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Of Freedom: Heidegger on Spinoza

This essay will be published by Epoche: Journal of the History of Philosophy, in the Fall of

Ah, the wind, the wind[1] is blowing

Through the graves, the wind is blowing
Freedom soon will come;
Then well come from the shadows.
Leonard Cohen, The Partisan[2]

Spinoza is quoted approvingly (for instance, by Deleuze in his Expressionism in Philosophy:

Spinoza[3] and by Andre Garcia Dttman[4]) to the effect that the free man is the one who thinks
about, or fears, death the least.[5] Such fear he considers to be a passive emotion, or affection,
which is a bondage to pain, symptomatic of our impotence and servitude. Spinoza writes,
Hope is nothing else but an inconstant pleasure, arising from the image of something future or
past, whereof we do not yet know the issue. Fear, on the other hand, is an inconstant pain also
arising from the image of something concerning which we are in doubt. If the element of doubt
be removed from these emotions, hope becomes Confidence and fear becomeDespair. In other
words, Pleasure or Pain arising from the image of something concerning which we have hoped or
The free man, in this light, is one who has not only cultivated the stronger active emotion
of acquiescence to the univocal chorus of necessity, but has also learned to disengage external
factors which are coincident with such passive emotions to organise an order of encounters as
Deleuze describes in his Expressionism. Heidegger, on the contrary, who undertakes a
meditation upon Spinozism in the context of his 1936 lecture course, Schellings Treatise on
Freedom,[7] would seem to take issue with Spinoza in his own contention that the one who faces
his or her ownmost possibility of death without evasion, is the one who is most free or, who will

have found him or herself in a moment that discloses the necessity of ones own singular
Heidegger places a great emphasis upon the epistemic role of mood, and specifically, in this
context, upon anxiety and with the usual stipulations, we could argue that he has a unique, and
seemingly more open relationship with the (negative) emotional aspect of existence than does
Spinoza. Of course, Spinoza, as Deleuze advertises, is a great seeker of Joy and pleasant
emotions (in moderation); yet, it is his aversion to the sad passions and pain which clearly
distinguishes him from Heidegger. At the same time, however, Spinoza does contend that
passions do disclose our weakness, and thus, play an epistemological role, though one not
pursued in the way Heidegger suggests. While this question of taste may seem to be
irreconcilable, I would like to show that in essential respects, the philosophies of Spinoza and
Heidegger exhibit a strong isomorphism in regard to singularity of the founding event of
In other words, there is an isomorphism between the singularity of the event of ecstatic
resoluteness and the un-thematised ontological difference in the concept of substance as that
which is in itself and is conceived through itself.[9] That which marks the divergence in their
philosophies lies in the temporality of substance (or, the lack thereof), and thus of the
relationship of finitude and freedom. We could suggest that it is thus in the domain of ontology,
that the radical temporality of human existence is suppressed in Spinoza. Their philosophies
diverge in that Spinoza espouses an ontology of a divine, eternal substance, while Heidegger
explicitly seeks to destroy the history of ontology, one of the primary targets of which being the
ousiology of the metaphysical tradition. From the perspective of
Heideggers fundamental ontology, substance remains within the domain of beings, of an entitive
metaphysics as its capacity to denote an ontological difference remains un-thematised.
This lack of ontological disclosure on the part of Spinoza reveals that he is uncritically repeating
(for whatever possible tactical reasons) an ontic metaphysics grounded upon the principle of
identity, and thus, for Heidegger, a generic sense of time. In this way, Spinoza places the seat of
freedom in that which is, contrary to the claims of his immanentism,
metaphysically transcendentto the being of human existence, as this latter is irreducibly
temporal in between time and eternity, to express ourselves in a variation of Platos Timaeus.
Of course, this is not to suggest that Spinoza endorsed transcendence per se, but that he
enacted what could be called a reverse panopticism, one which blocked out all that which could
tear Spinoza away from his ethical theorisation of immanence. That which is significant, with

respect to the relationship of Heidegger and Spinoza, will be this radical difference in ontological
perspectives, and the subsequent implication with respect to meaning of freedom, which, for
both philosophers, nevertheless remains, as Deleuze points out in Difference and Repetition,
[10] dependent upon their respective preliminary ontological investigations.

The Significance of Spinoza for Heidegger

The significance of Spinoza (and Spinozism) for Heidegger was long-standing and quite
profound though, like many of his most significant references, nearlyunsaid.[11] Of course, it is
Heideggers opposition to the rationalist and mathematical aspects of Spinozas philosophy that
is most pronounced in many of his extant statements. It is these aspects which come under
focus in his 1936 lectures on Schellings The Essence of Human Freedom in which Heidegger
states that it is Spinoza who was the first to develop a completely modern (post-theological)
philosophical system based upon the framework of a mathesis universalis. He states that the
need for a system in philosophy is specificallyModern in light of the attempt by philosophy to
establish an independent grounding, distinct from the then hegemonic Christian theology.
At the same time, Heidegger, sounding like Nietzsche, states that the problem of freedom enters
centre stage in light of the various efforts of system builders, and he attempts, over the period
of the rest of the lecture course, to explore the possibility of a system of freedom. Yet, while
there is an isomorphism in terms of the act or event structure of their respective accounts of
freedom, we will see that Heidegger nevertheless must reject Spinozas conception of freedom,
in that it is conceived as acquiescence to God (or Nature) a theoretical entity, sub specie
aeternitatus, and not a resolution amidst a situation of thrown projection,sub specie temporis.
In his exploration of Schelling, Heidegger, as suggested, attempts to comprehend the formers
attempt to outline a systematic philosophy which is founded upon freedom or, which does not
at the very least eliminate freedom as a possibility, even as the supreme possibility. Heidegger,
in this context, specifies that, for Schelling, it is precisely in a revolt against God, indeed, in
active evil or the self-assertion of human existence, that freedom is disclosed as the law of
ones own being. Spinozas notion of acquiescence, in that it is conceived amid the ambiguous
ontological logos of substance i.e., in its denial of the eigentlichkeitof radical temporality
becomes a fleeing-in-the-face-of in that it has, with its self-interpretation of existence in light of
eternity, failed to disclose the horror and ecstasy of a radically temporal sense of Being.

To be precise, while Spinoza regards divine Substance as our ownmost proper being, and that our
acquiescence is merely a pseudo-surrender to ourselves, Heidegger, as he is pursuing the
specific character of human freedom that of mortal temporality exposes the negativity of an
ontological difference of human existence from the being of beings, including the divine being a
distinction that lay hidden away in Spinozas secret hope.
The criterion for this difference is, in this way, that of human finitude indeed, of our very
inability to ever conceive of infinity or the eternal in any positive sense. Substance,
conceived in this way, is, for Heidegger, not our ownmost proper Being. In this light, the
respective views of death (and, thus, temporality) of Heidegger and Spinoza cast into relief a
precise temporal difference and may suggest a means that of destruktion, by which their
perspectives could be made as Heidegger had done with Leibniz congruent in their depiction
of the ecstatic character of human existence. As with Leibniz, Spinoza is trapped in the turret of
an adopted language and protocol that of system and its ecclesiastical roots the impulse to
encamp is understandable, though freedom could be is much more radical.

Detour: Heidegger on Kant and the Pantheist Controversy

The radical aspect of temporality, of finitude, is further thematised in Heideggers other
treatments of the essence of reason, most notable, in our context, in his work on Kant in his 1927
lecture courses Phenomenological Interpretation of Kants Critique of Pure Reason and Basic
Problems of Phenomenology, and his third published work, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics.
[13] Each of these texts undertake a destruktion of the ambiguity of the fragmentary character
of the Critical philosophy in light of the suggestion of unity in the reference, by Kant, to a
common though unknown root for the stems of concept and intuition. Heidegger
underlines the significance of the A edition of the Critique of Pure Reason and its emphasis upon
the transcendental role of the imagination in the constitution of pure knowledge.
Heidegger throws up a red flag over the second Edition revisions, which, he contends, give an
over-riding power to Reason, conceived problematically as pure understanding to the exclusion
of the various manifestations of transcendental imagination (temporality) in the constitution of
knowledge. We must recall that in Phenomenological Interpretation, Heidegger declared that the
transcendental imagination, in his re-reading of transcendental philosophy, is Reason itself. Such
a suggestion should not surprise us in that Kant has already taught us that substance is a
creature of the imagination a regulative idea, or principle, ens imaginarium spawned by the
schematism of transcendental imagination. The revisions, while not revising the section of

schematism, make it clear however that imagination operates within the limits of understanding
and at its behest.
With a closer look at the historicity of the question, we find that it is the issue of Spinozism that
it is the immediate context for a consideration of the transformation of Kantian philosophy. The
spectre of Spinozism, which concerns the question of the authority of reason, erupted in the
Pantheism controversy at the instigation of Jacobi (and Hamann) against Mendelssohn. In a
sustained period of criticism, Jacobi, in his 1782 Etwas das Leing gesagt hat: Ein Commentar zu
den Reisen der Ppste nebst Betrachtungen von einem Dritten[14]and his 1785 ber die Lehre
des Spinoza in Briefen an den Herrn Moses Mendelssohn,[15]not only revealed private letters in
which the late Lessing confesses his Spinozism, but also lays out the context for any acceptable
notion of the Absolute in his notion of feeling of Being (Gefhl), and the act of the salto mortale.
This dispute sheds light upon the development of Kants Critique of Pure Reason, in which he, in
his foray into the controversy, What is Orientation in Thinking? (1786), rehearsed the basic shift
in his thinking which became manifest in the revisions of the second edition of the Critique of
Pure Reason and in the Critique of Practical Reason (1787). Kant came down on the side of
Mendelssohn in the controversy, and with his essay on orientation, as Heidegger suggests, he
effectively ended the dispute. Spinozas substance will no longer be a thing, neither an
immanent God (Jacobi and Hamann), nor a festive nature (Rouseau and Heinse), mere creatures
of imagination, temporality but an idea of an authoritative Reason.
Heidegger makes much of the revisions of the Critique of Pure Reason, specifying not only the
rationalist i.e. Spinozist domestication of imagination and temporality in the constitution of
knowledge, but also the exclusion of temporality and imagination from the fundamental meaning
and operations of practical philosophy.[17] Indeed, contrary to Kants own purported limitation of
knowledge to make room for faith, it is clear that this limitation does not in itself limit the
authority of reason in practical matters, and this was noticed by those, such as Jacobi and
Hamann, who expressed their outrage at the time over what they regarded as Kants betrayal.
It would seem, in this way, that Kant, while pretending to dispel the taint of Spinozism as
a totalitarian theoretical knowledge, in fact establishes the rationalist philosophy of Spinoza at a
deeper, more subterranean level. We could argue that Spinoza is merely swallowed up within
Kants architectonic of transcendental subjectivity, but having been given a purely regulative
significance in the first instance becomes with the revisions, the principle of authority in the

dismissal of imagination. This dismissal finds, contrary to many commentators, its final
statement in the tragic failure of the imagination in the facelessness of the sublime in
the Critique of Judgment. The question arises as to the transformation of the meaning of
freedom in light of these shifts, revisions in thought and of what is lost in the revolution.[18]
The question of the subordination of temporality and imagination in the theoretical philosophy,
and its exclusion from the practical philosophy, was a central thematic in Heideggers late 1920s
investigations of Kant. In fact, he elaborates a distinct Kantian philosophy in his
Kantbook[19] in which the First Edition (A) characterisation of transcendental
imagination (Einsbildungskraft) is restored as a surrogate for Heideggers own indication of an
original, ecstatic temporality. As I have explored in depth in my Heideggers Early Philosophy,
[20]the 1920s radical phenomenology was an attempt not only to disclose the specific temporal
be-ing of human existence, but also to cultivate an indigenous conceptuality (the Existentiale) in
which such a be-ing could be expressed intimately.[21] There lurks in the temporal problematic
the supposition that Reason, or Spinozas God, as an a-temporal (eternal) substance, is not, and
does not express, properly, our own, human be-ing.[22]
As I will explore below, that which is deemed our own, Heidegger contends, is disclosed through
the negativity that specifies us over against beings which enter our world and any Being which
(whether through emanation, creation or expression) is said to produce our world. In this way,
an acquiescence to such a God, or Nature to such a necessity is not freedom as selfdetermination according to a law of ones own be-ing (a temporal lawfulness or regulation), but
an ideological and psychological surrender to what effectively is a transcendent, unworlded dogmatic being (one in which freedom means the transcendence
oftemporality conceived as generic (eg. digital) time. This is a law or logic that is expressly not
our own, but instead serves merely to cover over, conceal and forbid our ownmost be-ing.
While we will explore these issues in more detail in the following pages, suffice it to say for now
that we could very well argue that, of all the metaphysicians since Plato, it is Spinoza who is the
greatest target of Heideggers destruktion of the history of ontology. But, as the latter is not
meant to be merely an elimination, but a setting free of an original impulse for an ontology, we
will see that there is much that is akin between Heidegger and Spinoza, to the extent that the
former could be seen as a radicalisation of the latter, especially if we succeed in dismantling
the ousiological[23] theory of Being, which imprisons his philosophy as does a frame (Ge-stell).

Spinoza and Freedom

One way to understand Spinoza is in his own meta-criticism of Descartes. In contrast to the
latters schema of two heterogeneous substances, of thought (res cogitans) and extension (res
extensa), and of their incomprehensible relation, Spinoza demonstrates logically that there is
only one Substance and every being in the world is merely a modulation or mode of this
primordial being. In a re-contextualisation of Cartesian dualism, we begin to know our status as a
mode though our epistemic access to reality through the attributes of thought and extension. In
this way, for Spinoza, there is only one substance, but there are, for human beings, two parallel
ways in which we can have access to the modalities of the fundamental substance. Yet, in a
Promethean nod to Heidegger, these latter attributes are what is peculiar to human beings, to
finite beings, as God, or Nature possesses infinite attributes in its substance. We, as finite
beings, are merely modes of substance, and thought and extension are our only ways of
apprehending our predicament.
Freedom, however, is delineated by Spinoza as that which transcends the circle of limited
attributes freedom, Being (as intimated as the feeling (Gefuhl) of Being by the early German
and English[24] Romantics) lies only in the absolute, in the apprehension of infinity, of infinite
attributes. A confusion lies in these words as this ecstasy beyond entities, could very well be in
the moment amidst a radical finitude of Being and the necessary engagement with death as
ones ownmost possibility. Once again, the modernist will to system is ironic it seeks freedom,
but merely in the against and the almost it thus forbids a more profound sense of freedom in
keeping with the limitation of its attributes.
The question of freedom culminates, in the Ethics[25] of Spinoza, with a notion of eternity which
is that of the rational intuition, of the intellectual love of God (or Nature) as a system, or systasis,
of necessity. Freedom is not that of the Will,[26]but is the originary event which is beyond the
transient modifications of substance, and, is thus beyond a conception of time as mere
duration[27] indeed, with Augustine, Spinoza could himself declare that such a sense of time is
not sufficiently real, but is merely an illusion, a ladder to be thrown down once we have
expressed our own active affections and have thrown away paradoxes as useless toys.
Freedom, therefore, in the context of the third kind of knowledge (sub specie aeternitatus), is
the affirmation of an imminent necessity arising from the singular nature of the thing itself. But,
what is this thing? Is it the objectified object for a consciousness? Or, is it a thought-thing, a
substance, devoid of internal references to temporality? Is it a temporal mode? Is it
the thing there in its given-ness? Or, is it we ourselves as the questioners, explorers and
thinkers? Or, is it merely God, Allah, etc.?

So as to specify the peculiar significance of the notion of freedom for Spinoza, however, we
should return to the beginning, to the initial condition of existence, amidst this plane of modular
dispersion, so as to fathom the difficulty and rarity (and perhaps impossibility ala romantic irony
in the sense of Schlegel) of any attainment of freedom in the world. That which is required is the
unfolding of the system of Spinoza in order for us to ascertain our place within the whole, and
thus, to locate the pathway upon which we must embark from a state of fear and weakness
toward one of freedom, or, as Deleuze suggests, beatitude.[28]
This pathway corresponds to the three kinds of knowledge, each of which discloses a specific
orientation of the being of the self, which Spinoza contends, is desire (conatus). The first kind of
knowledge, is that of the order of passions, of the phantoms of the imagination (a reference
which immediately returns us to our thinking on Kant). The imagination is characterised
by inadequate ideaswhich are contrived by the random projection of partial perspectives upon
extrinsic determinations, passively received through chance encounters. Deleuze mentions that
this kind of knowledge is that of the order of nature and even comprises such universalist
ideas as the civil state and religion and their respective drives for obedience it is
the realist state of things.
The second kind of knowledge comprises the order of relations, of the understanding. It is
characterised by common notions which disclose the connection of our knowledge with that of
the virtual God, and whose essence is disclosed through these notions. The second kind of
knowledge comprises an order of reason, in which the understanding increasingly begins to
exercise control over the imagination and places its rhapsodies and passions into order. In other
words, our being becomes determined, as Deleuze suggests, by the desires of reason.
The third kind of knowledge comprises the order of essences, and fathoms the singularity of
each mode, including our own body, as an expression of the divine,sub specie aeternitatus.
Knowledge, in this clear repetition of medievalnominalism, is the negative, though active,
affection of a merely temporal mode in its acquiescence to the eternal substance, or God. This
knowledge regards the singular essence of God which we find in ourselves, through our own
internal resources a significant correspondence with Leibniz in distinction to both random
encounters and the general relations of some Deleuzian external world.
Freedom, in this way, is a state of being that is the unfolding, according to Spinoza, of ones own
essence in an active affection. This activity is indicative of an increase, as Deleuze writes, of our
power of active being. Yet, as we have seen, we do not begin in such a state of freedom, but in

dependency and passivity, as in infancy and childhood. Of course, even in these states, we
nevertheless believe that we are free. Spinoza elaborates,
Thus an infant believes that of its own free will it desires milk, an

angry child believes that it

freely desires vengeance, a timid child believes that it freely desires to run away; further, a
drunken man

believes that he utters from the free decision of his mind words which, when he is

sober, he would willingly have withheld: thus, too, a

delirious man, a garrulous woman, a

child, and others of like complexion, believe that they speak from the free decision of their mind,
when they are in reality unable to restrain their impulse to talk.[29]
In this way, for Spinoza, we begin, lost in the stems, distracted by the fragmentation of the
passions which cause us sadness and pain. This is our situation and predicament, and it is
the topos from which we strive to achieve a freedom that is implicit in our being, as the not-yet
(but already always) origin and source for our being for Spinoza, our true, active being is that
of God, the eternal substance. In this light, that which is, is God in his positive, immanent and
univocal Being which is explicated as a world and which implicates the eternal Substance as its
source and truth. The negative, the nothing, fear, despair, all sad passions are, for Spinoza,
tainted with illusion, superstition and ignorance with mere belief in Platos sense, imaginary.
Freedom comes when this veil is torn asunder to disclose the positive actuality of God.
If we consider this pathway toward freedom closely, and in a way which respects the indigenous
situation of this perspective, one which as Deleuze mentions, may perhaps be attained only near
the end of life, it is understandable why Spinoza would state that the man who thinks least of
death is the most free. But, such a view, even as it seems to deny our own embodiment, at once
indicates that we will never overcome these negative emotions, this apparent duality, i.e., it
highlights the ironic impossibility of a science, which would, as with Marx, negate negativity. But,
at the same time, despite this gesture toward the irreducible finitude of human existence,
Spinoza, in keeping with his apophatic onto-theology, creates the microcosm of the order of
encounters as a mirror stage of the purposive ordered macrocosm of the universe, or Nature.
In this way, we may never get beyond repression and substitution in respect of our fear of death,
as in the case of Lucretius, for instance, or others, such as the early Wittgenstein, who merely
state that we will never live to see death and thus we should not fear it, nor do we have any
rational grounds to do so. Yet, the question remains and I believe that this is the primary
significance of Heideggers criticisms of Spinoza, and more generally, of rationalism of
theeigentlich being of the self amidst its radically temporal existence (Batailles wild ipse), not

only with respect to the problematic character of substance as the meaning of being, but also
with respect to the issues of negativity and possibility, indeed, of futurity and projection
comportments which remain suppressed by Spinoza. Again substance is not what we are. But,
what are we? How? Why? That?

Heidegger, Spinoza, and Freedom

Heidegger would agree with Spinozas basic intuition that freedom (or, in this context, eternity),
is not to be regarded as bound up with the events of duration, but is, in this way, beyond beings
or modes (the ontic). At the same time, however, while he agrees with the notion of a
common root of Being, Heidegger would not endorse the sentiment that such a root is that of
God, or Nature, which, at the end of the day, is, from his perspective, ontologically the same as a
mode, or a particular being, a sameness which is expressed in any ontological univocity of
being. As I have suggested, for Heidegger, substance is not what we are, as finite beings. But,
how do we know this, what is the epistemic source for such a determination of difference, of the
ontological difference between beings and the be-ing of human existence?
As indicated, the epistemic source is that of mood, in this case, anxiety in the face of death
(recall the Jacobist Gefuhl for the Romantics). A contrast between Heidegger and Spinoza on this
epistemic issue will disclose not only the specificity of their respective ontologies, but also that of
their conceptions of time (or, temporality, in the case of Heidegger). Now, it can be stated
immediately that Heidegger, in the 1920s phenomenology, is not speaking primarily of fear, as
in the fear of death. He speaks instead of anxiety. More specifically, fear is a mood in which
that which is feared is a threat that may happen or not (can be doubted). In this way, fear in
Heidegger is the same as fear in Spinozas Ethics, as this emotion is always accompanied by
hope (that some event, etc. will not occur). In this way, we find a striking parallel between
Heidegger and Spinoza with respect to the inauthenticity of fear and of theunreality of its
associated conception of time.
However, as stated, fear is not Heideggers primary concern, nor is it his epistemic source for the
differentiation of our own being from that of entities. This is indicated, as I have mentioned, in
anxiety, and again, we can find an analogue of this indication in Spinoza. For Heidegger, anxiety
is a sense of a threat to our being that is insurmountable, of our own possibility of impossibility.
In the absence of any hope, anxiety thus shares a family resemblance with Spinozas emotion
of Despair. That which is crucial here is that Heidegger contends that anxiety reveals to us the
Nothing, which has the sense of the negativity of ourselves (finite transcendence), in our
difference from generic beings and from any transcendent being (Eternity).

Moreover, as it is insurmountable, anxiety, in distinction from fear and the unreality of its sense
of time, discloses the truth of that which is there in its ultimate necessity. In his radical that is,
phenomenological and existential ontology, Heidegger is seeking to disclose the specificity of
our own human being, which, we are told, is, in each case, my own. It will be in this moment
(similar again to acquiescence) that the decision is made that binding commitments are
affirmed. Heidegger has, in this way, in his discovery of eternity in the negative, exposed a
radical leap by Spinoza away from the truth, and into the consoling fiction of his notion of divine
substance, of God, one which is meant to be imminent, to be our true being, but becomes, in its
lack of be-ing, perhaps the symbol of our greatest weakness and un-freedom.
In contradistinction to such a panic room docility, passivity in the wake of substance, Heidegger
offers us a glimpse of negativity, a look into the personal being of finite, human existence which
decides its own binding commitments, chooses its makeshift projection of world amid the
ecstasies of temporality, a freely chosen, but thrown world which provides a clearing into which
beings may and do enter (a temporalised order of encounters). In this way, Heidegger has
articulated a philosophy of finite transcendence in which existence is regarded astranscending as
such. In this light, it is not emotion (or, mood), albeit negative, which precludes our freedom, but
our inability or unwillingness to face, for instance, the anxiety of being-towards-death, and follow
this event to where it takes us, all the way to the end.

Epilogue: On Necessity
Hannah Arendt speaks of a gale that blows from Heideggers philosophy, a wind that is untimely,
in its standing out from the experience of the present, as an intimation of the primordial.[30] It
is in this light that we may come to terms with his pathos of distance from Spinoza. The question
is that of the meaning of necessity, and of its determination from within the context of a specific
ontology. Spinoza lays out his distinction of freedom and necessity:
That thing is called free, which exists solely by the mere necessity of its own nature, and of which
the action is determined by itself alone. On the other hand, that thing is necessary, or rather
constrained, which is determined by something external to itself to a fixed and definite method
of action.[31]
It is significant that Spinoza gives us two senses of necessity in this definition, that, on the one
hand, of the necessity of ones own nature, a sense of necessity disclosed with respect to
freedom as self-determination. On the other hand, there is the necessary as that which
compels or constrains the self from its actualisation of freedom. To this extent, since the

necessary places a limit upon the possibility of the self determination of necessity, it must be
for Spinoza, deemed to be false (though thrown for Heideger). In the wake of this denial,
philosophy, as the language of necessity, becomes that of mere reason, geometry,
mathematical deduction and the logical procedures which construct a judgment of necessity (the
theoretical man in Nietzsches sense).
It could be argued that Spinoza asserts the priority of the attribute of pure rational thought,
mirrored though it is in the dimension of body with the construction of an order of encounters
and its ultimate, ironic, and ethical quieting of our emotional being. It may be that Spinoza is a
victim of his own era and task, of being the against, the alternative, hunted, despised. In such
a torment, one would seek to grasp hold of something solid, a differing, though singular principle,
one presented in the form of an ethics, one that sought the hedonistic resignation of fate. In the
storm, he elaborated the attributes that were available to him as his Tractatus would suggest
that God will only be revealed through the limitations of an era. Such a note, however, opens
questions which exceed the limitations of the current study.
From the perspective of Heidegger, the question and sense of necessity undergoes a
metamorphosis to the extent that the gale of the wind blows away the dead language of
substance and the field of its metaphysical lexicon. To this extent, Heideggers comportment
with respect to the history of ontology is that of a phenomenological destructuring, or, in other
words, of a retrieval of the originary situation of questioning in the wake of the dissemination of
the gift of death (Derrida). In this way, we could juxtapose a logical conception of necessity to
that of an existential, the latter, Heidegger would contend, being primordial in relation to the
former conception. In this light, logic and mathematical limit, as with Heideggers engagement
with Leibnizian analytic judgment in The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic,[32] intimate the
primordial limit of finite existence.
Such an overwhelming horizon for the disclosure of the truth of Being cannot be contained by the
necessity of the logical concept and mathematical deduction. It is in this way
that acquiescence to an ontical substance, as a resting place from the breathless linear
succession of common time, cannot be the pathway of freedom. Indeed, there is a depth of
radical freedom that always alreadyunderlies the procedures of judgment, a freedom that is an
originary eruption of the projection of the binding commitments of world, as a makeshift,
revisable shelter for an ecstatic openness to others and the myriad beings in the world-around
(Umwelt) it is a Spring.

Spinoza seeks to use the dead language of logic to quarantine his emotional, personal being, in a
leap into the infinity of substance, of hope indeed, in a negative mirror image of the tomb of
logic, as an impossible escape into the Unlimited. Heidegger, on the contrary, would indicate
that we must not seek freedom in the impossible other-world of eternity, but that we must
comprehend that we are by necessity free to love and hate and to chose a world not to
mention free to radically question the world of the present, sub specie temporis.[33] It is our
radical openness to the other, to the event of radical possibility, which intimates the ground of
freedom that is expressed in a living language.
I will close with a return to Leonard Cohens The Partisan,
Ah, the wind, the wind is blowing
Through the graves, the wind is blowing
Freedom soon will come;
Then well come from the shadows.
Amid the thrownness of existence, the wind of becoming blows through the graves, and it is in
the face of becoming and the artefacts of death standing in-between natality and fatality that
a clearing (Lichtung) emerges, the topos in which we can decide, to choose our world, one that
is inscribed with themakeshift self-expression of our own be-ing. In our courage to face the
futurity of our being-toward-death, we thus come to ourselves from out of the shadows as the
truth of Being.
In this way, it could be contended that Spinoza does not give us an adequate conception of
freedom, as he has failed, as Heidegger suggests in his lectures on Schelling, to disclose the true
radicality and depths of human existence. Contrary to Deleuze, therefore, the issue is not that of
a choice between immanence andtranscendence, but to apprehend the unavoidable and
positive negativity of the middle world of finite transcendence which concerns the intimacy of
our own be-ing, and with Foucault, to undertake a critical ontology of ourselves.[34] It is in this
way that we affirm the desire which is our being, and do not take the path of renunciation for an
eternal that is only a prison-house of graves.


[1] I would like to thank Joan Stambaugh and Frank Edler for their insightful readings of this text
and for their incisive comments and suggestions.
[2] Cohen, Leonard, The Partisan, a song of the French Resistance:
When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender,
this I could not do;
I took my gun and vanished.
I have changed my name so often,
Ive lost my wife and children
but I have many friends,
and some of them are with me.
An old woman gave us shelter,
kept us hidden in the garret,
then the soldiers came;
she died without a whisper.
There were three of us this morning
Im the only one this evening
but I must go on;
the frontiers are my prison.
Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then well come from the shadows.
Les Allemands etaient chez moi, (The Germans were at my home)
ils me dirent, Signe toi, (They said, Sign yourself,)
mais je nai pas peur; (But I am not afraid)
jai repris mon arme. (I have retaken my weapon.)
Jai change cent fois de nom, (I have changed names a hundred times)
jai perdu femme et enfants (I have lost wife and children)

mais jai tant damis; (But I have so many friends)

jai la France entie`re. (I have all of France)
Un vieil homme dans un grenier (An old man, in an attic)
pour la nuit nous a cache, (Hid us for the night)
les Allemands lont pris; (The Germans captured him)
il est mort sans surprise. (He died without surprise.)
Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then well come from the shadows.
[3] Deleuze, Gilles (1992) Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, translated by Martin Joughin,
New York: Zone Books.
[4] Address to the 3rd Annual Joint Conference of the Society for European Philosophy and
the Forum for European Philosophy in 2007.
[5] It is questionable whether we ever fear death, since for Spinoza, fear is always tied to hope,
as with Heidegger. In this sense, it is despair in the face of death which is at issue.
[6] Spinoza, Benedict (1955) Ethics, translated by R.H.M. Elwes, New York: Dover Publications, II,
Prop. XVIII, Note II, p. 144.
[7] Heidegger, Martin (1985) Schellings Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom, translated
by Joan Stambaugh, Athens: Ohio University Press.
[8] In respect of the actions of Heidegger, it would seem necessary to critically re-assess his
relationship with the Nazis through a detailed and inclusiveinvestigation which takes seriously
his poetics of resistance, not only in light of his seminal turn to Hlderlin in 1934 (is it a
coincidence that Heidegger did not mention the name of Holderlin during the entire period of his
Rectorship?), but also with regard to Edlers poetic analysis of Heidegers Rectoral Address. We
must take seriously his statement in his 1966 interview with Der Spiegel that he sought to
remain in Germany to stand in the storm. Such a critical reassessment, which is evident in the
work of Edler, Zimmerman, and others must also bring to light the subversive significance of the
turn (Kehre), especially in works such as Contributions to Philosophy, in which he radically

criticises Nazism as a violently subjectivist and productionistic metaphysics, though through a

glass darkly. Without such an inclusive and thorough reassessment of Heideggers relation with
the Nazis, it will be impossible to comprehend the significance of his middle and later thought
since any such analysis will always already be postponed by the plethora of dismissals (of the
relevance and credibility of Heideggers poetic subversion), moral denunciations and
disappointingly selective representations and interpretations of his actions, overt and covert,
during the period of 1930-1945. The irony, of course, behind much of the ire surrounding this
issue, is that the critics of Heidegger have merely repeated Platos dismissal of poetry from
the polis of truth, if only through collateral damage. For more on the theme of poetic resistance,
see Roth, Michael (1996) The Poetics of Resistance: Heideggers Line, Evanston: Northwestern
University Press.
[9] Ethics, I, III, p. 45.
[10] Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, translated by Paul Patton, New York:
Columbia University Press.
[11] At first glance, it may seem strange to juxtapose Spinoza and Heidegger, the first an
excommunicated Jew living in Amsterdam in the mid-1600s (and then, The Hague), the other a
German (and a dissident Nazi), living at the time of his lectures on Schelling, that is 1936, near
Freiburg. Although, as we will see, Heideggers documented interest in Spinoza and Spinozism
had already arisen at least as early as the 1920s, it is interesting that in his lectures, after his
first mentions of Spinoza, Heidegger seems necessitated or compelled to explain to his audience
(among whom were the panoptic Nazi auditors) that the latter is not properly a Jewish thinker,
citing of course, his expulsion from the Jewish community at the age of 23. It should be
remembered that well before this time, Heidegger already had a quite severe falling out with
leading Nazi officials and academic operators, such as Alfred Baumler, who had not only
prevented him from being elected President of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, but had also
placed Heidegger under surveillance. Strangely enough, in a long report that would remove from
Heidegger any hope of being elected President of the Academy of Sciences, it was stated that
Heidegger was a schizophrenic, and that his philosophy was influenced by Jewish ideas (notably
[12] Under the Aspect of Time (sub specie temporis): Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and the Place
of the Nothing, Philosophy Today, Volume 53, Number 2 (Spring, 2009)

[13] Of course, it could be argued that any time Heidegger considers the principle of reason,
Spinoza will remain an elephant in the room, who is not only implicated as one of the great
rationalist system-builders, but whose own methodology of absolute unity was appropriated by
the early German Romantics and German idealists in their attempt to counter the skeptical
attacks upon the Kantian philosophy from such neo-Humean philosophers as Schulze and
[14] Jacobi, F. H., (1782) Etwas das Leing gesagt hat. Ein Commentar zu den Reisen der Ppste
nebst Betrachtungen von einem Dritten. Berlin: George Jacob Decker.
[15] Jacobi, F. H. (1785) ber die Lehre des Spinoza in Briefen an den Herrn Moses
Mendelssohn. Breslau: Gottlieb Lwe.
[16] It should be noted that this controversy did not go unnoticed in the United Kingdom, being
eagerly watched by Coleridge and Wordsworth (themselves travelling to Germany in this period),
who had developed their own interest in Spinoza and Spinozism.
[17] For an in depth treatment of the relation of imagination and Kants practical philosophy, see
Schalow, Frank (1986) Imagination and Existence: A Retrieval of the Kantian Ethic, Landom:
University Press of America.
[18] Another Spinoza is perhaps significant beyond this particular controversy, for in its
aftermath, and the redefinition of Reason by Hlderlin, Schlegel, Novalis, and Herder, as an
organic, aesthetical and historical reason, he provided (well over one hundred years after his
death) some of the tools to overcome the apparent subjectivism of the Kantian-Fichtean
philosophy in the development of early German Romanticism and German Idealism. Of course,
with the eruption of Romanticism and German Idealism, Spinozism underwent a radical
transfiguration, which perhaps, transformed his ideas beyond anything we could immediately
recognise as Spinoza. Beiser, Friederick (2002) German Idealism: The Struggle against
Subjectivism, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; (2003) The Romantic Imperative: The
Concept of Early German Romanticism, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; (1987) The
Fate of Reason, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; see also, Frank, Manfred, The
Philosophical Foundations of Early German Romanticism, translated by Elizabeth Milln-Zaibert,
Albany: SUNY.
[19] Heidegger, Martin (1997) Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, translated by Richard Taft,
Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

[20] Luchte, James (2008) Heideggers Early Philosophy: The Phenomenology of Ecstatic
Temporality, London: Continuum.
[21] This may not be the sense of immanence in the sense of Deleuze, whose interpretation
relies upon a notion of a univocity of Being which is positive and merely affirmative, and is
incessantly infused with metaphorical borrowings from set theory, geometry, and physics, none
of which is ever given a sufficient explication.
[22] Indeed, Spinoza himself confesses to this eventuality in Ethics, Part II, Prop. X: The being of
substance does not appertain to the essence of man in other words, substance does not
constitute the actual being of man. The actual being of man is that of unnecessary existence,
and in this way, the achievement of freedom in the salto mortale of substance lies in the denial
of our actuality so as to obtain our true essence, which is Mind (Ethics, Part II, Prop. XI., Corrol.,
which is part of the infinite intellect of God.
[23] Schrmann, Reiner (1987) Heidegger: On Being and Acting, From Principles to Anarchy,
Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
[24] Deleuze, Gilles (1983) Cinema I, London: Mecca. Deleuze comments that English romantics
Blake and Coleridge undertook in their poetry the assimilation of misery between the internal
and external worlds.
[25] Spinoza, Benedict (1955) The Ethics, translated by R.H.M. Elwes, New York: Dover.
[26] Ethics, I, Prop. XXXII, Coroll. I.
[27] This is a reference to the treatment of Bergson in Deleuzes Cinema, in the sense of the
interpretation of temporality as an order of things. Such a realisttopography asserts a reduction
to the object, irrespective of the scintillation, as Deleuze emphasises, in his criticism of Bergson,
of singularities, expressed, for instance, in the close-up, in the face, as with Levinas in his
disclosure of the inescapability of ethics in intimacy.
[28] Deleuze, G., Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, pp. 303-320.
[29] Ethics, II, Post. I, Prop. II, Note, p. 134.
[30] Epigram to Safranski, Rdiger (1999) Heidegger: Between God and Evil.

[31] Spinoza, Ethics, Part 1, Definition 7, p. 46.

[32] Heidegger, Martin (1992) Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, translated by Michael Heim,
Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
[33] Luchte, J. (2009) Under the Aspect of Time (sub specie temporis): Heidegger, Wittgenstein,
and the Place of the Nothing, Philosophy Today, Vol. 53, No. 1.
[34] Foucault, Michel (1991) What is Enlightenment?, The Foucault Reader, New York: Penguin.