Bodies, Masses, Power
Spinoza and His Contemporaries
160 pages / January 2000 / 9781859847015
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A groundbreaking interpretation of Spinoza as materialist.
This book seeks to show, against the grain of English language commentary, that Spinoza is neither a Cartesian nor a liberal but precisely the most thoroughgoing materialist in the history of philosophy. The work begins by examining Spinoza’s notion of the materiality of writing, a notion developed through his examination of scripture. It then postulates the three fundamental principles of Spinoza’s philosophy: there can be no liberation of the mind without a liberation of the body, and no liberation of the individual without a collective liberation, and that the written form of these propositions itself possesses a corporeal existence, not as the realization or materialization of a pre-existing mental, spiritual intention, but as a body among other bodies. Ultimately, the book prompts us to consider Spinoza’s philosophy anew, by replacing questions like “Who has read it?” and “Of those, how many of us have understood it?” with “What material effects has it produced, not only on or in minds, but on bodies as well?” and “To what extent has it moved bodies and what has it moved them to?”
“The materiality of scripture, the objectivity of the regime of the mind, the naturality of the political body: such are the three themes that Warren Montag has chosen in order to open a direct path to Spinoza’s thought. I admire the clarity and intelligence with which he has been able to extract from this thought that which, even today, can speak to a readership beyond the historians of philosophy enclosed in the narrow limits of their speciality.”
“In this beautiful book Montag suggests the possibility that Spinoza’s political ontology is capable not only of giving form to democratic power, but of giving creativity to the body of the multitude.”