Spinoza’s Eliminativism: Immanence vs God (or Nature)

Is a pluralist or an epistemological anarchist reading of Spinoza possible? Feyerabend criticises Spinoza for his epistemological and ontological arrogance in situating other human beings at a lower level of existence. The very privileging of conceptual understanding over the imagination, according to Feyerabend, conserves an element of transcendence in the form despite its being denied in the content. The notion of God employed by Spinoza is a bloodless, de-vitalised abstraction that Feyerabend compares unfavorably with Newton’s more personal, and more fecund, conception of God. Does immanence lead to a scientistic reliance on a univocal knowledge of causes and effects and an over-valorisation of intellectual at the expense of affective intensities? Or can its eliminative thrust be turned against its own mythological self-entrapments?

Naxos begins to answer these questions, that are also posed indirectly in Levi Bryant’s post on Spinoza’s ethical eliminativism. Bryant describes the advantages of Spinoza’s take on immanence but emphasizes that he is not taking a position. Perhaps because he is aware of the reintroduction of transcendence by means of scientistic presuppositions. His notion that sacred texts do not contain knowledge of causes and effects but rather heuristic devices to cope in the absence of such knowledge, suggests a possible non-dogmatic way out. The transition from commands and prohibitions to medical prescriptions would not be a transition from superstion to knowledge. Bryant gives the example of two ways to approach a doctor’s prescriptions, treating them authoritative universal norms to be obeyed to be obeyed or as advice relative to a given revisable state of knowledge and a historically contingent situation. The implication should not be that we must leave behind heuristic devices for knowledge, but that absolute authority is for many people today heuristically unsound. Immanence means that we are always in the realm of heuristics.

Naxos proposes a reading of Spinoza in which the word « God » can be eliminated as our understanding of immanence affirms itself:

« an immanence that means no transcendence, no heaven, no ‘God’ »

This understanding of immanence must present itself first heuristically under the mask of a new conception of « God » that then allows us to eliminate the word and the idea not just from our vocabulary, but also from our understanding and our body:

« If we get rid of the word of ‘God’ as the result of this ethical and philosophical understanding of the infinite ―and through Spinoza’s axiomatic system―, we also get rid of its idea from our body ».

I do not know if Naxos would agree with me, but I would like to push this further and say that « Nature » and « Reason » are such epistemological masks too. This is the Nietzschean move of eliminating « Nature » and « Reason » as themselves being religious residues.

The result of such understanding by means of self-deconstructing concepts is aptly described in another post by Naxos which describes Felix the Cat’s sudden realisation that he has no ground beneath his feet. A Deleuzian reading might be that he only truly acquires his proper name « Felix » at that moment, when he attains to the post-Spinozan felicity of ungrounded freedom.


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5 commentaires pour Spinoza’s Eliminativism: Immanence vs God (or Nature)

  1. Levi dit :

    Yeah, I really can’t follow you in any of this and feel that this path of thought is catastrophic. Just as realism always loses when one suggests some compromise path between realism and anti-realism, immanence always loses whenever one suggests that reason and myth are somehow equivalent or on equal footing. What you’ve been arguing over the course of these posts is just an apology for superstition and the cruelty that issues from superstition. It’s just one more variant of religious fundamentalist argumentation that tries to suggest that science and reason are just their own forms of myth and therefore can be safely ignored. No thanks. We don’t need more disguised priests.


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  3. Naxos dit :

    @Terence! Thanks for quoting my words 🙂 I think I do agree with you: ‘reason’ and ‘nature’ are also epistemological masks, mostly if we consider them from the Nietzschean perspective where everything is regarded to forces and intensities, and where sense and values are meant to be embodied, experienced and thought. For Deleuze, following Nietzsche: reason represents our slavery and subjections as superiorities that makes us ‘reasonable beings’ who have interiorized established values as part of our experience. Beyond the masks of ‘reason’ and ‘nature’ there are intensities and forces of thought to be experienced, and in this sense, Nietzsche suggested that no one can be ‘reasonable’ enough. From this perspective, being irrational is not opposed to thought, on the contrary: irrationalism makes thought to intervene in experience: what opposes reason is thought itself. We see then that in the Nietzschean system it is not but thought what recovers its superiority against reason: what is opposed to ‘being reasonable’ is one ‘being a thinker’ because thought would unmask reason and ‘legislate’ against it. We see that it is not quite a question of elimination, not even a question of ‘draining’ or ‘dissolving’ reason from our body. With Nietzsche, it is a question of smashing the conventional sense and the historical values of established reason. This ‘hammering’ is indeed one epistemological stage to grasp sense and values in a more creative non-established and non-juridical way. So I agree: while we have always been in the realm of heuristics, it is not but the immanence of thought what turns against any univocal knowledge of causes and effects. We can see in which sense every epistemological rupture is the very first step to be effectuated as part of a methodology of experience and knowledge: established sense and values are needed as elements of this provisional step: they are useful to let their forms be broke and released from their historical sediments.


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