rabbit hole

As previously imagined, this quarter (year?) has been something of a rabbit hole. The current rabbit hole is Spinoza, which has been an incredibly fruitful endeavor to deepen my understanding of Deleuze’s work. I am currently slogging through Spinoza’s conception of wonder, which he dismisses as imagination, or the first realm of knowledge, and therefore unimportant, in the bigger scheme of things.

Currently I am taking Spinoza to task, as I am seemingly wont to do with most written work, as missing an important aspect in the way that wonder functions, in that an experience of a thing has the potential to destabilize us and alter our course and our habituation. I am arguing that Wonder, and therefore imagination (since that is where Spinoza places it), could have an important place within Spinoza’s system. It seems like a missed opportunity for Spinoza, as he gives little support of the first level of knowledge, whereas Deleuze, in his book on Spinoza (and purportedly quite faithful to Spinoza’s work in ‘Expressionism’), gives imagination much importance. Spinoza does not really give an account for the movement between first and second levels, and in some instances, seems like reason functions as an always already state. Of course, this is not the case, for he definitively states in Part 4 that we are not born with adequate thoughts and remain that way, and in Part 5, where he acknowledges the infant has little power of acting. So at some point, we must acquire adequate knowledge.

In the first few propositions in Part 5, he states that there is nothing that we cannot form adequate ideas about, but his account of how is lacking. While his explication of the therapies for the Affects point to a process of overcoming the effects/impacts the affects have on our actions, which allows us to mitigate or eliminate some of our behaviors/actions that result. Taken together, I think this begins to point towards knowledge acquisition, but I feel wholly dissatisfied about his dismissal of wonder, at least of the variety that ‘stands alone in the mind’, as opposed to the thread that is an added layer to the affect. My argument is that wonder functions as pre-knowledge, not the first level of knowledge, for it ‘stands alone in the mind’ and we cannot place it in relation. When we experience something that we cannot immediately place in relation, it disrupts our passive state and produces a heightened awareness that could lead to a different understanding. It also begins to create a the first level of knowledge, when we encounter a second or third experience, for subsequent experiences now have a horizon in which to be placed. Only at this point can we begin to form adequate knowledge of thing.

Of course, I am nearly certain that I am looking for deterritorialization in all of this. In general, I’m less interested in the bodily deterritorialization that is discussed in relation to the peasants-cum-factory workers, and more interested in the cognitive deterritorialization and reterritorialization that results when an external object/person/force causes us to alter our course in the world, and it was striking, reading Descartes’s account of wonder, and even Spinoza’s account of wonder, and recalling Deleuze and Guattari’s account of deterritorialization in What is Philosophy, there seems to be a nice affinity to the cognitive disruptions that occur.

Critically, of course, is what we do with these disruptions when they occur.


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