Spinoza, the "Very Untranscendental"
Ernst Blochs Interpretation
(See: Arshinow, Fuchs (ed.): Causality, Emergence, Self-Organisation.
Moscow 2003, pp. 259-286.)
Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677) has always been considered as one
of the great philosophers by Ernst Bloch, great philosophers being those
whose works are connected to the time they live in. Bloch told his students
in Leipzig that whereas the problems of a greengrocer today were not much
different at the times of Perikles, the problems of a philosopher had
vastly changed. "Zeitung und Traktat" ("Journal/Tidings and Treatise"),
an essay written in 1923 and published in Logos of Matter (Bloch 2000),
is an expression of contemporary thinking, a motive that is recurring throughout
Bloch says that only the creative thinker does even in bourgeois
times have the strength to be connected to his time. He is a speaker of
acting from within, his own thinking transforms itself into the thinking
and consciousness of the actors, it informs them about themselves. He continues
to say that there has never been a pure philosopher in the sense of only
observing, this would be a bourgeois concept applicable only to the abstract
irrelevance of bourgeois actions. Concrete publicity would be the dimension
characteristic for great philosophers, feeling the sound of the whole
world in every detail. For Bloch, Platon, Spinoza, Kant and Hegel were
always masters of the lively time they lived in, masters of the philosophical-political
treatise. (Bloch 2000, pp 18f.)
Bloch devotes two chapters of "Das Materialismusproblem, seine Geschichte
und Substanz" (The Problem of Materialism, its History and Substance)
to Spinoza. In the first course, where Bloch deals with "Die Lehren vom
Einzelnen - Allgemeinen, den Stoff angehend" ("Doctrines of the Individual
- the Universal, concerning Matter"), he mentions Spinoza together with
Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Leibniz, Hume and Kant as the representatives
of the pure general intellectual forms. He discusses the specific limits
of these forms, also with regards to the contents. In the second course
which is on "Die Lehren von der Materie, die Bahnungen ihrer Finalität
und Offenheit" ("The Theories of Matter, its Finality and Openness"), Bloch
considers Spinoza and Malebranche as representatives of a conception that
considers matter as a representation and an expansion-attribute of God.
In his Leipzig Lectures (Bloch 1985, pp 54-117) Bloch deals in more extensive
way than in the book on materialism with Spinoza. In chapter 41 of the
Principle of Hope there is a passage on "Bruno und das unendliche Kunstwerk;
Spinoza und die Welt als Kristall" (Bruno and the infinite work of art; Spinoza
and the world as a crystal) (Bloch 1977, pp 993-1000). Spinoza is also mentioned
sporadically in other parts of Bloch´s works.
Because of Rainer E. Zimmermannís emphasis on the importance
of Spinoza´s philosophy for Ernst Bloch in various publications
during the last years, I will explain Bloch´s relationship to Spinoza
by a detailed literary exegesis because others as e.g. Jens Scheer see
Bloch as part of a specific line of thought, but they exclude Spinoza.
Scheer says that Bloch in his ideas on nature and matter referred to the
tradition of the "Aristotelian left", from Ibn Sina (Avicenna) to lbn Ruschd
(Averroes) and Giordano Bruno, finally Schelling and also Marx.
Spinoza passim in the Works of Bloch
As far as I know, Spinoza is not mentioned in the first edition
of "Geist der Utopie" ("Spirit of Utopia"), but in the second one. Bloch
moves the chapter about the "Alexanderzug" ("Alexander Crusade") to the
part entitled "Die Gestalt der unkonstruierbaren Frage" ("The Form of the
Unconstructable Question") and substitutes the introductory cultural-geographic
remarks by an ethical and religious diagnosis of the time. He says that maybe
Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Spinoza, more geometrico, believed enough in
what they were saying, but what they all were missing was deep involvement;
and he mentions that the day of Damaskus can`t be displaced (Bloch 1977,
Vol. 3: 212)
One can interpret a passage from Bloch´s work on Thomas Münzer
as a indirect reference to Spinoza. There he says that in essence the
fields of Christ, the Unconditioned, and the spaces of the last ratio lie
in dawn and in the inner light that still remains contingent; and he mentions
that everything that is crystal-like breaks into pieces in view of this
and becomes frivolity (Bloch 1977, Vol 2: 182). One can assume an indirect
reference to Spinoza here, because Bloch again and again associates Spinoza
with the crystal-metaphor. E.g. in the book on Materialism he says that
the relationship of the divine attributes with the cabbalistic scope-categories
of "Sephirot" is obvious, that oriental mysticism together with a philosophy
believing in science gives a unique style to Spinozism, that the world is
a crystal and the light of God is at the zenith in it (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7:
51). Fifteen years after the book on Münzer, Bloch already sympathises
with Spinoza´s "outwardness" that he prefers to quixotic internalism
(Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 52). The passage on the crystal in the Leipzig Lectures
fifteen years later shows a continued rapprochement to Spinoza because depth
is mentioned as a counterbalance to the crystal. In this passage Bloch describes
chill and glow as corresponding to immeasurable, vertiginous depth and a
crystal. He says himself that this is a strange combination that has never
been mentioned in philosophy (Bloch 1985, Vol. 3: 57)
Spinoza is also mentioned at a place where one wouldn´t expect
it, in the last section of the chapter "Ungleichzeitigkeit und Berauschung"
("Non-Simultaneity and Intoxication") in "Erbschaft dieser Zeit" ("Heritage
of the Time"). In his sharp critique of the behaviour of the Christian churches
concerning National Socialism Bloch refers to Spinoza. Bloch says that
this church serving after all in a Protestant manner and concordating after
all in a Catholic manner, is founded on the bible which is characterised
by the new "Leader" ("Führer") in the following words: "Jewry has always
been a nation of a definite racial character and never differentiated merely
by the fact of belonging to a certain religion. At a very early date, urged
on by the desire to make their way in the world, the Jews began to cast about
for a means whereby they might distract such attention as might prove inconvenient
for them" (Hitler, Mein Kampf, p. 335). Bloch continues satirically that
this must mean that the Jews have had no religion, the Greek no art, the
Romans no state and that hence the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ, the
early Christians and Spinoza are done for, their destination is settled -
what remains is the Hitler church, it doesn´t diffuse the displeasing
interest concerning its members. Bloch writes that religion has always involved
much deception, but never so much nasty insanity and so much bloody farce.
The combination of the New Testament, the Nibelungenlied and the Horst-Wessel-song
would be Satanism, but a very poor one (Bloch 1977, Vol. 4: 102).
It´s notable how Spinozaís works are categorised: He
is considered as one of the highest Jewish-Christian authorities; Bloch
mentions him together with the prophets, the apostles, Jesus Christ and
the early Christians. In his Bloch-biography, Arno Münster shows
that Bloch appraised Spinoza not only as systems thinker and philosopher
of nature, but also as philosopher of law and religion:
"Cette predilection d´Ernst Bloch pour une lecture "subversive"
de la bible renoue bien sur volontairement avec une tradition philosophique
dej inauguree par Baruch Spinoza dont le Traite Theologico-Politique (TPP)
propose dej une lecture autre, critique, des Ecritures, ... consistait
mettre les propheties de l´Ancien Testament au service de l´encouragement
la revolte des opprimes contre leurs oppresseurs." (Münster 2001:
´This preference of Ernst Bloch for a "subversive" reading
of the Bible could in a way be seen as the continuation of Baruch Spinoza´s
attempt in his Theological-Political Treatise from the 17th century to
found another reading of the Bible that is extremely critical of the theological
dogmas ... and according to which itís up to devote the prophecies
of the Old Testament to the encouragement of the oppressed in their revolt
against their oppressors´.
In Bloch´s book on natural law we first find Spinoza in the
chapter on "Nochmals rationalistisches Naturrecht, sein Bezug zur mathematischen
Konstruktion und zur Naturreligion" ("Again Rational Natural Law, its Relationship
to Mathematical Construction and Natural Religion"). Bloch there says
that humanism has connected the Epicurean contract theory about the origin
of the state to the Stoa which holds that the right legal- and state-order
is deduced from man´s nature and must be in accordance with world
reason (Bloch 1977, Vol. 6: 68). In the doctrine of natural law of the 17th
and 18th century that was significantly influenced by Spinozism the believe
in an immaculate nature, in "natura immaculata", was considered as a natural
idea that is opposed to the nature of pure natural laws as well as to "artificiality".
Bloch says that the conformity to law remained to nature, it was utilised
by Spinozism in order to prove natural perfection. However the nature
of laws more and more becomes a reservoir of an atmosphere of contemporary
critique that is even superior to law: the crystal of mathematical physics
appears at the same time as Stone of Justness, as a panacea that shall
guarantee happiness. The latter would emphasise the not quite rational and
at least overreaching assumptions on which the doctrine of natural law was
based, but which nonetheless would have had great effects and would have
went off after Rousseau (Bloch 1977, Vol. 6.: 72). One can´t miss
Bloch´s critical undertone concerning the suitability of the crystal-nature
as an ethical system of orientation, a panacea and magical bullet resulting
in fairness and happiness. After this appraisal follows a critique of pantheism
that has already been mentioned in Bloch´s interpretation of Giordano
Bruno. The universal religion that is naturally common to all human beings
and that had already been proclaimed by the Stoa and the Arabic scholastics,
was revitalised in the 17th and 18th century, e.g. by the English deist
John Toland who considered "all-nature" as a divine unit. Highly visible
is the reference to Spinoza when Bloch refers to Toland by saying that it
is this "all-nature" that gave not only the anthropological innateness to
natural law, but also the most important feature that God becomes nature
and deism becomes pantheism. So by the way of natura immaculata Spinoza reappears
as the most pronounced representation of the deus sive natura (Bloch 1977,
Vol. 6: 74). Whereas rationalistic natural law is based on the compatibility
of regularity to law and the immaculate character of nature, Bloch here reclaims
a "latterly difference" that denotes his own position.
He says that the regularity to law of nature served the calm bourgeois
need for calculation, whereas the pathos natura immaculata served a revolutionary,
anti-feudal and at last even anti-capitalist need; that this difference
which can also be seen as one between the ideal of calculus and the impressive
ideal of nature can be found in one of the main books of this epoche, Holbach´s
and Diderot´s Systeme de la nature (1770); that in this work Spinoza
and Rousseau clash in a very instructional manner, this clash could also
be seen as one between the value-free regularity to law of nature and
the deduction of all values from nature. This would also be reflected
in the contrast between the main part of the work and the closing words
- in the main part everything that is anthropomorphic and even everything
that is valuing is disclaimed and it is at last even hold that order and
disorder donít belong to nature, whereas in the closing part which
was written by Diderot there is a focus on nature and its code is considered
as the essential source and schoolbook of human rights (Bloch 1977, Vol.
Spinoza is also mentioned in the chapter on concepts of freedom
(freedom to choose, freedom of action, ethical freedom and religious
freedom). Ethical freedom concerns the ultimate immanent level of independence
(Bloch 1977, Vol. 6: 180) - the concept of immanence referring instantly
to Spinoza and one shouldn´t forget that in the sense of a further
enhancement religious freedom follows with reference to Kant and Hegel.
The ethically free human being dominates passion and impertinence. Bloch
says that in the works of Sokrates and Spinoza this ethical will is coined
by an idiosyncratic intellectualism: Sokrates says that a right understanding
of virtue is liberating, in this context Spinoza teaches that "will and
understanding are one and the same" (Ethics II, prop. 49, corollary). This
would mean that adequate ideas alone should result in the liberation from
the enslavement by inadequate instincts and inadequate circumstances and
that they guarantee homo liber in an ethical sense. The topos of this ethical
freedom that is unbribable and distant from all quietism is the public
realm, not the private one. Bloch says that Spinoza´s homo liber
who is absolutely theologically-politically mauling, is in his public
steeliness in opposition to privacy and this would latterly mean understanding
as will and not just the other way round (Bloch 1977, Vol. 6: 180f.). The
last important passage concerning Spinoza can be found in the book on natural
law under the heading "Illusionen im bürgerlichen Naturrecht" ("Illusions
in Bourgeois Natural Law"). Bloch is here dealing with the equivocations
of the concept of natural law following the phenomenological semantic analysis
of Spiegelberg. The latter distinguishes three epistemological concepts
of natural law: the naturally innate (naturangeboren), the naturally insightful
(natureinsichtig) and the naturally revealed law (naturoffenbart). Ontological
concepts of natural law are the naturally permanent one (naturbeständig),
the one that accords to a natural state (naturzuständlich), the one
given by nature (naturgegeben), the one valid to nature (naturgültig),
the one that is given grounds for by nature (naturbegründet) and at
last the law that is according to nature (naturgemäß). Spinoza´s
works are connected with the concept of law that is given grounds for
Bloch says that law that is given grounds for by nature is not given
by nature and is not valid to nature, but it has in nature its objective
cause and can epistemologically be deduced from the concept of nature that
corresponds to it. Here the concept of nature would run from the "essence
or the nature" of a thing to the complexity of a panlogistic emanation.
Deductions of "nature" from rent, bargain, despotism, casus, modus and
culpa could already be found in Roman law. Deductions from the world logic
and its highest principle could be found during the whole Enlightenment,
most of all in the works of the leading behemoths of rationalism Spinoza
and Hegel (Bloch 1977, Vol. 6: 211).
In Bloch´s work Subjekt-Objekt. Erläuterungen zu Hegel
the two "leading behemoths of rationalism" come across occasionally,
they are not only connected by this label of Bloch because he says that
for a long time both were considered as "dead dogs" ("tote Hunde"). In
one of many passages Bloch points to the "vitalistic misunderstandig"
of Spinoza by the romantic-historical school (Bloch 1977, Vol. 8: 66f.).
The already familiar topics along with the ambivalent assessment are again
mentioned. In his interpretation of Hegel´s Science of Logic, Bloch
mentions the identity of essence and appearance in Spinoza´s works.
He says that the tension between essence and appearance could remain uneclectic
due to an excess of dualism and of the disruption of the worldly and essential
world as in the works of Platon; or that the tension could be attenuated
harmonically due to a connection that was too narrow as e.g. in the works
of Aristotle, Thomas who connected the world and God ("Supreme Being") hierarchically
and also Hegel. In Spinoza´s works the whole world of appearance would
be in the upright light of essence that he calls substance (Bloch 1977, Vol.
Again there is a clear critical undertone. When even Hegel in his
Philosophy of Nature starts raging rationally (Bloch 1977, Vol. 8: 212)
and his concept doesn´t live up to the myth of nature and to the
poetry of nature, the chunkings into negativity don´t bother Spinoza.
Bloch says that in his dialectical system, Hegel had to assume natural
qualities in order to explain organic-psychological development from physical
nature and the vast world of ciphers that physical nature provides or provided
for the experience of landscapes, art, the myth of nature, chiliastic
hopes and anxieties. Hegel would have had to assume that such qualifications
can´t be dismissed even with Spinozian inadequate ideas (Bloch 1977,
Vol. 8: 214f.).
In the third part of Subject-Object, "Hegels Tod und Leben" ("Hegel´s
Death and Life"), Bloch´s pros and cons ad Spinoza are very significant.
He says that the latterly statics is without salvation for Marx as even
not only the procession of ghosts, but also the process were true. It would
renew all disadvantages of Platonism and of Spinozism without the advantages
of a non-spiritual substratum that is contained in Spinozism (Bloch 1977,
Vol. 8: 388), which is static, but material. Hence: pro non-spiritual,
material substratum, contra statics.
Also in other respect Bloch preferred Spinoza to Hegel. He writes
to Adolph Lowe when his appointment to the University of Leipzig was
discussed how wonderful and unbeknown it is to live and work unmolested
by all curiosity. Fame would come posthumous and would be due to the works,
not due to a person. He says that his man and brother in philosophical
life has at all times been Spinoza, not Hegel, that he will be known all
over the place by going to Leipzig and that this displeases him (Bloch 1985,
Second Volume: 777f.). His doubts concerning the professorship in Leipzig
and the decision against seclusive work and life have with hindsight proved
Spinoza´s "Doctrines of the Individual - the Universal, concerning
Already the remarks on Spinoza that are scattered throughout Bloch´s
works show eventually - or better: basically - an ambivalent attitude
towards Spinozian philosophy. If Benjamin´s hypothesis that the Casual
is an excellent source of cognition holds true here, will be shown by the
explanations on Spinoza in Bloch´s book on materialism. First, we
will deal with Bloch´s analysis of Spinoza´s doctrine of the
relationship of the individual and the universal.
Bloch says that in the new thinking the individual gained major
importance and that more than ever what was requested was the language
of things instead of dark words and general concepts (Bloch 1977, Vol.
A way of thinking turning to the outside is devoted to the individual
perceptible by the senses, a thinking that wants to perceive the individual
by letting the individual itself get a word and by temptingly questioning
the individual. Bloch´s epistemological position is that thought
would have to start at the sensory perception if it doesn´t want
to end up in idealism. The beginnings of this thinking were difficult, as
e.g. in Bruno´s works who practised such a thinking, but never explicated
it. Quite the same problems are encountered by newer representatives such
as Francis Bacon (1561-1626) in his Empirical Science which has according
to Bloch the right lust for the individual, but the art of finding it remains
The answer to this problem actually was mathematics. Bloch says
that by the methods of calculation the sensual individual was decomposed
into its simplest parts (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 45). The price that had to
be paid for this long awaited, finally discovered availability of the
individual is well known, the qualitative individual disappeared in it
just like the former recumbent, classified "form" (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7:
45). Quality and form would have been lost in this progress towards the
individual. The law, the universal of causal relationships, replaced the
universality of the species or the "form". This might have been necessary
and inevitable, but arguing morally this shortcoming shouldn´t have
been simply superseded and forgotten. Bloch argues that Bruno got rid of
the pre-eminence of the form an treated contemptibly the form that was connected
to the hereafter. Autarkic would be matter that fertilises itself, that spreads
out its forms towards the universe and explicates itself" (Bloch 1977, Vol.
7: 510). This would result in the fact that one can´t really substantially
distinguish matter from form. In this passage of the Bruno-interpretation
of Bloch Spinoza is mentioned as a progression towards an intertwining of
immanence without disruptions. Spinoza would no longer want to refer terminologically
to the matter-form-relationship of Aristotle and the Aristotelian left, instead
he would teach a pantheistic unity of substance-attributes (Bloch 1977, Vol.
Since Descartes the problem of categories has aggravated (Bloch
1977, Vol. 7: 47). What´s the severeness of this problem? Bloch
is concerned with the relationship of external and internal world and
of the universal and the individual, i.e. with the appropriateness of
cognition. He says that Descartes started with the most well known dubito
of the world, but the mathematical God that can´t trick someone
would have uncovered the existence of the external world as well as of
the universal concepts inherent in it (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 47). Here we
find the external world as the bearer of universal concepts and this shall
cover the mathematical construction. The lawlikeness and functional character
of the universal is transferred also to the individual as an element of
movement. The sensual perception of the individual remains qualitatively.
Starting with Spinoza, what happens to this battered individual?
Bloch says that objectively the particularity as pure mode ran into
the great new scope-categories of expansion and consciousness. Single
bodies would be modes of expansion and would only differ quantitatively,
the single spirits would be modes of consciousness and would differ by
the latter´s degree. The plurality of modes although it would mainly
exist quantitatively, wouldn´t be deduced, and not even the attribute-like
dualism of the substances would be (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 47).
Now Bloch criticises Spinoza´s believe in intellect. In Descartes´
works which were polemically criticised by Spinoza, doubt was still present,
but in Spinoza´s works doubt has disappeared. Knowledge and law
rule Spinoza´s world. This results in a believe that is made up of
knowledge that has never existed before and all ambiguity and volition
disappeared (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 48). Spinoza unites the mysticism of the
inner immersion into the All-one and the calculativity of the developing
thought more geometrico (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 48). The individual is of
decent, necessarily restricted importance. Bloch says that only sensual
perception knows individuality, but as something that is apart from it,
whereas adequate cognition only knows the regular sequence of everything
due to reasonable grounds (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 48) - Bloch questions cognisable
"properties" of the ground. For Spinoza, in cognition as well as the worldly
process, with mathematical necessity all things result from the essence
of God just like one can deduce the properties of a triangle from its definition.
´The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order
and connection of things".
Bloch stresses several times that Spinoza can only set up his great
system because he´s missing the concepts of force and movement
and hence falls behind already existing mathematical and scientific results
of Galilei and Descartes.
Bloch says that the ideal ordo et connexico in the series of ideas
(the sequence of grounds of knowledge) corresponds so perfectly to the
ordo et connexio of the series of things (the sequence of real grounds)
because both sequences of attributes (the ideal one of the cogitatio and
the real one of the extensio) exist and develop themselves purely geometrically
(Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 48).
Bloch interprets this as impertinence of the cogitatio to the extensio,
as a result the extensio would indemnify itself by the primacy of space
in all types of development and according to the analogy of substance
and geometric space (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 48), where space is an ethical
category in calmness (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 49).
This would bring Spinoza close to the old, ancient pleasure in species
and statics, but with the novum that the universal connects itself with
geometric space and the individual connects itself even if not with the
parts, so with the "modifications" of space. And this would result in the
fact that the individual is subsumed to quantity. Bloch says that in this
system there are neither independent individuals nor their intensities (Bloch
1977, Vol. 7: 50). Bloch anticipates possible objections to this "de-individualisation":
He says that the "homo liber" which is celebrated in the fifth book
of Spinoza´s Ethics doesn´t run counter to that because human
freedom would only be freedom as an adequate knowledge of necessity, as
"amor fati". The concept of homo liber would have already existed in the
Stoa, but even in a narrower sense than there, it would be connected to
the universal world order and to patriarchalistic amor fati in Spinoza´s
system. Hence it wouldn´t disrupt the unbreakable determination. Also
those single things (res particulares) which are not just phantoms of fragmented
perception - even the res particulaes of quantitative perception -, would
not have such a relative autonomy as the modes of substance have. Bloch
continues to say that this was still true for Descartes, and Descartes
had many finite substances and the attributes were the most universal species
forms of the substances. Spinoza in contrast knows only one single substance
and the attributes are categories of scope underneath substance (Bloch
1977, Vol. 7: 50).
For Spinoza, the relationship of the universal and the individual,
of substance and its particularisations as well as of the human being and
the unconditioned can´t be determined appropriately by a mode, i.e.
by a human being, but only by divine substance which containes all modes
(Bartuschat 1993: 919). As a result of this one can find in Spinoza´s
works a system of categories that deals with the universal and that has
always been rampant in scholastic realism and that there was only circumvented
by artificial definitions of the special-being (highest world-being) (Bloch
1977, Vol. 7: 50). This terminology already shows Bloch´s critical
attitude, the latter is confirmed by his further statements ("universalism
without aniam mea, without a person" etc.). But nonetheless Bloch appreciates
the uniqueness of the Spinozian system, although the latter for him is an
anachronistic bright light that comes too late and banks on eternity which
doesnít or does not-yet or does never exist in the exhausting richness
of being. This seems to be asserted by Spinozaís last sentence in
"And indeed it must be arduous, since it is found so rarely. For
how could it happen that, if salvation were ready at hand and could be
found without great labour, it is neglected by almost all? But all excellent
things are as difficult as they are rare".
What are the consequences of Spinoza´s thinking concerning
the relationship of the individual and the universal for human praxis,
particularly concerning the desire for a happy life? The way that the
relationship of the human beings and God (the substance) is seen by Spinoza,
is revolutionary: God is defined in such a way that with the help of this
concept the world and the human being can be fully explained. With this
the traditional conception of the ëcreatio mundií is eliminated,
God´s transcendence is denied and the relationship of God to the world
is interpreted by making use of a causality that is not founded on the
creative reason of God, but in the latter´s nature which is considered
itself as a causality, i.e. as a producing power. From this power results
the totality of that which is with full necessity and God isn´t concealed
behind this power as a mysterious and inexplorable being, but God fulfils
itself in it (Bartuschat 1993: 919). Bloch deals with this relationship
in the second course and we will return to it below. What also results from
the concept of substance is a new image of man.
Bloch on Spinoza´s concept: The human being as part of the
world that results necessarily from the nature of God, is no longer an
elected creature within the world, but it is reflexion that makes humans
different from all non-human being. Hence, human being is in contrast
to all other being not only as a mode of divine substance determined by
the latter, but in this status of being a determinate mode, it can understand
itself out of God and can now also know that what he has already always been.
Only this knowledge can be a foundation of action in such a way that the
human being is consistent with itself and doesnít fall for the
illusion of a goal that is outside of his reach either within the world
or beyond it (Bartuschat 1993: 919).
Spinoza´s "Doctrine of Matter"
In the 26th chapter of the second course in his book on materialism,
Bloch analyses Spinozas concept of matter under the heading "Materie,
gesehen in Gott; als Ausdehnungsattribut Gottes" ("Matter, seen in God; as
an expansion-attribute of God") together with the concept of matter of
Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715) who criticised Spinoza in his Meditations
chretiennes (1683). Nonetheless Malebranche was already associated with
Spinoza by contemporaries such as Antoine Arnauld (1612-1694): Arnauld opposed
Malebranche´s position that ideas are part of God, which resulted
in the position that God is embodied by the idea of intelligible expansion.
Malebranche defended himself against this supposed connection of his ideas
to the "detestable views of Spinoza", Bloch ties in with this controversy
right at this point and considers Malebranche on the one hand as an attempted
spiritual counter-movement against an irresistible pantheistic materialism
(Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 174f.), but the pathos of "expansion" can be found
in his works as well as in those of Spinoza and this has caused Bloch´
s joint explanation of these two philosophical systems.
In Spinoza´s works we find a primacy of the attribute of expansion
ñ "corporeality, matter" (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 176) - opposed towards
the attribute of thinking. Bloch considers the note to the second proposition
in the third part of the Ethics entitled "On the Origin and Nature of
the Emotions" where Spinoza says "that the mind and the body is one and
the same thing which is conceived now under the attribute of thought and
now under the attribute of extension". The prevalence of the mode of expansion
is for Bloch a result of Spinoza´s decline of free will and the
concept of purpose, the latter being a pure mode of thinking for Spinoza.
Spinoza´s nature would be dominated by "geometric necessity" and
"mechanistic causal nexus": there would be no place for spirits, but
also for miracles (due to a prevailing purposive logic of the idea alone)
(Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 176).
Bloch considers the "prevalence of corporeality before all spirituality"
as the only possibility for explaining the "strange mixture" of real ground
and ground of knowledge in the works of Spinoza. The prevalence of corporeality
is not only true for single things, it is guaranteed by divine substance
itself because the representation of the world more geometrico would
be completely unthinkable, if the "expansion" in God itself were not the
attribute of all attributes necessary for cognition (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7:
176). The expanded, corporeal-geometrisised God means such a this-life, inasmuch
as he lacks passion it´s a "non-anthropomorphic this-life" (Bloch
1977, Vol. 7: 176). Bloch mentions the doctrine of Plotin that in the sphere
of the intelligible only the Platonic basic ideas (being, persisting, movement,
identity, otherness) are true and if they are present in the world sphere
at least "per analogiam" the sensual categories of the divine sphere would
remain extrinsic (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 39). This doctrine would be the source
of the ´non-anthropomorphic´ God from Maimonides until Spinoza
and even in negative theology.
Humans consider themselves as being in the world with geometrically
founded necessity and with the mission to comprehend themselves as a
part of the world in order to organise their lives according to this.
The essence of this world would be "a comprehended expression of metaphysical
space". Substance is no longer considered as "birthing mother" just like
in the works of Bruno, at least as "mixed ground", but as a "crystal-God",
"plainly in all clarity" (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 176).
On this geometric foundation, Spinoza takes up the doctrine of naturna
naturans and natura naturata that can already be found in Averro´s:
"In Nature there exists nothing contingent, but all things have
been determined by the necessity of the divine nature to exist and operate
in a certain way."
In the notes to this proposition, the decisive explanations can
"Before going any further, I wish here to explain, what we should
understand by nature viewed as active (natura natarans), and nature viewed
as passive (natura naturata). I say to explain, or rather call attention
to it, for I think that, from what has been said, it is sufficiently clear,
that by nature viewed as active we should understand that which is in itself,
and is conceived through itself, or those attributes of substance, which
express eternal and infinite essence, in other words ... God, in so far
as he is considered as a free cause. By nature viewed as passive I understand
all that which follows from the necessity of the nature of God, or of any
of the attributes of God, that is, all the modes of the attributes of God,
in so far as they are considered as things which are in God, and which without
God cannot exist or be conceived".
Spinoza´s natura naturata is for Bloch composed of "mathematical
dismissals without purpose", "dismissals"- Bloch even avoids the
term "product" which contains a development process, i.e. an active element.
This natura naturata is caused by a natura naturans that is without purpose,
non-teleological and pure necessity. Although Bloch objected to Spinoza
that the latter doesn´t terminologically stick with the matter-form-relationship
of Aristotle and the Aristotelian left and teaches a pantheistic substance-attributes-unity,
he closes his Spinoza-chapter in the second course with the remark that
having introduced the forming powers that were hypostasised as something
divine in the past into matter, is Spinozaís merit and the "truth
of Spinozism". This would have resulted in an "non-spiritual substratum"
(Bloch 1977, Vol. 8: 214f.) and would have been made possible by Spinozaís
overreaching emphasis on the universal at the expense of the individual,
movement and force as well as by the elimination of teleological purpose.
This would bring him close to the ancient passion in the species and statics
(Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 50).
Immanence versus Transcending without Transcendence
Without a doubt Spinoza´s and Bloch´s thinking is connected
by the striving for finding the first and last cause. Adorno says in
1959 on the occasion of the publication of the extend edition of Bloch´s
Spuren (Tracks) that it has always been an interest of Bloch to go beyond
the border-line set by Kant´s thing-in-itself.
He mentions that one can see behind every word the will to break
through the blockage that since Kant has been set up by the common sense
between consciousness and thing-in-itself; the sanctioning of this border-line
would be considered as being a part of ideology and an expression of the
modesty of bourgeois society in a world that has been battered and has been
conversed into things by this society which results in a commodified world
that is a world for them. This would have been the theoretical coincidence
of Bloch and Benjamin. Bloch would have torn down the boundary-posts due
to an inherent desire for freedom and this would have also resulted in the
dismissal of the "ontological difference" between essence and pure being
that would be so common for philosophy and this country. The being-in-existence
itself would by a resumption of the motives of German idealism and Aristotle
become a force and potency that strives towards the absolute (Adorno 1990:
Bloch´s philosophising has its beginning as well as its end
in the human existence: "I am, but I don´t have myself, hence we
still will have to become" (Bloch 1977, Vol. 13: 11). One could assume
that Spinoza´s critique of Descartes that philosophy has to start
not from the self, but from God, even though it´s concerned with
the status of the human being, is also true for Bloch. Bartuschat says
that Spinoza´s methodology doesn´t analyse given effects for
their causes, but assumes an adequate knowledge about a final cause that
results in all effects and progressing from which clear and evident knowledge
about single things can be derived. These things are not considered as
being caused by pure accident, but they are considered as being essentially
determined by a cognised cause (Bartuschat 1993: 920). But Spinoza is paying
a price for his curiosity concerning the final cause because all moments
that can be comprehended don´t belong to his system of concepts (Bendszeit
1974: 906). Bloch doesn´t remove these unclear moments which are
for him a sign of the unfinished character of the world from which the
being-in-possibility of the world emerges. This can be considered as the
knowledge of the "not-yet" of Bloch´s philosophy which is characterised
by differentiated dynamics that donít correspond to Spinozian statics.
Both models have anthropological and ethical consequences; at this point
Bloch is critical of both Bruno and Spinoza, although the first knows with
his monadology a counterbalance to the concept of maximal universe:
He says that in both philosophical systems thereís no place
for human affairs in the universe, for both deus sive nature is resting
in itself and has a finished character. Old astral mythology and fatalism
can be found, in Spinoza´s work in a more than Stoic manner in his
concept of amor fati; there is neither room for humanistic nor for dialectical
materialism (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 178).
In Bloch´s book on Thomas Münzer there is an even more
drastic passage where he says that essentially the fields haunted by
Christ, the Unconditioned, which are the spaces of the last ratio, are
in a state of dawn, in a still uncertain inner light; everything like a
crystal breaks into pieces in view of this and becomes frivolity (Bloch
1977, Vol. 2: 182). The crystal-metaphor is a clear reference to Spinoza,
Christ as the Son of man is mentioned, not God. Bloch´s thinking is
coined by this inclination for the human being; he doesn´t expect
of him Spinoza´s perfection in face of the reality of life that has
Bloch writes to Adolph Lowe that he´s writing a new chapter
for the first book of The Principle of Hope entitled "Tafel der Leidenschaften,
gefüllte und Erwartungsaffekte" ("Board of Passion, Filled and Affects
of Expectance") and says that he again wants to take up the motive of "definitio
affectum" from Spinoza´s Ethics, but not in a rationalistic manner
that ignores nothingness and drives away affects as perturbationes animae
instead of illuminating them and doing justice to them by a metaphysical
ratio. Besides love the most important affects for Bloch are the affects
of expectation (the negative ones: anxiety, fear, fright and the negative
decree: despair; the positive ones: hope and the decree that has yet to come:
confidence) (Bloch 1985, Vol. 2: 760).
This again shows the ambiguity of Bloch´s relationship to
Spinoza. In his Principle of Hope, Bloch has the metaphor of a marble
hall for Spinoza´s Ethics, a hall to which Spinoza who was turning
so extensively to thinghood (Bloch 1977, Vol. 5: 80) added a definition
of affects as a sort of alien element. This insofar as - and here Bloch
quotes Dilthey - Spinoza as well as Descartes in their theories of affects
provide analyses from the outside along with relationships one can´t
find in any inner perception (Bloch 1977, Vol. 5: 80). Existential philosophy
is characterised by a proximity to affect, whereas pure object-thinking
is characterised by a decline of affects, Bloch says that everything that
is in affect cum ira et studio, is as "perturbatio animi" also methodological
and an "asylum of ignorance" in Spinoza´s sense (Bloch 1977, Vol.
All together Bloch is considering Spinoza as a pathfinder of German
idealism, the latter in misunderstanding Spinozism removing geometry
from it and transforming Spinoza´s substance into a cosmic subject-object.
Bloch says that the organic renaissance-elements one can find in Bruno
as well as Spinoza were taken up, the organic thought of nature was for
a last time interpreted in a bourgeois-revolutionary way. The existence
of moved matter (earthly spirit, substance) would have been life, not death
and in the Spinozism of Goethe and even Schelling there would have still
been existence of matter. The fully untranscendental look at the world
would have since Bruno and Spinoza heavily influenced and enriched existence
and wouldnít have had to impoverish it (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 179).
No kind of materialism today or in the future, also no speculative
materialism, can ignore the tradition of the Aristotelian left and its
successors, even though the latter considers everything in a pantheistic
manner as good and having already appeared: Bloch says the eschatological
profoundness runs counter to subjectivism and mechanism without the non-inner
conscience of Bruno and Spinoza (Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 546).
But considering this one had to progress towards the dialectic of
subject and object and "the revolutionary equation: substance = subject"
(Bloch 1977, Vol. 7: 179) which was postulated by Hegel. Bloch says that
in Hegel´s works from the postulated equation of subject and substance
results a whole fulfilment-system of historical mediations in such a
way that the totality of the Absolute exists not only in abstract manner
or in examples and allegories, but also concretely in a permanently adjusting
process of symbolic figures of being-for-itself which are becoming ever
more real. No longer abstract thinking would be the place for the genesis
of categories such as in mathematics and formal rationalistic systems,
but the "method" would be a true one going along the path of history as
the organon of concrete philosophy (Bloch 2000: 25)
Subject and Substance Today
This desire of the subject at itself could be spoiled by newer scientific
results which put forward the ideas that the human species is not the
final and not the only highest creature in the universe, but that a plurality
of different forms of existence beyond human existence canít be
precluded, that from an evolutionary point of view this in fact seems to
be quite a necessity and that hence the human being is only a relatively
unimportant, transitory by-product of matter (Zimmermann 2001: 58).
Starting from these scientific result which are presented in the
part on philosophy of history of his recently published, illuminating work
Subjekt und Existenz. Zur Systematik Blochscher Philosophie (Subject and
Existence. On the Systematics of Bloch´s Philosophy), Rainer E.
Zimmermann analyses the compatibility of recent scientific insight and
Bloch´s philosophy of nature which from a scientific view has proved
to be especially capable of dialogue and a productive instance. Zimmermann
quotes one line from Bloch´s Tübinger Einleitung in die Philosophie
(Tübinger Introduction to Philosophy): "The world is an experiment
that this matter performs with itself by means of us" (Bloch 1977, Vol. 8:
As always in the works of Bloch, he also stresses in this passage
("by means of us") the special position of the human being in the worldly
process, not in the sense of a solipsistic subjectivism: The human being
is the possible obstetrician of the new, the decisive "factor of innovation"
in the active development, not just passive unfolding of the worldly with
the purpose of an alliance of humans and nature with a prevalence of human
Zimmermann says that from today´s point of view he´s
not fully satisfied with Bloch´s formulation and hence he proposes
a "proper" formulation:
"The world is an experiment that substance performs with itself
by means of us amongst others" (Zimmermann 2001: 58).
Noticeable is not only the new modesty ("by means of us amongst
others") - it is astonishing that Bloch´s "matter" is substituted
by Zimmermann´s "substance" in a Spinozian manner. Introducing
his "new version" of Bloch´s sentence, Zimmermann writes that matter
(according to recent results of the sciences) can´t be substance,
which is one aspect of the onto-epistemic mediations of the worldly and
its foundation (Zimmermann 2001: 58). Besides the fact that it´s
questionable if Bloch had agreed with the view that philosophy should
orient itself on the single sciences and that it hence depends on them,
a short clarification of the substance-concept as it is used here is necessary.
Let´s start with the "scandal of modern philosophy" (if Bloch
would have followed such a modernism remains an open question). Zimmermann
says that by orienting itself on a fundamental single science (physics),
i.e. by making use of "non-philosophical means", modern philosophy is
reaching an elementary, philosophical decision in favour of materialism.
And it would have to do so in order not to violate fundamental philosophical
theorems such as the theorem of foundation and Okham´s razor (Zimmermann
2001: 152). Simple insights from physics that enforce such a decision are
e.g. related to the "cosmological principle" that hold that physics is the
same everywhere in the universe. History of the cosmos can be described
as a history of increasing complexity. Starting with the Big Bang, during
the course of development new structures emerge in the universe which are
real innovations. The basic substratum of the universe (space-time-matter)
doesn´t at all change during these processes, nothing emerges and
nothing disappears. Only the complexity of the produced systems increases
permanently. Assuming this, human cognition is nothing else than a late
complex system of space-time-matter. "Cognition is a form of matter" (Zimmermann
Then there is the differentiation between substance and substratum:
Substratum is space-time-matter, and the latter is worldly. Bloch agrees
with this: he conceives matter by referring to the Aristotelian differentiation
of matter as capable of development and there is a strong emphasis on
openness ("process-matter") that seems to collide with the cosmological
principle which holds that nothing new emerges in the world process, but
this is a little bit dampened by the concept of latency:
"matter is the real possibility for all the forms that are latent
in its bosom and are unbound by the process... Real possibility
from there on [the Aristotelian "dynamei on", D.Z.] can be understood as
substratum" (Bloch 1977, Vol. 5: 271).
Bloch´s starting point for the conception of the process-matter
is again the human being and his history. The dialectical-materialistic
moments of development such as subjective factor, mature conditions, transformation
of quantity into quality, even changeableness (Bloch 1977, Vol. 5: 273)
must prove themselves in matter. Based on a "block-matter" they would be
without a substratum. Bloch says that the transition from the realm of
necessity to the realm of freedom only finds its place in incomplete process-matter
and that the extremes future-nature, anticipation-matter become united
in historical-dialectical materialism (Bloch 1977, Vol. 5: 273).
How does the concept of substance differ from that of substratum
within the framework of the ongoing discourse? In fact, this difference
can be visualized when thinking of (classical) relativity theory on the
one hand, and quantum theory on the other as two aspects of the same underlying
unified theory which has not been found yet. This would be a "theory of everything"
(TOE) for which quantum gravity is the best candidate at the time. Hence,
it is always one and the same (single) world to which we are referring,
and we conjecture that it may be described in terms of one and the same
(unified) theory. So the available theories are to this future theory what
according to the metaphysical tradition the attributes of substance are
to substance itself. Contrary to the latter which cannot be described in
(scientific-)theoretical terms at all (due to the restriction of human
perception) its minimal mapping in terms of a future TOE can be properly
explicated. And the substratum is the physical correlate of this TOE. Hence,
substratum and TOE together are the unified description of what humans
can express as of substance's (only) attribute. The substance however must
be conceived on one level below, it is considered in the sense of Nikolaus
von Kues as "first origin" which is the "simplest and most perfect indivisibility",
this indivisibility being the "cause of everything" (de Cusa 1977: 43).
For Rainer Zimmermann the solution of this problem can be found
in the concept of "pre-geometric" structures: One already searches
on the level of intra-physics for an abstract structure from which the
universe expressed as space-time-matter can be deduced in such a way that
macroscopic and microscopic physics seem to be two different perspectives
of the world (Zimmermann 1998: 152).
Of course this renewed, actualised mathematical illustration would
remind Bloch of Spinoza - but it remains questionable whether the mathematisation
of substance would erase his basic objections. But one can´t deny
that Bloch is close to substance-metaphysics, this doesn´t result
in a worldly that can be adequately explained mathematically, but in a disparate
worldly that can not-yet be observed by itself and the human being. Taking
a look at Bloch´s concept of substance makes clear his position.
Reading Bloch´s systematic main work shows just like his other
works a thriftily usage of the term "substance". I think that this is
due to the problem of integrating substance into an open system which he
nonetheless tries to do. Substance as that which is in effect at the foundation
and can be experienced by humans is present in latency is substantiality.
Its cognisability in the what-being of a content comes into prospect, the
whole world process is considered as an experiment thitherto. The already
partly realisation of the what-content is considered as a temporary guarantor
of this fundamental cognisability and is signified by the term "shining forth"
In the chapter on the forms of moving out (Auszugsgestalten) in
Experimentum Mundi there is a passage on the relationship of matter and
substance. All gestalt figures, Bloch stresses, emerge from the dialectical
process and from matter as developing, producing substance immanently as
well as speculatively (Bloch 1977, Vol. 15: 165) So for Bloch matter is
a dialectically developing, producing substance and this substance has
an immanent and speculative potential.
How does Bloch define substance? Bloch´s concept of substance
is qualitative-processual: He says that the reinforcement of the world
question and its content by the human being opens up the transition of
the world-things from a stagnant, incrusted thinghood to the fermenting
just like to the questioning just like to the overarching, i.e. to the substance.
And this would be process-substance which is not a category of transmission,
also not a gestalt category because it hasn´t yet reached a brought
out form, but rather it is germ and utopian totum of the materia ultima
in the laboratory of the world (Bloch 1977, Vol. 15: 246).
For Bloch the important differentiation between substance and substantiality
is due to the open system: Substance in contrast to substantiality has
as an still outstanding totum no degrees and is in contrast to substantiality
not fully at work, it rather stands for fulfilled work and the felicitous
identity in the relationship of the That (quod/Dass) and the What (quid/Was),
quidditas and quodditas. Substantiality would be its only yet present
mode of being. And then the decisive explanation: Substantiality as the
mode of being of substance is transformed by the logical principle of identity
which hence also formulates the only liable condition of substance in ought-to-be
identity (Bloch 1977, Vol. 15: 246).
As postulate substance is also included in the unnegligent principle
of hope to which action is bound. Bloch says that seen like this on the
process-way related to the political and mainly to totality, there is a
close relationship between the principle and the scope-category of periods,
the encompassing spheres (especially the ethical) as well as between substance
and the gestalt categories as forms of moving out (Auszugsgestalten). Because
the principle of a good At-All (überhaupt) would transform the gestalt-
and even more the scope-categories into categories of an attempted moving
out, into a better collective-being (Gemeinwesen), substance-being (Substanzwesen)
(Bloch 1977, Vol. 15: 181).
An "all-one", already produced substance would have to express itself
in all "modes"; such a qualitative difference as is conceived by Bloch
with the "forms of moving out" ("Auszugsgestalten") wouldn´t be possible.
Substance in Bloch´s works is not as foundation of the worldly always
absolutely identical with itself in the sense of harmonious as wholeness
and unity of existing infinity and eternity and in the sense of strict
ideality (Zimmermann 2001: 161). Instead he is speaking of the itself-searching-searched
(sich-suchend-gesuchte) category of substance (Bloch 1977, Vol. 15: 68)
The That unfortunately remains evident by the theorem of foundation and
even in it formal-logically unilluminated. This wouldn´t be the case,
if the theorem meant with the words of Jakob Böhme the foundation as
non-foundation (Bloch 1977, Vol. 15: 76). With "non-foundation" Böhme
was referring to the still non-apparent absolute and conceived it as the
non-initial One without a predicate where all development has its origin
and about which one can positively only say that it is "Nothingness" which
is addicted for Something. The will to Something is an essential necessity
of the non-foundation because by it "Nothingness" gains existence (Bendszeit
Hence there is a large affinity of Bloch for Böhme´s
non-foundation as the source of being. He surely could also agree with
Zimmermann´s figure of identity "contaminated with difference"
in substance itself as the foundation of the worldly. But Bloch´s
terminology is less value-free, he calls the contaminated difference the
evil that can transform itself as a negative reversion into another principle
(Bloch 1977, Vol. 15: 181). There is no evidence in Bloch´s works
that he didn´t consider substance already in Spinoza´s writings
as absolute identity, but as identity of identity and difference as reclaimed
by Zimmermann. At a whole it seems like Bloch in a substance-metaphysics
of the "universal" sees the danger that the worldly especially the humans
and their affairs are degraded if it is considered as refuse of the One
as has been done ever since Platon: Opposed to the being-for-itself (kaq`auta)
which exists unrelated and absolutely (apolutwV) and is recognised, is
the related-being (proV etera) which is in its being related to the being-for-itself,
whereas the latter exist independently from the related-being. Based on
this is the fundamental categorical differentiation between S(ubstance)
(ousia) and A(ccident) (paqoV, sumbebhkoV) which can only exist as determination
of substantial being and insofar as its being is related to substantial
being. This graduation of the modes of being has to do with the graduation
of being in ideas, mental-mathematical being and evidence in such a way
that the eternal intelligible (ideas, mathematicality, souls) at a whole
possesses the modes of being of the Substantial, whereas the changeable
Evident at a whole has the mode of being of the Related and only wins its
share of the ousia by the virtue (arete) as the realisation of the what-being
so that it is no actual-what (ti), but only a qualified-by-a-what (poiouton,
poion) (Schantz 1974: 497).
Due to the objectively given problems of imagining or conceiving
this One or Absolute, for the time being doubts remain concerning the possibility
of an all-embracing, depletive explanation as it is provided today by
pre-geometry. This of course doesnít want to question the hermeneutic
efficiency for certain purposes. Maybe it is also otiose to make such
speculations because this doesn´t change the basic motive of Bloch´s
thinking, i.e. the consideration of the worldly as intensive-logical process
of tension where from a felicitous end (identity as the result of a processual
identification) the origin will illuminate itself or - importantly -
where the origin will remain unilluminated due to a failing denouement.
The world process isnít determined by a "structurally secluded
necessity" where inner and outer conditions coincide as is e.g. as Bloch
mentions imagined by Spinoza in his definition of the God-nature as the
causa sui, but contingency is also at play in the process, without it there
would be no "richness of development". Adorno´s assessment in the
essay mentioned above emphasises this aspect: Bloch´s thinking would
put forward "fulfilment" according to the model of authentic hdonh and
not as task or idea. Hence it would be anti-idealistic and materialistic
(Adorno 1959: 241).
Bloch writes that reference points for human actions are ethical
ideals of the coincidence of foundation and manifestation which can be
more or less concretely anticipated and that they exist as structural possibility.
This possibility would unclose the horizon of the causa sui or the felicitous
identity of existence and essence as the most resolute category of salvation,
it would be more or less concretely possible to anticipate reference points
for human actions. The ideal point where essence and appearance coincide
would always be the absolute guideline for the structural line of the humane-positive
Bloch and Self-Organisation
Bloch´s philosophy of nature, as it is also present in his
interpretation of Spinoza, seems to be a well-suited dialog partner for
today´s theories of self-organisation. The reference of Bloch to
the concept of natura naturans which conceives nature as a self-producing
system, corresponds to and even anticipates fundamental ideas that have
been developed by the physico-chemist Ilya Prigogine and the physicist
Hermann Haken in an interdisciplinary approach. Bloch stresses resolutely
the character of the openness of the world process with objective-real
possibility-horizons. In addition there is the concept of a "hypothetical
subject of nature" that enables a dialectical cognition of the process of
nature, but also in my view tries to live up to an ontological monism: the
human subject has with the hypothetical subject of nature not only a partner
for "parallel actions" in the sense of an available structural resemblance,
but also even a co-operation partner for alliance in order to advance human
purposes which presumably are also the purposes of nature. This concept
even transcends the Hegelian dialectic of chance and necessity and possibly
the models of the formation of structure present in the theories of self-organisation
because there is a strong teleological element constitutive for Bloch´s
In all that we find the idea of a production "from within" which
starts from an "bottom-up"-organisation not only at the core of Ernst Bloch´s
philosophy of nature, but also of his practical, political philosophy.
In this sense Burghart Schmidt already wrote in 1982 in his essay "Zum
Werk Ernst Blochs" ("On Ernst Bloch´s Works"):
"The determining reasons of history were no longer declared as unalterable
laws by Bloch, but understood as open tendencies that can only take their
direction of realisation by human beings solidary working at the creation
of freedom. Purpose, goal, meaning in this are mediated with the conditional
relation of a first and a second nature, so that their determinism and
force must not be accepted without dissent. The connection of foundation
and goal by work became the main topic of Bloch´s late main work
"Experimentum Mundi" which insists that there is also liberating order,
a bottom-up-order, self-organisation [emphasis added, D.Z.], and order and
truth would indispensable be ordered systemically, but open in the attempt-relationships
of their contents leading right through and connecting, adjourning, assembling
the disciplines of knowledge, art and praxis".
The dimension of the philosophy of nature in his works, which constitutes
Ernst Bloch´s exceptional position in the circle of "Western Marxists",
was immediately realised and picked out as a central theme after his
death. The first Ernst-Bloch-Days that took place in Tübingen 1978,
dealt with "Marxismus und Naturbeherrschung" (Marxism and Domination of
Nature). In 1981 the book "Andere Ansichten der Natur" (Other Views on
Nature) of the "Arbeitskreises Naturqualität" (Research Group Quality
of Nature) was published. Several conferences of the Ernst Bloch Association
discussed philosophical topics of nature, e.g. in 1986 "Wissen/Wissenschaft
und Hoffnung" (Knowledge/Science and Hope), in 1989 "Natur und Praxis"
(Nature and Praxis), in 1991 "Produktive Kräfte und gesellschaftliche
Synthesis. Wie gesellschaftliche Bedingungen die Produktivität von
Menschen und Natur prägen" (Productive Forces and Social Synthesis.
How Social Conditions and Productivity are Coined by Human Beings and Nature
), and in 2000 "Bruno - Schelling - Bloch. Elemente einer Philosophie" (Bruno
- Schelling - Bloch. Elements of a Philosophy). Besides the work of Jan
Robert Bloch, who as a skilled natural scientist had the question of nature
permanently on his agenda, the dialog between Bloch´s philosophy
of nature and theories of self-organisation was crucially influenced by
the works and projects of Rainer E. Zimmermann, as in the journal "System
& Struktur" (System & Structure) and the "Klymene-Project". Hence
the INTAS-project stands - amongst others - in the tradition of the Bloch-discourse
which hopefully will be a quite productive one.
Adorno, Theodor W. (1990) Blochs Spuren. Zur neuen erweiterten Ausgabe
1959. Collected Works, Vol. 11 Noten zur Literatur. Frankfurt am Main.
Bartuschat, Wolfgang (1993) Baruch des Spinoza. In: Jean-Pierre
Schobinger (Ed.) (1993) Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Die
Philosophie des 17. Jahrhunderts. Vol. 2 Frankreich und die Niederlande.
Bendszeit, K. (1974) reference Grund. In: Joachim Ritter (Ed.) (1974)
Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie. Vol. 3. Basel / Stuttgart.
Bloch, Ernst (1977) Thomas Münzer als Theologe der Revolution.
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