A motion and a spirit: romancing Spinoza.
Let me suggest more specifically what is at stake in exploring the Spinoza connection. Throughout Wordsworth's early poetry, my reference point in this essay, there is an insistence on the body and its motions as being at the heart of, if not simply being, individual identity. "Simon Lee," "Old Man Travelling," "Resolution and Independence," and "The Ruined Cottage" are good examples of this. (6) At the same time, and in tension with that insistence, the poetry foregrounds the workings of relational dynamics (such as ownership, commerce, and conversation) as in a strong sense constituting individual identity rather than merely characterizing it. Here, think of "Michael," "The Last of the Flock," "The Old Cumberland Beggar," and "Anecdote for Fathers." Think too of the first set of poems, but focus on the formation of the narrator-interlocutor's identity rather than that of the central character (e.g., the leech gatherer, Margaret). Spinoza's theories of the individual and its "composability," of endeavor, and of both power and pleasure help us negotiate these tensions, giving a new purchase on these Wordsworth-effects and thus a new kind of access to the many poems that foreground them. Similarly, Wordsworth's statements of unmediated body-knowledge (as in: "One impulse from a vernal wood / May teach you more of man ..."), his equation of pleasure with increased activity (viz, the distinction between "a wise passiveness" and a "savage torpor"), his signature narrative effect, which I call fatalism without finalism, his figurations of immortality, and, in the spots of time, his treatment of emotion "in terms of lines, planes, and bodies" (7) come alive and they cohere conceptually when read against "le spinozism." Although I will not be able to explore these many thematic convergences in this essay, I try to indicate range by pairing definitions from and short discussions of Spinoza with resonant excerpts from Wordsworth's poetry. In part three, by way of a fuller demonstration, I offer a reading of a famous problem-poem, "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal." I very much regret the disproportion between ground-laying and building in this essay, required by the relative obscurity of Spinoza's thought within the discourse of Romanticism. The genre of what follows is better considered as an introduction to a full-length study of Spinoza in and for Romanticism than as a free-standing demonstration of that connection. The key figures in that study will be William Blake, Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, and P. B. Shelley (see note 2 above).
A second reason to recover Spinoza's thought for students of 18th-19th-century Britain is its implications for our practices of periodization, and more narrowly, for our ideas about Enlightenment and Romanticism's relation to it. In the process of reconsidering that relationship, we might find ourselves bringing back on a more robust application of the term "Romantic" than we are used to seeing and a more capacious one as well, reaching back not just into the literature of the 18th century but into the conceptual paradigm of Enlightenment. The pendulum has swung far toward the nominalist position and a move in the other direction might refresh our critical vision. Specifically, we might at long last lay the ghost of a Romanticism born in reaction to Enlightenment, and recover instead the sense of a movement of immanent critique modeled on a major figure of the Enlightenment. We might in addition recover for our students the interpretive and aesthetic power of the Hegelian narrative of Romantic naturalism (a story rarely told these days) even as we draw that dialectical drama back toward its source in Spinoza, where, instead of a solution to the dilemmas of Cartesian dualism, we find a radical reframing of the field that produced those dilemmas. In this reframing, which in both method and content sets aside the seductions (and the subject forms) of narrative, our students may find another kind of power and majesty, a kind perhaps more persuasive than Hegel's to the generations we currently teach. As many have averred (see below), Spinoza is the philosopher of our climate. (8)
Third, Romantic period studies are seeing an upsurge of interest in two old topics--intellectual and religious backgrounds to Romanticism, and the work of meter. Spinoza's relevance to the first is obvious. (9) As for the discipline's more general interest in meter as not just body-language but body-knowledge, Spinoza's unique representation of mind as the idea of the body, and his definition of the individual as a ratio of speed to slowness--as a distinctive rhythm--is rich with potential. (10)
A fourth incentive for this work of recovery is that students of literature and culture face a welter of studies calling themselves "materialist." A sampling of the scholarly practices that lay claim to the title would include Marxist and psychoanalytic critique, textual studies, histories of the book, metrical analysis, body and emotion studies, cultural and formal phenomenology, studies of space and place, trauma theory, trash studies, theory and practice of the archive, social and historical re-inscription, eco-criticism, gender and race studies, and cognitive studies. If we are to continue using the term "materialist" to any effect, we must work to restore its precision or to develop new kinds of reference, even as we take care to situate those new uses within the field of existing applications. Although all of the practices listed above could amply justify the descriptor, "materialist," the meaning of the term is more often assumed than explained, leading to confusion and false contradiction. (11) More disturbing, by shying from the work of explaining our terms, we have cleared a path--a shortcut--for work that promotes its brand of materialism by disparaging practices that differ from it. The result is a critical discourse that looks less like intellectual inquiry than like a game of capture the flag--a very worn and tattered flag whose markings have grown indecipherable, lending it to the latest critical projection. [Appendix 13] Let me insist on this: no one would wish away the variety of practices self-identified as materialist. However, supplementing the object lessons at which we excel with efforts at object theory makes good sense, if for no other reason than to help us to account responsibly for our rejection of certain models, if that is what we choose to do. Additionally, a serious and collaborative probing of the deep binaries that still support many of our readings (e.g., mind/matter; part/whole; cause/effect, entity/ environment, individual/group) supplemented by efforts to acquaint ourselves with philosophical materialisms available to the writers we study (and with scientific models available to us) might reveal points of identity and difference across the materialist board, so to speak, effectively enlarging the common ground and improving the quality of the conversation that takes place there. It is my belief that a reading of Spinoza informed by contemporary work in the physical, biological, computational, and cognitive sciences and brought to bear on Romantic poetry and poetics represents a move in this direction. [Appendix C]
My role models in the genre of source study are Stuart Tave's Some Words of Jane Austen (1973) and Marilyn Butler's Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries (1981), (12) works that I name here by way of homage. Tave unearthed the network of associations, distinctions, and values within which terms that are central to Austen's novels registered to readers of her day. He showed how words that had been thoroughly assimilated to modern usage (e.g., sense, sensible, sensitive) once made up a unique lexical system, a system complex and generative enough to be called a problematic. He further showed how that system organizes Austen's plots in ways homologous to its workings in the political, social, and moral debate of the day. By linking the two domains, Tave gave us an Austen and an age far more faceted and dynamically intertwined than anyone had thought.
Butler's Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries was an epochal study in both senses of the word: about one epoch (early 19th-century Britain), it ushered in another, 1980s new historicism. Butler excavated within the poetries of the British Romantics an aesthetic debate within which a lively and often fierce political and more broadly cultural debate unfolded. On the battlefield of style, post-Revolutionary retrenchment squared off against progressive liberalism. By restoring the pressure of ideas that helped to give contemporary poetry its form, Butler turned what had been a strictly descriptive classification--dividing a taste for the local, the gothic, and the "northern," from a taste for the classical and the cosmopolitan--into a productively analytic distinction.
There is one big difference between my source study and the work of Tave and Butler, namely, that the resonance I hope to recover for Romanticism is amplified by an intermediary discourse. Mutterings about Spinoza and Romanticism are as old as the movement itself and they take the form of a kinship claim grounded in a philosophy of mystical ecstatic naturalism. The thread runs through Herder, Schelling, and Goethe, via Coleridge and Shelley, and through Coleridge to Wordsworth. (13) These intimations of influence never went anywhere, first, because Spinoza's bibliographic and therefore cultural presence in the period could not be established. That has changed, as I explain below. Second, the trail went cold because Spinoza's system of nature could not be read in any but its own antiquated and, by existing standards, incoherent terms. Characterized as both materialist and idealist, atheist and pantheist, rationalist and nominalist--branded as scholastic, Epicurean, Stoic, and Kabalistic--Spinoza was until fairly recently the great outlier in the history of philosophy. Although Hegel and Nietzsche had taken Spinoza seriously, no one seemed interested in the why or the how of that attraction nor in its effects upon their thinking. (14) Another way to put this is to say that Spinoza lacked analogues with bodies of thought in any other explanatory domain. That lack persisted up until the 1960s, with the simultaneous and surely related occurrence of two intellectual upheavals--Continental critical theory and postclassical physical and biological science.
Louis Althusser, Pierre Macherey, Etienne Balibar, Gilles Deleuze, Luce Irigaray, and Antonio Negri (all of them mindful of Nietzsche's admiration for Spinoza) wrote monographs and essays on Spinoza, adapted his ideas, and cited him as author of "an unprecedented revolution in the history of philosophy ... a revolution which was the object of a massive historical repression." To the extent that Spinoza remained impenetrable, they argued, "his work measured the opacity of the present to itself." (15) At exactly the same time and within the same institutional and political context, the young or emerging fields of general systems theory, computational philosophy, artificial intelligence, non-linear and complexity theory, self-organization theory, and cognitive science started converging. (To my knowledge, this joint eruption of the two bodies of critical theorizing has not been investigated.) They started converging with one another, converging upon the ground traditionally occupied by philosophy of mind, metaphysics, epistemology, and ontology, and converging around a paradigm of dynamic materialism that broke with all existing models--all except Spinoza's, that is. [Appendix D] In the work of Paul Damasio, a neurophysiologist currently working within those paradigms, the debt to Spinoza is acknowledged.
I reference these intellectual histories--poststructuralist critical theory and postclassical physical, biological, and systems theory--because I want to emphasize that mine is not a strict work of historical recovery like Tave's or Butler's. I named it a source study above, but in truth it is more of an intersectional reading, prompted by dilemmas, confusions, and ironies occurring in the discipline today and reliant on the conceptual resources of our own time. (Because of space constraints, I use Appendix C rather than the body of the text to provide discussion and a select bibliography of this work.) I might worry about this but for the fact that it illustrates Spinoza's own theory of immanent cause: a cause that exists only in and as its effects, effects which, as one critic writes, "may remain dormant for centuries, (re)activated only in an encounter with unforeseeable theoretical elements from beyond its boundaries" (Montag and Stolze, The New Spinoza xi). More familiarly, it illustrates Walter Benjamin's thesis that "no fact that is a cause is for that very reason historical. It became historical posthumously, as it were, through events that may be separated from it by thousands of years." Althusser has named Spinoza's thought a "retrospective anticipation." (16)
The change in our grasp of Spinoza's cultural presence is the achievement of one scholar, Jonathan Israel. His book, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1050-1750 (see note 3 above), outlines a movement centered on Spinoza, whose dates are 1632-1677 and whose major works (the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and The Ethics) were written in Latin, banned throughout Europe almost immediately upon their appearance and for decades after, and for many years translated only into Dutch and French (Israel 159, 285). Contrary to learned opinion that Spinoza was for this reason a non-combatant in the long war of ideas we call Enlightenment, Israel shows a complex but thoroughgoing process of cultural penetration through the new information highways of the age: he lists the "erudite journals, 'universal' libraries, literary clubs, lexicons, and encyclopedias" (59). Perhaps more important, he reminds us of the transmissive power of the more mundane sectors of the emergent public sphere, i.e., newspapers, gentlemen's magazines, coffee-houses, and after 1730, Masonic lodges (vi).
Israel establishes for the period not just the widespread knowledge of Spinoza but the clear perception of his thought as a paradigm of Enlightenment--so-called by Israel, "radical Enlightenment"--a movement seen at the time not as a complement to the "moderate" model centering on Descartes, Bacon, Newton, and Locke but sharply opposed to it. (Let me underscore the importance of Israel's scholarship, which, although it contributes to our sense of the positional pluralism of the age, is better understood as a critical intervention, re-organizing that pluralistic account into a picture of intellectual warfare waged by two distinct parties, programs, and methods.) Whereas moderate Enlightenment from the 1730's on "was regarded, even among the most reactionary sections of the French Church ... as intellectually safe, innovative perhaps but entirely supportive of revealed religion, Providence, and the political and social order" (516), radical Enlightenment, practiced by such "nouveaux spinozists" as Diderot and LaMettrie, was accused of "exclud[ing] Deity from the universe" by identifying soul with sense and movement with matter (520). According to Israel, "no one remotely rivaled Spinoza's notoriety as the challenger of revealed religion, received ideas, tradition, morality, and divinely constituted political authority" (516, 517).
Israel devotes a chapter to the circulation of Spinoza's ideas in Britain, long regarded by historians as singularly immune to Spinoza's influence due to the preeminence of Newton and Locke, and because it was thought that Hobbes, the closer source of materialist thought, would have eclipsed Spinoza. Israel's research makes it clear that knowledge of Spinoza and of the political salience of his thought was not only available to but unavoidable by the writers of our period.
To get a quick sense of how this could play out in Romantic studies, consider James Chandler's startling discovery of the Burkean strain in Wordsworth's poetry--in his early poetry, not in the later work where we would expect to find it. (17) To hear Wordsworth quoting Burke and thus rejecting (or at the very least severely qualifying) both Jacobin and more broadly republican ideals at the very moment when he had seemed most ardent in his Revolutionary identification had huge implications. It still has those implications and they grow more complex when we bring Spinoza into the picture.
As we know, Burke grounded his attack on the Revolution in what he called habit or custom, a principle of spontaneous and embodied individual and social being, and of their inevitable and evolving constancy over time, a principle betrayed, so he argued, by the unnatural (that is, premeditated, abstract) willfulness of political insurgency. Something strange happens when we couple Burke's brief for habit with Spinoza's oddly cognate and, in his system of thought, central doctrine of "conatus." Conatus is defined as a ceaseless and instinctive striving through which individuals endeavor to persist in their individuality. What gives conatus its radical cast is that unlike an instinct for self-preservation operating within individuals to preserve their defining essence or "content," so to speak (and unlike a physical instinct in the service of a mental entity), Spinoza's conatus equates individuals with their endeavor to preserve a kinetic poise within a dynamic ensemble of relations, an ensemble that also composes them as individuals. "The human body, to be preserved, requires a great many other bodies, by which it is, as it were, continually regenerated" (2Post4). Conatus, as that term is deployed by Spinoza, is specifically not an endeavor either to preserve or to actualize a soul, a character, or a set of either properties or aims. In fact, it is better understood as a physical principle than an ethical one; or, as a physical principle with effects that, because we do not understand their cause, appear to belong to the category of the ethical. "Spinoza's ethics has nothing to do with a morality; he conceives it as an ethology, that is, as a composition of fast and slow speeds, of capacities for affecting and being affected on the plane of immanence" (Deleuze, Practical Philosophy 125). Moreover, Spinoza applies the term conatus not just to humans and to animals more generally but to inanimate objects as well as to collective social bodies.
It is not hard to appreciate the scandal of Spinoza's conatus--at once deterministic, socially and ontologically leveling, de- or anti-humanizing, and, in its figuration of individual and collective identity as both enmeshed and as effects of active "composings," politically open-ended and even utopian. Spinoza's conatus and Burke's custom are strange bedfellows but bedfellows nonetheless. Returning to Wordsworth, to enter Spinoza's conatus under the sign of Burke is to put a reverse spin on Wordsworth's Burkean politics, switching the rotation from right to left, and to a different and more radical left than that of Paine, et al. (18)
On the view that Spinoza is not a known quantity to students of Romanticism, I will try to lay out his system as clearly as possible, drawing on some excellent recent commentary and on excerpts from Spinoza's Ethics. (19) I regret the lack of space for comment on topics that are both central to Spinoza's thinking and to Wordsworth's poetics (e.g., appetite, affect, and freedom) but not to my interest in the poem I address below, where the topic of motion helps me establish the Wordsworth-Spinoza link at the level of allusion and not just conceptual resonance.
Spinoza is labeled an ontological monist and epistemological dualist (or, as a substance monist/property dualist). His is a thoroughgoing materialism and at the same time a rigorous rationalism--in its spirit and style (the geometrical style)--at odds with the empiricist thrust of mainstream British Enlightenment and with the Cartesian grounding of that project (that is, the classification of sensation as extension, or, the isolation of mind from both its own body--henceforth susceptible to scientific inquiry--and from the bodies that make up the rest of the world). How can we elucidate such deep paradoxes without falsely resolving them?
I begin with the metaphysics. Following his early approving commentary on Descartes, Spinoza saw the problems arising from Descartes' triple-substance theory, in which God is conceived as a fundamentally different stuff from both mind and matter, both of which differ fundamentally from each other. In place of this schema, Spinoza proposed a theory of substance (from the Aristotelian tradition, i.e., self-grounded being) that is single and infinite but that is only available to us under one of two incommensurable attributes, thought and extension (two of an infinity of attributes, the rest of which exceed the power of the human body to know them). In other words, mind and matter are cognitively but not actually distinct. Despite this language, it is crucial to Spinoza's system that attributes be conceived as more than and different from subjective viewpoints on the unity of substance. "The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things" (IIP7, my emphasis); and, "an attribute is not truly distinct from the substance in which it inheres." Or, "a mode of extension and the idea of that mode are one and the same thing, but expressed in two different ways" (IIP7S). Thought and extension are "two complete and adequate descriptions of the world as it essentially is." Each completely "expresses" substance (IPII) and neither can be reduced to the other nor can it be causally related to the other, a view that flies in the face of our everyday experience and intuitions. Although the language of parallelism is standard in accounts of Spinoza (although it appears nowhere in the Ethics), a better figure for this emphatically non-logical relation might be that of the Moebius strip, with its two surfaces twisted into one single and continuous plane. A so-called "two-dimensional manifold," the figure is locally two-sided but globally one-sided. (20)
Spinoza's name for this amassing substance is "God, or Nature." (21) Identifying God with nature (and mind with matter, soul with body, natura naturans with natura naturata, and, with important qualifications, right with power) means that the first term, because it just is the second, cannot act upon it. One can see here the source of the joint charge against Spinoza, atheist-pantheist. One can also see the radical implications of Spinoza's metaphysics for an early modern (and early modernist, i.e., Romantic) readership; out goes creationism, intelligent design, Providence, and even more consequential, out goes the deep intuition that the mind controls the body (and that intellect controls will). As with the two attributes, mind and matter, God and nature are like parallel lines that cannot for that reason intersect or interact. (22) God's will--Providence--"necessarily follow[s] from
God's given nature" (IP33D). God "cannot be said.., to act from freedom of the will, any more than he can be said to act from freedom of motion and rest on account of those things that follow from motion and rest ..." (IC2). "[T]he chain of necessity is infinite, and infinitely complex, and only partially knowable through human science," not because the chain hangs from a transcendental hook nor because "elements of the chain are conceptually beyond the reach of human reason but because science cannot empirically take account of the whole of such a sequence" (Israel 231). The empirical limit is emphatically not a measurement problem (as in some kind of vanishing-point atomism) but a function of the complexity and what we might call today the self-organizational and emergent properties of the sequence, and also of the fact that science is itself embedded in that sequence.
Empiricism (and, more relevant to Romanticism, Lockean/Hartlean associationism) runs into two big problems: on the one hand, its unavoidable posit of some sort of real-world that sponsors or anchors perception, and on the other hand, its need for some sort of mind-stuff, such as reason, that organizes but is not influenced by perception. As a finessing of the problem of grounding at both ends, Spinoza's theory is brilliant. If everything is substance and is determined not in advance nor by divine will but by its absolute nature, then the foundational authority of substance as either first cause or material ground vanishes. We are pitched into a universe that is radically relativist but at the same time, thoroughly embodied and determined, not in advance, however, but through the mechanically interactive play of contingencies (see Appendix C). Nor do we require reason either to organize sensation or to represent it to ourselves, once we regard the mind as the idea of the body. Spinoza's reason is freed to do the work of understanding the causes of our ideas, which it accomplishes on the basis of our human capacity to form common notions. As Deleuze points out, such notions "are not at all abstract ideas but general ideas," representing "something common to bodies" (Practical Philosophy 54). We are not born with these; they arise through our experience of good encounters, or with modes that agree with ours, which is to say, that preserve and increase our power. We experience this phenomenon as joy, which spurs us to select such encounters rather than randomly undergo them and which empowers us to inquire into the causes of these agreements. From such causes, we deduce others of the same kind, and thus we move from strength to strength, or, from less to more adequate ideas. Spinoza's reason is literally a practice of the body; it has no need for transcendental bona tides.
That is an overview of the metaphysics; here is (a humanist's version of) the physics. Newton's revolutionary science crucially involves the claim that motion is external to matter and is therefore mechanically explicable by way of general laws rather than individual cases. Ultimately, however (in a way that I find analogous to Descartes' disconnect between body and mind), motion is enabled by gravity, "a power emanating directly from God ... ceaselessly conserving and regulating the universe": a power that is universal "and intirely immechanical [sic], or beyond the power of all material agents whatsoever" (Israel 519). Like Newton, Spinoza proposes that "a body which moves or is at rest must be determined to motion or rest by another; and that again by another; and so on, to infinity" (IIP13L3). However, in defining each body as itself a unique ratio of motion to rest, and, in stating that "what constitutes the form of the individual [body] consists only in the union of the bodies [which] is retained even if a continual change of bodies occurs" (IIP13L4D), Spinoza displaces gravity as a first cause. Everything that moves--which is everything--is at once self-moved (viz., its conatus) but every "self" or singular body is also an effect of the striving, pulsating whole. The body's ratio of motion to rest is determined not just by its own nature (which is itself composed of many diverse bodies [IIP13Post1]) but by all other bodies (with the connected idea that "cohesion, or solidity, of bodies derives from the air pressure around them, a form of pressure of bodies on bodies" [IIP13L4D]). Spinoza thus denies the existence of static extension (from Descartes) and of Newtonian absolute or empty space. Thus too, "neither is there any such thing as inertia--rest [for Spinoza] being merely a balance of opposing pressures" (Israel 251). (23)
By defining motion as integral to matter and (through the concept of conatus) as the factor that individuates bodies, Spinoza asserts that the creation and evolution of both living and inanimate bodies is inherent in the properties of nature itself--in other words, a process of intrinsic mutation or what we might call today "co-evolution" as distinct from adaptationism. He asserts too the systemic and dynamic wholeness of a nature that is also culture, a oneness that nonetheless preserves the functional differences of the two orders. Coleridge's famous coinage, "multeity" ("multeity in unity"), gains force from Spinoza's insistence on the entity status of the components of the organized unity.
To say how this process of individuation works and to say what it is that saves Spinoza's monism from meltdown into undifferentiated unity (Hegel's great objection to Spinoza and the spur to his theory of dialectics), I return to the topic of conatus. (24) As I have said, Spinoza defines the individual as a proportion of motion and rest which strives to maintain itself-not to maintain its elements but rather its defining relation of speed to slowness. In other words, bodies differ as do their "speeds" within the whole of nature of which all bodies are a part (and where the parts are continuously defined by their dynamic relations within the whole). Who then (or "what," since the theory applies to inanimate matter as well) is "doing" the striving? Or, as one commentator says, "it seems strange to identify what a thing is with its endeavor to persist in being, for surely the thing must be what it is independent of that endeavor" (Lloyd, Part of Nature 15). The answer would be: having a certain proportion of motion to rest is what it is for that individual to exist. In Spinoza-speak, one would not say that an individual (a rock, a tree, a person, a species--and those too will be radicalized by Spinoza's idea of a body without predetermined contours) "has" a certain ratio. Rather, there being an individual consists in there being such a proportion. Spinoza refers to this ratio as the "power" of that body.
How does this proportion maintain itself; what is this "striving" or "endeavor" that might have assuaged Hume's worry about the constancy of identity over time? Spinoza's celebrated theory of conatus has links to Hobbes but, as mentioned above, it liberates striving from notions of will and from aim. In another idiom, that of narrative structures, one might say that it lacks arche and telos (another reason, perhaps, beyond its demonstrative certainty, for Spinoza's choice of the geometrical method of presentation). (25) The closest that Spinoza comes to a kind of "drives" theory is to say that bodies seek to combine with whatever enhances their power, which, for Spinoza, is the same as their singularity. At the same time, power gets treated as each body's capacity to affect and to be affected by other bodies; thus, the more complex the body, the greater its power. Preserving the motion-rest ratio that constitutes individual being involves not just what goes on within the commonsense body-contours; it includes the pressure of conflicting and compatible forces from outside those boundaries (Lloyd, Part of Nature 15). What we are ("we" meaning persons, rocks, trees, and all the "individuals" that compose those entities) is where and how we move within the ceaselessly interactive network of God or Nature.
Whereas empiricism defines the body by what it excludes (for example, the environment, other bodies, etc), the Spinozistic body (like the Hegelian and Marxian but without the engine of determinate negation, or, the metabolic digestion of other into self) is sustained and "continually regenerated" by other bodies (IIPost4). (This is one source of the characterization of Spinoza's thought as a philosophy of presence.) This is to say, bodyminds do not incidentally interact with others. (26) Rather, these environmental interactions (and for Spinoza, environment emphatically includes the social formation) impede or enhance the body's power which, as explained above, constitutes that body. Each body's drive to maintain that power--each individual conatus, that is--brings it into unities "through synchronizations of forces" (Lloyd, Part of Nature 22). Thus individual existence depends not just on what is internal to the body, conventionally conceived, but on the impacts and pressures of external forces, again, "external" as conventionally conceived.
It is nearly impossible to think that the body does not end at the skin and it is just as hard to imagine identity as not centered in the mind inside that envelope. (We may apply to that "ghost in the machine" concept the same phrase--a politically charged one--that Spinoza uses to critique the illusion of man's apartness from the natural world, "a kingdom within a kingdom" [IIIPref].) Spinoza famously defines mind as "the idea of the body." Of all the challenges posed by Spinoza's thought, this one is possibly the greatest (and both Jonathan Bennett and Gilles Deleuze, from their very different perspectives, provide matchlessly clarifying commentary on it). On my translation, we might render "idea" as "expression," using that term in its mathematical sense, where an expression just is the thing (or, the value, relation, or quantity) that it expresses. Mind is the expression of the body, then, in the sense that the formula "2 + 2 + = 4" is what it represents (in Kant's idiom, an analytic apriori). The challenge here is to remember that because the Spinozan body is continuously regenerated in and through the flux of other bodies, the "expression" which is mind is also always changing (with its constancy comparable to the preservation of the 2 + 2 = 4 relation that persists as one moves from base 5 to base 10). Or perhaps a better metaphor for the temporal persistence of the mind-body's uniqueness is the relation between 1 + 1 + 3 and 2 + 2 + 1, suggested to me by Michael Barany (see note 20 above). What abides is, again, a proportion of speed to slowness, an organizational coherence, when organization is grasped along temporal and not merely spatial lines.
The bottom line is that mind is not the container of ideas about the body nor (and this is crucial) does it represent the body, not even in the categorically mediated fashion of Kant. It might be closer to our notion of bodyimage, which, by today's neuroscience studies, is the inevitably confused and partial state of awareness of the body ("of" the body meaning both belonging to the body and modeling, or re-presenting it--that is, a recursive relationship), as that body-mind is embedded in a network of biological, cognitive, and cultural systems. (27) In being aware of the body, the mind is aware of other bodies, and the experience of other bodies together with one's own is what Spinoza calls imagination (Lloyd, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook 54-56). (It becomes reason when we understand the causes of these "composings"--not the purposes, let me insist. There is no finalism in Spinoza's system. "Nature has no end set before it, and ... all final causes are ... fictions" [IApp]).
Spinoza's use of the terms "affect" and "affection" is extremely rich and subtle and I cannot begin to do it justice here. Suffice it to say that he sometimes uses "affection" interchangeably with "modes" such as ourselves, that is, singular beings (i.e., properties, relations, facts, processes, and individuals). More generally, however, "affection" indicates what happens to our "modes" as other "modes" affect us (i.e., impinge on or combine with us), according to our capacity both to affect and to be affected by, or, in a word, our "power." At times in the Ethics, affection is synonymous with "idea," underscoring that the mind is an unmediated registration of the impact of other bodies on our own and, bringing on the more modern sense of affect, that we feel these pressures as joy or sadness, pleasure or pain, depending on whether they strengthen or lessen the body's power of acting, which is, to repeat, our very being as individuals and as part of the order of natura naturata (IP29S). We do not perceive external bodies with any more clarity than we perceive our own; such bodies are to us "confused states of awareness of what is happening in the universe as a whole, confused because of the limitations of our own bodies. We no more perceive them as part of the system of nature than we perceive ourselves as such." What we register through our senses are "resonance and dissonance between bodies." Depending on whether these impacts increase or lessen our body's power of acting, we will feel them as pleasure or pain (Lloyd, Part of Nature 17, 8). And we will "know" them as either more or less adequate ideas.
Spinoza, who is very stingy with his metaphors, offers one that helps a little. In letter 32 to Henry Oldenburg, Spinoza compares our position within the whole of nature to that of a worm in the bloodstream. Our ideas of ourselves and of the objects around us are no more than the reciprocal pressures exerted by us on our surround and it on us. All our ideas-and the mind itself as the body's idea--are unsurpassably perspectival. While Spinoza does indeed make room--a spacious and distinguished room--for reason (and a higher stage yet, intuition), he states that the greatest wisdom that this knowledge of causes can yield us is awareness of the fact of our necessary embeddedness. This is precisely what we know when we see "under the aspect of eternity."
By definition, all ideas must entail a physical manifestation. If, as Spinoza avers, "the order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things" (IIP7), then nature truly never will betray the heart that loves her, because every idea, love being one, is an extended thing under a different notation. Moreover, in formulating this thought as "knowing that nature never did betray" (my emphasis), the narration of the poem that I echo ("Tintern Abbey," of course) doubles the troth-claim. The cause of the idea(s)--in this case, both love and knowledge---may not be grasped, and the idea itself may be confused and partial, but the object or "ideatum" of that idea, that is, the "affection" of the body, still exists, and will not go away, even as the idea becomes more adequate. [Appendix E]
In other words, Spinoza introduces a continuum between adequate and inadequate ideas, between reason and imagination, and between truth and falsehood. Neither rational knowledge of the sun (for example, its composition, size, processes, etc.) nor the understanding of what causes its appearance as a small orange ball about 200 feet above our heads drives out the reality of its appearance (IVPIS). Adequacy describes the power of the body, the idea of which is the mind, and that power has to do with the number and complexity of relations that constitute the body. That complexity is reflected in the mind's knowledge of the causes of its imaginings, causes which remain on the same plane (Deleuze, Practical Philosophy, Spinoza's "plan(e) of immanence" ) as their effects. One might call this an operational rather than a representational or a coherence paradigm of knowledge. Adequacy (and reason too) is not a matter of penetrating to the underlying reality; there is no deep truth in Spinoza. The truth is the whole and it has no depth, being substance all the way up (or, surface all the way down)
I do not include a summary of Spinoza's levels of knowledge (see above discussion of common notions) but to say that he explains the human capacity for reason as a function of the complexity (that is his word) of the human body, which he ascribes to its ability to retain traces of affections-of the impacts of other bodies on our own--after the event has passed. Because less complex bodies cannot do this, they cannot sustain transition from an idea of bodily modification to the understanding of it.
We might still ask what, if not the will, spurs the mind to the greater levels of activity that we experience as reflection and reason? Spinoza, referencing conatus, would frame reflection as an effect of enlargement and complexity of affectivity; in other words (Wordsworth's and Shelley's words), the greater the body's susceptibility to "the goings-on of the universe," the greater its capacity to remember former impressions and to use them "to imagine things that increase the body's power of acting" (that is the more "habitually impelled [that body is] to create volitions and passions ... where [it] does not find them"), the greater a man's capacity to "imagine intensely and comprehensively ... put[ting] himself in the place of another and of many others [until] the pains and pleasures of his species ... become his own," the greater that individual's rational power. (28) Such power is experienced as joy or pleasure---the awareness of becoming joined to another body harmonious with one's own, or of "pass[ing] from a lesser to a greater perfection" (IIIDII) (29)--and Spinoza does not restrict pleasure to human and animal life. Neither does Wordsworth: "The budding twigs spread out their fan, / To catch the breezy air; / And I must think, do all I can, / That there was pleasure there" ("Lines Written in Early Spring"). As the mind "must" think, so must the twigs bud; the two phenomena are not just parts of nature but, under certain conditions, one and the same event or "individual," conceived under the two attributes, respectively, thought and extension. Indeed, one can easily imagine Spinoza as the author of this famous statement, from Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802):
Nor let this necessity of producing immediate pleasure be considered as a degradation of the poet's art.... It is an acknowledgement of the beauty of the universe ... [and] a task light and easy to him who looks at the world in the spirit of love: further, it is a homage paid to ... the grand elementary principle of pleasure, by which [man] knows, and feels, and lives, and moves. We have no sympathy but what is propagated by pleasure ... [and] [w]e have no knowledge ... but what has been built up by pleasure, and exists in us by pleasure alone. (Major Works 605)
Good and evil, argues Spinoza, are but names for whatever enlarges or diminishes us, and as such they are synonyms for pleasure and pain: "One impulse from a vernal wood / May teach you more of man, / Of moral evil and of good, / Than all the sages can." Evil is no more than a word for the body's insensibility to the motion of other bodies; Spinoza's preferred terms for this state are passivity and sadness (in Coleridge's idiom, dejection). The best gloss on this is found in Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell, especially "The Voice of the Devil" and "A Memorable Fancy" [Isaiah and Ezekiel]. "Virtue," Spinoza writes, "is human power itself," (30) and "acting from virtue is nothing else in us but acting, living, and preserving one's being ... and ... seeking one's own advantage" (IVP24D) (which, given Spinoza's enlarged and interactive concept of the individual, may well entail what appears to be self-abnegation). Blake again comes to mind: "the cut worm forgives the plow." (31) Seeking one's advantage is for Spinoza the analytic expression of the experience of love: i.e., imagining and conserving objects and relations that enable passage from lesser to greater perfection (cf. Wordsworth's "Lines Written at a Small Distance from My House": "Love, now an universal birth, / From heart to heart is stealing, / From earth to man, from man to earth: /--It is the hour of feeling"). As for freedom (too large a topic for me to pursue here), that occurs when we grasp our immersion in the whole of nature, for when we do, we see that nature cannot be said to act on the body. Rather, the bodymind participates actively--literally, mindfully--in the global play of motions and affections, giving as well as getting. Seeing into the life of things and seeing ourselves there--that is, adequately knowing our position in the whole---is freedom.
One last topic, death: what is the difference between the inclusion of a mind during life in the totality of thought and its inclusion after death in the same totality? (Lloyd, Part of Nature 129). In language strikingly like Wordsworth's in the Essays Upon Epitaphs, Spinoza outlines the paradox that while we know that our mind endures only insofar as it involves the actual existence of body, we also feel that we are eternal. (And remember both the epistemic force of feeling for Spinoza, and the ontological force of knowing: to say, "and I have felt" ]e.g., "a pleasure that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts"] is to say "and I know," which is to say, "and there is" [my emphases].) Spinoza stresses that we do not ascribe "duration" to the mind except while the body endures; nevertheless, since what is conceived is still something, still God or nature (VP23S) this something will be eternal (though without temporal duration). Several commentators address this puzzle of a persistence lacking duration, most seeing it as a rejection of personal or individual immortality (see Nadler, Spinoza's Heresy, chaps. 5 and 6). Spinoza is also clear that "the body can die, that is, become something other than itself [due to a great change in the internal and external relations that define it] without ceasing to live." Identity "can cease to exist in the midst of life"--the example is of a person who becomes deranged--making death "no more than a threshold of transformation." (32)
Where does this get us, "us" meaning students of Wordsworth? To open my reading I quote from an email exchange with Marshall Brown, who was helping me work through some of the issues at play in this essay. Commenting on my own early reading of Wordsworth, I wrote as follows: "In revealing romantic naturalism as the thinking of history, and romantic autonomy as the figure of cultural possession, we read nature as culture and relegated the leftovers--those rocks and stones and trees that didn't figure in anyone's interests or histories--to the category of the unthinkable, a kind of metaphysical junk." Marshall wrote back saying that I had misquoted the Lucy lines by leaving out the commas, which to him argue that "Wordsworth is hesitating, even stuttering. Rocks and stones are matter, and he wants to get to bodies, such as trees, but it's too hard for him to make the leap. The plurals seem somehow crucial too. Lucy is unique; things that can be pluralized can't be unique and so the pull is back from the tree as organism to trees as matter, from Lucy as organism to Lucy as matter." (33)
Marshall's comment made me see my casual borrowing of that phrase from "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal"--an offhand synecdoche for the physical world--as the germ of a re-reading. Wordsworth makes a category error in lumping organic bodies (trees) with inanimate ones (rocks and stones), and he compounds the error with the implied addition of a human body that has passed from an animate to inanimate state, from person to thing. What if we seize this way of writing not as an error but as signposting Spinoza, who, as we now know, distinguishes things from each other, from their background, and from what we think of as more-than-things (e.g., humans, animals, and less complex organisms) only on the basis of proportions of motion-and-rest (IIP13S; IIP13AI). Those troublesome missing-links between mineral, vegetable, and animal nature are no more problematic for Spinoza than the body-mind link, which drove Descartes to the desperate remedy of theorizing the pineal gland as the magical crossover. For Spinoza, the transition is mechanical (though as we would say today, nonlinear) and it pertains not to the internal physics of the body (the body as standardly conceived, that is) but to the body's relations within the whole network of which it is a part: i.e., its active "composability," arising from repeated "joyful encounters" with other resonant bodies.
To follow this signpost is to group "A Slumber" with "Animal Tranquillity and Decay," "We Are Seven," "The Last of the Flock," and other poems, as pondering the switch-point between two states of the individual (refusing the deep and essential category distinction between human and thing and/or animal, life and death) and between individuals and each other and their physical surround. (34) At the same time, these poems do without any recourse to a soul in the sense of some immaterial principle of continuity transcending the life-death divide. They show, instead, how, "in both the natural and the moral world, qualities pass insensibly into their contraries, and things revolve upon each other." (35)
A slumber did my spirit seal, I had no human fears: She seemed a thing that could not feel The touch of earthly years. No motion has she now, no force She neither hears nor sees Rolled round in earth's diurnal course With rocks and stones and trees! (Lyrical Ballads 1800) (36)
"A Slumber" is typically read as a before-and-after narration with the central event, either the death (by convention, "Lucy's" death), or, the narrator's recognition of the meaning of that death, occurring in the gap between the two stanzas. Let me frame the story as the latter, that is, as the utterance of a narrator who knows at the outset that Lucy has died. But instead of reading the tense-shift between stanzas as a marker of thought (and regret) a-borning let us see it as marking a conceptual shift between two different systems of thought offering two different consolations of philosophy, one of them empiricist, the other Spinozist. The giveaway as to which is superior is the narrator's description of his spirit as having been "sealed" when it offered itself the empiricist story. In other words, the poem's final position is that of radical, not moderate, Enlightenment: Spinoza, not Newton and Locke.
In the first stanza, the narrator declares himself lacking fears, pleasantly anaesthetized because he knows that Lucy is no longer subject to the assaults of time. She has undergone an ontological or substantive change, from person to thing, and her insensible state enables his own release from feeling. On the face of it, the narration of stanza two seems to render the dead girl even more categorically other, as if deepening the statement of stanza one. "No motion has she now, no force," and, "she neither hears nor sees." However, instead of treating "no motion, no force" as redundancy in the service of emotional emphasis, we might construe "force" as qualifying "motion" rather than reiterating it: as in, she has no motion in the sense of force. Given the contemporary resonance of those words, that distinction could signify "she has no motion in Newton's sense," motion that is external to matter and measurable as the effect of one body on another as the two collide in empty space. Thus the narrator, rather than declaring Lucy motionless, could be using a contrastive syntax in order to define the kind of motion that pertains to Lucy, a kind that is inherent and "conative" rather than, like Newton's, external. Why then does the narrator say "no motion has she now"? Perhaps he does so in order to distinguish a body that has motion from one that is motion--more specifically, a unique ratio of motion to rest that is what it is to be Lucy--Lucy dead, however, not the living Lucy. He says it to distinguish a Newtonian from a Spinozan body. To read in this way also resolves that irritating contradiction between the "no motion no force" claim and the description of Lucy as "rolled round."
This way of framing the dead girl puts paid to the consolation voiced in stanza one, for on a Spinozistic reading, Lucy has not only not been released from some sort of individual being, she is also still in time. In fact, with her own "motion" literally entering into the earth's rotation, she has become corporeally part of the system of motion that makes the touch of years--"makes" human time. To be sure, she no longer hears nor sees. On a Lockean reading, she is deprived of the materials on which thought operates and is thus devoid of mind, motion, and feeling--in effect, a thing. On a Cartesian reading, she has lost the means of differentiating herself as mind from an external world; she has lost the conditions of the cogito. On a Spinozistic reading, however, all that is averred is a transition from one system of modifications to another that is part of the same continuum. This is not an end to modification, an arrest translating into the annihilation of individuality-as in, Lucy the unique individual becoming Lucy a countnoun, or even a mass noun. In motion, rolled round, embedded in nature, she continues to "feel," not as consciousness of sensation but as undergoing modification, being affected. "Our bodies feel, where'er they be, / Against or with our will" ("Expostulation and Reply," my emphasis).
What manner of consolation is yielded by this austere, elemental view of death? I would answer: exactly what seems most painful, namely, that Lucy remains in motion, in nature, embodied, and individuated (albeit a different "individual"). And indeed, now for the first time, the narrator sees her and therefore himself as a part of the whole, part of the larger, more active and complex body in which Lucy participates. In place of a wishful or consecrating belief in immortality, Wordsworth makes a physical claim resting on motion's inherence in matter. Rocks and stones, like trees and persons are what they are through the conatus that sustains their relational physics. When Lucy no longer persists in her "endeavor" to be a "she" (the dualist language is unavoidable), she perishes as that individual but assumes another conatus: part of the planet's rolling course, entering into new relations, and thus becoming another ratio of motion to rest.
Reconsider Margaret from "The Ruined Cottage" in this light. Her death, we recall, is rendered by the narrator as a translation from one mode of persistence (human) to another (natural). This translation, or transition, is no different from that which occurs during Margaret's life as her universe of interactions dwindles. Armytage explicitly and with a strange literalness ties Margaret's identity to her physical activity--her rhythms, her ratio of speed and slowness. He ties it to the objects that she loves and actively attends or affects (e.g., her infant, cottage, garden, books), objects that form part of the system that somehow just is Margaret. The other elements in that "Margaret system" are of course her husband, whose disordered rhythms precipitate Margaret's change, and Armytage himself, whose own irregular comings and goings, speed and slowness, are prominent in the text (and offered to the narrator and thus to the reader as well as a metronome or tuning fork for triggering and regulating our sympathetic vibration). As the system changes its identity so does Margaret, and the change is "essential" because it is relational.
I think the philosophical ambition of "A Slumber" might even be a bit greater than I have suggested. Look at the two wordplays in the poem, course and diurnal. Wordsworth uses the archaic form "corse" for "corpse" in the Essays Upon Epitaphs and elsewhere, and critics have long noted the presence of an "urn" in the word "diurnal." Both meanings work to drive home the image of a body very graphically, materially in the earth and of it, earth to Earth, corpse to planetary course. However infinitesimally, Lucy's incorporation into the earth adds to the earth's mass, affecting the ratio of motion to rest in all other earthly and celestial bodies--affecting the earth's course. (I like this because it allows for a Spinozism that accepts the mechanical physics of gravity without positing, as Newton did, an unmoved mover.)
Read in this fashion, the poem respects the commonsense experience of life and death as essentially distinct and at the same time demonstrates that the distinction is not absolute. We think they are qualitatively different states because our ideas are most of the time and for most of us confused and partial, and because it quiets the unbearable thought that there might be such a thing as feeling beyond the grave (cf., the deleted stanza of the Immortality Ode). At the same time, reading this poem through Spinoza enables a kind of consolation of physics, or of metaphysics, understood as the conditions of the possibility of objects, which is the same thing as the conditions of possibility of being a subject. All this without a triumph of the will. (37)
By poem's end, the before-and-after structure undergoes a transformation, in effect, healing the breach between feeling and knowing. The most concrete expression of this reunion is the syntax of the two long sentences that comprise the poem, sentences that lack both internal subordination and causal continuity. It is as if Wordsworth is re-fashioning both the narrative and contrastive formats of the poem into the geometrical style, the style of timeless demonstration rather than developmental becoming. "A slumber did my spirit seal, / I had no human fears." In the light of Spinoza's double-aspect monism, the two statements read not as figurative followed by literal statement but as identical although non-interchangeable notations, the first under the attribute of extension, the second under the attribute of thought. Between such notations, there can be no causality, only perfect equivalence.
In the echo of the last line, the narrator's claim to lack "human fears" reads neither as a statement of obtunded feeling nor as a rational response to the knowledge that the beloved has been released from the assaults of time. It emerges rather as a statement of joy--a passing beyond all sad passions--and as one that transfigures the very notion of what it is to be human. It is as if the narrator himself, in understanding the largest necessity of Lucy's change, shares in her "species of eternity." The second time round, Lucy's becoming a "thing" does not separate her from the community of the living; persons, count-nouns, and mass nouns are all, on Spinoza's account, individuals, all modes of the attributes of thought and extension and all, by definition, forms of substance. In the language of "We Are Seven":
"But they are dead; those two are dead! Their spirits are in heaven!" 'Twas throwing words away; for still The little Maid would have her will, And said, "Nay, we are seven!"
I hope I have shed some light--a new kind of light--on Wordsworth's deep poem. [Appendix E] I also hope this reading gives some purchase on the curious fondness that intention-theorists have for the poem. The number of studies that use "A Slumber" to argue for or against authorial and/or linguistic intention is staggering: we have M. H. Abrams, Cleanth Brooks, Norman Holland, Paul de Man, J. Hillis Miller, Geoffrey Hartman, E. D. Hirsch, P. D. Juhl, Peggy Kamuf, Brian Caraher, and most notoriously, Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels. Way back, F. R. Leavis put his finger on the stylistic salient of this poem (I would say, of all the Lucy poems) and I quote his words now because they not only get at "A Slumber"'s interest to intention-theorists, but they chime uncannily with the intertexts I have referenced. Here is Leavis: "... the experience has been so impersonalized that the effect ... is one of bare and disinterested presentment.... But the statement is concrete, and once the reading has been completed the whole poem is seen to be a complex organization, charged with a subtle life." (38)
Turn that statement into a question. How are complex organizations charged with a subtle life? Ask that, and you have stated the research agenda of that postclassical science ensemble that stands behind this reading of Spinoza and that I discuss in Appendix D. How do agentless processes or those lacking all centralized control (e.g., computers, traffic patterns, termite mounds, subsymbolic neurological connections, sensorimotor patterns, poems) give rise to effects that behave as agents for all intents and purposes--effects that just are intents and purposes, being indistinguishable from them? One common response to that question would be that all the above processes are best conceived as complex systems, made up of a large number of densely connected parts that interact in non-simple ways so as to "specify" their environments. Interactions within levels are mechanical, or simple; what are not simple are the transitions between levels and the continuous re-formation of levels following from routines, habits, and practices. These transitions are non-linear, which means that very small changes at one level yield very large outcomes at another. And that means that one cannot scale up to predict an outcome, or down to explain one, no more than one can infer from the parts the properties of the whole. The whole will always be greater than and different from the sum of the parts when the operative model involves simple layers that are superimposed, self-interactive, and responding to actual practice (reading, for example) by forming emergent regularities without fixed or final constraints. Moreover, those "wholes" cannot be understood--do not exist--independently of the domain of distinctions which their functioning specifies. "Just as there is no entity without an environment, so there is no environment without an entity." The two domains "enact" one another.
What does this mean for us? It gives us tools, even a new framework, for thinking about poems, especially lyric poems, which on some level have always been read in structuralist-formalist fashion as minds performing what it is to be a mind in relation to a world (or, as language performing what it is to be language in relation to a world). (39) Models of self-organization, emergent properties and so forth help us advance what phenomenology began, in studying the way that minds bring forth--enact, specify--particular environments and objects strictly on the basis of their own closure, a closure that may very well change in response to the world with which they couple. Structural coupling has been described as a process through which a system "selects or enacts from a world of randomness a domain of distinctions that has relevance for the structure of the system ... [W]e can say that a minimal kind of interpretation is involved, where interpretation is understood widely to mean the enactment of a domain of distinctions out of a background" (Maturana and Varela 151, 55, 56). Serious readers have always recognized poems as complex, autonomous, self-revising, and co-evolving systems but our grammar and vocabulary for explaining this intuition are hugely enriched by today's understanding of mind-body relations (not the least of the gains being our ability now to include history and culture in those relations). And that understanding is itself enlarged and improved by contact with its precursor, Spinoza's philosophy.
Appendix A: Let me comment briefly on this elusiveness and on a related topic, namely, the new historicism's reading of nature as a displacement of history. The aim of early new historicism was to explain how certain highly abstract and/or general and ideal terms signified within the economy of the poem. The poem was conceived as itself a dynamic dement ("dynamic" meaning capable of critical distantiation and disruption) within the more encompassing and determinative economies of its time and place, economies to which the work as a whole alluded, its structure homologous with those embedding systems. By studying the differential relations between the elements of the poetic text, one could gauge the extent to which the poem projected its own "parole," as it were, both within and over against the governing "langue." (What should go without saying at this late date is that only a genuine work of art [as opposed to what we may term, following Theodor Adorno's usage, "tendency" writing], can produce these self-contradictory effects, effects that come under the rubric of irony within a Romantic idiom, and, within a new historicist idiom, under the rubric of critical distantiation.)
New historicism departed from the structuralist model I just sketched, however, insofar as it focused on textuality, or rather, grammatology, rather than argument. Informed by the logic of the Derridean supplement, new historicist reading conceived the formal units of the text as both additions to and displacements or negations of their referential object. As my terms indicate, the thinking driving this approach was neo-Marxist (or, Marxist-Hegelian) and psychoanalytic, or citing a more immediate set of resources, Romantic new historicism found its problematic and its methods in the work of Paul P, icoeur, Paul de Man, Theodor Adorno, the Georg Lukacs of History and Class Consciousness, Louis Althusser, Pierre Macherey, and Fredric Jameson. Drawing on these critics and theorists, new historicism adopted a view of meaning as brought about by processes of internal negation (following Adorno, the dialectical relationship between affirmative culture and variously non-identitarian or negatively dialectical processes and effects) structured by larger systems in which the individual work actively participates. Guided by the grammar of the poetry (literal syntax as well as formal, dramatic, and rhetorical grammars), and by the poetry's patterns of representational difference (e.g., particularized vs general, concrete vs abstract, individualized vs collective), scholars were able to elucidate Romantic nature as a dialectical formation, an identity of identity and difference. Nature marked the site of a protest against history, but a protest conducted in a fashion overdetermined by its historical other. Romanticism could not itself "think" an effective critique of history; it could no more bring its own conditions of being under a concept than the eye can see itself seeing (or, than the ego, to the extent that it is constituted by its repressions, can perceive their operations). However, the poetry could and did embody or enact its valorization of an alternative to history--its commitment to what Jerome McGann called the "non-normative" (again, striking an Adornian note: viz, Adorno's distinction between art and affirmative culture). Over the last ten years, with the explosion (and convergence) of research in the physical and biological sciences--that is, with the advent (or, the filtering into general awareness) of the so-called "postclassical" sciences, and in the academy, with the emergence of such humanities research sectors as biocultural, ecological, cognitive, and environmental studies--we are for the first time able to model, rather than simply identify, that non-normative: to give it (again, echoing McGann's own borrowing) a local habitation and a name.
Appendix B: I comment on a work that matches this description, Simon Jarvis' Wordsworth's Philosophic Song,. Jarvis' exclusive reliance on The German Ideology for his reading of Marx and his isolation of that essay's immediate polemic from its working out of the theory and the narrative of the historical dialectic signal his commitment to the genre of journalistic sparring. By "immediate polemic," I refer to Marx's attack on the young Hegelians for their non-dialectical thinking: i.e., their failure to grasp the necessary and immanent relationship between theory (specifically, religious doctrine and belief) and practice (means and relations of production). Unwittingly, they thereby give aid and comfort to their enemy, religious ideologues who separate thought from life. Marx's larger, procedural concern in the essay is to distinguish "criticism"--normative, extrinsic, and positing an indifferent and/or inert relationship between itself and its objects of criticism--from critique, or an active and immanent unfolding of the dialectical structure of one's object from within. Jarvis attacks the new historicism by equating it with the young Hegelians' debunking of religious thought and with their assumption of a position of absolute enlightenment (mere criticism rather than critique). In light of new historicism's endlessly reiterated distinction between an older ideology critique and an attempt to read "the content of the form," and, given its methodological framing of its project as following a Marxist Hegelian and Althusserian direction (modeled by such critics as Fredric Jameson, Terry Eagleton, John Barrell, T. J. Clark, and John Goode), Jarvis' attempt to impugn new historicism as either Feuerbachian idealism or vulgar Marxism--is too gross to qualify as a misreading. It should instead be recognized as the cynical construction of a strawman. That this is the strategy is borne out by the book's failure to engage or even in several cases to cite the arguments that it summarily disparages. Moreover, to suggest that Marx recommends ideology as a form of genuine knowledge (Jarvis 58)--as opposed to saying that ideology may be parsed to release its core truth, classically, an inverted image of its conditions of historical being; or, following Althusser, that ideology is the way that individuals live their relation to the real--is a claim too silly to bother disputing. Finally, it should be noted that Jarvis' horror of system (and thus, his attempt to rescue Wordsworth's poetry from the grip of the systematizers) derives from his reliance on a notion of system challenged in Wordsworth's own time and demolished in our own. On Jarvis' view, system is a synonym for totalizing machine--"a philosophical edifice from which '[a]ll the anomalies' would have been removed" (3, cf. 27). He seems not to have noticed that Spinoza's "system of nature," now recognized as a presence in the age's marketplace of ideas, develops a materialism characterized as the unsurpassed thinking of immanence and cited as source of today's interdisciplinary research into the workings and nature of self-organizing systems. Nor does Jarvis' interest in "yesterday's unintelligibly avant-garde social science, or metaphysics and epistemology" extend to the "common sense" of today (7). Systems have been the subject of scientific and philosophical re-definition since the 1950s and prevailing wisdom now views them as models of complexity, fluidity, self-revision, and internal, diversely scaled, and self-interactive determination: in essence, the antithesis of the anomaly-eating monster conjured up by Jarvis. "When 'system' is simply shorthand for 'machine governed by a program,' it usually signals a concern with static, centralized control rather than with the sort of distributed, dynamic, contingent control under consideration here" (40) Or, "The notion of system is no longer tied to a changing configuration of particular components or to a set of internal or external relations. Rather, a system now appears as a set of coherent, evolving, interacting processes which temporarily manifest in globally stable structures." (41) Finally, Jarvis' notion that a genuinely poetic materialism cannot support the weight of ideas or the indelicacy of philosophical exposition shows as narrow an understanding of poetry as it does of philosophy. It not only violates Romanticism's own project in overcoming the poetry-philosophy divide but it turns a blind eye to the whole history of post-war poetry and poetics.
Appendix C: Ironically, Althusser's claims to have produced a Marxist science are realized now, forty years after, in theories of self-organization, emergence, complexity, autopoiesis, enactive cognition, and the like. Then again, perhaps this is not so ironic, for nearly all those areas of study were born in the 1960S, Ahhusser's era, and many of them within the European scientific community. These studies of systems and life forms describe another historical materialism than the one that Marx ushered in, one that might help us make headway on a question that has been at the heart of critical work in the humanities since the 1980S. Namely, how can the phenomena traditionally assigned to the mind (rational and unitary or self-contradictory and heterogeneous) arise without that transcendental postulate, and (here is the hard part) without anything else rushing in to fill the vacuum (such as, modes of production, drives, history). As far back as the 60s, the research sectors listed above were investigating the fragmented, dispersed, and processual nature of the cognizing subject. Marvin Minsky (MIT artificial intelligence pioneer) in The Society of Mind and Seymour Papert in Mindstorms, for example, defined mind as a "heterogeneous collection of networks of processes" and cast the ego-self as "the historical pattern among moment-to-moment emergent formations." (42) Note that the grammatical subject of that sentence (which references the philosophical "subject," as it happens) is "historical pattern," not history and not formations, a detail worth keeping in mind for those who worry about structuralist or formalist reifications slipping in.
The common denominator among the specialized researches I have listed is first that they are literally post-structuralist, in the sense of describing Structures as effects of dynamic regimes and not as their components. In the neurosciences, for example, the parts making up the whole do not precede, express, or engender it. They are "temporarily stable structures in the coherent evolution of one and the same system" (Jantsch 6), one that is, however, by definition open to other systems. Second, these sciences historicize matter more profoundly than Darwin did for species, for they bring the concept of evolution into the lifespan of the individual entity and into the processes and systems making up that entity. They explain how histories of interactions or "couplings," co-evolutions, routines, habits, etc. give rise to determinate units and entities. This evolution tends to be understood as nonlinear: very small changes at one level yield very large outcomes at another. Third, as with Spinoza's substance monism and property dualism, these studies conceive of mind (consciousness, self-awareness, intention) as the result of a particular organization of matter. They write of subsymbolic (that is, nonrepresentational) aggregates that cohere as a result of routine rather than through any kind of centralized control. In their different idioms, these sciences ask how agentless processes give rise to effects that behave as agents; how a computer, for example, might precipitate, or might even just be, intending, wanting, etc. Fourth, for these studies, action is inseparable from perception. Perceiving means perceiving as, perceiving as means perceiving in reference to a world; having a world is the result, not the cause of interaction with the environment (a term that very much includes the social and political). Cognition "depends on the kinds of experience that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities" (Embodied Mind 173). These capacities are themselves embedded in more encompassing biological, psychological, and cultural contexts. (The name of this process is "enactive cognition.") Not only are perceiving and acting inseparable in lived experience, they are said to have evolved together and to have brought forth (or, "specified") each other. This is to say that the two are not merely contingently linked in different individuals (as in nature-nurture empiricist accounts). Environments not only are what they are, but have evolved along certain lines, because of what organisms are and what they do (and vice versa). (43) Fifth, these research programs are all of the nature of general systems theory. They try to formulate principles that are valid for systems in general whatever the nature of their components. They attempt "a 'general science of wholeness,' which until now was considered a vague, semi-metaphysical concept." (44)
David Abram. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. New York: Pantheon, 1996.
Gregory Bateson. Steps To an Ecology of Mind [Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology]. New York: Ballantine, 1972.
David Bohm. Causality and Chance in Modern Physics. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1987.
--. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. London, Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981.
David Bohm and B. J. Hiley, The Undivided Universe: an Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory. London, New York: Routledge, 1993.
John C. Briggs and F. David Peat. Looking Glass Universe: The Emerging Science of Wholeness. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986.
Paul Buckley and F. David Peat. Glimpsing Reality: Ideas in Physics and the Link to Biology. Toronto, Buffalo: U of Toronto P, 1986.
Antonio Damasio. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2003.
The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999.
--. Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1994.
Richard Dawkins. The Selfish Gene. Oxford, New York: Oxford UP, 2006.
--. The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene. Oxford, New York: Oxford UP, 1999.
--. River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. New York: Basic, 1995.
Terrence William Deacon. The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain. New York: Norton, 1997.
David Deutsch. The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications. New York: Penguin, 1998.
Gerald Edelman and Guilio Tononi. A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination. New York: Basic, 2001.
Luc Ferry. The New Ecological Order, trans. Carol Volk. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995.
Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. New York: Norton, 1999.
William Hasker. The Emergent Self. Ithaca, Cornell UP, 1999.
N. Katherine Hayles. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Infomatics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999.
--. Chaos and Order: Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 199I.
Douglas R. Hofstadter. I Am a Strange Loop. New York, London: Basic, 2007.
--. Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. New York: Basic, 1995.
John H. Holland. Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995.
Erich Jantsch, The Self-Organizing Universe: Scientific and Human Implications of the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution. Oxford, New York: Pergamon P, 1980.
Mark Johnson, The Body in the Mind: the Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987.
Steven Johnson. Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software. London: Allen Lane/Penguin, 2001.
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic, 1999.
Richard Levins and Richard C. Lewontin. The Dialectical Biologist. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1985.
Roger Lewin. Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999.
Brian Massumi. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2002.
Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela. Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living. Boston: D. Reidel, 1980.
--. The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Boston: Shambhala, 1987.
Marvin Lee Minsky. The Society of Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986.
Lee Nichol, et al. The Essential David Bohm. London: Routledge, 2002.
Susan Oyama. Evolution's Eye: A Systems View of the Biology-Culture Divide. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2000.
Seymour Papert. Mindstorms. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.
Arkady Plotnitsky and Barbara Herrnstein Smith, ed. Mathematics, Science, and Postclassical Theory. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1997.
Maurice Merleau Ponty. Nature: Course Notes from the College de France. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 2003.
Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers. Order out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue with Nature. Toronto, New York, Bantam, 1984.
V. S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee. Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind. New York: William Morrow, 1998.
William Rasch and Cary Wolfe. Observing Complexity: Systems Theory and Postmodernity. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2000.
Brian Cantwell Smith. On the Origin of Objects. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996.
Mark C. Taylor. The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2001.
Esther Thelen and Linda B. Smith, A Dynamic Systems Approach to the Development of Cognition and Action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996.
Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993.
M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Cary Wolfe. Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003.
--. Critical Environments: Postmodern Theory and the Pragmatics of the 'Outside.' Theory Out of Bounds, vol. 13. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1998.
Steve Woolgar, ed. Knowledge and Reflexivity: New Frontiers in the Sociology of Knowledge. London: Sage, 1988.
Appendix D: Althusser's borrowings from Spinoza were seminal for the theorists who followed. Specifically, Althusser cited Spinoza as the source for his theory of structural causality and his theory of knowledge, Althusser's two great departures from both mainstream (at that time) Marxism and from the Hegelian Marxisms that followed. Althusser famously challenged the classical Marxian binary, knowledge vs. ideology, defining the latter as the way that individuals live their relation to the real, which, in his system, signifies the totality. On this reading, ideology is not false consciousness (as in, an idea without an object) but consciousness plain and simple, and as such (given the immanence of mind in body and of the individual in the body-social, body-politic, etc.), ideology is also the expression (or, instantiation) of the real. This position is now nearly normative in the humanities and has been from the emergence of new historicism more than twenty years ago, travesties of its crudely realist epistemology (and moralism) notwithstanding.
At the same time, Althusser insists upon different levels of knowledge. He correlates these, however, not with perceptual or reflective powers arising from praxis but as the differential effects of the structural whole (or, we might say, of its internal systemic interactions), resulting from (again, my gloss) the organizational complexity of the system: that is, its consisting of many relatively autonomous levels. (That last phrase is Althusser's, a famously inscrutable one, and doubtless related to Spinoza's adequacy standard of truth). That phenomenon, "structural causality," is formulated by Althusser as the effectivity of a structure on its elements (does elements designate persons, classes, subject-positions, apparatuses, levels?). Structural causality is also, in his phrase, the effectivity of the whole on the part, implying that the part does not come into existence until the whole crystallizes as a totality: the part, thus, being a kind of back-formation of the whole. This concept of causality serves to link base to superstructure (and all the levels in between) by a logic other than that of either reflection or production, surpassing thus the theory-praxis binary and also collapsing the time-line of historical change, folding cause into effect and past and future into the present. One can feel how bewildering a design this is, i.e., a cause that comes into being only in and as its effects, a cause that, although it does not precede those effects, does explain them, remaining, however, as an explanation, absolutely immanent to those effects. Bewildering, but enthralling.
Sadly, Althusser, whose total output on Spinoza numbers only 50 pages, never actually said what he took from the philosopher and maddeningly, he never said how structural causality worked (nor, how it squared with his law of "determination in the last instance," which could seem its direct antithesis). Even the modest expansion above is mine, not Althusser's. Fredric Jameson helpfully distinguished structural causality from mechanical and expressive causality (respectively, billiard balls and organisms) but not even he could go beyond negative definition.
I think we can finally begin to understand these ideas because they tally in a deep and precise way with models of determination and of thought-action relations developed in those biological and physical research domains I have mentioned. Moreover, contemporary models of recursion provide a good gloss of the causal looping--the circularity and retroactivity--central to the description of structural causality.
Appendix E: Readers who know my early readings of Wordsworth might wonder if and how this new orientation bears on those. It does, and I will give one instance of how it does. My reading of "Tintern Abbey" focused on the opening movement, lines 1-49--literally, the ground-plan or topographical mise en scene of this meditative landscape poem cum Pindaric ode. In the insistent couplets organizing those lines and, I suggested, setting up a sustained pattern in the poem (steep-lofty, heavy-weary, serene-blessed ...), I traced the Cartesian problematic, and thus the epistemic dilemma organizing the poem as a whole: namely, the gap between subject and object--in Wordsworth's idiom, the mind of man and nature, and in the language of the poem, "all thinking things" and "all objects of all thought." I linked the narrator's sense of epistemic and existential discontinuity to the poem's intimations of collectivity, as in the way of life exemplified by the extinct monastic community--its memento mori, the abbey itself. And, I linked that, the idea of the robust religious community, with more recent instances of communal hope, namely, both the Revolution, and the solidarity enjoyed by its enthusiasts (Wordsworth and his fellow travelers until the watershed of 1794 or so, dividing his first from his second visit to Tintern). The poem's insight, I argued, resides in its figuration of the poet-subject as the dispossessed guardian of his own imagination: that is, the Cartesian subject, cut off from its world of objects, reduced to hermit, vagrant, or, a more elevated but no less alienated figure, the vatic seer. I argued too (following both a deconstructive and psychoanalytic logic) that the poem's oversight is an effect of the very problematic that generates its insight. What "Tintern Abbey" could not "see" but could for that reason (a crucial condition [cf. Heidegger, De Man] that has routinely been ignored in the reception of my argument) make visible was its critique of that subject-object problematic, and by "critique" I intend a Kantian usage, where it means establishing the conditions of possibility of that dualism. Those conditions were, in a word, the social, that larger and prior mode of being or system of relations which creates both subjects and their objects of knowledge, and, which obscures its own priority. I stand by that reading today.
Two features of the poem, however, remained outside and unassimilable to that account. One is the narrator's developmental history (his formation as child of nature, lines 66-84) and two, his large, ecstatic, visionary claims (e.g., "A presence that disturbs me with the joy / Of elevated thoughts"; "--that serene and blessed mood, / In which the affections gently lead us on,-- / Until, the breath of this corporeal frame / And even the motion of our human blood / Almost suspended, we are laid asleep / In body, and become a living soul").
Reading Spinoza folds those features in, and, I believe that the prevalence in the poem of terms that have a unique and powerful presence in Spinoza's writing (animal movements, passion, appetite, feeling and love, joy, motion) argues that the poem itself folds them in. These words, that have a hollow ring when played in an empiricist, a Cartesian, as well as in a Marxist-materialist register, sing out when set under the sign of Spinoza. They mount an argument for processes of transition from "joy to joy," from identity to identity, based not on knowledge ("... had no need of a remoter charm, / By thought supplied") but on organization and activity: histories of couplings, routines, habits which give rise to determinate units and entities. Enriched by Spinoza, the poem figures thought not as a categorically hived-off mental product but as the result of a particular organization of matter and of activity, activity that is inseparable from perception. I would now read the turn to Dorothy, to her "wild eyes" (which I had characterized as an instinctive attempt "to escape the binary problematic through which the poem gets written"), as a striving on the narrator's part to combine with that which resembles him, "to compose an individual proportionately more powerful than each one alone" (Montag, Bodies, Masses, Power 31). It is thus, says Spinoza, that "when each man most seeks his own advantage for himself, then men are most useful to one another" ([IVP.sub.35]C2). The movement toward Dorothy is as the kernel of a sociality or collectivity comparable to that of the monastery or the Revolutionary spirits, but that it offers itself to a different kind of analysis, for there is no act of will, of consent, of intellectual decision that brings it about (departing, thus, in this important way, from Hobbes' theory of social genesis). Wordsworth "discovers" himself in his instinctive "composings," his joining together with whatever increases his power, finding himself more highly individuated, thus, not less so. And, these composings arise as the expression of a thoroughgoing "pragmatism" (for want of a better word), one that dissolves the very premise of an anterior and/or teleological "self."
In addition, I would now return to the subject-object couplings that structure the poem's opening movement and work the conjunction "and" along the lines of Spinoza's celebrated "or" (sive or seu, "which normally indicates an equivalence rather than an alternative" [Curley, Works, I: xix]). In the echo of Spinoza's "God or nature," "right or power," Wordsworth's "and" (e.g., "a motion and a spirit") strikes a new note. Warren Montag, commenting on Spinoza's "or" formulations, writes as follows: "Strictly speaking, these are not equations, in that they are not reversible: nature never becomes God, power never becomes, fight. Instead, the first term is translated into and then displaced by the second. God disappears into nature (the immanent cause which does not exist prior to its effects and which cannot be without them), and right into power, that is, power in the physical sense; or force (outside of which fight has no meaning or reality)" (Bodies, Masses, Power 5)- Splicing Spinoza's usage to Wordsworth's provides us a critical style answerable to that of the poem, as supple, holistic, and yet finely discriminated as the movement of Words worth's thought. Wordsworth's "and" colored by Spinoza's "or" expresses the difference and identity of the yoked terms and it does so without bringing on either an extrinsic agency or, as in a Hegelian (natural supernaturalist) reading, a structural disequilibrium traceable to a mythically founding scission.
Short Spinoza Bibliography
Louis Althusser. Essays in Self-Criticism. London: NLB, 1976.
Etienne Balibar. Spinoza and Politics. London, New York: Verso, 1998.
David Bell. Spinoza in Germany from 1670 to the Age of Goethe. London: Institute of Germanic Studies, U of London, 1984.
Jonathan Francis Bennett. A Study of Spinoza's Ethics. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1984.
William E. Connolly. Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed. Theory out of Bounds, vol. 23. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2002.
Edwin Curley, trans. & ed. The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol. 1: (Ethics). Princeton: Princeton UP, 1985.
Gilles Deleuze. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1988.
--. Spinoza: Expression in Philosophy. New York: Zone Books, 1990.
Michael Della Rocca. Representation and the Mind-Body Problem in Spinoza. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.
Moira Gatens. Imaginary Bodies: Ethics, Power and Corporeality. London, New York: Routledge, 1996.
--. Collective Imaginings: Spinoza, Past and Present. London: Routledge, 1999.
Marjorie Glicksman Grene, ed. Spinoza: A Collection of Critical Essays. Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1973.
Marjorie Glicksman Grene and Debra Nails. Spinoza and the Sciences. Dordrecht: Kluwer/Boston: D. Reidel, 1986.
Stuart Hampshire. Spinoza. London: Faber and Faber, 1956.
--. Spinoza and Spinozism. Oxford: Clarendon, 2005.
G. W. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy: The Lectures of 1825-1826. Berkeley: U of California P, 1990.
Jonathan Irvine Israel. Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750. Oxford, New York: Oxford UP, 2001.
Genevieve Lloyd. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Spinoza and the Ethics. London, New York: Routledge, 1996.
--. Part of Nature: Self-Knowledge in Spinoza's Ethics. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994.
Richard Mason. The God of Spinoza: A Philosophical Study. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997.
Warren Montag. Bodies, Masses, Power: Spinoza and his Contemporaries. London, New York: Verso, 1999.
Warren Montag and Ted Stolze, ed. The New Spinoza. Theory out of Bounds, vol. 11. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997.
Steven M. Nadler, Spinoza's Ethics: An Introduction. New York: Cambridge UP, 2006.
Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.
Antonio Negri. The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics, trans. Michael Hardt. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1991.
Christopher Norris. Spinoza and the Origins of Modern Critical Theory. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991.
Richard H. Popkin. Spinoza. Oneworld Philospohers, 2004.
Nathan Rotenstreich and Norma Schneider, ed. Spinoza, His Thought and Work. Jerusalem, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1983.
Roger Scruton. Spinoza. Oxford, New York: Oxford UP, 1986.
Benedictus de Spinoza, Samuel Shirley and Seymour Feldman. Theological-Political Treatise, Gebhardt Edition, 1925. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998.
--. Political Treatise. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000.
Matthew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World. New York: Norton, 2006.
Yirmiyahu Yovel, ed. Desire and Affect: Spinoza as Psychologist. Papers Presented at the Third Jerusalem Conference (Ethica Iii). New York: Little Room P, 1999. (Distributed by Fordham UP.)
--. Spinoza and Other Heretics, 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1989.
University of Michigan
(1.) References to Spinoza's Ethics are to Edwin Curley's translation (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1985), and by convention, where '4P39S' names Part 4, Proposition 39, Scholium. From Curley: "Roman numerals refer to parts of the Ethics. Arabic numerals are used for axioms, definitions, propositions, etc. The following abbreviations are used: A = axiom; P = proposition; D (following a roman numeral) = definition; D (following P + an Arabic numeral) = demonstration; C = corollary; S = scholium; Exp = explanation; L = lemma ...; Post = postulate; Pref = preface; App = appendix ...; Def Aff = the definitions of the affects ..." (xix).
(2.) In work to come, I put William Blake, S. T. Coleridge, and P. B. Shelley in dialogue with Spinoza so as to untangle and re-weave the knotted skeins of idealist and materialist thought in all three. I look at Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Shelley's Defense of Poetry, and Coleridge's conversation poems (and, in the Wordsworth section, at the Lucy poems, "Last of the Flock," "Anecdote for Fathers," "We Are Seven," and Essays on Epitaphs).
(3.) Jonathan Irvine Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making off Modernity, 1650-1750 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000.
(4.) Although some of these themes have received scholarly attention, most recently in Simon Jarvis' Wordsworth's Philosophic Song (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007), they have not been critically read, a phrase that denotes an exercise geared toward clarifying and specifying what within the text or in its larger relations that is obscure, vague, or apparently either unmotivated or incoherent. Reading on that definition takes the form of an explanation susceptible to public discussion and debate. It does not mean mimetic expansion (either paraphrastic or "poetic") wherein the critic chronicles his own interiorizing or appropriative processes. Nor does it mean randomly associative glossing.
(5.) Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature; Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007); Shelley and the Revolution in Taste (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994), Alan Bewell, Wordsworth and the Enlightenment: Nature, Mart, and Society in the Experimental Poetry (New Haven: Yale UP, 1989); Bewell, Romanticism and Colonial Disease (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999); Alan Richardson, British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001).
(6.) Celeste Langan's Romantic Vagrancy: Wordsworth and the Simulation of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995) is our fullest exploration of this familiar pattern. My reading of "Old Man Travelling" also tries to shed some light on the topic: Levinson, "Romantic Poetry: The State of the Art" (MLQ 54.2, June 1993: 183-214).
(7.) "... and I shall consider human actions and appetites just as if it were a question of lines, planes, and bodies" (III Pref).
(8.) The 12 July 2007 issue of Le Point devotes ten pages to interviews and commentary on Spinoza, featuring philosophers, biologists, historians, and Judaic studies scholars, all of whom speak to the fact that "aujourd'hui encore, l'auteur de l'Elhique souleve les passions. Partout on s'en reclame, a droite comme a gauche, chez les scientifiques comme les ecrivains, les laiques comme les religieux. Spinoza, tout public?" Pierre-Francois Moreau (l'Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon) comments at length on the contemporary relevance of Spinoza: "Spinoza fascine pour le discourse radical qu'on lui a attribute et qui a suscite de nombreaux fantasmes, notamment litterarires. Il est aussi revendique par les laiques, par exemple, aujourd'hui en Israel ou dans les pays arabes. Certains theologiens s'en inspirent pour renouveler leur vision de l'Ecriture. I1 attire aussi pour l'attention qu'il porte au corps ... ce qui le distingue de beaucoup de penseurs classiques." I thank Anne Stoler (The New School of Social Research) for sending me this article.
(9.) Colin Jager, The Book of God: Secularization and Design in the Romantic Era (Philadelphia: U of Penn P, 2007).
(10.) Meredith Martin, The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetic Form and English National Culture, 1880-1920 (dissertation, 2005); Julia Carlson, Romantic Eulphasis: Wordsworth's Poetry and the Marks of Culture 1750-1850 (dissertation, 2006). Consider the implications of theory, of meter for Spinoza's definition of individual and social bodies as particular proportions of motion and rest, the preservation of which constitutes the good for that entity. See also Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, trans. Robert Hurley (San Francisco: City Lights, 1988; in French, 1970), for a discussion of music as the aptest illustration of the constitution of identity through proportions of speed and slowness (123, 125, 126, 128). Also see Timothy Morton's essay "Matter and Meter: Ambient Fore1 in Coleridge" forthcoming in Literature Compass: Romanticism.
(11.) Bill Brown (The Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature [Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003]) is an important exception to this rule. He explains that he initially conceived his project as "a materialist phenomenology of everyday life" but found himself wondering whether readings of this kind--consumption critique--do not somehow "leave things behind," never quite asking "how they become recognizable, representable, and exchangeable to begin with." In overcoming the residual realism of the productivist paradigm, consumption critique shortchanges the felt and effective thingness of things. Brown sets his sights, therefore, on that "indeterminate ontology where things seem slightly human and humans seem slightly thinglike" (13), in effect aligning his work with that of Michel de Certeau, Michel Serres, and Michael Taussig. I would also cite the work of Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham: Duke UP, 2002); Daniel Tiffany, Toy Medium: Materialism and Modern Lyric (Berkeley: U of California P, 2000); Joan Richardson, A Natural History of Pragmatism (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007); and Brian Cantwell Smith, On the Origins of Objects (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1996). Smith is a computationalist philosopher who sets his project, that of "doling] metaphysics," under the sign of Bruno Latour's "irreductionist foundationalism." As opposed to "the idea [of] metaphysics as univocal, perspective independent, value-free, and the like," his "successor metaphysics" is "messy, fluid, partial, non-rational." His point is that the concept of foundations need not be foundational (in the received sense) any more than accounts of surfaces must be superficial. However, what he retains from the old ("predecessor") metaphysics is the goal of "telling a story that is neutral with respect to the schisms between the sciences and the humanities," grounding them both in a common ontology. More narrowly, he wants to build an account that, instead of splitting the difference between constructivism and realism (the inevitable fallout from a paradigm of representation), "reconstructs the two classical positions under a single more powerful conception," one that he terms a "non-eliminative materialism." He includes political and social reasons among his motivations for developing this model. "I want to rescue foundationalism, at least foundationalism of a very special irreductionist sort ('grounded, but not grounded in Q for any Q') ..." (88), in large part so as to reclaim foundations from "the religious right" (n. 92). For Smith, the wholesale rejection of the project of "telling metaphysical stories" has largely to do with our assumption that foundations are "scientific" foundations: quantum mechanics, relativity, set theory, mathematics, and logic" (90). Smith is slow to say just "what irreductionist foundations are." It is not until he teaches us, through very precise and often technical scientific discussions, bow to "let go of individuals ... and of physical registration as well" (319) following the "field-theoretic interpretation of physics," that he begins to answer the questions that launch the inquiry (85): "What, then, of a non-question-begging nature, can he said about the notion of an object? Can an object be an object on its own? Or, in order to be an object, must it be taken as an object by a subject? If a subject views an object in this way, what relation binds them? And what about these subjects, anyway--are they objects too?" (Oh. 11).
(12.) Stuart M. Tave, Some Words of Jane Austen (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1973); Marilyn Butler, Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries (New York: Oxford UP, 1981) and Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987). A general term for this genre of critical work might be cultural philology and its most prominent exemplars are Erich Auerbach and Leo Spitzer. For a discussion of this "indexical formalism," see Levinson, "What is New Formalism," PMLA 122.2 (March 2007).
(13.) David Bell, Spinoza in Germany from 1670 to the Age of Goethe (London: Institute of Germanic Studies, University of London, 1984).
(14.) "To be a follower of Spinoza," Hegel once said, "is the essential beginning of all philosophy" (Matthew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World [New York: Norton, 2006] 13).
(15.) Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Reading "Capital" (London: NLB, 1970) 102; Warren Montag, Bodies, Masses, Power: Spinoza and His Contemporaries (London, New York: Verso, 1999) xv; Warren Montag and Ted Stolze, The New Spinoza, Theory out of Bounds, Vol. II (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997) x: "Spinoza's works constitute a philosophy that never definitively closes upon itself, that is never strictly identifiable with a finite set of propositions or arguments that would allow it to be categorized once and for all as 'rationalist' or even 'materialist.' It is rather a philosophy characterized by an inexhaustible productivity that is thus capable, as Pierre Macherey has argued, of producing, and not simply reproducing, itself endlessly." On Nietzsche and Spinoza, see Christopher Norris, Spinoza arid the Origins of Modern Critical Theory (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991). From Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Viking, 1964) 92: from Nietzsche, letter to Overbeck, 1881: "Not only is his [Spinoza's] overall tendency like mine--making knowledge the most powerful affect, but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize myself; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me in precisely these matters: he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world order, the unegoistic, and evil ..."
Much of this work, however, was either in the nature of figurative extrapolation, revision of Marxist political theory, or it explored Spinoza's thought in its own political contexts. Norris characterizes Deleuze's engagement with Spinoza as "elliptical and impressionistic rather than conceptually rigorous" (Norris 14). This is wrong, especially so for Expressionism in Pkilosophy--a deep, precise, and logically elegant monograph--but one can understand how, in the absence of conversation between Spinoza and empirical research into body-brain systems, Deleuze's treatment of Spinoza could be taken less seriously than it should: i.e., as legitimation for his own theoretical paradigms rather than as a responsibly interpretive commentary. A new generation of philosophers (not theorists) has learned from Deleuze, and works to test the pre- and post-modern convergences hinging on Spinoza in markedly self-accounting ways. Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza (New York: Cambridge, MA: Zone Books; Distributed by MIT Press, 1990).
(16.) Walter Benjamin, "Thesis on the Philosophy of History," in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken Books, 1969). And, see Louis Althusser, "The Only Materialist Tradition, Part 1: Spinoza," in The New Spinoza 12-14. He characterizes his interest in Machiavelli (and Spinoza) as an interest in "the repeated insistence of certain affects, whether they be psychic or theoretical or political, which are truly g-casped and experienced only after the fact and whose order of appearance matters little, since most of the time it is a subsequent affect that not only gives meaning to a previous affect, but even reveals it to consciousness and to memory. I would never have finished meditating on this word of Freud's: 'an affect is always in the past." One may wish, therefore, to follow me in this retrospective anticipation" (the last phrase only, my emphasis). See also Louis Althusser, "On Spinoza," in Essays in Self-Criticism (London: NLB, 1976) 133-41.
(17.) Chandler, Wordsworth's Second Nature: A Study of the Poetry and Politics (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984). Pierre Bourdieu's notion of habitus, a concept elaborated from both medical usage (disposition toward disease) and from early anthropology (Marcel Mauss, "body techniques"), is a clear contemporary analogue to conatus. I thank Anne Stoler for distinguishing between the two by reference to the sedimentation and inertia that characterizes habitus, as compared to the fluidity, and dynamism of Spinoza's conatus. Another and slightly earlier analogue is, again, Althusser, who traces his "'theory' of the materiality of ideology (see what Michel Foucault terms 'disciplines of the body' in the 17th century)" first to Pascal's "theory of the apparatus of the body: 'Kneel and pray'" and then to Spinoza (Montag and Stolze, The New Spinoza 3).
(18.) Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "Third World of Theory: Enlightenment's Esau," Critical Inquiry 34, suppl. (Winter 2008): S191-S205.
(19.) Genevieve Lloyd, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Spinoza and tile Ethics (London, New York: Routledge, 1996); Genevieve Lloyd, Part of Nature: Self-Knowledge in Spinoza's Ethics (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994); Montag, Bodies, Masses, Power; Montag and Stolze, The New Spinoza; Moira Gatens, Imaginary Bodies: Ethics, Power and Corporeality (London, New York: Routledge, 1996); Stuart Hampshire, Spinoza and Spinozism (Oxford: Clarendon, 2005); Jonathan Francis Bennett, A Study of Spinoza's Ethics (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1984); Pierre Macherey, Emilia Giancotti, Gabriel Albiac, in Montag and Stolze, The New Spinoza 49-64 and 109-46. Bennett emphasizes Spinoza's dualism. There is no causal flow either way between mind and body; instead, you get a picture of a person's mental and physical aspects running in harness without either acting on the other" (14). "Spinoza's is a property dualism; but he rejects Descartes" stronger substance dualism (41); "... a fact about an entity's physical properties can't be explained by reference to any entity's mental properties" (47); "Spinoza's panpsychism keeps his naturalism from committing him to materialism. It lets him off the hook by introducing mentality as a basic feature of the entire universe (38)." Bennett's claim for Spinoza's theist position (126-27) is echoed in Nadler (32-35) as well as in Montag, Bodies, Masses, Power 4, 5, 42. See also Israel for parallel chains (233).
(20.) I wish to thank Michael Barany (Cornell University) for explaining the force of my intuition to me in topological terms. I would also reference Zia Gluhbehovic (University of Illinois), who proposed "enfoldment" (of mind and matter) as a useful metaphor. For a larger frame of reference, re-enfoldment or "implication," see David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order (London, Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981), chapter 721.
(21.) Critical commentary on the substance-attribute relation ranges shows a range of emphases. In my view, Deleuze's and Jonathan Bennett's discussions are the most successful in explaining the conceptual hybridities. For a representative range, see Steven M. Nadler, Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind (New York: Oxford UP, 2001); Steven M. Nadler, Spinoza's Ethics: An Introduction (New York: Cambridge UP, 2006). Deleuze's explication of expression (Expression in Philosophy) centers on the relation of attributes to substance. The former are dynamic and active forms, he writes, not "attributed" (following Aristotle) to substance but attributive. Each attribute (the two, thought and extension, being the only ones we recognize, given the state of complexity of our bodyminds) expresses an essence and attributes it to substance. All the attributed essences coalesce in the substance of which they are the essence (44-47). For a literary gloss, consider Milton's epithet for Christ: "Bright effluence of bright essence increate"--thus, a God who does not exist ("increate") until he expresses himself in Christ, his own expression, or, effluence. Or, we could read that peculiar father-son relation as an instance of recursion: a system which has itself as a member. It is the immanence of the expression to what is expressed that distinguishes it from emanation (a concept that involves the eminence of God).
(22.) On the formula "mind and matter," see Bennett 84-106. Bennett reads Spinoza's extension as synonymous with space, not matter, and he sees late 20th-century physics, or "the contemporary view," as "a version of Spinoza's own position" (84). Drawing on Parts 1 and 3 of the Ethics, Bennett argues that for Spinoza, "bodies are not basic and ... space is" (98), a view he terms a "field metaphysic," which is opposed to the "space plus contents" metaphysic--on Spinoza's account, an ontologically extravagant notion (105). Bennett glosses Spinoza's understanding of matter by reconstructing one of Newton's thoughtexperiments, the conclusion of which is that "actual physical things are just regions of space which have been suitably thickened, so to speak." Or, "our account of the world does not start with objects and their locations and then move on to talk about strings of place-times. Rather, we start with facts about strings of place-times, and out of them we logically construct 'objects' and a relation of 'occupancy' between them and regions. This does not add physical objects to our basic ontology; all that that contains is the one substance, space" (89).
(23.) Consider in this context the following observation from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, Chapter 13: "It is equally clear that two equal forces acting in opposite directions, both being finite and each distinguished from the other by its direction only, must neutralize or reduce each other to inaction" (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kathleen Coburn, and Bart Keith Winer, Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, vol. 7, Bollingen Series, 75 [London, Princeton: Routledge and Kegan Paul; Princeton UP, 1968] 299). Spinoza died before the publication of Newton's Principia (1687). I make this comparison because knowledge of both would of course have been available to the Romantic period writers.
(24.) Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, et al., Lectures on the History of Philosophy: The Lectures of 1825-1826 (Berkeley: U of California P, 1990).
(25.) See Roger Scruton: "for there is a real sense in which nothing in Spinoza's world really 'happens'" (Roger Scruton, Spinoza, Past Masters [Oxford, New York: Oxford UP, 1986] 49)
(26.) For no predefined contours to body, see Lloyd, Part of Nature 21, 24; for synchronization of forces, see Lloyd, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook 55.
(27.) See Lloyd, Part of Nature 23, Antonio R. Damasio, Looking for Spinoza:Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2003), and Bennett, A Study of Spinoza's Ethics, chapter 6. In math, recursion names a way of defining functions where the function being defined is applied within its own definition. More generally, it describes objects that repeat in self-similar ways (e.g., the girl on the Morton's salt box who is holding a box of Morton's salt) or as a special case of synecdoche, where the part contains the whole in addition to representing it. In all descriptions of recursion, what is crucial is the infinitely generative effect of this structural design.
(28.) William Wordsworth, The Major Works, ed. Stephen Gill (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1984, 2000) 603; Percy Bysshe Shelley, Donald H. Reiman, and Sharon B. Powers, Shelley's Poetry and Prose: Authoritative Texts, Criticism (New York: Norton, 1977) 487, 88; cf. "to imagine things that increase the body's power of acting," Lloyd, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook 28.
(29.) "all the ideas we have of bodies indicate the actual constitution of our own body (by IIP16C2) more than the nature of the external body" (Def Aft).
(30.) Quoted in Israel 237; see also Montag, Bodies, Masses, Power 31.
(31.) William Blake, David V. Erdman, and Harold Bloom, The Poetry and Prose of William Blake (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970) 35. See also: "A dead body revenges not injuries"; "The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man" (35, 36).
(32.) Montag, Bodies, Masses, Power 46; see also 33, 34. See also Wordsworth's "We Are Seven"; for "duration" see Israel 240; for the eternity of mind versus the immortality of the soul, see Nadler, Spinoza's Heresy.
(33.) The commas came later. Marshall and I were thinking of two different texts of the poem.
(34.) Geoffrey H. Hartman, Wordsworth's Poetry, 1787-1814 (Cambridge, MA, London: Harvard UP, 1987) 158: Lucy "seems to jump over the crisis of self-consciousness by dying into nature."
(35.) "Essay upon Epitaphs I" in William Wordsworth and W. J. B. Owen, Wordsworth's Literary Criticism (London, Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974) 124.
(36.) For variant punctuation, see Poems, 1815, "Poems of Imagination" section.
(37.) See my essay on "Old Man Traveling" in Marjorie Levinson, "Romantic Poetry: The State of the Art," Modern Language Quarterly 54.2 (1993); also see Arnold's comment on Wordsworth's style, that it is "as inevitable as Nature herself" (Matthew Arnold, ed. Frederick Wilse Bateson, Essays on English Literature [London: U of London P, 1965] 104).
(38.) F. R. Leavis, "Thought and Emotional Quality: Notes in the Analysis of Poetry," Scrutiny 13 (1945): 54; my emphasis.
(39.) I develop this line of thought in "Ideas and Methods," Cornell lecture, 2007, a talk I am preparing for publication.
(40.) Susan Oyama, Evolution's Eye: A Systems View of the Biology-Culture Divide (Durham: Duke UP, 2000) 51.
(41.) Erich Jantsch, The Self-Organizing Universe: Scientific and Human Implications of the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution (Oxford, New York: Pergamon P, 1980) 6.
(42.) Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, Eleanor Rosch, The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993),
(43.) See Richard Levins and Richard C. Lewontin, The Dialectical Biologist (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1985), for a clear and exciting discussion of some of these topics; other useful works listed above and below.
(44.) Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (New York: G. Braziller, 1968) 37; quoted in Taylor 140.
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|Title Annotation:||Benedict de Spinoza|
|Publication:||Studies in Romanticism|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2007|
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