equally uninteresting. This is why, as it is expressed, a thought is like “a stone thrown into a pond.” Shaking its environment with its ripples, “it disturbs the whole surface of our being” (36).

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