19 Oct 2009

6: Seeing Differences between Descartes and Spinoza. Some Observations on Spinoza’s Sight. [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.]

Seeing Differences

between Descartes and Spinoza

Kvond of Frames /sing

Spinoza’s Foci

Part I: The concept of the Philosopher as Lens Grinder

How The Two Philosophers “See”

Kvond will comment on his earlier post, A Diversity of Sight: Descartes vs. Spinoza.

Occular metaphors pervade western thought. Spinoza's use of them could have profound implications for how we interpret his metaphysical ideas.

Kvond compares optical diagrams from Spinoza and Descartes.

Descartes' Ur Image: The Hyperbola

[Image obtained gratefully from the same kvond posting.]

Spinoza's Ideal Optical Eye

[Again, thanks]

The first diagram is a hyperbolic lens. It focuses to a point all the rays parallel to its central axis. It illustrates the rationalist ideal of focused, clear, and distinct thinking. Kvond writes:
it is best to understand that this image for Descartes is likely intuitive of directions for investigation, steering both his theories and empirical observations.
The second diagram of Spinoza's 'ideal eye' depicts a spherical lens that is "able to focus rays parallel to a variety of axes (in fact, an infinity of axes)" (kvond). But human vision is not panoptical in this way. However, the way we see things in our mind's eye could come closer.
Ideal mental vision, instead of being modeled upon a central point of focus, Spinoza conceives of as panoptical; that is, one “sees” as best as a human mind can the cross-section of rays as they converge from every direction upon the human being.
Kvond notes that this comparison is too simple to fully capture all the complexities and affinities involved. However, we still may draw probing philosophical conclusions:
For one, in that Descartes’ hyperbola inheritance may be traced to Kepler’s Paralipomena its conceptual framework should be viewed as grafted from that Neo-Platonic Ideal, opening up the question of what aporias arise under such a graft (for instance, a point of focus in a Neo-Platonic realm, does not operate with the same powers or meanings as a point of focus does within a Will-driven conception of the soul). Additionally, Spinoza’s rejection of the naturalization of the hyperbola, and the analogy of center-focused human vision, has far-reaching consequences for the reading of the place of the Self in his philosophy of power and affect. If Ideal vision occurs across a field of foci, the periphery has no less a “truth” than any center. The margin does not merely, as Kepler says, “serve” the axis - so goes the critique in so many postmodern attacks on a philosophy of Presence – hence the margin is the very place where a search for truth is made, whether it be the margin of society or a comprehensive Totality of Being. (kvond)

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