Freed Nature: Hasana Sharp, Spinoza, Schelling pt. 1

05Jul12

I’ve started reading Hasana Sharp’s Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization. I have a feeling already that this is going to be one of those ‘so near, nor far!’ kind of reading experiences but it is a bit too early to tell.

Looking at the abstract for Levi Bryant’s upcoming talk (which is also about nature) I start to circle around the same kinds of problems that arise when trying to define or even talk about nature writ large. In terms of a historical concept (both histories of nature and ecology show this) nature has differed as stuff to be worshiped and more and more becoming stuff to be used. Many ecologically minded tend to excavate the former ‘more pagan’ idea of nature (such as in Gaia) in order to combat the latter tendency. But, as I’ve argued in a few pieces, both these strategies separate humans from nature; as Timothy Morton has put it both always talk about a nature over there.

The most convincing ground for tossing nature ‘over there’ as fuel reserves, aesthetic view, preserved things and so on, is to separate and distance humans from nature via our intentionality, or freedom, or free will or whatever you want to call it. Having charged through Spinoza’s Ethics it is not hard to see why his smashing of nature and will was heretical and why he this aspect of his work (as Sharp argues) is downplayed in the political uptake of his work. Sharp argues that Spinoza maintains a parallelism view of mind and nature as opposed the compatibilist view attributed to Kant (2-3). Those this parallelism is breached and crossed by a theologically anchored immanence, a theology which I am not sure if Sharp will adequately address. I think this problem with immanence’s relation to theology is what Peter Hallward tries to bring out in Out of this World as an indirect critique of Deleuze (which mostly comes out in his choice of language).

What remains to be seen in Sharp’s book is how she can maintain naturalism and parallelism without the connecting tissue of theology. As Brassier’s work has weirdly shown, to use immanence itself as a form of explanation tends to beg the question (giving the subject too much nature determining power) whereas a transcendental divide at least admits a lack of power or epistemological limitation. Schelling is interesting here because his divide is transcendental in a way that is a naturalistic break: a form of emergence which engenders a new methodology for dealing with thought thinking itself versus thought thinking nonthought (I addressed some of this in my talk at Thinking the Absolute available here).

I’m going to keep working through Sharp’s book for a paper I am working on regarding Schelling’s thought for ecological politics.

Connective Errata:

Scu discussed Sharp’s book here in relation to flat ethics.

Peter Gratton’s extensive review of the book is here.

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One Response to “Freed Nature: Hasana Sharp, Spinoza, Schelling pt. 1”


  1. 1 Woodard looks at Sharp’s Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization « PHILOSOPHY IN A TIME OF ERROR

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