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Spinoza, Ratiocination, and Art. An Inter-action: Rembrandt and Spinoza. Encounters about Life and Death Power and Ontology between Heidegger and Spinoza. Kiarina Kordela Note on References to Spinozas Works the various translations of Spinozas works offer often significantly different interpretations of the meaning of his original Latin text. For this reason, the contributors have been free to choose their preferred translations or to translate themselves the Latin from the established text of Spinozas works in the Gebhardt edition of the Opera.

In references to the Ethics, the Roman numeral indicates the part of the Ethics to which the author is referring, e. In addition, the following abbreviations are used: A Ap. S axiom appendix corollary definition lemma proposition proof scholium. Editors Note Spinoza Now attempts to place Spinoza in a contemporary context. A number of the papers published here were first presented at the conference Wandering with Spinoza, held at the Centre for Ideas from September 13 to 15, The editor would like to thank the director of the Centre for Ideas, Elizabeth Presa, for her unwavering belief in the value of such a project.

The editor also thanks Norma Lam-Saw for research assistance. It also includes contributions that are of the presentattempts to think about, on, and with Spinoza in addressing contemporary issues and that are in response to current directions in Spinoza studies. I will address these two aspects of the title in turn.

For this much is quite certain, and proved to be true in our Ethics, that men are necessarily subject to passions. This statement, from Spinozas Political Treatise 1, 5 , encapsulates the importance of the present for his philosophy. A desire is always in the present. Thus philosophy for Spinoza is inextricably linked to life, to the now of existence. Such a position is not a simple vitalism. The thought in Political Treatise that emphasizes the now may be better outlined in relation to what it opposes.

Spinoza opens the Treatise by treating two opposing positions about human interaction: optimism and pessimism. The optimists are discussed in the first paragraph of the Treatise. They are those philosophers who look on the passions as vices to be avoided at all cost. So it is their custom to deride, bewail, berate Thus they construct political theories that seek to eliminate affects. Spinoza is not simply skeptical about xi. The optimists hope to suppress the present so as to imagine a future that has tamed the passions is entirely devoid of practical significance.

The pessimists are discussed in the second paragraph of the Treatise. They are those who are distrustful of politicians. Because politicians know from experience that there will be vices as long as there are men, they fear people. This leads them to practices that may be construed as cunning or wicked, especially in the eyes of theologians, who believe that sovereign powers ought to deal with public affairs according to the same moral principles as are binding on the private individual.

However, this collapse of the distinction between private and public is yet another unfounded fancy, one that is built on fearnot hope. If past experience points to human vice, there is all the more reason to deal with that fear in contemporary political practice rather than seeking to repress it with moralizing. As Deleuze has emphasized, Spinoza cannot be understood as a moral philosopher, and this means that Spinoza is mindful of the gap or break between false hope and crippling fearbetween a utopian belief in the future and a dread of the past.

Between them is located the now. At this space, ethics develops. A brief overview of Spinozas reception is required to show the second aspect of the title, namely, how Spinoza has emerged as a figure who allows us to think of our contemporary situation. The book contained a sustained argument against revealed religion by questioning, for example, the existence of miracles. From that moment onward, Spinoza was painted as an atheist, and to be perceived as a follower of Spinoza was indeed a dangerous position in which to find oneself.

Consequently, even after the Opera Posthuma were published shortly after Spinozas death in , few actually read Spinozas works. To compound this, twenty years later Pierre Bayle wrote an article on Spinoza in the Dictionnaire historique et critique that interpreted Spinoza as collapsing the distinction between God and. For years to come, the philosophical community would get their Spinoza from Bayles summary. The identification of God and nature received a name at the beginning of the eighteenth century: pantheism.

Spinoza was seen as recognizing God in everything, which only led to the inference that he identified God in nothing. At the same time, interpreting Spinoza as a vehement atheist attracted the attention of those who were keen to challenge the superstitions of religion and the authority of the churches on revealed religion.

Thus Spinoza was becoming aligned with Enlightenment, or at least with a polemical and combative strand of Enlightenment, while at the same time the prominent figures of the Enlightenment did not refer to Spinoza and distanced themselves from what they probably saw as opprobrious attacks on religion. This ambiguity erupted into the famous Pantheismusstreit, or Pantheist Controversy, at the end of the eighteenth century. Shortly after Lessings death, Jacobi contested in that Lessing had confessed to him that he was a Spinozist.

Lessing was one of the figureheads of the Enlightenment in Germany as well as in Europe, and Jacobis claim amounted to an accusation that Enlightenment deified reason. As Frederick Beiser puts it, the belief in Spinozas cosmic God seemed to be the religion of science itself. When Lessings friend Mendelssohn, himself a leading figure of the Enlightenment, responded to Jacobi, suddenly Spinoza emerged as the mtier of the Enlightenment project.

If the Pantheist Controversy implicated luminaries of the Enlightenment and thereby exposed its limitations, Jacobis second public controversy involving Spinoza had a generative effect. This second controversy related to Fichtes philosophy and unfolded in spring Jacobi again argued that there are two options, this time articulated in terms of subjectivity: either the subject is absolute, as Fichte argues, in which case the subject is deified, or there is space for belief and the subject is not commensurate with reason.

This controversy played a role in Fichtes losing. Thus they were all exposed to Spinoza as the figure who unraveled their professor, Fichte. Paradoxically, their exposure to Spinoza led to a different interpretation of pantheism, which was now seen as positive because it affirmed the importance of nature or what they referred to as the particular. Novaliss designation of Spinoza as God-intoxicated man, or Hegels assertion that the whole of Spinoza can be read in relation to Proposition 7 of Book II of the Ethics the order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things , should be understood in this context.

For instance, Marx ranked Spinoza as one of his formative influences, whereas Nietzsche saw in Spinoza his only genuine predecessor. Thus, whereas the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries viewed Spinoza with suspicion and hostility, in the nineteenth century Spinoza became the secret conversant of romanticism and its aftermath. A crucial reason why Spinoza was never addressed in any thorough fashion by the philosophers of the nineteenth century was that there was not much scholarship on which they could build.

This was rectified in the twentieth century, which saw an explosion of Spinoza scholarship. It started in the first decades of the twentieth century with the voluminous works appearing mostly in Germany on the context of Spinozas philosophy. In America, Harry Austryn Wolfson produced a remarkable account of the sources of Spinozas arguments,7 and more recently Yirmiyahu Yovel has provided an authoritative account both of Spinozas context and its impact on subsequent philosophies.

Perhaps the most prominent example here is Martial Guroults Spinoza. The two volumes of exegesis of Part I and Part II of the Ethics offer a close analysis of the philosophy that directed one toward grasping the architectonics of the. The impact of this encyclopedic approach has been that it established Spinoza as a topic of study and disengaged the name Spinoza from both impassioned renunciations and their correlative, strategic appropriations.

Another approach to Spinoza emerged in the s and can be characterized as an intensification of the romantic fascination with Spinoza. If, in Novaliss already quoted phrase, Spinoza was a Godintoxicated man in the sense that he sought the universal in the particular, this focusing on the particular is now further elaborated, showing its implications for a philosophy of power. The two instrumental figures in this new approach to Spinoza were Louis Althusser and Gilles Deleuze. Even though Althusser did not publish a lot on Spinoza, as Warren Montag has shown, his notion of the structure is indebted to Spinozas notion of the immanent cause, that is, a cause present only through its effects.

Thus Spinoza gave the means to Althusser to evade a teleological or scientific Marxism that sought reality in an inexorable and analyzable chain of causal relations of production. At roughly the same time, Deleuzes book Expressionism in Philosophy argued that expression in Spinoza undoes traditional representationalism in philosophy. According to Deleuze, the question that motivates Spinozas ethics is what can a body do? In this sense, Spinoza is mobilized in the move against structures of transcendence. In the past few years, a new direction has started developing that could predominate in Spinoza studies in the twenty-first century.

This approach assumes the centrality of Spinozas thought in modernity not merely as a figure who leads to modernity but moreover as a figure whose thought is modern. Thus Michael Hardt and Antonio Negris influential critique of modern sovereignty, Empire, is permeated with Spinozas influence. There are several other examples of this approach. For instance, Moira Gatens and Genevieve Lloyd also use Spinozas philosophy to address philosophical and political issues of the present in Collective Imaginings.

Spinozas thought participates in current debates. Maybe this new approach is philosophys way of catching up with other practices, such as literature, which, at least since Alexander Pope and George Eliot, has seen Spinoza as a source of inspiration. There Spinoza becomes a contemporary, a participant in cultural and intellectual production, the figure who allows us to think of our modernity.

The encyclopedic approach to Spinoza that started at the beginning of the twentieth century is still valuable today because it provides a basis for further scholarship. The approach that presents Spinoza as a philosopher of power and hence aligns him with modernity can be seen as setting the foundations of the third approach: only after establishing Spinozas import for postmetaphysical thought would it have been possible to bring Spinoza to the now.

Spinoza Now takes the challenges faced by this latter approach seriously.

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It includes as broad a variety of approaches as possible. All the contributions actively engage with Spinoza, making his thought relevant today. The chapters seek to pursue Spinozas thought by thinking with Spinoza. The two aspects of the titleSpinozas own emphasis on the now and the new approach in Spinoza studies emphasizing his present relevanceshould be seen as interlaced. What characterizes them both is a dynamic conception of production. For Spinoza, the past and the future are both productive of, and produced by, the present.

The immutability of the static substance is only a formal principle to guarantee the infinite unfolding of being and thought.

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The new approach to Spinoza reproduces this dual direction of production in explicating Spinoza. But in so doing, it is also producing a Spinoza of the now, a Spinoza who participates as a productive force in cultural formation. The first four chapters offer different ways of understanding the reception of Spinozas thought as well as forging new ways for thought through an understanding of that reception history.

In the opening chapter of the volume, Christopher Norris conducts a critical overview of the way Spinoza has been received by various philosophical traditions. Norris starts by observing the great conflict in the interpretation of Spinoza, namely, that Spinoza has been viewed either as a mystic or as an atheist, either as a spiritualist or as a materialist. Tracing some aspects of this variegated history, Norris argues that its latest incarnation is the divided interpretation of Spinoza between analytic and continental philosophers.

Something unites the two approaches, however, namely, the thrust to overcome dualism, either in its Cartesian or Kantian manifestation. From that point of view, Spinozan monism emerges as standing beyond the analyticcontinental dichotomy. Norris does not argue that Spinoza bridges the gap between the two philosophical schools but rather that Spinozas metaphysics necessitates a rapprochement between analytic and continental philosophy that will be mutually beneficial.

Alain Badiou concurs with Christopher Norris about the conflict of interpretation generated by Spinoza, and especially his Ethics, and proposes a solution to this problem. Departing from the observation that even though the Ethics are written more geometricoin a geometrical ordervery little of the literature on Spinoza has actually paid close attention to this mathematical methodology. Examining a single propositionEthics I, P28Badiou shows that the way the proof of the proposition is related to previous propositions, definitions, axioms, and so on, is indispensable in understanding the Ethics.

The geometrical order creates a web of relations that structure the Ethics. This mirrors Spinozas insistence in Definition 2, at the very beginning of the Ethics, that the distinction between the infinite and the finite is strictly relational. The ratiocination and the order of being are, therefore, correlated. Spinoza, argues Badiou, propounds a mathematics of Beingan ontology according to which thinking or the intellect is action as such.

The implicit targets of Badious argument, according to which Spinozas theory of relations can only be read in parallel with the mathematical nature of proofs in the Ethics, are the attempts to read the theory of relations through the theory of passions. Simon Duffy discusses the two most prominent exponentsGilles Deleuze and Pierre Machereyin locating the theory of relations in the third part of the Ethics. By exploring Deleuzes and Machereys different interpretations of the relation between active or joyful and passive or sad affections, Duffy shows two ways of constructing a politics departing from the theory of passions.

Duffy concentrates on the elusive joyful passions, which are neither properly active nor purely passive and therefore forge a relation between joyous and sad affections. Is there a way of mediating between the mathematical and the affective approach? Justin Clemenss chapter, in locating the emergence of the political in in-action, and in showing that inaction is a matter of the mathematics of Being and of affective disposition, suggests a possible mediation.

This chapter presents a genealogy of the Buridans ass paradox Ethics II, P49S the donkey that cannot decide between two equidistant bales of hay. Clemens argues that the paradox has two ostensible targets: Descartess separation of will and understanding and Hobbess exclusion from the covenant with the sovereign of all those who cannot decide. As such, Buridans ass shows the tight connections between Spinozas ontology, epistemology, and politics.

From this perspective, argues Clemens, Buridans ass demonstrates Spinozas materialism. All the different approaches explored in the first four chapters have one thing in common: the insistence that Spinozas ontology is linked to his politics. This insistence can take another, more specialized guise: the link between theologybroadly conceived to include any notion of universalismand the political.

This link is possible because of the process of interpretationthe biblical exegesis that.

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Spinoza proposes in the Theologico-Political Treatise or the notion of expression in the Ethics that Deleuze emphasizes. The four chapters of Part II deal with this theme. Like Clemens, Michael Mack also addresses Descartess and Hobbess influence on Spinoza, but shows how it is possible to eschew an absolute universalism in favor of an inclusive universalism. Mack shows that Spinoza is not arguing against religion or theology per se but rather against the politics of domination to which Cartesian dualism of necessity leads.

The reason for this is that there is a line connecting theology with teleology and anthropomorphism, which only leads to the possibility of one group claiming superiority and domination over another. Mack describes this as a self-destructive or autoimmune process. This is juxtaposed to the intellectual love of God from Ethics V, which Mack interprets as instating a communality, in the sense that it describes a plurality of individual minds, an affirmation of singularities.

Only this communality, argues Mack, gives us a chance for a nonviolent politics. Arthur J. Jacobson turns to the Theologico-Political Treatise to examine the status of prophets. It is well known that for Spinoza, there are no miracles, and in this sense prophesy is part of natural knowledge, its distinctive characteristic being that it helps in the formation of community. Jacobson further complicates this standard account of Spinozas prophets by pointing out a paradox, namely, that if prophesy is natural knowledge, then everyone, in principle, even if not in fact, can be a prophet.

This structure, as Jacobson demonstrates, can also be found in Maimonides. The effect of this structure in Spinoza is that knowledge, then, is shareable by everyonethere is a democracy of knowledge. Warren Montag looks at scripture itself to make a related point to that raised by Jacobson. Montag points out the correlation between ontology and politics expressed in God, or Nature from the Ethics has its equivalent in the Theologico-Political Treatise, in which Spinoza writes, Scripture, or the mind of the Holy Spirit. This indicates that interpretation is also a partner in ontology and politics.

But this is only possible, as Montag demonstrates, if interpretation presupposes that any work does not exist prior to its effects. There is no independent space of reason that remains outside a causality that includes the imagination and all the faults that characterize the. This crucial Spinozan insight is missing, argues Montag, from Jonathan Israels image of Spinoza as the prime representative of radical Enlightenment that supposedly demystified knowledge, emptying it of all superstition. Conversely, Montag shows that scripture is equivalent to the mind of the Holy Spirit because it is the palimpsest of the interaction, inevitably and invariably at fault, of imagination and reason.

Furthermore, if scripture, like Nature, is perfection, then the Bible is, paradoxically, no longer an exemplary or singular text but rather the manifestation of interpretations role in the interplay between ontology and politics. To recall the distinction about the prophets drawn by Arthur Jacobson, scripture, in principle, has no superiority over any other text; it is more important than other texts only in fact, through the influence it exercised in the conceptualization of law and norm.

Like Montag, Cesare Casarino also departs from a close reading, in this case, a passage that refers to the concatenation of all things Ethics I, Ap. Casarino first points out that Spinoza uses the notion of concatenation to explicate the argument of the first part of the Ethics. Such an explication is rare, if not unique, in the Ethics. Casarino shows that this is not accidental. Concatenation is interlinked with Spinozas understanding of interpretation that requires two simultaneous procedures: the positing of a totality, on one hand, and, on the other, the signification and performance of meaning.

This dual aspect is precisely what Deleuze has termed expression or sense. But there is also a second, political consequence of this move. Concatenation and the totality it implies present Spinoza as a genuine theorist of globalizationthe Ethics appears as a response to capital and its totalizing imperative. According to Casarinos argument, the explication that signifies and performs its meaning is not commensurable with representation in the sense that it activates potentiality in the process of interpretation: the knowledge of an object is not subjective but a feature of the object itself.

This allows for singularity. As Marx showed, it is possible to think of the ontological function of God as absolute immanence.


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But in Spinoza, that absolute immanence is accompanied by the concatenation of all beings, which retains beings singularity. Thus Spinoza emerges as a theorist of capital and globalization who comesanachronistically and yet all the more poignantlyafter Marx. Part III takes up the issues discussed in the previous chapters to present them in relation to Spinozas relevance for the arts.

Such an unusual approach aims not only to present Spinoza from a novel perspective that can be illuminating but in addition to demonstrate that Spinozas thought can be applied to a variety of contexts and issues of contemporary relevance. Sebastian Egenhofer also tackles the Marxist legacy of Spinozas thought, concentrating on how the notion of production is indispensable in understanding the art of the twentieth century.

There is an increasing shift from the imagistic to the economic aspect of productionfrom Mondrians abstractions, whose process of material production is secondary, to Judds minimalism, which makes the material manifestation the focal point, to Ashers works, operating with and against their own economic genesis. Egenhofer suggests a next stage indicated by the precarious materiality of Thomas Hirschhorns Spinoza Monument.

Here the two aspects of production are inseparableor, even more emphatically, they allow for the conceptualization of this inseparability. The work of art is both the experience and the thought that structures that experience. In this way, Hirschhorns work manifests that the Marxian notion of production unfolds in a Spinozan matrix, as the various ways in which the infinite can be expressed in its finite modes. In other words, only when the Spinozan link between ontology and politics is imbued with the Marxian notion of production can Hirschhorns originality come to the fore.

Anthony Uhlmann combines issues discussed in earlier chaptersthe theory of relations in Badiou and Duffy, the notion of the necessity of a gap in interpretation in Montag, and the concomitance of production and its idea in Egenhoferto show that it is possible to develop a Spinozist understanding of the arts. Departing from Becketts fascination with Spinoza, Uhlmann acknowledges that, at first blush, the parallelism between thought and experience, the infinite and finite, or substance and its modes poses a problem for art.

But this is only so if art is under the sway of representation. Spinoza, as Uhlmann shows, had already moved beyond representation by insisting that the parallelism does not suggest a lack of contact; rather, infinite knowledge is of necessity related to its finite modesthe first kind of knowledge is implicated in the third kind of knowledge. This theory of relations enacts gaps between its different parts. The presence of these gaps is also indispensable for the arts. A work of art does not convey a message; rather, a work of art establishes relations whose message is the ethical imperative to fill the gaps that, of necessity, persist.

This means that, just as in Spinozas relation of substance and its modes, modern art is both the unfolding of material relations and the thinking that accompanies them. Mieke Bal and Dimitris Vardoulakis explore the relation between thought and matter from a different perspective, emphasizing the rupture that makes their relation possible.

Spinoza addresses this by drawing the distinction between essence and existence. As Bal and Vardoulakis note, this distinction is drawn with recourse to examples from art. This is not accidental. As an analysis of three different versions of Rembrandts depiction of Joseph, Potiphar, and his wife demonstrates, Rembrandts work makes possible a similar distinction between image and words. The complex interpretations that arise when the image is denied an immediate meaning echo Spinozas insistence that there is no immediate connection between thought and matter, essence and existence.

From this perspective, the link between Rembrandt and Spinoza is not based on the fact that they were neighbors in Amsterdams Jewish quarter but rather is based on adopting a similar attitude to the creation of art and culture. Thus Spinoza emerges not so much as an aesthetician as a philosopher whose ontology reverberates with an understanding of the arts precisely because the distinction of essence and existence allows for creation and production.

The last three chapters provide encounters between Spinoza and other philosophers. These encounters are not primarily comparative analyses, nor are they merely the impetus for exploring current philosophical issues; rather all three encounters stage the importance of the Spinozan ontologys privileging of life over death. Antonio Negri begins his analysis by pointing out that modern philosophy is characterized by the Hegelian move to unite essence and existence. As Bal and Vardoulakis discussed in the previous chapter, and as Negri emphasizes here again, essence and existence are never united in Spinoza.

Negri further observes that Heideggers ontological difference rests on the same premise. The disjunction between essence and existence makes Heidegger and Spinoza both. Heidegger proposes an ontology of the void, emphasizing the nothingness of being, which is achieved through the projective aspect of care, the destiny that subjugates being in being-toward-death.

This is, argues Negri, a totalizing move, whose reactionary political overtones are clear to see. Conversely, Spinozas ontology understands being as plenitude, and instead of an emptiness, there are relations of power. The result is radically different from Heidegger, Negri insists. Instead of the totalizing impulse of death, we have in Spinoza the singularity of life, which articulates itself in love, the construction of being through affect.

This constructive aspect makes the escape from destiny through freedom possible and, consequently, is a genuinely democratic impulse. Kiarina Kordela shows that the way that death is conceived is crucial for Spinozas political stance seen from a psychoanalytic perspective. For this to come to the fore, argues Kordela, it is important to avoid two interrelated premises that structure Antonio Damasios interpretation of Spinoza.

These are, first, that Spinoza performs an inversion of Cartesian dualism by privileging the body over the mind, and second, that consequently Spinozas is solely a philosophy of life, one that indicates homeostasis, self-preservation, and the pleasure principle. Kordela shows that such an inversion of Cartesianism only leads to a new dualisma dualism that can only conceive of death as a biological occurrence.

As Kordela demonstrates, however, death is never solely biological for Spinoza. Instead, as the discussions of suicide evidence, Spinozas conception of death is indispensable in social and political critique. Thus Spinoza emerges as having recourse to the death drive alongside the pleasure principle. This political dimension, then, allows Spinozas ontology to reverberate with psychoanalysis.

Like Negri, Kordela shows that this dimension emerges in Part V of the Ethics, in the discussion of the intellectual love of God. Alexander Garca Dttmann explores the relation between life and death by staging a dialogue between Spinoza and Derrida. Dttmann begins his chapter with Spinozas assertion that a free man fears death least of all. This entails that freedom requires a liberation from the affect of fear and, more generally, liberation from the.

In Spinozas construal, freedom as an affirmation of life is nothing other than the acceptance of the laws necessitya freeing oneself from that necessity even though that necessity persists. Derridas notion of the law is never articulated in terms of necessity but always in terms of indecision. The absence of certain or adequate criteria precludes any certainty of the laws validity. Derrida also sides with life, but here life is understood as the infinite deferral of the law, as the suspension of its necessity.

From that perspective, the Spinozan position about freedom being the acceptance of the necessity of the law appears thoroughly incompatible with Derrida. Yet the matter is not as simple as that. For though Derrida can refute Spinoza on the grounds that it is merely idealism to impute the liberation over affectthat is, to tame being or reality by subsuming it to the law of the substancestill Spinoza can respond that Derridas own assertion of the impossibility of grasping necessity can be conceived as a law in itself, as the ultimate affirmation of necessity.

Despite their differences, their mutual affirmation of life makes it at least possible for them to say that they understand each other. Janouch mentions the following comment that Franz Kaf ka made to him: Accident is the name one gives to the coincidence of events, of which one does not know the causation. But there is no world without causation. Therefore in the world there are no accidents, but only here Kaf ka touched his forehead with his left hand. Accidents only exist in our heads, in our limited perceptions.

They are the reflection of the limits of our knowledge. The struggle against chance is always a struggle against ourselves, which we can never entirely win. Kaf ka unwittingly expresses himself as a true Spinozist here. There is, on one hand, an unshakeable necessity. However, on the other hand, that necessity is not subject to a law, or at least to a law that can be discovered. This necessity persists despite usand yet, simultaneously, it can exist only because of us, because of our struggles to bridge the gap that separates us from that necessity.

The insistence on the now in Spinozas philosophy is about this gap and this struggle. Their effects are so deep that they bring disparate categories into contact, from ontology to politics and from ethics to aesthetics. What has to be remembered, however, is that the gap can never be filled, the struggle can never completely succeed or, in Kaf kas words, we can never entirely win. This must apply to Spinoza himself.

Thus Spinoza now is not so much a statement about a truth that Spinozas writings can reveal to us in our present situation; rather, it is the injunction to adhere to the attitude that affirms both necessity and its impossibility. It is hoped that this will lead to an engaged thought that strives to rediscover that struggle in the past and to ensure that it continues in the future. Samuel Shirley, ed. Michael L. Morgan Indianapolis: Hackett, , 1, 5.

Spinozas family had emigrated to Amsterdam, the most liberal city of its time, from the Iberian Peninsula owing to the persecution of Jews. He was born there in Spinozas life changed dramatically when he was excommunicated in and was forced to leave the Jewish community of Amsterdam. Nobody knows the exact reason for the excommunication, but it is certainly related to Spinozas free thinking and his study of philosophy. These endeavors led to the publication of Spinozas first book, Principles of Cartesian Philosophy, in By then, Spinoza was leading a relatively quiet and solitary life, although he had faithful disciples or admirers in the Netherlands and was in correspondence with the best minds of his time in Europe, including Leibniz.

Responding to contemporary political events, Spinoza stopped writing his magnum opus, the Ethics, to compose the Theologico-Political Treatise, which was published anonymously in The reaction was ferocious, and it meant that Spinoza was not confident enough to publish anything else in his lifetime. After his death in , his friends collected and published his writings, including the Ethics, his unfinished Political Treatise, and his.

I refer the interested reader to Moreaus essay for a more detailed overview. Frederick C. See Anthony J. Susan M. Ruddick Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, New York: Schocken, []. Yirmiyahu Yovel, Spinoza and Other Heretics, 2 vols. Princeton, N. Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. See tienne Balibar, Spinoza and Politics, trans. Warren Montag and Ted Stolze, eds. See Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, trans.

George Eliot, ed. Thus his work has very often been taken up by radicals or dissidentsthose who approach it with a view to transforming the discourse of ontology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, or aestheticswhile always leaving something unaccounted for, or something that is consequently thought to require a likewise radical critique. It is the same with those recent or present-day schools of Spinoza interpretation that are often sharply at odds with each other on basic points 3.

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Thus, for instance, thinkers such as Althusser and Balibarstructural Marxists, as the label wentcould very plausibly appeal to Spinoza by way of support for their rationalist account of the relationship between lived experience, ideology, and the process of scientific concept formation,4 while others, like Gilles Deleuze, could just as plausibly invoke him as the chief source or elective precursor for a kind of radical process metaphysics grounded in the notions of desiring-production and molecular or deterritorialized energy flows. This conflict has been repeated in various displaced or surrogate forms over the past three centuries of often intense and heated debate around Spinozas thought.

Nowadays it appears in the clash of priorities between those in the analytic camp, who regard him as having some useful if often misleadingly formulated things to say about issues in metaphysics, epistemology, or philosophy of mind,8 and those of a so-called Continental persuasion, who tend more often to emphasize Spinozas politics or what they see as the basically political nature of Spinozist ethics, ontology, and psychology. French thinkers in the wake of structuralism, Deleuze especially, have on the whole been more concerned to emphasize this aspect of Spinozas thought as a part of their campaign against the grip of conceptual abstraction or totalizing systems of whatever kind, not least Althusserian Marxism.

Thus, for all their marked, even drastic differences of interest, idiom, and dominant agenda, the two traditions are, at any rate, largely agreed in their perception of Spinoza as a thoroughly anomalous and to say the least provocative thinker. Though to some, this has been cause for unqualified celebrationin particular those, like Deleuze, who enlist him on the side of radical difference or heterogeneityin others, it has provoked a very mixed response and sometimes taxed their exegetical patience to the limit and beyond. Here I am thinking chiefly of Jonathan Bennetts approach, in the mode of Russell-style rational reconstruction, whereby he offers a patient, detailed, and often admiring account of Spinozas Ethics until he gets to the third kind of knowledgescientia intuitivaachieved through the intellectual love of God, at which point, all this patience suddenly runs out and his commentary gives voice to a sense of bafflement and downright exasperation.

Thus, when a commentator as shrewd as Pollock is reduced to such babbling by his desire to. Worse, it is dangerous: it is rubbish that causes others to write rubbish. In this context, we might recall Derridas etymologically pointed use of solicit from the Latin solicitare with the sense of challenging and summoning forth but also of shaking to the very foundations. If commentators once joined battle over the issue of Spinoza as atheist and radical materialist versus Spinoza as nature-mystic and proto-Wordsworthian pantheist, they now more often take sides over matters of ontology, epistemology, or philosophy of mind and language.

Or again, they divide with respect to the question of whether these are indeed as analytic philosophers would have it the core issues in Spinozas thought or whetheron the dominant Continental viewthey must ultimately take second place to his ethicopolitical concerns. Thus, as things stand at present, it is hard to imagine say followers of Althusser, Balibar, or Deleuze entering into some kind of constructive dialogue with philosophers whose main points of reference are the commentaries offered by analytic thinkers like Bennett, Donald Davidson, or Alan Donagan.

And again, despite obvious differences of idiom, what Deleuze has to say about Spinozas doctrine of the affects and his notion of conatus as the inbuilt drive toward self-preservation and fulfillment on the part of every living organism finds a close parallel in readings from a very different quarter that likewise place chief emphasis on his treatment of the positive and negative emotions.

Among the latter can be counted Antonio Damasios recent book, which comes at these issuesthat is to say, questions concerning the relationship between cognitive and passional components of the human psychefrom a neurophysical and cognitivepsychological angle but which nonetheless adopts a broadly analytic rather than Continental approach. For if Spinoza is undoubtedly a full-fledged rationalist who maintains that true wisdom can only be achieved through a reasoned critique of commonsense notions or intuitive, self-evident ideas, then he is just as much a radical empiricist more aptly, a radical naturalist and materialist , according to whom such wisdom consists in a due recognition of the various physical, causal, and sociopolitical factors that bear on human knowers in their quest for more adequate self-understanding.

Of course, the mere fact that he cannot be placed on either side of these deep-laid philosophic rifts doesnt mean that he manages to bridge them effectively or achieve the ultimate reconciliation between subject and object, mind and world, reasons and causes, or free will and determinism that has eluded philosophers from Descartes down and continues to preoccupy analytic and Continental thinkers alike. However, it does provide a telling reminder of just how anomalous a figure Spinoza must appear by the light of any orthodox historiography or any attempt to assimilate his thought to this or that certified line of descent.

Where responses do tend to divide in fairly predictable ways is by reacting to the scandal that Spinoza represents either in downright celebratory termsas a salutary challenge to the norms and pieties of orthodox philosophic thoughtor with various degrees of suspicion, mistrust, or hostility. Thus Bennett, as we have seen, has a high opinion of the Ethics just so long as it remains on analytically respectable ground, that is, just so long as Spinoza is concerned with the corrective capacity of adequate ideas when applied to the various confusions thrown up by the realm of sensory appearances or ideas of imagination.

However, this attitude switches very sharply to one of disappointment or shocked incredulity when Spinoza moves on, in Part V, to expounding the. Such claims can only strike Bennett as amounting to a quasi-mystical doctrine whereby the mind is taken to possess something very much like the power of intellectual intuition that Kant likewise denounced, that is, a capacity to pass beyond the realm of phenomenal appearances where sense data are brought under adequate concepts and thus lay claim to an immediate knowledge of ultimate, noumenal reality.

For what drops out of sight in this process is also what constitutes the singular challenge of a thinking that runs directly counter to the whole tradition of epistemological enquiry that began with Descartes, found its systematic high point in Kant, and is still very much a part of the present-day analytic agenda. That is to say, it is the radically monistic approach that typifies not only Spinozas claims with regard to scientia intuitiva but also his entire conception of knowledge or, more precisely, his entire ontology of mind and nature conceived as twin aspects or attributes of a single, indivisible substance.

It seems to me that analytic philosophy has long been striving to escape or overcome this Kantian legacy while in fact coming up with nothing more than a series of minor variations on it. As I have said, this contrasts with the positive, even celebratory response to Spinozas thinking in the recent Continentalmostly Frenchreception-history where he has been recruited to a range of philosophical causes whose main in some cases sole point of contact is the link they propose between issues of ontology and issues of an ethical or sociopolitical nature.

More than that, it will have to offer an account of this process that ties in convincingly with Spinozas critique of religious revelation and his arguments concerning the complex background of historical and cultural conditions that alone provide an adequate contextual basis for reading the scriptures in a critically informed and nondogmatic way. So of course, the broadly analytic reception has included some work on this aspect of Spinozas thought and on relevant details of his own sociopolitical background as one much involved in the various debatesas well as the frontline struggles for power and influence within the Dutch Republic of his time.

That is, they start out by rejecting the analytic principle that requires a clear distinction between context of discovery and context of justification, or the kind of strictly second-order research that has to do with. Nor is it surprising that this should be the case, given both the analytic premise that issues in philosophy cannot be reduced to second-order questions of history, politics, or psychobiography and alsoreinforcing that belief among his analytic commentators Spinozas commitment to the idea of philosophy as aimed toward an order of truth transcending any mere particularities of time and place.

Yet, of course, there is another whole dimension of Spinozas thought that is inescapably rooted in the social conditions and political events of his time and that cannot be understood without reference to those same conditions and events. This is where his Continental readers have an edge because they reject that principleat least in its more doctrinaire formand make a point of relating life to work not just as a matter of more-or-less relevant psychobiographical. For it is a main part of that project to explain how we can think of human beings both as belonging to an order of causal necessity that allows no appeal to some imaginary realm of purely autonomous agency or choice and yet as possessing the capacity to transform passive into active modes of experience.

This capacity comes aboutso he maintainsthrough the achievement of adequate ideas, which in turn make possible some measure of freedom from the realm of unknown and hence blindly operative causal forces. Of course, this way of putting Spinozas caselike his own formulations in the Ethics and elsewhereis very far from resolving the free willdeterminism issue and might well be seen as merely restating it in a sharpened or more intransigent form.

Yet it is the merit of readings like those of Balibar, Deleuze, Macherey, and Negri to insist that he alone among the great thinkers of early philosophical modernity faced up to that issue without taking refugelike Descartes before and Kant after himin a dualist metaphysics of subject and object, mind and body, or a noumenal domain wherein reason gives the rule for its own autonomous exercise and a phenomenal realm wherein everything is subject to the dictates of causal necessity.

Moreover, they do so most often with specific reference to that complex background of historical, political, religious, and sociocultural events that exerted such a crucial formative influence on Spinozas thinking about issues of free will and determinism. Of course, this may be said to beg the question yet again because, after all, there is a prima facie contradictionor at any rate, a sharp clash of prioritiesbetween the claim for Spinoza as one who possessed a sufficient degree of intellectual autonomy to think the issues through in a novel, creative, and independent-minded way and the claim that his ideas were crucially affected by the distinctive pressures and specific challenges of the time.

Indeed, these commentators might be seen as going out of their way to emphasize the problem and ensure that Spinozas readers have to face it fair and square rather than seeking a convenient escape route or evasive compromise solution that would purport to bring him out as a moderate determinist and upholder of free will in some likewise moderate, qualified, or compatibilist form.


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  • Thus the main thrust of interpretations like those mentioned earlier is to insistcontra such face-saving or emollient accounts that Spinozas was an outlook radically opposed to any notion that the problem might be assuaged by adopting a sensible line of least resistance midway between those strictly unthinkable extremes. For instance, they stress that he took time off from composing the Ethics and before proceeding to those parts of Part V in which, if anywhere, his doctrine of freedom might attain its definitive statement to write the Tractactus Theologico-Politicus as an urgent and topical contribution to debates about politics, religion, and the future of the Dutch Republic.

    That is to say, the Tractatus was a thoroughgoing exercise in the mode of materialist, causal-explanatory, sociodiagnostic, protosecular, and demythologizing critique that would emerge to full view only after another two centuries of largely underground, since often forcefully repressed or persecuted, life. What the Tractatus drives home to painful effect for anyone who wishes to retain such faith is both the logical impossibility of squaring this latter pair of requirements and the extent to which that entire belief system, along with its various doctrinal, scriptural, and institutional props, can be seen to rest on a basis of merely contingent historical events.

    Thus it leaves no room for such imaginary ideas as those of revelation, divine intervention, or miracles, all of which Spinoza treats like Hume after him as resulting from a mixture in various proportion of natural, historical, and psychological causes joined to the effects of ignorance, fear, and predisposed or passive credulity.

    In short, as these commentators acknowledge, the free will determinism issue is by no means resolved or quietly laid aside but is in some ways rendered all the more intractable by Spinozas decision to interrupt work on the Ethics and devote several years of intensive research under often very difficult personal and social circumstances to composing the Tractatus. Their point, like his, is to wean us away from any idea that thinking might achieve a genuineas distinct from merely notionalmargin of autonomy or freedom by claiming to rise above the conditions of its physical or causally constrained, as well as its historically situated, time and place.

    Yet their commentaries would surely miss something crucial if they didnt all the same make allowance for the strong countervailing tendency in Spinozas thought, that is, his commitment to a doctrine of adequate ideas that affirms the power of intellect to criticize false beliefs and pass beyond them to a knowledge no longer in the grip of illusory common sense or ideological notions. This is what lends a degree of credibility to the sorts of analytical approach, like Bennetts, that pretty much ignore any background matters of historical, cultural, or sociopolitical context, or again, the attitude summed up by Donagan when he remarks that generally [Spinozas] life was of a piece with what he wrote: discoveries about its detailsapart from facts about his intellectual exchangesbear dubiously on disputed questions about what he thought.

    This is not the place for anything like a critical exposition of Althusserian Marxism. The reflections proposed in this file have been conducted both within the Spinoza philosophy, as questions of interpretation of the system, but also outside this philosophy, as questions about the use that can be made of Spinoza today.

    The file consists of six articles. Finally, the articles proposed by Julie Henry and Yves Clot provide living examples of what a current use of Spinoza can be, in the field of anthropology and psychology. Journals catalogue. A humanities journal devoted to the history of philosophy and politics. Publication costs Publication fees no Submission fees no. Review policy Review process editorial review Average time between submission and publication 60 weeks.

    Contact E-mail asterion ens-lyon. Spinoza: between anthropology and psychology. Y a-t-il une forme de vie humaine chez Spinoza?