Radical Enlightenment, Enlightened Subversion, and the Reversal of Spinoza

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Abstract

In this paper I will focus on the revolutionary significance of the immanent ontology of Spinoza. I hold up the thesis that the immanent view in Spinoza's texts shows its political subversion in its analogy and familiarity with the texts of Machiavelli and at a further level Dante. Both these philosophers subverted the focus from the theological plan with its hierarchy and linear time development to the world we live in, where human actions are contingent and forces directed to find a place in time without any support from the beyond. A world governed by the fact that there are always conflicting perspectives, and everything is relative and changeable. Presupposed is: all humans are equal, also in the fact that they all have particular ideas, which they like to express in different ways. Follows: the displacement of the focus from the terms to the relations, the procedure of the reversal as an exemplary tool, the language practice seen as a power. The immanent thought of Spinoza makes itself clear while using the Machiavellian paradigm of time. The theory of the two conflicting perspectives shows its meaning and consequences in light of the distinction between power of the multitude and the institutional power of authorities. This leads to reflections on the necessity of free thought and speech, and disobedience. I want to illustrate this thesis in three moments. First, referring to some subversive texts written by friends of Spinoza, fellow thinkers or political allies who influenced him or who were influenced by him, political treatises/pamphlets from Van den Enden and De la Court, but equally well dictionaries and grammars from Meyer and Koerbagh. Second, feeding back to Spinoza's texts, the TTP and TP with a particular attention to the matter of language. Third, confronting them with two confutations written by adversaries of Spinoza, both in Dutch, which clarify in an exemplary way the political nature of the polemics. I will confront the TP with the confutation of the Ethics (1683) by the trader/linguist/jurist Verwer which focuses on the presumed atheism based on the principle of independence that functions as a watershed in history of thought between two radically opposed political perspectives, with Spinoza on the same side as Machiavelli. I will lastly confront the TTP with the confutation of the TTP (1674) by the grain trader Blyenberg, a book found in the personal library of Spinoza and, so is my hypothesis, used to sharpen his arguing in the TP. Blyenberg wants to reverse Spinoza's reversals, redress the free will and morality, restore the fear of punishment as basis for politics, stop the reduction of humans to animals, disconnect the reason from power and lust, and abolish the permission 'to feel what one wants and to say what one feels'. The question arises who benefits from one theory or the other. If my presumption is correct that the TP can be seen as Spinoza's powerful, paradigmatic and clear answer to this confutation, then its arguments sustain an ethical political, immanent ontology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventUnknown -
Duration: 1 Jan 2013 → …

Conference

ConferenceUnknown
Period1/01/13 → …

Keywords

  • Political Early Modern Thought
  • Philosophy of language and politics

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