facis de necessitate virtute .




ASSEMBLAGE  e.g., Joseph Cornell


COLLAGEcommented on at Tate


BRICOLAGE; commented on at Tate


BRICOLAGE (Something made or put together using whatever materials happen to be available [French, from bricole, trifle, from Old French, catapult, from Italian briccola, of Germanic origin.] (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition);  in French, the bricoleur is a handyman who does his chores with materials at hand.)

Claude Levi-Strauss used this term (in The Savage Mind, 1962) to characterize mythical thought as opposed to scientific thought.  (Where mythical thought relies upon materials and tools at hand and deals mainly in signs, scientific thought seeks to go beyond the immediate constraints of the situation and deals in concepts; L-S implies that signs are discovered while the open possibilities of concepts leads to invention.)

Francois Jacob uses this term to characterize his perception of evolution: assembling, constructing what is needed out of whatever elements are available.  Patricia Churchland agrees: nature works with what’s available 


BRICOLAGE was identified in EVOLUTION notes as a prominent–maybe the prominent–phenomenon we observe in the process of evolution  Almost any trait can be the “raw material” for an adaptive variation — “bricolage” is the term for “using whatever is available” to “solve a problem.”  In the spirit of the television drama character, McGyver, the ways in which common materials can be used is often surprising. 


Bricolage ( facis de necessitate virtute ) Claude Levi-Strauss “Mythical thought is therefore a kind of intellectual ‘bricolage.’ … Like ‘bricolage’ on the technical plane, mythical reflection can reach brilliant unforeseen results on the intellectual plane. … The ‘bricoleur’ is adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks. … The rules of his game are always to make do with ‘whatever is at hand.’” Levi-Strauss’s work was enormously important in Paris during the 1940s and ‘50s, and he inspired artists such as Picasso and Braque.

“Psychologists such as James Hillman use the word to illuminate how the soul works:  ‘Let us imagine the dream-work to be an activity, less of a censor than of a bricoleur. … The dream bricoleur is a handyman, who takes the bits of junk left over from the day and potters around with them.’” I think he is right for the wrong reasons: the dream takes almost random) but very limited bursts of activity from the always on-going activity of the frontal cortex during REM and forges them into a more-or-less coherent narrative. [see notes on DREAMS]

From: Cousineau, Phil. Wordcatcher; Viva Editions. Kindle Edition. 


Can exploring the genetic basis of language can help us understand human evolution?  “Broca’s Area, a region of the brain that has long been thought to play an essential role in language, may have evolved from neural areas in ancestral species that were used for temporal sequencing or motor control.” [more]




*“everything comes from something” — really shorthand for “everything we can understand (=about which we are competent to have confident beliefs )” comes from “something we can understand .”   As organisms with an umwelt — limited, species-typical competencies for detecting phenomena in the world or for making sense of what we can detect, there are some phenomena about which we are necessarily / constitutionally unable to understand.  Such phenomena beyond our understanding is traditionally relegated to the status of what Augustine would term, “miracles.”



Diary Note 20 July 2021.  I read about how the ancient custom of preserving any document on which the name of god is written resembles my extreme reluctance to discard or delete anything with the picture of anyone who means anything to me. In ancient synagogues, any document that referred to god was put away in some unused corner of the Synagogue: the “geniza”.  //   This applies to what almost everyone seems to regard as my clutter, a burden that impairs my progressive change–presumably for the better.  Still, I have a powerful disposition to save anything that hints at transcendence—which means almost everything, all things being connected as they are. The transcendence is in the connections they make.  They are—or they are part of—a path to transcendence, if only I could connect them in just the right way, like a collage or assemblage.  Sometimes the fragments are (echoing brain functions) bottom-up, sometimes top down–but always evoke a larger construct, barely perceptible or on the tip of my tongue–like a key if used in just the right way opens up on something larger, deeper, further that would lead, step-by-step, to something sacred.   (How do I use these fragments, these possible keys?  “The Jewish sage, Ben Bag-Bag, taught that when we study the Torah we should continuously turn it and turn it, like a gem with countless facets, looking for new and deeper meanings.”)




BRICOLAGE in ART (collage, assemblage)

BRICOLAGE in EVOLUTION (spandrels, kluge)