In a recent post I argued that appeals to immanence cannot be reconciled with an epstemologically naïve submission to the authority of science. I was inspired by a post of Levi Bryant on Spinoza here and by two posts of Naxos, one on Spinoza and the other on ungrounded felicity. Levi Bryant replied to my post and I am grateful for the opportunity he provided to clarify some of the incipient confusion.
Thanks for your comment and for the sobriety of its tone. In your post on Spinoza you show wariness about expressing yourself on certain topics that could provoke « highly unpleasant firestorms » and « knee jerk reactions ». I am glad that you avoided the former, but am not convinced that you sufficiently resisted the latter. I too wish to avoid firestorms and knee jerks (these often go together, creating the intellectual equivalent of fast food: the « fire jerk »), which are the contrary of thought, using the mask of extreme intensity to hide the reflex thinking of those who cannot free themselves from some set of clichés.
I greatly admire your blog for its passion, its erudition and its clarity, and I regret that I didn’t discover it years earlier. It is something that I read prioritarily, and I am often in agreement with your views on many subjects. I share many of your references and conceptual concerns, and a full understanding of immanence and its implications is as important for me as it is for you. I wish I had attained to your clarity of style.
So I must admit that I was both perplexed and a little saddened that you chose to respond so negatively to me for a post where I argue that the Spinozan elimination of transcendence, as expounded by you, while a step in the right direction, does not go far enough: it contains dogmatic and authoritarian elements in its reliance on a monistic « knowledge of causes and effects », which ultimately comes down to a naïve and inadequate view of science. (Don’t forget your Latour when you talk about Spinoza!).
I suppose I deserve it. A while ago I accused Sean Kelly and Hubert Dreyfus of being unable to distinguish their position from that of a christian fundamentalist or creationist. So now I know how it feels, as you assert « What you’ve been arguing over the course of these posts is just an apology for superstition and the cruelty that issues from superstition ». What? I accuse not even you but Spinoza-under-your-reading of containing possible dogmatic residues and authoritarian tendencies, and suddenly I am an apologist for superstition and cruelty, propounding « just one more variant of religious fundamentalist argumentation »? I think you may be « fire jerking » here!
The epistemological issues here are quite complicated, and I am not sure that I see my way clearly. But I don’t think that they can be settled by Harmanian hand-waving. The silly favorite « quote » (« realism always loses when one suggests some compromise path between realism and anti-realism ») by Harman from Rorty means nothing and you know it. I am a realist, Feyerabend is a realist, Deleuze is a realist, and so is James Hillman and Michel Onfray and Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly etc etc, and we are all for immanence and against superstition and cruelty. Hillman, in the video, talks about differentiating different kinds of immanence but has no time there to pursue the issue. Yet this is the way to go: differentiating, not blanket condemnation by conflating nuanced differing of opinion with membership in a grab-bag straw-man fuzzy set containing the Enemy. Why not just call me a « correlationist » and be done with it? Instead of hand-waving, I prefer Lyotardian differentiating:
« I read Kant [Note by me: we can equally read « Spinoza »] not just with Kant himself, but, simultaneously, with all that comes after Kant – and this in the hope of ameliorating my complexity or my differentiation ».
This task of ameliorating my complexity is the guiding thread of my thinking. It is also the only way I can explain to myself positively your continuing lacanism, despite your intense theoretical trajectory. I think and hope that you are not a fossilised lacanian but that you read Lacan with all that comes after, to ameliorate your complexity and that of us, your readers. I myself have very little use for Lacan, feeling that he is not pluralist enough, and so I am very critical of the neo-lacanian ingredients in Badiou’s and Zizek’s work, feeling that they are decades behind Deleuze and Guattari in MILLE PLATEAUX. So when I read your final proclamation « We don’t need more disguised priests »
I immediately had the Deleuzian reflex:
« The most recent figure of the priest is the psychoanalyst, with his or her three principles: pleasure, Death, and Reality. Doubtless, psychoanalysis demonstrated that desire is not subordinated to procreation, or even to genitality. That was its modernism. But it retained the essentials; it even found new ways of inscribing in desire the negative law of lack, the external rule of pleasure, and the transcendent ideal of phantasy ». (A THOUSAND PLATEAUS, p154-155)
But I think you will agree that this is a reflex from another age. Time has gone on, and the things that mattered so intensely to us when we were first exposed to and immersed in them must matter to us differently now. Lacanism is dead as a theoretical paradigm even if there are still living acts of enunciation in a lacanian mode. This is why I continue to read you, or even Zizek, because of the real acts of enunciation that are there in your writing. However, we need to « eliminate » the dogmas and the mythology that are entwined and entangled in our references and past experiences and experiments to get to acts of enunciation that are relevant to us now. So I can’t retort and call you a lacanian priest as that would just be reactivating an old cliché. So, in reply I will content myself with what Zizek calls a Lacanian act, I will try to write more.