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A Few Random Thoughts…Spinoza, Descartes, Latour

Descartes philosophized laying in bed, it is said, and Spinoza did so at the work bench where he ground lenses during the day. A difference in affects of philosophy.

Genevieve Lloyd says in her “Male, Metaphor, and the Crisis of Reason” that female designates the undifferentiated, and that the male designates the de-gendered soul to be appropriated by (male) Reason, while female designates that which is marked by gender (sex), by virtue of its alignment with the Body. One wonders, is Spinoza’s Substance to be read as feminine (perhaps here is where Schelling tries to grasp him)? Plotinus’s move of the One (Hen) is a quick shuffling from “male” (progenitor) to “female” (engendering) in a single line (Ennead V ii, 1).  She also says that Descartes was caught up in the analogy of motions of the mind (no doubt conflating physics and mentality). Is this why Spinoza thinks of the agency not as a motion, but as a shift in Being, and not an act of Will? Is all transparency masculine? Is there not a transparency of body? Are Latour’s black boxes female holes in the materiality of the body? Is it not the case that instead of a world of black boxes we have orbs of transparency?

4 responses to “A Few Random Thoughts…Spinoza, Descartes, Latour

  1. Carl December 16, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Awesome post. Just trying to think along with (or alongside of) you, the problem with Lloyd’s argument, and Benhabib’s along similar lines, is that they rely on fixing meanings of ‘the feminine’ and ‘the masculine’ within social/political/economic assemblages in which those signifiers actually float and only get pinned down to precise meanings for tactical purposes. Lloyd glimpses this in seeing femininity assigned to a portmanteau of undifferentiation, but beyond a first cleverness that’s not helpful – exactly how has femininity been configured from time to time to make it keep turning up second no matter what? The brute fact of gender hierarchy is behind it all.

    [Note on method: I agree with you about most things; I create conversation-space by adding a twist, throwing another variable into the pot or devil advocating.]

    • kvond December 16, 2009 at 2:27 pm

      Carl: “exactly how has femininity been configured from time to time to make it keep turning up second no matter what?”

      Kvond: I’m not sure what you are asking here. Are you saying that there is some mysterious mechanism which keeps changing the mode of the symbolic feminine to keep it “second”? Or are you looking for the “exact configuration” in some other sense?

      Did you read the Lloyd essay (just curious, because I wasn’t sure). What did you make of her non-essential treatment of the symbolic feminine? Do you feel that symbolic feminine ALWAYS is second? or rather it is structurally second, but in a sense that the symbolic cannot be reduced to the structural (which seems to be Lloyd’s point, and I would tend to agree with her, given the categories).

    • kvond December 16, 2009 at 2:32 pm

      Also Carl, always glad to have your twist of the topology of conversation space.

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