12 Sep 2009

1: Grinding Philosophies. As Lensmaker: A Quick Overview. [The Kvond Spinoza’s Foci Summary Series]


Summary of kvond’s ideas, by Corry Shores
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The Kvond Spinoza’s Foci Summary Series


[Kvond’s original work with Spinoza’s optics and lens craftsmanship has led me to see Spinoza’s ideas in a whole new way. If you have the chance, check out his blog, especially his work with Spinoza. He’s a world class Spinoza scholar.]



Kvond of Frames /sing


Spinoza’s Foci


Part I: The concept of the Philosopher as Lens Grinder


As Lensmaker: A Quick Overview


A fresh look at Spinoza’s lens grinding enables us to return anew to his metaphysical ideas, “seeing” them in terms of his optical ideas and daily craft.

Note first, that for Spinoza, there is one substance underlying all reality. This is god. It is infinite. It expresses itself in infinitely many attributes, and each one is itself infinite (because it is not limited by anything else). And they parallel each other. There is a certain logical order that conjoins the things in each attribute. For example, physical causation links together the things extending in the physical world around us. And formal logic connects the ideas we have for these things. The “order and connection” in the one case is the same order and connection as in the other. Hence the parallelism. Kvond raises this point to illustrate the parallelism between Spinoza’s lens grinding and his metaphysics. And just like the collective labor that invents and operates shop machinery, so too has cooperative human effort manufactured our finest-quality ideas.

He ground microscope lenses, refining them down to the smallest (infinitesimal) particles. Similarly, he “ground” his ideas down to their elemental parts in his Ethics, to build a philosophical device that enables profound conceptual clarity. So his engagement with optics informed his philosophy. Kvond writes:

Spinoza invested daily hours in the craftsman’s mediation of shaping semi-transparent material under a mathematical conception, to be placed in material assemblage with the body; and this practice surely both informed and expressed his philosophical conception of what is human, what is God, and the political. (kvond)

By studying Spinoza, our minds obtain clarity. In this way, his optics-inspired philosophy really serves us as a conceptual lens.

And consider: our eyes are lenses. And they are the gateway to our soul. But like all doorways, movement can exchange both ways. Light from images enters them. But as well, eye movements express our inner thoughts and sentiments. For Spinoza, affection and expression go hand-in-hand.

The two must coincide for Spinoza. As his driving hand (or his foot) felt the sensitive, resistant grind of the cup, as his ears heard the quality of the abrasive alter under its effect, and his eye picked up the clued traces of method, hour after hour, the glint, strum and lub must have enacted the clarity that was to be achieved, a wholly material, that is to say, physical, expression of craft and thus freedom. (kvond)




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