- Response to Warren Montag's Review of Epistemontology
Warren Montag's review generously offers alternative paths for examining some of the theses advanced in Epistemontology, while inviting me to elaborate on the precise sense of a key epistemontological term, "homology," and to set epistemontology once again in dialogue with Althusser and Macherey, including regarding the concepts of monism and structure.1
Montag's review centers around what he considers to constitute "the heart of Kordela's initiative," namely Spinoza's proposition that "the order and connections of ideas is the same as the order and connections of things" (Ethics II, P7). This proposition follows from the fact that, "according to Spinoza's monistic principle, thought (mind) and things (bodies or extension) are manifestations of one and the same being or substance" (E, 1; cited by Montag). However, this does not mean that thought and things are the same, since it is "in spite of the incommensurable difference between ideas and things, [that] their relations share the same structures, and both, ideas and things, express the same substance or being" (E, 1; cited by Montag). Epistemontology refers to this relation between thought or ideas and extension or things (bodies) by using the term "homology," whose exact meaning becomes a question for both Montag and Clemens and Hughes, with homology in the biological sense, analogy, isomorphism, and parallelism (a term that I also use) being considered by the reviewers as possible candidates.
Before proceeding to address this point, it will be useful to summarize the main thesis of epistemontology, according to which substance or Being is the unvarying power of actualizing itself in beings that are conceived as either structures or as what exceeds them. To quote from [End Page 189] Epistemontology, it is only "in one respect [that] substance or Nature or God—which for Spinoza are one and the same—is a structure," or, more specifically, it is "structurality itself: the potential of any concrete structure to constitute itself, or in Deleuze's words, 'God [is] the source of all the constitutive relations of things' (Deleuze 1990: 297)" (E, 2). This is presupposed for explaining the intertwined emergence "of modern natural sciences, that is, the translation of natural phenomena into laws qua purely formal structures" (E, 2) and the development of modern thought toward formalism and structuralism—the two main directions of modern thought, as Epistemontology argues. Now, being is the power of self-actualization, whether what it actualizes is and is perceived as structure or as its excess. Nevertheless, with the expression being as "power of self-actualization" I generally refer to being's power to actualize itself as anything that cannot be conceived as structure, so that statements such as "being is the undifferentiated union of the power of self-actualization and of structurality" (E, 4) mean that being is the undifferentiated union of the power of being to actualize itself as the excess to structure and the power of being to actualize itself as structure. "However, as we can conceive of substance only through its attributes—i.e., after a minimum of differentiation" (E, 4)—so, too, can we conceive of substance not as undifferentiated but either as structurality (the potential of structures to be constituted and actualized) or as the power of being to actualize itself as something that exceeds structure, with affect (Spinoza/Deleuze) and jouissance (Lacan) being names with which Epistemontology refers to the latter. In short, in both cases, being is and is conceived as a power of self-actualization, but in the former it actualizes itself as structure, in the latter as the structure's excess or waste. In modernity, capitalist economy and the secular discourse amount to the domination of structure as value (economic or linguistic), a phenomenon that, insofar as being is (partly) the power of structurality (the unvarying power to actualize itself as structure), leads to the illusion that capital is an indestructible machine in which value perpetually actualizes itself. And "because capitalism … is inseparable from commodity fetishism"—that is, the fact that the relations of commodities constitute the producers' "language" (Marx 1990, 167)—"thought and bodies [appear to] express being exclusively as value and are...