- Kiarina Kordela's Epistemontology:Monism, Parallelism, and the Problem of Singularity
To read Kiarina Kordela's Epistemontology, as the title itself seems, if only in retrospect, to warn the unwary reader, is to immerse oneself in a fast-moving current of thought in which terms, concepts, names, and languages, lifted out of their original contexts, come together only sooner or later to be pulled apart again and hurtle on toward new encounters. It is to witness firsthand the movement of things from "encounter to encounter, to a pile-up and the birth of a world," as Althusser put it (169). Such worlds are born neither from order nor from nothing: their birth is made possible by a breaking apart and freeing up of the pieces of previous worlds. In the realm of theory, this means that previous theories are not simply nullified (in a legal sense) by a rational judgment, nor are they annihilated, never to appear again in the realm of philosophy or theory. They are instead broken apart, separated from themselves, by an act of division that is directed, not haphazardly, but at the site of already existing lines (or fractures) of separation that have become visible and identifiable as such after a long period of invisibility. As Plato argued, the philosopher is like a butcher who knows exactly where to make the cut: those places, joints and sockets, where two separate parts are connected (Phaedrus 265e).
Kordela makes many such cuts and separations, combining parts we did not know were parts into a new body, a new world she calls "epistemontology." We would do well to keep these preliminary observations in mind as we follow her argument, given the sheer number of theories Kordela mobilizes, some of them irreducibly antagonistic at precisely the points that interest her. Rather than suppress or overlook difference and conflict, however, she arranges the theoretical singularities she produces into a new form or body that she calls "structuralism." [End Page 169] As she is quick to point out, the term is meant to be understood, not in its historical specificity, as "the eponymous twentieth-century theoretical movement, even as some of its aspects remain central in approaching structuralism as meant here" (2). Kordela's structuralism is "the specific episteme required for the study of value within secular capitalist modernity—which is also to say, for the study of things insofar as, in capitalism, they are also values" (2). It rests on a notion of "structurality" (2) that allows us to understand things diacritically (drawing from both Marx and Saussure) as values whose existence and identity are determined by the set of differential relations to which it belongs: "Henceforth, both thought and reality express being as value. … Insofar as thought and reality in capitalist modernity express being as value, value becomes the ubiquitous object of knowledge, from economics, aesthetics, ethics, and accounts of subjectivity and society, to ontology. As a result, a tendency toward formalization and structuralism—the model of thought capable of grasping the logic of value—marks and defines the philosophical and theoretical paradigm of secular capitalist modernity" (4).
The notion of structuralism, or more fundamentally "structurality," the condition of possibility of any structure or structuralism, Kordela argues, is itself made intelligible by Spinoza's declaration that 'the eternal and infinite being, whom we call God, or Nature, acts by the same necessity whereby it exists" (EIV, Preface). The Latin conjunction "sive" (Deus, sive Natura) here establishes an equivalence or, perhaps more precisely, a synonymy between realms previously assumed to exist in opposition, not only different but mutually exclusive, two distinct substances between which there is nothing in common: "do you not know that love of the world is enmity towards God?" (John 4:4). God and his creation, spirit and matter, become identical in Spinoza's formulation. God's being is action, the infinite act of becoming himself in his creation: "God could not have been prior to his decrees, nor could he have been without them" (EI, P33, Sch. 2). The intelligibility of God or nature (its structurality) is immanent in its existence and therefore in its infinite self-production, a relation Spinoza describes in EII...