Sleepwalking with Spinoza

Sleepwalking with Spinoza

There is a relationship between Spinoza and Deleuze comparable to the embryo and the fetus. What is presented in an embryological form in Spinoza, receives flesh in Deleuze. Here the question of categories and the brain is (incompletely) traced from Spinoza to Deleuze. More precisely, the categorization that the brain engages in when encountering the world outside the skull bone.

"It is in this way that those notions have arisen which is called Universals, such as, Man, Horse, Dog, etc. That is to say, so many images of men, for instance, are formed in the human body at once, that they exceed the power of the imagination, not entirely, but to such a degree that the mind has no power to imagine the determinate number of men and the small differences of each such as color and size etc. It will therefore distinctly imagine that only in which all of them agree in so far as the body is affected of them, for by that the body was chiefly affected, that is to say, by each individual, and this it will express by the name Man covering thereby an infinite number of individuals" Spinoza - Ethics, II, 40, Scholium

In this scholium, one of these embryos is formed in Spinoza. Placing the universals, not in a transcendent realm, but rather as a practical solution by the brain. The incapacity to deal with infinite individuals (events), is handled by inventing Universals. An efficiency measure to handle abstract concepts. This move opens a split between representation and event. The human brain becomes a complex filtering agent of its surrounding. And, as Spinoza notices, what is left out is “the small differences”. When an infinite number of individuals becomes explained in one single concept, infinite differences cease being grasped. This is not a novel question, and later in history, Kant does a thorough job mapping the categories of reason. But Spinoza's observation paves the way for another question. If the brain “simplifies” reality. Then, how would reality appear, if not filtered by the brain? How would Spinoza speak of the Kantian ding an sich? This question is also close to the heart of Deleuzian metaphysics. And when Deleuze seems to suggest that beyond representation the world should be viewed as infinite events. And ultimately one Eventum Tantum. This notion is already (embryologically) present in Spinoza.

[...] thus if we advance ad infinitum, we may easily conceive the whole of nature to be one individual, that is to say, all bodies differ in infinite ways without any change of the whole individual. - Spinoza, Ethics, II, 7, Scholium

The whole of nature viewed as one individual, one body. Containing its own infinite differences. A precursor to the concept of the body without organs. Intensities and singularities working itself out. Internal change occurring without changing the whole, change out balancing itself. The BwO charge = 0. Bodies touch bodies, singularities affecting singularities - ad infinitum. The world is an egg, pregnant with becoming. The human body is just one body among many. One singular event inside the one event. In this ontology of becoming, the relationship between the mind and body comes to light again. As noted above the mind (or the brain) seems to categorize, and simplify all singularities. Therefore, knowledge of its own body is affected and determined by this. What then would the body do, if not determined by the limiting functions of the mind?

"For what the body can do, no one has hitherto determined. that is to say, experience has taught no one hitherto what the body without being determined by the mind can do" Spinoza - Ethics, III, 2, Scholium

Early in Deleuze’s Spinoza commentary (Practical Philosophy), this question comes to the front. We don’t know what a body can do? Or rather, the mind in and of itself can only give inadequate knowledge of the body. The body has a life of its own, outside the conscious experience. Indwelling in its immediate surroundings. To remind us of this, Spinoza points to a state of human experience where we are given a glimpse of a complete bodily engagement with the world - sleepwalking.

"[...] they know not what a body can do, [...], as those things which sleepwalkers do at which they are surprised when they are awake." Spinoza - Ethics, III, 2, Scholium

Sleepwalking is the body being a body among other bodies, without consciousness. It’s the reminder of who you are without your mind, you without being you. The real you? or the zombified version of you? Every time the human brain is awake, it separates itself, starts categorizing again. In and out of sleep it goes, in and out of nature. However, to become a sleepwalker maybe isn’t the best way towards deeper knowledge. The human lived experience is a consequence of successful survival strategies, but falling back to “evolutionary default” is not an option either. Rather, to reach a comprehension of difference and of the world and body as an event, the brain somehow needs to be reconfigured. Short-circuiting itself in order to look beyond its own categorization. The brain has to somehow fall forward, not backward. Into something other then it’s own biological history. To avoid falling into a sleepwalking existence - dead while still breathing - a new mind must emerge.

"Nothing more can be said, and no more has ever been said: to become worthy of what happens to us and thus to will and release the event, to become the offspring of one’s own events, and thereby to be reborn, to have one more birth, and to break with one’s carnal birth" Deleuze - Logic of Sense

The old question of: “How can someone be born when they are old?”, still is valid.

Cautious Creation

Cautious Creation

Will We Eat Ourselves?

Will We Eat Ourselves?