Of Suicide and Falling Stones: Finitude, Contingency, and Corporeal Vulnerability in (Judith Butler’s) Spinoza
in Hegel after Spinoza: A Volume of Critical Essays, ed. Hasana Sharp and Jason Smith (London: Bloomsbury/Continuum, 2012), 151-69
24 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2016
Date Written: December 19, 2016
This paper juxtaposes Judith Butler's reading of Spinoza with the commonly-received, originally Deleuzian, presentation of Spinoza as the "anti-Hegel" or as the presentation of "positivity" against Hegelian "negativity." Working via the key commentary by Pierre Macherey in Hegel ou Spinoza, I argue that, once we no longer are compelled to read Spinoza as Hegel's negation or opposite, the way is open to see a Spinoza who is profoundly concerned with human fragility and finitude. the Spinoza that emerges presents a more cautious, but also potentially more generous, approach to emancipatory politics.
To put the point too schematically, readings of the affirmative Spinoza tend to develop the importance of conatus as resistance, at the expense of developing an understanding of the importance of limitations imposed by our own finitude. It seems to me that much of Butler’s thought can be read as bringing those elements together. How do we understand conatus, and marshal it as resistance, given the inevitability of finitude and constraint as factors that structure the desires through which we actually live?
Keywords: Spinoza, Hegel, Deleuze, finitude, negation
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation