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.