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Tag Archives: Nature

Spinoza on the Infinite, the Unbound: Part I


Key to understanding Spinoza’s approach to the Infinite is appreciating that for him, primarily and speaking generally, The Infinite is Unbroken. And following this, modifications of the Infinite (how Spinoza defines the modes) do not break that unbroken state. For Spinoza, any treatment of Substance must follow from this understanding.

What makes this compelling, and ultimately germane to any assessment of the status of rational knowledge as it is found in logically related descriptions, and at the seeming apex of such, mathematical descriptions, is that insofar as numerical designation indicate a limitation, a bound, a break in The Infinite, this is an imaginary product and is not adequate knowledge. Perhaps, penultimately: mathematical, scientific knowledge stands at a skeptical remove from the true nature of Nature. Which is not to say that mathematical relations, and the various fields of mathematical description, do not play a significant role the human being coming into some form of absolute knowledge of God/Substance/Nature. At most, the internal coherence and powerful indications of mathematical forms act as Augustine’s finger, pointing to Substance’s moon.

One can see this in Meyer’s preface to Spinoza’s early career more geometrico treatment of Descartes’ philosophy, The Principles of Cartesian Philosophy. Meyer explicitly sets out Spinoza’s distance from Descartes’ matho-scientific treatment of Nature:

This [work] must not be regarded as expressing our Author’s own view. All such things, he holds, and many others even more sublime and subtle, can not only be conceived by use clearly and distinctly but can also be explained quite satisfactorily, provided that the human intellect can be guided to the search for truth and the knowledge of things along a path different from that which was opened up and leveled by Descartes. And so he holds that the foundations of the sciences laid by Descartes and the superstructure that he built thereon do not suffice to elucidate, and resolve all the most difficult problems that arise in metaphysics. Other foundations are required if we seek to raise our intellect to that pinnacle of knowledge.

I had to get this basic beginning out so that I can move on. Hopefully to follow soon: Spinoza’s hyper-proximity to Badiou (and Badiou’s intention misreading), Cantor’s attempt to in-concretize Spinoza’s Infinite (as transfinite), and, the Place of Mathematics within Spinoza’s theory of the Intellect and Knowledge, the weight of Letter 12  (or something of these sorts).

Becoming Intense and Longitude: Deleuze and Guattari

Deleuze and Guattari define a body by the terms latitude and longitude, such that each “body” would have a reading in each register, as they put it:

D&G wrote:
Latitude is made up of intensive parts falling under a capacity, and longitude of extensive parts falling under a relation.

-a thousand plateaus, Becoming-Intense, Becoming Animal (257)

They credit this discovery to Spinoza. Latitude is read in degrees of power [or intensity]. In this way the traditional dualisms of Idea and Body are subsumed under the body itself, and expressed in both intensive and extensive states. What is interesting in this model is how it borrows from global positioning. A body, as it grows more intense, will, it seems, expand in its proporitionality to the globe. In reading this model of Spinozist thinking, can one imagine that one can increase in latitude without an isomophoric increase in longitude? This seems impossible in the Spinozist framework. Yet Deleuze and Guattari’s hypothesized lines of flight seem to elicit just such an intensification, a latitudnal line that expands in intensity without expanding extensively. A composition of music, the scribbles of black marks made by Bach perhaps, would seem like a line of flight without longitudnal expanse, until taken up in history. Yet is this a proper reading? Perhaps the composition itself marks out a bodily, that is extensional relation of parts the cut across our customary boundary lines, taking up the extensional intensities of influence (the clop of horses outside his window, the spatiality of notes played when he was a child, the distance between keys on a keyboard, [an infinite list] etc), into a single assemblage of which it is only the burg of vast ice. And how are inadequate ideas to be represented here, which would be intensifications which do not compose as powerful extensional relations, as are imagined? The globe itself presumably would be the Body without Organs of Substance and Nature.




[For a more elaborate approach to Deleuze and Guattari, see the entry “Orchids, Wasps, Beetle’s and Crickets: A Menagerie of Change in Transgender Identity”]