Note to Other
To the person who came across the site on a Google search for: “Can an acme klein bottle be used for drug use?” – apologies that my klein bottle post was not more helpful. However, your question is addressed on the Acme Klein Bottle FAQ, which states:
Would you make one of these for smoking?
Nope. I make Klein Bottles, not bongs, not hookahs. A Klein Bottle is homeomorphic to a sphere with 2 crosscaps. A waterpipe (or bong) needs an input and an output, so it’s likely to be homeomorphic to a cylinder, and therefore not a Klein Bottle. It’s possible to make something resembling a Klein Bottle into a waterpipe, but I’m not interested in doing so. There’s too many other nifty topological shapes to create!
It’s interesting that you’ve been drawing on topological figures such as the Klein bottle as a source of theoretical inspiration. In the early 60’s (primarily Seminar 9 L’identification and Seminar 10 L’angoisse, and beyond), Lacan drew heavily on topological figures such as the Moebius strip, the Klein bottle, the torus, and the cross-cap, as a way of developing his model of subjectivity as it relates to the Other. Under a “weak reading” (some take it much further than this), Lacan’s thesis is that Western thought has been organized around the metaphor of the sphere where questions of the subject are concerned. As such, it’s tended to pose questions of the relationship of subject to Other and subject to world in terms of inside/outside relations. Lacan drew on topological figures such as the torus (when analyzing desire) and the Klein bottle as these figures have no properly delineated inside or outside, thereby providing a nice metaphor for conceptualizing a subjectivity that cannot be thought independently of Other and world. It seems that you’re going in a similar direction.
I’ve thought a lot about why certain metaphors resonate cross-disciplinarily: the social sciences sometimes struggle, I think, with how to understand their relationship with mathematics or the sciences, particularly when a metaphor from one seems resonant to the others.
There’s a tendency – you see it quite often in social science articles, since of course we’re all a bit nervous about our status as a “science” that needs to be qualified by the word “social” ;-P – for people to point to similar metaphors across disciplines as evidence of the “truth value” of the metaphor, as in: look, they’re talking this way in the physics department, so we must be onto something “real” over here! ;-P As opposed to asking: hmm… I wonder why both physicists and sociologists are suddenly finding themselves drawn to this particular metaphor – I wonder what’s changed, historically, to make this metaphor resonate now? I think this is a great missed opportunity for the social sciences to teach the sciences something about why discoveries might take place when they do…
But more to your point: yes, hitting on useful metaphors can be an extremely important way of teasing out new approaches – and new problems. There is an unfortunate fetish value attached to metaphors derived from mathematics and the sciences, which causes me to use these metaphors much less in public writing, than I probably use them in my own thinking. Until I actually sit down to write, I have an odd tendency to visualise things like argumentative structures as geometric forms (or, for more complex and less artificial objects, as something more topographic or wavelike…) This of course does me no good when it comes to communicating in a more linear medium… ;-P But it’s how I tend to experience or visualise things as a starting point, when I’m backing my way into a topic…