The making of a shell is something lived, not something calculated: nothing could be less like our organized action, preceded by an aim and operating as a cause…

Nothing we know of our own actions enables us to imagine what it may be that so gracefully modulates these surfaces, element by element, row by row, without any tools other than those contained in the thing that is being fashioned…

Perhaps what we call perfection in art (which not all strive for and some disdain) is only a sense of desiring or finding in a human work the sureness of execution, the inner necessity, the indissoluble bond between form and material exhibited to us by the humblest of shells.
— Paul Valéry, L’Homme et la coquille (Man and the Sea-Shell), illus. by Henri Mondor.

David Hills

philosophy dept. building 90 stanford university
stanford, ca 94305-2155
tel.650-725-9706 e-mail:dhills at stanford dot edu

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