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Thread: Spinoza the Transcendentalist

  1. #16
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    I simply have no idea where you are getting this notion of redemtion from in Spinoza. Yes, a movement towards freedom is possible for certain bodies, but it does not happen punctually at the 'end of time' --- insofar as I can figure out what you are doing with diachrony and synchrony, and I'm not sure that I can, it seems not to be missing the point of sub specie aeternitatis, which is precisely NOT chronic (whether dia or syn).

    Spinoza is no Nietzschean, agreed, but that is very much to his credit.

    The personal God issue can't be so easily sidestepped - re-introducing it IS the production of transcendence.


    It seems to me that it would be more convincing to conclude from your premises that Augustine botches immanence than that Spinoza lapses into the transcendent (not the transcendental).

    Just because Spinoza maintains that there is only one substance does not mean that he thinks that substance is One.

  2. #17
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    K-punk,


    I simply have no idea where you are getting this notion of redemtion from in Spinoza. Yes, a movement towards freedom is possible for certain bodies, but it does not happen punctually at the 'end of time'

    To me the end-of-time is posited by an inferred position outside-of-time. If you simply want to propose an endless unfolding of time, that is okay as well, but the “whole” of it is available under the form of eternity. From the position of eternity, each note finds its place. This to me is commensurate with redemption. If you have a problem with the word “redemption”, consider my use of it an appropriation similar to the word appropriations Spinoza used.

    --- insofar as I can figure out what you are doing with diachrony and synchrony, and I'm not sure that I can, it seems not to be missing the point of sub specie aeternitatis, which is precisely NOT chronic (whether dia or syn).

    Synchrony is a spatial metaphor, the production of a topos, an attractor of stasis which in fact we can have no direct experience of it its purity. It is syn-chronic, in that it is (sun) “with” in Greek, which can mean “along with”, “endued with”, “joined to”, all which describe our experience of such. The synchronic subsumes time. It is put in contrast to dia, "through", "by means of"

    Spinoza is no Nietzschean, agreed, but that is very much to his credit.

    I agree. I sense that Nietzsche worked within the context of Spinoza’s map, never leaving it, yet never having the perspective its cartography.

    The personal God issue can't be so easily sidestepped - re-introducing it IS the production of transcendence.

    Augustine’s God is not limited to the personal in the sense that I believe that you mean. The universalizing and near pantheistic activity of love, knowledge and existence are much more than the anthropomorphized, but rather act as constitutive forces of all existence. His "Si fallor sum", which can be argued to be the source for Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum", maintains a foundation for knowledge, a foundation upon which both Decartes and Spinoza built. In being a monist, Spinoza ended up following Augustine, who patterned himself after a monist, more closely than one might imagine. One must also keep in mind that more than a thousand years separated these thinkers, so one is tracing a genealogy of thoughts and not making strict equivalencies.

    It seems to me that it would be more convincing to conclude from your premises that Augustine botches immanence than that Spinoza lapses into the transcendent (not the transcendental).

    The transcendent is implied within immanence once the place of Eternity is posited. This is the natural outcome of attempting to integrate Parmenidean Being. If you are going to deny the transcendental in Spinoza, explain his insistence

    Part V, Prop xxiii,

    “The human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the body, but there remains of it something which is eternal.”

    and in the note:

    “Thus, although we do not remember that we existed before the body, yet we feel that our mind, in so far as it involves the essence of the body, under the form of eternity, is eternal, and that thus its existence cannot be defined in terms of time, or explained through duration.”


    Just because Spinoza maintains that there is only one substance does not mean that he thinks that substance is One.

    It doesn’t mean this, but the comparisons of positions are remarkably similar. Sometimes word for word. This is not simply the coincidence of a number, but an entire relationship of ontology to epistemology based on the gradations of Being reflected in the adequacy of ideas, and guided by the motivating force of the will to persist in contravention to the “deception” of sense perception.



    in thanks, autophoron
    Last edited by autophoron; 20-04-2005 at 03:39 AM.

  3. #18
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    Autophoron

    I hope this makes some sort of sense, I hadn’t really finished it when your reply to Mark made me strip various bits out and add others.

    I have a feeling that the problem I am having with this is summed up by this quote

    From the point of view of God, that is under the form of eternity, all ideas are adequate.
    Which I agree with, but don’t really see where it gets us, inasmuch as there is no suggestion that this is a point of view we can ever share. I agree with you that, for Spinoza, the contemplation of a perfectly adequate universe is a matter of devotion and possibly even requires a leap of faith (given that we can posit the God’s eye view, but there is nothing to actually attain it). What I don’t find is any redemptive character therein.

    I think this may be due to the way you perceive eternity. As I see it, to say

    I take synchrony to be the reclaiming of diachronic difference through patterned repetitions of sameness over time,
    has no bearing for Spinoza because eternity is a qualitative form of time, therefore repetition is a meaningless concept in relation to eternity. This is assuming that you are equating synchrony with the God’s eye view. If you are equating synchrony with reterritorialization, then I can see why you might think that there is transcendence in Spinoza. However, given that reterritorialization is always accompanied by deterritorialization, I don’t find it at all comparable to a universe of necessarily adequate ideas.

    To consider your music example: sub specie aeternitatis is not the finished tune when the last note is played, but rather the entire thing apprehended simultaneously. This would certainly be transcendent were it ineffable, but nothing is ineffable inasmuch as the possibility of different finite modes having different adequate ideas means that there is no part of the universe which cannot be adequately perceived by something at some point in duration.

    In your response to Mark, you bring up the question of whether Spinoza’s insistence upon the eternal nature of some part of the mind does not import transcendence into Spinoza. It may very well do, as I said previously the system is not perfect. However, I’m sure you know that the question of what is going on in this section has vexed scholars for centuries. I would ask you how you think that this section can be seen to be at all consistent with anything in the first four books. I have never seen a convincing answer to this. If this is indeed the case, should we not just admit that this is one of the places where Spinoza falls down?

    The Nietzsche passage runs:

    It is simply a matter of experience that change never ceases; we have not the slightest inherent reason for assuming that one change must follow upon another. On the contrary: a condition once achieved would seem to be obliged to preserve itself if there were not in it a a capacity for desiring not to preserve itself – Spinoza’s law of “self-preservation” ought really to put a stop to change: but this law is false, the opposite if true. It can be shown most clearly that every living thing does everything it can not to preserve itself but to become more.

    I couldn’t disagree more with your reading of the Eternal Return, but don’t think that it’s worth getting sidetracked in that direction. My point was that to read the will to power as the desire to persist is incorrect. I’m also suspicious of the parallels you draw between the conatus and triune existence, but my knowledge of Augustine is very basic so I’m not really qualified to take you up on it.

    Regards

    effay

  4. #19
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    J,


    I hope this makes some sort of sense, I hadn’t really finished it when your reply to Mark made me strip various bits out and add others.

    I have a feeling that the problem I am having with this is summed up by this quote
    Quote:
    From the point of view of God, that is under the form of eternity, all ideas are adequate.

    Which I agree with, but don’t really see where it gets us, inasmuch as there is no suggestion that this is a point of view we can ever share.


    You may feel that we cannot share this point of view, but for Spinoza we can. In fact in intuiting adequate ideas, we immediately do so. While perhaps the totality of that view is barred from us, but his biographer Nadler suggests that Spinoza did not even place the limit there.

    I agree with you that, for Spinoza, the contemplation of a perfectly adequate universe is a matter of devotion and possibly even requires a leap of faith (given that we can posit the God’s eye view, but there is nothing to actually attain it). What I don’t find is any redemptive character therein.

    The redemption is simply that the apparently disharmonious becomes harmonious. You can chose any term for that you might like. The concept of “sin” as that which falls from the mark, that which is imperfect in a fallen or fragmented world, restored to a harmonious and perfect state is about a close to redemption as I can think of. Rather than looking at the dogma that surrounds ‘redemption’, look at what supposedly is metaphysically occurring.

    has no bearing for Spinoza because eternity is a qualitative form of time, therefore repetition is a meaningless concept in relation to eternity.

    Agreed, from the position of Eternity it is such. From the position of our fragmented, inadequate idea state, it is not pure topos.

    This is assuming that you are equating synchrony with the God’s eye view. If you are equating synchrony with reterritorialization, then I can see why you might think that there is transcendence in Spinoza. However, given that reterritorialization is always accompanied by deterritorialization, I don’t find it at all comparable to a universe of necessarily adequate ideas.

    Deterritorialization, ever pressing on is simply the continuation of an immanent process, not seen from the position of Eternity. Territorializations are only evidence of a transcendent synchrony, a pure topos. This is what makes Spinoza problematic because there is an overarching ideology –which territorializations reflect- which silently guides the process. It is a realm of Eternal Realm of Adequate Ideas, not fundamentally different than the City of God itself, mystified into an abstraction of principles.

    To consider your music example: sub specie aeternitatis is not the finished tune when the last note is played, but rather the entire thing apprehended simultaneously.

    Certainly. You say it perfectly. But the last note must be played in a sense, or already be played in order for the entire thing to be apprehended. Spinoza hints at this in a way when he even suggests that we existed before we were born. In listening to music at various times in hearing it one apprehends the whole as vistas of comprehension open up, but it is not until the last note that the whole is properly understood. The teleos lies in every note, including the last note.

    This would certainly be transcendent were it ineffable, but nothing is ineffable inasmuch as the possibility of different finite modes having different adequate ideas means that there is no part of the universe which cannot be adequately perceived by something at some point in duration.

    I think this is a fundamental difficulty in Spinoza and marks his problem of integrating the synchronic (or achronic if you wish) with the diachronic. Only by access to the adequate ideas and Eternal Form are things properly perceived. But since he wants to show the universe to be non-transcendent and equate extension with thought as two attributes of a single expression, he must explain how extension becomes separated from thought as a source of truth. Epistemologically, extension becomes a source of error due to the mind’s constitution through the object of the body. So Spinoza is forced to place the mind as a nexus, a contradiction which is at the same time is defined by the body and also eternal.

    In your response to Mark, you bring up the question of whether Spinoza’s insistence upon the eternal nature of some part of the mind does not import transcendence into Spinoza. It may very well do, as I said previously the system is not perfect. However, I’m sure you know that the question of what is going on in this section has vexed scholars for centuries. I would ask you how you think that this section can be seen to be at all consistent with anything in the first four books.

    There really should be no vexing. The vexing occurs because one assumes that the synthesis Spinoza attempted to achieve was achieved. The work was written over a long period of time and in some sense was never finished. The reason for this is that the synthesis was never completed. Spinoza lies in contradiction. The immanence is not resolved to the transcendent. The larger portions of the text reflect the immanence of diachronic change, but they are still haunted by the synchronic and transcendence. When he fails to define adequate ideas as those which correspond to their object, (which would produce an dynamic unfolding of forms without teleology), but rather defines them as those which correspond to themselves, he grounds the process outside of Time. When one sees the geometric Kabbalah-like imprint on the general form, the fragmented and fallen world reflected in the principle of inadequate ideas, one realizes that a teleos does indeed direct the Spinozian world. The impersonal connection to that teleos through the rational, given the meanings that rationality has taken on in the modern world, seems to foreclose teleotic intimacy. But the mystical has a long history of impersonal intimacy with teleos. The jouissance that Spinoza feels through his spareness of Being, denial of passions, in harmony with a structuring order, marks him as a rational mystic. The contemplation of God produces blessedness.

    I have never seen a convincing answer to this. If this is indeed the case, should we not just admit that this is one of the places where Spinoza falls down?

    Or rises up? The key to mending the immanent and transcendent in Spinoza I suggest is found in the philosophy of Tomasso Campanella, who carries Augustine toward the pantheism where Spinoza can reach it. Campanella's "cognosere est esse" (to know is to be) provides the bridge from Augustine to Descartes and therefore Spinoza.

    The Nietzsche passage runs:

    It is simply a matter of experience that change never ceases; we have not the slightest inherent reason for assuming that one change must follow upon another. On the contrary: a condition once achieved would seem to be obliged to preserve itself if there were not in it a a capacity for desiring not to preserve itself – Spinoza’s law of “self-preservation” ought really to put a stop to change: but this law is false, the opposite if true. It can be shown most clearly that every living thing does everything it can not to preserve itself but to become more.


    I believe Nietzsche is in fear, perhaps rightful fear, of the transcendent One in Spinoza. He mistakenly/intentionally projects the finalized state of essences into a temporal moment. It is in Spinoza that the desire to preserve oneself, amid the inadequacy of ideas and a fragmented world, that propels the living thing to “be more”. It is the engine of change, rather than the enemy of it. Nietzsche has a reaction against what he views as the deadening effects of rationalization, and does not realize that when something is overcome, it is necessarily overcome by a stronger thing. The passage from the passive to the active is the same in Nietzsche and Spinoza. The difference is that power comes in Spinoza via an understanding of the over-arching harmony. Spinoza surfs the greater wave, a wave that Nietzsche takes offense in the belief of. In the end it comes down to the word God. While Nietzsche abandons and denies it, perhaps at great personal cost. Spinoza seeks to engage it, rescue it from the abuses it has been put to, reappropriating it.

    I couldn’t disagree more with your reading of the Eternal Return, but don’t think that it’s worth getting sidetracked in that direction. My point was that to read the will to power as the desire to persist is incorrect.

    The lineage to Augustine is to me clear. The unmediated perception of the Self, the Will to be, is what drives one forward in the world. While Augustine and others see this as directed towards a One and Nietzsche as an urge to smash idols make them very diverse branches of the same tree. From Spinoza’s point of view Nietzsche’s passionate attack “against” is almost definitionally “passive”, driven by forces beyond him. There are times though when Nietzsche ascends through the clouds and stands alone on the peak. It is there that Spinoza and he are joined, as he himself imagined.

    I’m also suspicious of the parallels you draw between the conatus and triune existence, but my knowledge of Augustine is very basic so I’m not really qualified to take you up on it.

    The parallel lies in the “I think therefore I am” ground of knowing.




    in thanks, autophoron

  5. #20
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    Autophoron

    There's not much else I can say about this before we just start going round in circles.

    We obviously disagree about some of the mechanisms in Spinoza (e.g. the conatus), but seem more broadly in accord than I initially thought. As you admit that

    Quote Originally Posted by autophoron
    he wants to show the universe to be non-transcendent
    and I agree with you that he doesn't manage it. The crux of the matter seems to be summed up here:

    I have never seen a convincing answer to this. If this is indeed the case, should we not just admit that this is one of the places where Spinoza falls down?

    Or rises up?
    Which is what I thought you would say. I do wonder whether your attempt to reclaim a Plotinian/Scholastic heritage for Spinoza is as much to do with your own project (whatever it may be) as Deleuze and others' attempts to make Spinoza's system work perfectly immanently is to do with theirs. Personally, I think that the latter option is the better one, but there you go.

    Cheers

    effay

  6. #21
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    J.,


    " I do wonder whether your attempt to reclaim a Plotinian/Scholastic heritage for Spinoza is as much to do with your own project"


    Oh, very much so. Only by putting several projects side by side do we get a better understanding of what the thinker believed and also achieved (and yes they are different things). I for one was drawn to Spinoza specifically for his non-transcendent thinking, for it seemed like he provided a grammar with which one could describe the world effectively, without resorting to transcendent thinking. But as I read him I grew disappointed as I began to see a subtle transcendentalism lurking behind his words, so much so that it seemed like this transcendent state actually served as a grounding of his work. The closer I looked, surprised to find this considering his reputation among modern philosophers, the more I saw the fingerprints of Neo-Platonism, in one form or another. I've come to the conclusion that Spinoza had cornered himself by making his philosophy still too humanistic. Although radically departing from the humanism of his day, his focus on man and the emotions and the essence of the soul forced him into a virtual contradiction. He had to achieve a kind of salvation of man based on the powers of reason alone, completely independent of the institutions of the day.

    What I suggest is that Spinoza needs to be radicalized in the two directions that he was pulled. I feel that his exploration of the diachronic reality and description of the relation between bodies in terms of speeds and intensities has been taken up fairly successfully by Deleuze, and perhaps others. The primary compromise that held him back was the principle of essences and the need to find that humans had an essence per se. When one realizes that all consonances between parts must have essences, any resonance of bodies or ideas, the human being becomes only a fleeting existence of a much more broadly occurring process. His dependence upon the "noun" should perhaps be shifted to the "verb" and perhaps Leibniz' "Natura non facit saltus" (Nature does nothing in leaps) would be helpful. That bodies are everywhere, in constant creation and annihilation would be a sufficient conclusion to draw from Spinoza the trans-humanist, and certainly one could stop there. But I also suggest that he must be radicalized in the other direction, the synchronic one (or achronic). Firstly, it would have to be acknowledged that this formed a major part of his project, and was not some "falling down", or unfortunate misstep. Secondly, if one returned to Plotinus, catches his drift regarding the centrality of the conatus and embraces the fundamental precept of gradations of Being. Spinoza would be proposing a universe which is moving towards greater and greater number of effects, all brought forth by "knowing", a knowing that by definition would constitute Being. This would be a true pantheism, one is which all things shared consciousness in gradations in virtue of, and a reflection of their Being. The consonance that everything is heading for, the production of effects is an inter-relating of which human beings are playing a very, very small part. The profit of radicalizing in this way would be a broadening of the definition of consciousness, of knowing and of Being, an unhinging of Spinoza from a fixed near-ideological "form of eternity" and making of the process a universal immanence, which is what I imagine that Spinoza would have preferred altogether. Only the prominence of the human being, that centrality of focus, as much as he tried to decenter his philosophy, created the transcendent as an anchor behind his texts.




    in thanks, autophoron
    Last edited by autophoron; 22-04-2005 at 01:53 AM.

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