Of Freedom: Heidegger on Spinoza

Of Freedom: Heidegger on Spinoza

Epoche: A Journal of the History of Philosophy

Of Freedom: Heidegger and Spinoza


Fish in Shanghai

Fish in Garden Unit, Shanghai

Review of Christia Mercer’s Leibniz’s Metaphysics

leibnizThe dominant portrayal of the philosophy of Leibniz in the United Kingdom for the past century has been that outlined in Bertrand Russell’s A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz, published in 1900. This commentary, acting in tandem with that offered by Courturat in La logique de Leibniz d’aprés des documents inédits of 1901 and ‘Sur la metaphysique of Leibniz’ of 1902, segregates the philosophy of Leibniz into two distinct domains, those of logic and metaphysics. Russell claims that Leibniz’s metaphysics, for the little that it is worth, is grounded upon his logic (as an ornament of his ‘deductive system’), and, not vice versa. For Russell, the fairy tale of the Monadology (1714) is grounded upon the properly logical philosophy of the Discourse on Metaphysics (1686). Indeed, that which is significant for Russell is the analytic judgement, or, the concept containment notion of truth. He claimed that the entire philosophy of Leibniz could be deduced from, and hence, reduced to, a definite set of axioms. All else may be jettisoned to the wasteland of the history of ideas, especially his idiosyncratic fascinations pertaining to scholasticism and theology.

To read the rest of the Review, please visit Review of Christia Mercer’s Leibniz’s Metaphysics

Makeshift: Phenomenology of Original Temporality, with Appendix: Reply to Kisiel

Martin HeideggerThis essay was published by Philosophy Today in Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 252-257 (Fall, 2003). The Appendix: Reply to Kisiel, ‘The Indication of “Makeshift” in an Interpretation of Heidegger’s Radical Phenomenology’ is intended as a reply to Theodore Kisiel’s criticism of the indication of ‘Makeshift’ as too revolutionary for Heidegger in his Review of  Heidegger’s Early Philosophy: The Phenomenology of Ecstatic Temporality, published by Bloomsbury in 2008.

When questions are raised about principles, the network of exchange that they have opened becomes confused, and the order that they have founded declines. A principle has its rise, its period of reign, and its ruin. Its death usually takes disproportionately more time than its reign.1

In a summary of the Davos Disputation with Ernst Cassirer, and in his lecture on Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Heidegger is documented as announcing the deaths of the principles of ‘reason’, logos, and ‘spirit’ as adequate “grounds” for a finite thinking rooted in existence. He rings the alarm bells – the “foundations of Western thinking” are in “crisis” – and are threatened with utter collapse. Heidegger makes these statements amidst the horizons of his own temporal existence and problematic, that of his radical temporalization of thought and of the exposure of these traditional grounds to their ‘tragic’ origin as aspirations of finitude. Cassirer contests Heidegger’s radical, temporal interpretation to Kant – any thought worth its salt must be open to the eternal. Despite his comments elsewhere that defer to the spirit of Cassirer’s criticism, Heidegger intimates possible readings of or engagements with the Kantian text which moves beyond “philology” or “scholarship” in the usual sense of cultivating or advocating a “school of thought” – or any attempt to identify the will as a ding an sich. Heidegger’s attempt to disclose an “unsaid”, to de-construct texts so as to retrieve the original temporality of the question, concerns not only Kant but, in light of the “Being and Time project”, other thinkers, such as Leibniz and Husserl, who are significant for his expression of a radical phenomenology – for his temporalist thinking.

In many ways, these many names are place-names, topoi, for the investigation of the historicity of thought in its significant junctures, reversals, transitions, convergences, transgressions. And there is a marked similarity in the treatment of these many thinkers as each is appropriated in the context of Heidegger’s “makeshift.” As mentioned, Heidegger does not seek to be a “good scholar,” but to investigate various topoi of thought with respect to their disclosure of “matters themselves,” in their accentuation of the phenomenon of original temporality. In his activity of squatting these various topoi, Heidegger is in a destruktive, oppositional comportment with the “history of ontology,” but in such a way which seeks to learn from this trajectory of the questionable thesis that truth resides in the proposition and that the measure of truth is ultimately “logic.”

To read the rest of the essay, which includes the Appendix: Reply to Kisiel, please visit Makeshift: Phenomenology of Original Temporality

Of the Feral Children: A Mayan Farce

Of the Feral Children: Synopsis and Review

Of the Feral Children: A Mayan Farce: 1

‘From the re-incarnation of a Dadaist Poet fixated on an Edwardian Pornographic photo to the end of British Civilisation in an Apocalyptic Earthquake, this novel sprawls across the devastated landscape of the ‘teens of this century. The seedy underworld and the seedy overworld clash in a kaleidoscope of sex and violence leaving only the ‘feral children’ to make their own world from the wreckage.’

Watch Wasteland, a documentary by William Wright on squatting in the United Kingdom.

Of Freedom: Heidegger on Spinoza

Ah the wind, the wind is blowing   spinoza

Through the graves, the wind is blowing

Freedom soon will come;

Then we’ll come from the shadows.

Leonard Cohen, ‘The Partisan’[i]

Spinoza is often quoted approvingly (for instance, by Deleuze in his Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza and Andre Garcia Düttman in his Address to the 3rd Annual Joint Conference of the Society for European Philosophy and the Forum for European Philosophy in 2007) to the effect that the free man is the one who thinks about, or fears, death the least.  Such fear he considers to be a passive emotion, or affection, a bondage to pain, symptomatic of impotence and servitude.  The free man, in this light, is one who has not only cultivated the stronger active emotion of acquiescence to the univocal chorus of necessity (Eternity), but has also learned to disengage external factors which bring about such passive emotions – to organise the ‘order of encounters’ as Deleuze describes in his Expressionism.  Heidegger, on the contrary, who criticises Spinoza, and the impersonal, mathematical character of his system, in his 1936 lecture course, Schelling’s Treatise on Freedom, would seem to take further issue with Spinoza in his own contention that the one who faces his or her ownmost possibility of death without evasion, is the one who is most free, or who, perhaps, will have found him or herself in a moment that discloses the necessity of one’s own singular, personal freedom.

Read the rest of this essay at Of Freedom: Heidegger on Spinoza

Wandering Souls: The Doctrine of Transmigration in Pythagorean Philosophy


Introduction: The Topos of Transmigration

Chapter One: Sources of the Doctrine of Transmigration

Chapter Two: Beyond Mysticism and Science: Symbolism and Philosophical Magic

Chapter Three: The Emergence of Mystic Cults and the Immortal Soul

Chapter Four: Philolaus and the Character of Pythagorean Harmony

Chapter Five: The Alleged Critique of Pythagoras by Parmenides

Chapter Six: Between the Earth and the Sky, On the Pythagorean Divine

Chapter Seven: The Pythagorean Bios and the Doctrine of Transmigration

The Path of the Event

The Path of Remembrance, or Return

Chapter Eight: The Platonic Rupture: Writing and Difference

Chapter Nine: Plotinus: The Ascent of the Soul toward the One

Chapter Ten: Plotinus as Neoplatonic Mystic: Letter to Flaccus

Epilogue: The Pythagorean Doctrine of Transmigration

Introduction: The Poetic Topos of Transmigration

I made up rhymes in dark and scary places,

And like a lyre I plucked the tired laces

Of my worn-out shoes, one foot beneath my heart.

(Rimbaud, ‘Wandering,’ Stanza 4)

Remind yourself that all men assert wisdom is the greatest good,

but that there are few, who, strenuously endeavor to obtain

this greatest good.

(attributed to Pythagoras by Stobaeus)

The mythical narrative of transmigration tells the story of myriad wandering souls, each migrating from body to body along a path of recurrence amid the becoming of the All. Yet, for the Pythagoreans, this story does not describe the passive revolution of a circle, but a pathway for an active exploration of the All and return to the divine. This endeavor is strenuous as it occurs amidst a suspension within the double bind of nativity and fatality, again and again to be born and to die, and to be reborn as still another being.[1] The thread of the narrative, of reminiscence, is always severed with each demise amid the labyrinth of mortal existence. Yet, as the narrative is a rope of many threads, the persistent re-articulation of the narrative instigates a mnemopoiesis of remembrance that transcends the individual mortal life amid the broader travels of the soul.

The Pythagoreans, along with others, cultivated an ethos of an immortal soul, one thought to be capable of communion with the divine. For Homer, such a desire would have been hubris, even if it was not in the end articulated outside of his mythological ontology. Pythagoras, against the background of Homer’s portrayal of the thirsting soul, maintained the requirement of a body, of a ‘substance’, for its life and its expansion (but only during life, as the soul had its own integrity beyond body). Pythagoras articulated a philosophy of return of the soul to its divine source through yet another – though forbidden – possibility in the Homeric constellation. He turned the necessity of body into a virtuous topos of return of finitude to the infinite. Indeed, despite this ‘mingling of essences,’ Pythagoras remained true to the Homeric valorization of the life of the body, of this self that is remembered by the passive soul. Yet, as the shade can return to another body, and as the divine is the cosmos, the body becomes the site from which the pursuit of the All commences, finds its way, and it is the variety of bodies which are the successive abodes of the soul amid its transmigration through each of the circuits of the All.

To read the entire book, please visit Wandering Souls