Diaries: Spinoza’s poetics

Diaries: Spinoza’s poetics
Publicity image . Spinoza
Ainārs Kamoliņš, philosopher
On 8 February, the premiere of the publication “Diaries: Spinoza’s poetics” (Dienasgrāmatas: Spinozas poētika) (author – Ainārs Kamoliņš) by the contemporary art center “kim?” will be held. The publication is part of the “Riga 2014” programme “Waiting for... (the archeology of an idea)”. On the same day, the reading “Death comes first: Spinoza, Freud, Lacan” by philosopher Aaron Schuster will be held at the building of the National Library of Latvia on Kr. Barona Street.

The argument that Spinoza is only interesting to historians of philosophy or metaphysicians is a rather surprising one. The influence of his thoughts is present in other fields also, like deep ecology theory, coined by the Norwegian thinker Arne Næss, as well as Albert Einstain and others alike were much found of him. Though art was not among his main interests, his influence on the field was rather significant. It is most present in the works of the German romanticists (Goethe considered himself to be a Spinozist).

The character of Spinoza, the philosopher, has been quite often used in literature (the works of J. H. Borges, I. Singer and others, as well as the story “Spinoza” by J. Brāzma was published in the first part of the 20th century in Latvia). Spinoza’s modest lifestyle spoke well of his character as a philosopher. He was a loner for the most part of his life, polishing lenses for scientific instruments, therefore vindicating the concept that philosophy is the trade to be practiced when alone.

It should be noted that Spinoza’s philosophical views were considered to be radical for his time, for example, he was among the first to analyze the Bible as a historic document.

In metaphysics he assumed that there is only one substance (the identification of God and nature allowed him to be blamed for atheism) and that all that exists is strictly determined, as well as that free will is just an illusion, etc. Some historians consider him to be one of the main figures of radical enlightenment: one who stands up for religious skepticism and liberal political system.


They why all of a sudden to focus on Spinoza’s “Ethics”? His influence on different thinkers, literates and scientists was mentioned already. The focus of “Diaries: Spinoza’s poetics” is his last and most excellent work – “Ethics” (1677).

Not only the content of the piece, but also its form is very interesting: it has been written in a manner, similar to a geometry tractate – the reader is offered concisely formulated axioms, definitions, theorems, etc. Basically, the whole text is interconnected and forms sort of an interconnected web of statements.

He proposes his system within a book. Spinoza reveals his views on God, knowledge, emotions, politics and other things in a manner of mathematically sound arguments and evidence.

Ideally, the reader of “Ethics” should be able to understand all of these arguments, while the conclusions should be as evident as mathematics. Such text layout may tempt the reader to arrange it and propose the question – does its meaning change it the formal layout is changed? I chose to not read the book as a philosopher, who proposes the argument order, making sense of them and trying to establish its internal logic or contradictions. I think that this piece can be interpreted differently, for example, by trying to rearrange to argument order and by trying to disarrange the connections between the different theorems in the text itself. Therefore, the ordo geometrico, proposed by Spinoza himself, is broken down.

To do so, I begun writing down the reading process for this piece. Certainly, this in no shape or form should be looked at from an academic point of view, as it consists of completely different rules for reading and arguing. The reading process itself was an attempt to find those text fragments that could be misinterpreted or could serve the purpose of changing the meaning of the text and its purpose.

Therefore, one of the main issues of the publication is – what happens is Spinoza’s work is mistaken for a text about art?

It should be noted that though art cannot serve as an adequate instrument of knowledge, but, according to Spinoza, it holds an important role in the everyday lives of people.

In a fragment, where Spinoza focuses on conditions for a good life, he reveals the positive aspects of enjoying art in a broader form: “I say it is the part of a wise man to refresh and recreate himself with moderate and pleasant food and drink, and also with perfumes, with the soft beauty of growing plants, with dress, with music, with many sports, with theatres, and the like, such as every man may make use of without injury to his neighbor,” (Ethics, IV, proposition 45, scholia). This short fragment served as source of inspiration for playing out the hypothetical scenario that “Ethics” could be read as a poetic tractate. The piece that similar to Aristotle's Poetics describes the ideal conditions for creating art. The publication features several fragments of the diary that try to create several “Spinoza’s theaters” that follow specific directions from “Ethics”. “Diaries” does not try to create a steady story. The fragmentariness of the story has been created on purpose and consists of collages that all unite Spinoza’s “Ethics”. Therefore, the proposed reading of Spinoza’s “Ethics” in the publication approaches the history of philosophy, understood dadaistically.


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