the contextual life

thoughts without borders

god is math

with 4 comments

right now i’m reading Alain Badiou‘s Theoretical Writings. it’s a collection of his work that claims to be a good introduction to his philosophy. so far, i agree. i had read his Metapolitics a while ago and remember liking it but supposedly, straight politics, which that book was,  is not Badiou’s thing. apparently, it’s math. badiou loves math and seems to have this unnatural fascination with infinity. i dont quite get it yet but i think i’m starting to understand how he feels. throughout all his essays the possibility of ‘the neverending’ plays a major role, bouncing off other peoples’ theories, and explained through vocabulary lessons and analogies.  

for example, Leibniz‘s Pond:

“Each portion of of matter may be conceived as a garden full of plants, and as a pond full of fish. But every branch of each plant, every member of each animal, and every  drop of their liquid parts is itself likewise a similar garden or pond.” pg. 66 Theoretical Writings.

that’s a pretty vivid image of infinity. now take Spinoza. the only thing i knew about Spinoza before reading chapter 7: Spinoza’s Closed Ontology was that he was a Spanish (actually, Portuguese) Jew who lived somewhere around the 1600s and was ostracized  by his community for being blasphemous. i then learned that the story i’d heard wasn’t entirely true but can’t remember what the real story is. in any case, i do know that he had some notion of God that people didn’t like.  now that i’m halfway through the chapter, i know that Spinoza believed in an infinite God who was at the same time One. multiples unified. God, as one omnipotent power, is everything that we are, everything we aren’t, and everything we know, and everything can’t.

to be fair, Spinoza’s theory rest on the notion that our intellect is how we understand this concept of God – and that our intellect is something reliable. this can not be proven and therefore you get a choice to agree or not. or, as badiou asks:

“how is it possible to think the being of intellect [intellect’s essence]… depends upon the operations of the intellect?”

although i see how it would be hard to prove God with concretely/scientifically, i don’t think Spinoza’s idea of God is a dangerous one, and therefore, i’m willing to accept it.

badiou’s love for infinity and obvious approval of Spinoza’s Infinite God made this chapter a lot of fun.


Written by Gabrielle

November 15, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Posted in books

Tagged with , , , ,

4 Responses

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  1. Not very much to say on the earlier content, since I haven’t read the book you’re talking about, but I would contend against Spinoza’s assumption that our intellect is something reliable. I believe us to be naturally superstitious, and that this translates into seeing order where non exists, and so any argument that stems from reliable human-think is a flawed one for me. I think we constantly have to battle against our natures in fact, to make us more reliable, rational beings.

    As an aside, I find the idea of an infinite universe a difficult one to grasp. But that’s because in my limited experience of life, things tend to have beginnings, middles, and ends, and my unreliable mind therefore suggests to me that everything (even things beyong my experience) must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

    Now I’m sure you’d read that as a specious contention, which is my point exactly about anything anybody has to say about God, or other Great Unknowns.


    Mariam Bazeed

    November 16, 2009 at 11:56 am

    • nice! i can definitely dig your refute of his idea that intellect is reliable… the thought of us having no freakin clue about the world around us is a bit horrifying, no? i guess that’s where religion steps in… to staunch the panic. i believe that might have been sartre’s and nietzsche’s argument for religion even though they didn’t believe in it… but i could be wrong about that one.


      November 16, 2009 at 12:02 pm

      • I don’t find it particularly terrifying. There’s a lot that I don’t know about/understand that directly affects my life, and I’ve accepted those limitations of knowledge. That being said, I don’t think I meant to say that life is unknowable – I think we can find out a lot about the world in many ways, and that our senses and our best attempts at rational thinking can mitigate some of each other’s deficiencies. I just get frustrated when ways of knowing something are all treated as equal…I’m down with knowledge seeking and postulating about things that are unseen, but want it done in a way that is answerable to a scientific method. With religion, most people are happy to derive “facts” from conjecture based on earlier conjecture.

        Mariam Bazeed

        November 16, 2009 at 12:28 pm

      • hm… for me, i dont see religion and science being in the same realm. some things may overlap like artifacts that show the history from the time of when the torah, bible, and qur’an were written (along with the eastern religions, greek religions, etc. etc.). but i dont feel like all thought needs to corespond with science. what im finding funny about spinoza is that apparently he just said these things and didnt care about proving them. he was like, ‘ok, here’s my proof’ but his proof wasnt provable. i feel like he didnt care. personally, i dont care if god exists or not. i still like religion.


        November 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm

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