counter-deity, Deleuze, ethics, event, infinity, light, materialism, music, Nietzsche, Plato, poetry, science, socrates, Spinoza, stoicism, theology, virus, void

Production, Division, Excess: Spinoza, Nietzsche and the Event

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The essential is never perceived in sheer multiplicity or in first impressions.

Henri de Lubac

In Nature there is nothing contingent; all things have been caused by the necessity of the divine nature to exist and produce an effect in a certain way.

Spinoza, Ethics

The wise person is free in two ways which conform to the two poles of ethics: free in the first instance because one’s soul can attain to the interiority of perfect physical causes; and again because one’s mind may enjoy very special relations established between effects in a situation of pure exteriority… The question becomes: what are these expressive relations of events?

Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense 169-170

It is no more desirable, if it is even possible — and there is no more absurd “if possible”! — to liberate the soul from fear than to rescue the body from suffering. Could there be a courage without cruelty, and a pure joy devoid of violence? Terror, like joy, paralyzes, breaks reason apart — it distracts with a simulation. Not the void, but the unformed, is the origin of sorcery. We admit the dimension of the terror of the inhuman appears entirely negative, a sickness — a peculiarly “human” horror of the unknown. Lygophobia. Freud called it a manifestation of separation anxiety. The demand for certainty is part of the basic text of human nature. The will to truth is thus paradoxically a kind of poesis, a creative fire driving out the darkness. At the limit of metaphysical interpretation, light signifies pure love, it rips apart the bonds of meaning, it is pure signification itself, the voice or song of the universe — and the noisy soul responding. And it is with a second and far blacker paradox that counter-signification reaches a point of critical mass, where the absolute “material” of destructive terror — brought to an unbearable intensity by a fixated or excessive gaze, by a dangerous exposure (to noise, light…) — is transformed all at once into the positive, immanent criteria for science, that is: for a dangerous and powerful thinking of the real.

Thus at the deconstructed origin of analysis we find a deferral. It is not enough to say deconstruction must be deconstructed. We must be clear: analysis breaks and we desire this specifically. It is part of the text. It’s how literature begins. In psychological terms, we are always about to discover “it” was already broken. Exactly: where it was… But if there is a productive diagram of science itself, its constitutive disjunction may be witnessed in this joyous cruelty of overturning analysis: anti-philosophy, drawing finite boundaries, inventing counter-positions. Experiment! A quantum riot, metaphysical terrorism, a billion home-made atom bombs. It’s how science begins. We know it can be done, but is it enough? There is no answer to this question. You cannot know in advance whether or not an experiment will succeed. But here there is still much for philosophy to do — not say, for even in saying, philosophy still must do.



We are always beginning (again) with the event. What makes an event compatible or incompatible with another? What happens when we invoke logical and causal correspondences in order to explain the compossibility of events? For example, do notions like causality and identity finally become “grammatical” rules for reasoning about the relationship of events? Is it possible such principles constrain and mislead the thinking of an event? What, in other words, would constitute a theory of the event? To begin with, it seems clear enough that events are not like concepts. Events are not informal ideas or even languages — but more like expanding singularities. “What’s happening?” Thought breaks down before pure events, crushed between the “notion” and the “real” event. Every philosopher has attempted to account for this divergence between sensation and sensibility — the ceaseless rupture of singularity between idea and event. But starting from the two series, we do not arrive at pure events. There is nothing remotely commensurate about the series; how should they communicate? The division here is effectively Platonic — which is not to say that Plato resolved the questions he raised, or even accurately gauged their depth.

It remains true to this day that Spinoza is the only philosopher who ever moved an inch beyond the meta-ethics of Platonic selection, though only by the most terrifying experiment in onto-theological “optics” ever witnessed. He got the closest to the event, to the pure light of infinity, and the thrill tore him to shreds. Only a logical skeleton remained. How does the event become pure and immanent necessity, even to the point that we can say: there never was a Spinoza, or stranger still — Spinoza is eternally no one? What happened? The void was effaced, denied, overturned: the cause of Spinoza is the disorganized body of his immanent thought, and not his transcendent essence or exercise. The universe is solid all the way through: there is no space for “Spinoza” as such. Yet a temporal involution or black hole, a singular void, lurks hidden within this divinely-cunning geometrical machine. It doesn’t only prove the existence of God, but also produces a God co-extensive with nature, reproducing itself within itself infinitely. The void would seem well-hidden: but in fact within the “infinite modes” of nature’s existence we discover a hole, a multiplicity of cuts, the disjunctive re-integration of diversity. The Platonic division — “infinitized” — re-appears as a transcendent and pure infinition, establishing communication, hierarchy, precendence, identity, reified essences. The return of the repressed was never so total, a polarity reversal: colors resolve, pure light disappears into appearances. Pure multiplicity is produced within the totally meaningless unity of God and Nature. In many ways, Spinoza succeeded in spite of himself, his greatest and secret victory was over himself.

“Events are effects,” Deleuze writes in Logic of Sense (210.) What, then, is the Spinoza-effect? Not the consequences or the meaning of his machine, but a productive map of its function, its constitutive break-up. “The event is not what occurs (an accident), it is rather inside what occurs, the purely expressed. It signals and awaits us…” (Los 149) Every reversal of Platonism produces a Stoic, seeking within actions, within passions, the singularity of the event driving them, the unity of natural and divine necessity. Amor Fati: every reversal of Platonism seems to have this hole, which Nietzsche saw more clearly than any other. This is even, perhaps, the divine irony of Socrates: the master who begins by overturning, by selecting already what is preferred, making it seem impossible to countermand. The actor, the poet, the musician compress all of eternity into an instant, they delinearize the excessive, even infinite time of dialectical philosophy. The poet as anti-God, the constitutive hole within Platonism which reverses it, forces it to its limit, and which prevents its universalization and its constitutive division. The Stoic affirms the void, the bone in God’s throat, the real wound. “Nothing more can be said, and no more has ever been said: to become worthy of what happens to us, and thus to will and release the event, to become the offspring of one’s own events, and thereby to be reborn, to have one more birth, and to break with one’s eternal birth — to become the offspring of one’s events and not of one’s actions, for the action is itself produced by the offspring of the event.” (149-150) The Platonic discourse affirms a single birth of reason whose ultimate boundaries extend no further than the varieties of its reproductions, a manifold genesis via internal reflection. Yet Socrates is the virus, the eternal psychic parasite, the ultimate philosophist, whose very existence is metaphorical, founded upon remembering only its own lack of knowledge. Plato stabilized the role of the thinker by infecting, corrupting and dividing it. For millenia thought festers in resentment: the scholar is still a metaphysical or “infinite” parasite — was this, perhaps, Socrates’ “other” irony…?

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4 thoughts on “Production, Division, Excess: Spinoza, Nietzsche and the Event

  1. I really enjoyed this post and the other ones I’ve been reading; I may make more posts later, but this is my first one. I’ve got a couple inquiries to munch on, starting here:

    “It remains true to this day that Spinoza is the only philosopher who ever moved an inch beyond the meta-ethics of Platonic selection, though only by the most terrifying experiment in onto-theological “optics” ever witnessed. He got the closest to the event, to the pure light of infinity, and the thrill tore him to shreds. Only a logical skeleton remained.”

    I wonder if Wittgenstein has been considered eligible for belonging to the “people who moved beyond Plato’s meta-ethics” category? Having done little formal study of the logical soundness of the “Platonic forms”, I’m hung up on a comment by Walter Kaufmann that “the great antipodes of Nietzsche and Wittgenstein’s thought was the Platonic theory of forms” (for the life of me I can’t find the reference for that footnote…) I can’t quite follow his metaphor–did Plato as a figure divide them or somehow place them opposite each other? If so, how can their mutual indebtedness to Spinoza and Socrates be thought in light of this? I know that in “On Sense and Nominatum” Gottlob Frege argued for a theory of definite descriptions defined by the three categories of “referent”, “sense”, and “image”–having no ear for Lacan or Barthes’s sense of the term “image”, let alone Deleuze’s, image was an unscientific, perhaps inessential category for Frege: “Surely, art would be impossible without some kinship among human imageries; but just how far the intentions of the poet are realized can never be exactly ascertained.” Russell attempted to collapse Frege’s distinction between “referent” and “sense” by establishing logic as a foundation for mathematics, partly because Frege seemed to believe in the existence of Platonic “sense entities” (a “reified essence”, as you put it) which we all have access to through language. And then Wittgenstein stepped into this mess and did… something.

    I bring up these analytic guys not to muddy the topic but maybe to try to point a way out from the darkness of some of these paradoxes? The image of light that you start with strikes me as Biblical/theological in a traditional way: “At the limit of metaphysical interpretation, light signifies pure love, it rips apart the bonds of meaning, it is pure signification itself, the voice or song of the universe — and the noisy soul responding.” (the “noisy soul” might be like the “clamor of being” that Badiou sees in Deleuze and Deleuze’s thought.) As we know, the Bible starts with God making sure to keep the darkness away from the light. Maybe this reflects a tendency for humans to fixate on the visual and the image as carriers of signification over the other senses, or maybe seeing (clearly) really is that good. Either way, this emphasis on light adds signification to the metaphor of the “eye” and adds utility to the term “optics”, which in turn adds echoes of profundity to Spinoza’s life and vocation as a lens-grinder: “Abandoning the family business, he learned lensmaking, he became a craftsman, a philosopher craftsman equipped with a manual trade, capable of grasping and working with the laws of optics.” (Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, p7) If Marx enters into this discussion, might it be through the paradox of poesis in the “will to truth”, which you call “a creative fire driving out the darkness”? The actions Deleuze speaks of, while not only Stoic, also can’t be understood well in terms of production, be it of truth, historicity, or even production of an event, if such a thing can be produced and not only remembered: “Nothing more can be said, and no more has ever been said: to become worthy of what happens to us, and thus to will and release the event, to become the offspring of one’s own events, and thereby to be reborn, to have one more birth, and to break with one’s eternal birth — to become the offspring of one’s events and not of one’s actions, for the action is itself produced by the offspring of the event.” (149-150) How does the metaphor of birth so easily escape the mechanistic schema of production, procreation, or even dispersion of a virus? (taking Socrates as a paradigm of Curious Genius Man, perhaps Agent Smith in the Matrix had an accurate view of human nature, or of the “desiring-machines” Deleuze and Guattari speak of in Anti-Oedipus.)

    The way you say Spinoza “got the closest to the event” confuses me as to an event’s singularity, or to the validity of these spatial metaphors to express proximity to a purity which must be unable to enter language in a way that is understandable for subjects who must find themselves and their perspectives Othered. As you say, “Thought breaks down before pure events, crushed between the “notion” and the “real” event.” Here I’m interested in the way Socrates’s “very existence is metaphorical, founded upon remembering only its own lack of knowledge.” I like that articulation, as it casts Socrates in a Nietzschean light with respect to epistemology and praxis. A problem immanent to reading and writing is (perhaps most effectively) exemplified by what some have called the Socratic Problem: our understanding of the Real of Socrates and his thought is reliant upon the Imaginary of Plato through the intermediary of recording–production of a text causes memory to happen to us as interpreters, in a sense. After the section about Spinoza that I quoted at the start of my post, you introduce a neat identity paradox that echoes the question of Socrates’s existence in relation to his thought: “How does the event become pure and immanent necessity, even to the point that we can say: there never was a Spinoza, or stranger still — Spinoza is eternally no one?”

    This doubt of historicity and identity, coupled with the starting point of the post (that liberating the “soul” from fear is a peak of absurdity) reminds me of Kierkegaard, but take that with a grain of salt, since I haven’t actually read Kierkegaard yet. I read an Introducing Kierkegaard book which said that Kierkegaard thought that Jesus’s literally being God’s form on earth would be the very pinnacle of absurdity, and because of this, it would be critical to the question of what it means to be or become a Christian. (a question which Wittgenstein struggled with on and off, despite his Jewish family history–and of course, Nietzsche has another deeply entangled relation to that question) Thinking on pure intuition now, I’m making some connections between Kierkegaard’s idea of the “knight of faith” as somehow a possible mediation between the impossibility of circumventing fear or suffering and a way to be… natural or at peace, despite this?: “Every reversal of Platonism produces a Stoic, seeking within actions, within passions, the singularity of the event driving them, the unity of natural and divine necessity.” As Nietzsche started losing his grip on reality, it was the dialectic opposition of Dionysius and The Crucified that disintegrated what there was of his personality (if he wasn’t (always) already irrevocably deep in a play of masks in a Kierkegaardian sense).

    Boy, well, there’s a lot of nonsense to be had there. Hope some of it isn’t. Keep up the good work!

  2. Oh, it might also be worth mentioning that in the chapter “Spinoza: Pan(a)theistic acosmism” in Conor Cunningham’s Genealogy of Nihilism, Cunningham starts with a quote from Deleuze and Guattari from their 1994 What is Philosophy?– “Spinoza is the Christ of philosophers.” (p60) This is followed by “Let us say of this Christ [that he offers] a salvation that promises nothing.” (Badiou, Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, p101) Just felt like mentioning that to offer access to a more explicitly theological perspective, if you haven’t already heard of that book–maybe it could shed light on Socrates’s ironies… (I’ve yet to really read it)

  3. kvond says:

    F.O.: “Events are effects,” Deleuze writes in Logic of Sense (210.) What, then, is the Spinoza-effect? Not the consequences or the meaning of his machine, but a productive map of its function, its constitutive break-up. “The event is not what occurs (an accident), it is rather inside what occurs, the purely expressed. It signals and awaits us…” (Los 149)

    Kvond: It may well be that Spinoza’s “effect/event” is the materiality of his Ethics, the body of it against which the Western mind (mind after mind) grinds itself in parallel friction. Ground until itself, its body, is a light gathering and light refracting lens.

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