Talcott, Samuel. 2022. “Vectors of Thought: François Delaporte, the Cholera of 1832 and the Problem of Error” Philosophies 7, no. 3: 56.
This paper resists the virality of contemporary paranoia by turning to “French epistemology”, a philosophical ethos that embraces uncertainty and complexity by registering the transformative impact of scientific knowledge on thought. Despite its popular uses describing phenomena of communication today, the idea of virality comes from biomedicine. This paper, therefore, investigates the extent to which an epidemiological concept of viral transmission—the disease vector—can comprehend and encourage new possibilities of thought beyond paranoia. Briefly, I attempt to analyze thought as a vector. I pursue this by examining Delaporte’s important, but neglected, study of the 1832 Parisian cholera epidemic. First elucidating his reconstruction of the ways tentative epistemological progress intertwined with and supported projects of working-class and colonial control. My vectorial analysis then considers how his argument infects contemporary readers with doubts that undo the bases of paranoia. I pursue this analysis further via a methodological examination of Delaporte’s study as both carrier of predecessors’ methods and host in which they alter, becoming newly infectious. I conclude by reflecting on this formulation of thought as disease vector and what Delaporte’s singular treatment of the problem of error reveals about an ethos committed to registering the impact of knowledge on thought.
Keywords: paranoia; knowledge; health; Canguilhem; Foucault