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  • Marx and Spinoza?On Kordela's Epistemontology as the Latest Systematic Program of Spinozist Marxism
  • Simon Hajdini (bio)

A. Kiarina Kordela's approach to topics discussed in her latest monograph, Epistemontology in Spinoza-Marx-Freud-Lacan, is significantly marked by her arguably unusual choice of the book's title. Easily misread, misspoken, and miswritten—and unless misread, misspoken, or miswritten—the tongue-twisting title strikes the attentive reader as a Freudian slip, that is, as an instance of those tiny linguistic mishaps with drastic consequences examined by Freud in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (2001 [1901]). And, I should like to claim, very rightly so. It is such a reading of the title that provides the reader with perhaps the simplest of entries into Kordela's new book.

The title should be viewed and read in terms of a deliberate deployment of the mechanism of "distortion," or Entstellung (to use Freud's term), as constitutive of the innermost workings of the unconscious. In line with the commanding wager of Freudian psychoanalysis, and owing to their contingent sonic likenesses, words are liable to mutual contaminations that give rise to ostensibly nonsensical formations such as slips of the tongue. These contingent encounters, however nonsensical they may appear, are productive of another—unexpected or symptomatic—sense that lingers at the edges of the neatly discerned molecules of language, in turn giving voice to their elusive, and linguistically disruptive, affinities. Accordingly, "epistemontology" should be read as a philosophical slip of the tongue, with Kordela's Epystemontology figuring as its whopping book-length commentary.

In an attempt to shed light on the foreclosed common ground of ontology and epistemology, Kordela stages a mutually contaminating [End Page 103] encounter between these two distinct philosophical disciplines, in turn introducing the reader to "epistemontology" as their at once condensed and distorted offspring. Lacking any substantial footing, or a realm of its own, the in-between of epistemology and ontology forms "an Other scene," einen anderen Schauplatz, to use Fechner's term deployed by Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams (2001 [1900], IV, 48). It forms an Other scene that can be grasped only by way of an epistemontological short circuit. The focal points of this short circuit are indicated in the second part of Kordela's title, consisting of a series of proper names, arranged into a hyphenated chain rather than neatly discerned by the customary use of commas. If the book's main title, Epistemontology, is to be read as mirroring one aspect of the Freudian distortion, namely the unconscious mechanism of "condensation," or Verdichtung, standing for an overlapping fusion of two distinctive signifiers into seemingly indistinct nonsense, its second part should be read as mirroring the second of the two mechanisms of the unconscious, that of Verschiebung, or "displacement." The hyphenated sequence of proper names suggests a metonymically persisting, yet elusively displaced, presence of epistemontology yet to be uncovered in the theories of Spinoza, Marx, Freud, and Lacan.

Therefore, the two linguistic molecules that make out Kordela's title are to be interpreted as ciphers of the two chief mechanisms of the unconscious, which Jakobson famously linked to the two fundamental axes of language as defined by Saussure, thus establishing a structural homology between the Freudian couplet of condensation and displacement, on the one hand, and the linguistic duality of paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations (or of metaphor and metonymy), on the other. It is well known that this Jakobsonian linking—mediated through the work of Lévi-Strauss—was instrumental in setting off Lacan's "return to Freud," the gist of which is captured in his famous motto: "the unconscious is structured like a language" (1993, 167). The metaphorical condensation of "epistemontology" and the hyphenated metonymical chain of "Spinoza-Marx-Freud-Lacan" thus mirror and mobilize the two basic operations not only of language but of structurality as such. In this way, they enable us to make sense of the subtitle of Kordela's book: "The (bio)power of structure." Spinoza, Marx, Freud, and Lacan occupy an Other scene as the scene of structurality, and are "coupled" solely by it.1 [End Page 104]

It is precisely the notion and logic of structure, ultimately modeled upon...


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