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Spinoza’s Tomb and Sign: sêma

In a curious and revealing conflation of meanings, in Greek sêma, the word from which we get our “semiology” and “semantics” was generally a “sign” or a “mark” of significance, but also archaically it meant a “tomb,” a “burial mound,” a “cairn”. In the video above we encounter the “sign” of Spinoza, his tomb at The Hague. Perhaps we are to recall in contrast Hölderlin’s initial lines of his last poem of sanity, “Mnemosyne”…

A sign we are, without interpretation,

Without pain we are, & we have nearly 

Lost our Speech in the Foreign…

This is precisely the grip of the negation, absence, nothingness that Spinoza puts aside, as all signs point to something, that is, all ideas have a res  as their object. What is the sêma of Spinoza’s Grave? For those of us who have read him, struggling at times against the sheer texturelessness of his interlocked propositions, there is something, some-thing, an effect to seeing his grave, even in this video of it, what has become a monument to a National and historical figure (I have not been to it, but only read it off the aesthetic texture of the digital form). Spinoza has not lost his tongue. The foreign has not made him speechless, or in-sig-nificant. Instead, his death (and he had death all about him, living in a time of plague, his father perhaps dying of the tuberculosis that also struck Spinoza closely after his father’s death), brought him to construct a vast apparatus thought to aid the human mind and body, and articulate matrix of legs, arms and organs which extended man over the sea-bit abyss that would later fascinate the extentialisms of the German and French of modernity, and raft of Being.

I recall the makeshift tomb of Polyneikes from the Antigone, (actually the two graves)…the first driven by the Naturalized windstorm of the gods (in a thorough imaginary constitution ascended to through the fear of the guards watching over his body…the brother who was buried twice); the second by the poor hand of a pubescent girl, sister and kin, dust. The intentional sêma  of the latter a willful determination of the former. For the philosopher who seemed to mimimize the memory, the effects of the imagination, what purpose does his grave give to us? What constitutive effect? Is not it the sign of the preservation of the better part of a mind (and necessarily a body)? There is the unmistaken scent of eternity behind the sêma.

And what of the productivity of the skin of aesthetic capture, the de-sedimented layer of “film” and voice which crosses boundaries and unites in pixelation, and qualitative condensation? Is this not the “body” of Spinoza par excellence, the speed-driven arch of mind through constitutive, material effect?

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