Come as you are .. to Spinoza (and Deleuze)

Deleuze is difficult, but I read his work like opaque poetry. There are good maps available for those who want to engage in what Deleuze called the “nonphilosophical understanding of philosophy.” I don’t read to understand, but understanding comes in the same rushes of lucidity that is common with enigmatic or oracular poetry.

Spinoza can also be difficult, and Deleuze on Spinoza no less so. My edition of Spinoza: Practical Philosophy is translated by Robert Hurley, who offers up this wonderful introduction which I think encapsulates what I am trying to say in this post:

[..] one doesn’t have to follow up every proposition, make every connection-the intuitive or affective reading may be more practical anyway. What if one accepted the invitation-come as you are-and read with a different attitude, which might be more like the way one attends to poetry? Then difficulty would not prevent the flashes of understanding that we anticipate in the poets that we love, difficult thought they may be. The truly extraordinary thing about Deleuze is precisely the quality of love that his philosophy expresses; it is active in everything he has written.

This quality of love is also precisely what compels me about Spinoza’s philosophy.

6 thoughts on “Come as you are .. to Spinoza (and Deleuze)

  1. I’m currently reading Marjorie Perloff’s “Wittgenstein’s Ladder”, listen to this quote from Wittgenstein’s “Culture and Value”:
    Philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry. (Philosophie dürfte man eigentlich nur dichten).

    As I see it, Deleuze is practicing a Wittgensteinian-method. I like it a lot, but can only read it in small doses.

  2. Hello Anthony,
    Stumbled into your space while trying to find a free download of a good introduction/reading guide to Delueze’s thought. Coincidently, have been trying to find my way through Spinoza’s logic for months . Your post articulates an intuition about the act of reading difficult texts that I will thankfully clutch as I flounder about in a sea of new ideas ( for me that is—some of them are older than old—the best ones of course)

    Even more interesting is to approach writing from the same standpoint… a sort of stuttering towards an approximation of ‘what is’ by means of an embarrassingly cruel self exposure bordering on the masochistic… that is when measured against the Author (ized) King James version of what passes as the Truth.

    • Hello Patrick,

      The moments of most intense clarity I’ve had into Spinoza’s work have been obtained through reading Santayana’s work. Santayana constructed his work under the influence of Spinoza and the Greeks.

    • My reading of Santayana was all over the place. Indiana Press published The Essential Santayana (2009), which looks like it carries the main works. Santayana’s autobiography Persons and Places also deals quite a bit with Spinoza, as well as being a fascinating intellectual memoir.

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