Corona and Deacon: Cross-Post at Dead Voles

It’s been a long time since we discussed Terrence Deacon’s Incomplete Nature here and here at Dead Voles. I’ve forgotten most of it by now, but the book came abruptly to mind the other morning when I woke up from a dream. Coronavirus was delivering a speech; it stopped to reconsider, then it began again with a second speech. I don’t remember what Corona was talking about, what information it was trying to convey. What struck me was that the virus was trying – exercising intentional agency. 

Even the rain runoff has agency, self-organizing into rivulets that carry pine straw and twigs, fill up the overflow reservoirs, flood streets and basements. In Deacon’s lingo the runoff rivulets are “morphodynamic systems,” the pull of gravity on the water constrained and channeled by the terrain over which it flows. But it’s just hydraulics interacting with topology: the water doesn’t care about getting down to sea level; the land doesn’t care about retaining its structural integrity.

Is this the same sort of agency exercised by Coronavirus, its individual virions accumulating and cascading through airborne droplets from host to host? Or does the virus care – does it in effect want to enter into the new host, appropriating the host’s cellular metabolic functions in order to replicate itself, gathering its forces in a life-and-death battle with the host’s immunologic system, activating the host’s cough reflex in order to fly into other nearby hosts, extending its territory? . . .

The rest of my post, called “Corona and Deacon,” can be found here.

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