Greetings, coagulated fragment of starstuff! I am an exuding element of our planetary ecology with a penchant for deliberate periphrasis.
As a teacher, scholar, and explorer of the workings of these Homo sapiens, I work on the confounding territory that is at the intersection of science, mysticism, philosophy, and rhetoric.
My current research is focused on the philosophical and rhetorical underpinnings of scale--that astonishing device whereby we conceive of reality as, simultaneously, atoms, galaxies, cells, bodies, ecologies, and quarks.
Other inquiries bound to follow.
Scale Theory: A Nondiscipliary Inquiry
How is it possible that you are—simultaneously—cells, atoms, a body, quarks, a component in an ecological network, a moment in the thermodynamic dispersal of the sun, and an element in the gravitational whirl of galaxies? In this way, we routinely transform reality into things already outside direct human experience, things we hardly comprehend even as we speak of DNA, climate effects, toxic molecules, and viruses. How do we find ourselves with these disorienting layers of scale? Enter Scale Theory, which provides a foundational theory of scale that explains how scale works, the parameters of scalar thinking, and how scale refigures reality—that teaches us how to think in terms of scale, no matter where our interests may lie.
Joshua DiCaglio takes us on a fascinating journey through six thought experiments that provide clarifying yet provocative definitions for scale and new ways of thinking about classic concepts ranging from unity to identity. Because our worldviews and philosophies are largely built on nonscalar experience, he then takes us slowly through the ways scale challenges and reconfigures objects, subjects, and relations.
Scale Theory is, in a sense, nondisciplinary—weaving together a dizzying array of sciences (from nanoscience to ecology) with discussions from the humanities (from philosophy to rhetoric). In the process, a curious pattern emerges: attempts to face the significance of scale inevitably enter terrain closer to mysticism than science. Rather than dismiss this connection, DiCaglio examines the reasons for it, redefining mysticism in terms of scale and integrating contemplative philosophies into the discussion. The result is a powerful account of the implications and challenges of scale, attuned to the way scale transforms both reality and ourselves.
Scale Theory is an exceptionally astute and lucid remapping of the concept of scale. Working through a lively set of thought experiments, Joshua DiCaglio invents a scalar theory to move beyond conventional—often reductive and parochial—understandings of scale. From the not-so-simple conceptual and material status of objects to questions of process, relations, and consciousness to the scalar repercussions for subjects, experience, and the very practices of interpretation, DiCaglio delineates and performs a far-reaching scale theory for the predicaments of the present.
— Peter C. van Wyck, Concordia University, Montréal
There are few more important, and few more difficult, topics to study than the role of scale in society and nature. This is why I’m so damn thankful for Joshua DiCaglio’s Scale Theory. He assembles a clear and systematic theory of scale and then demonstrates how its practice can transform our understanding of ourselves and our perceptions of the world. It’s really more than a book: it’s a vision, a guide, and a provocation to help us better navigate a world that exceeds our capacity to understand it.
— Phillip Thurtle, author of Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life
Check out an experimental reading of the Blue Marble image of Earth from the book here
Part 1, containing the six thought experiments, is available here as a sample of the larger work.
Simulations of Moksha: Liberation, Mysticism, and Transhumanism in Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis
An examination of Philip K. Dick's Exegesis from the perspective of both mysticism and technology.
Scale Tricks and God Tricks, or, The Power of Scale in Powers of Ten
An introduction to my reading of scale through a series of critiques of critiques of the Eames's Powers of Ten. Winner of the 2020 The Schachterle Essay Prize, the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts
Rhetorical Recommendations Built on Ecological Experience: A Reassessment of the Challenge of Environmental Communication
A collaboration with two ecologists, This article examines the challenge of environmental communication by inquiring into the fundamental rhetorical difficulty of thinking in terms of ecology.
Works in Progress
An Experiment in Scale
A follow-up project to Scale Theory aiming to demonstrate and experiment with how one would map a scalar object--in this case, Lithium.
Scales of Influence
or, Rhetoric after Information
A follow-up project to Scale Theory examining "information" using a similar method and approach.
How does scale change the notion of information? How did information change the notion of communication?
Rhetoric and Mysticism at the Birth of Philosophy
A comparative study of Greek and Indian philosophies of language and rhetoric. Basic premise: what if examine the history of rhetoric from the problem of persuading oneself rather than persuading others?
This work grows out of my redefinition of mysticism in Scale Theory and the comparative studies performed there.
I am Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M.
Currently my personal life is largely occupied by my two amazing children who fill my spare time Pokemon battles (in cards, on the Switch, or as pretend wrestling matches) and like adventures. In all other things I am a habitual dabbler with a tendency for elaborate dives into things I want to play with (from making elaborate birthday cakes to painting a fractal).