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Spinoza Now

Spinoza Now

Dimitris Vardoulakis editor
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Spinoza Now
    Book Description:

    Spinoza Now, the first broadly interdisciplinary volume dealing with Spinozan thought, asserts the importance of Spinoza’s philosophy of immanence for contemporary cultural and philosophical debates. In this bold endeavor, the essays gathered here extend the Spinozan project beyond the disciplinary boundaries of philosophy to encompass all forms of life-affirming activity, including the arts and literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7680-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Note on References to Spinoza’s Works
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Editor’s Note
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Spinoza Now: An Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxviii)
    dimitris vardoulakis

    THE TITLE of this collection—Spinoza Now—highlights the importance Spinoza places on the present moment for any political or cultural investigation. It also includes contributions that are of the present—attempts 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 ourEthics, that men are necessarily subject to passions.” This statement, from Spinoza’sPolitical Treatise(1, §5), encapsulates the importance of the present...

  6. Part I. Strategies for Reading Spinoza

    • 1 Spinoza and the Conflict of Interpretations
      (pp. 3-38)
      christopher norris

      IF THERE HAS ALWAYS been a “new Spinoza,” this is no doubt because his thinking so strongly resists assimilation on any of the terms laid down by every mainstream school of European philosophy from Descartes to the present. Thus his work has very often been taken up by radicals or dissidents—those who approach it with a view to transforming the discourse of ontology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, or aesthetics—while always leaving something unaccounted for, or something that is consequently thought to require a likewise radical critique.¹ This pattern of response goes a long way back—historically as well...

    • 2 What Is a Proof in Spinoza’s Ethics?
      (pp. 39-50)
      alain badiou

      AS WE KNOW from all the literature on Spinoza, the question of the unity of Spinoza’s philosophy is a very difficult one, as is the question of the nature of his work. I completely agree with Christopher Norris, who writes in the previous chapter of the conflict of interpretations. I don’t know of any other philosopher who has been a fundamental reference for so many completely opposed philosophical trends. This point is particularly striking in the recent French philosophy. Louis Althusser proposes to read Spinoza as the greatest materialist philosopher in the genealogy of Marx, in which Spinoza plays the...

    • 3 The Joyful Passions in Spinoza’s Theory of Relations
      (pp. 51-64)
      simon duffy

      THE THEME OF THE CONFLICT between the different interpretations of Spinoza’s philosophy in French scholarship, introduced by Christopher Norris in this volume and expanded on by Alain Badiou, is also central to the argument presented in this chapter. Indeed, this chapter will be preoccupied with distinguishing the interpretations of Spinoza by two of the figures introduced by Badiou. The interpretation of Spinoza offered by Gilles Deleuze inExpressionism in Philosophyprovides an account of the dynamic changes or transformations of the characteristic relations of a Spinozist finite existing mode, or human being.¹ This account has been criticized more or less...

    • 4 Spinoza’s Ass
      (pp. 65-96)
      justin clemens

      Proposition 49 in Part II, “Nature and Origin of the Mind,” of Benedict de Spinoza’sEthicsreads as follows: “There is in the mind no volition or affirmation and negation, save that which an idea, inasmuch as it is an idea, involves.” As we know, for Spinoza, there is “no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause, which has also been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity” (EthicsII, P48).¹ It is only the weakness of our imaginations overwhelming our reason...

  7. Part II. Politics, Theology, and Interpretation

    • 5 Toward an Inclusive Universalism: Spinoza’s Ethics of Sustainability
      (pp. 99-134)
      michael mack

      Does the ethology Spinoza advanced in hisEthicshave singular significance for the formulation of a viable contemporary social theory? Spinoza’s presence in the thought of divergent twentieth-century thinkers from Louis Althusser via Etienne Balibar and Gilles Deleuze to Antonio Negri’s recent critique of twenty-first-century forms of imperialism (as well as Martha Nussbaum’s work on the intelligence of the emotions) indicates his peculiar contemporaneousness.¹

      This is not to claim that Spinoza anticipated the social problems that haunt our seemingly inclusive global society. Instead of dislocating Spinoza’s thought from his particular historical setting, this article analyzes how hisEthicsdelineates the...

    • 6 Prophecy without Prophets: Spinoza and Maimonides on Law and the Democracy of Knowledge
      (pp. 135-160)
      arthur j. jacobson

      AT TWO DIFFERENT POINTS in hisTractatus Theologico-Politicus, Spinoza takes what appear to be contrary positions on the status of the “propagators” of “natural knowledge.” He asks whether they might fairly be called prophets. In chapter 1, “Of Prophecy,” Spinoza takes care to deny that they are prophets, though the knowledge they propagate surely is prophecy, according to Spinoza’s definition of prophecy at the beginning of the chapter. In chapter 7, “Of the Interpretation of Scripture,” he takes a position apparently unrelated to the propagators of natural knowledge that forces us, by implication, to consider whether they may be prophets...

    • 7 Interjecting Empty Spaces: Imagination and Interpretation in Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus
      (pp. 161-178)
      warran montag

      NO SINGLE WORK has contributed more to the resurgence of interest in Spinoza in the English-speaking world in the last decade than Jonathan Israel’sRadical Enlightenment.¹ By insisting on the existence of an Enlightenment within the Enlightenment, and therefore on the existence of two (or perhaps more) Enlightenments, Israel makes visible the differences and even contradictions that divided the party of reason. We may even attach names to the poles he defines: Locke’s complicit and therefore only partial Enlightenment appears in contrast to Spinoza’s uncompromising rejection of every form of supernaturalism and superstition. Accordingly, what was radical about the radical...

    • 8 Marx before Spinoza: Notes toward an Investigation
      (pp. 179-234)
      cesare casarino

      Toward the end of his essay “Lenin before Hegel,” Louis Althusser takes his leave of the readers by hurling at them the following italicized provocation: “A century and a half later no one has understood Hegel because it is impossible to understand Hegel without having thoroughly studied and understood Capital.”¹ The possibly unwitting wit of this pronouncement lies in its casting G. W. F. Hegel in the role of Karl Marx’s famous ape. (I am referring to that passage in theGrundrissein which Marx writes, “Human anatomy contains a key to the anatomy of the ape.”²) My own provocation...

  8. Part III. Spinoza and the Arts

    • 9 Image and Machine: Introduction to Thomas Hirschhorn’s Spinoza Monument
      (pp. 237-262)
      sebastian egenhofer

      I WOULD LIKE TO OUTLINE the topic of the field in which Thomas Hirschhorn’s 1999Spinoza Monumentis situated as an artwork, as a material locus for the production of a truth. The space in which this topic is inscribed has two primary dimensions: the lateral dimension of extension of the field itself and the vertical dimension of its economic—and that means, following Marx and also Deleuze and Spinoza—its genetic and ontological structure. The phenomenal, imagistic (bildförmige) aspect of the works is part of the field’s extension. I call the vertical dimension of ontological genesis the dimension of...

    • 10 Spinoza, Ratiocination, and Art
      (pp. 263-276)
      anthony uhlmann

      SAMUEL BECKETT made use of Spinoza on a number of occasions and copied the following lines into his notes of his reading of Wilhelm Windelband’sA History of Western Philosophy: “The order of ideas [for Spinoza] is conceived as identical with order of things.”¹ It is apparent why such an idea would appeal to a writer: if literature is understood to involve a kind of thinking, to be, that is, a kind of thought, then an immediate connection between events that are described and some process of thinking is attractive.

      Yet there is a clear problem when one comes to...

    • 11 An Inter-action: Rembrandt and Spinoza
      (pp. 277-304)
      mieke bal and dimitris vardoulakis

      A number of common elements bind Rembrandt and Spinoza.¹ First, Spinoza’s materialism can be likened to Rembrandt’s realism. In this view, the individuality of the painter’s figures would demonstrate the philosopher’s insistence on the innumerable modes of being. Second, the psychological depth of the figures’ appearance in the paintings can be an expression of man’s unity of body and soul. Third, both shared an interest in the relation between actions and passions. Thus Spinoza’s dynamic conception of desire could be embodied in Rembrandt’s depiction of continuity and change within figures, which he depicted as in a present moment replete with...

  9. Part IV. Encounters about Life and Death

    • 12 Power and Ontology between Heidegger and Spinoza
      (pp. 307-320)
      antonio negri

      THE EYE OF THE STORM around which philosophical critique has striven to build and rebuild itself throughout nearly two centuries consists of the fact that in the real—that is, according to Hegel, in the modern—the unity of essence and existence, of the internal and the external, is immediate in the form as well as in the dialectic. It seemed as if Hegel had worked out the problem. And yet, throughout the entire silver age, and even more so in the bronze age of contemporary German philosophy (namely, in the “critical critique” of the nineteenth century and in the...

    • 13 A Thought beyond Dualisms, Creationist and Evolutionist Alike
      (pp. 321-350)
      a. kiarina kordela

      A COMMON ASSUMPTION in the contemporary reception of Spinoza is that his philosophy is a celebration of pure life, wherein death plays no role on all of the levels that constitute his philosophy: ontology, ethics, and sociopolitical criticism. In this reading, Spinoza’s monism is sustained only on the ground of an unspoken fundamental dualism between life and death and the exclusion of the latter. Antonio Damasio’s recent interpretation of Spinoza is revealingly symptomatic of this approach, as it unveils that at stake in the underlying opposition between life and death is the psychoanalytic pair of the pleasure principle and the...

    • 14 A Matter of Life and Death: Spinoza and Derrida
      (pp. 351-362)
      alexander garcía düttmann

      IN PROPOSITION 67 of Part IV of hisEthics,Spinoza states that there is one thought that almost never crosses the mind of the free human being.¹ Thoughts cross our minds more or less frequently. Whoever proves to be free, however, thinks of death least of all. The British philosopher Stuart Hampshire warns us against making light of this statement by reducing it to “rhetorical ornament” and ignoring its importance for a Spinozan sense of “objectivity.”² The American philosopher Steven Nadler speaks of a “proclamation” and thereby suggests that Spinoza is taking a stance rather than just stating a thought....

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 363-368)
  11. Index
    (pp. 369-375)