The science of singular connections

Fritz Wotruba (1907-1975), Man, condemn war, 1932.


“Preface” and “Introduction” of the newly released book.

Prefácio [Marilena Chaui]

Since Aristotle, we have known that chance is not the absence of a cause, but the crossing of two or more causalities, altering the purpose of each one of them. In other words, chance refers to the realization of an unexpected purpose that was not present in the initial cause of the event – ​​the lost teleology is the core of tyche.

Now, what will Lucretius say (following Epicurus)? That chance has nothing to do with the final cause but with the competition, the encounter, which may or may not intertwine things that, in themselves, were not related, that the interweaving may or may not “take hold”, and that the link that “takes hold” may last or not. pass from telos ao competition: here is the gigantic rupture brought about by the Of rerum nature, rupture that will express itself politically with the Machiavellian fortune as occasion.

From Vittorio Morfino's meeting with Louis Althusser, Spinoza's meeting with Lucretius and Machiavelli is born, that is, a new and unexpected interpretation of Spinoza's philosophy, in which the idea of connexion determines the emergence of an ontology of the relationship.

For this shift in perspective, Morfino examines the difference between the Tractatus de Intellectus Amendmentatione and Ethics, when Spinoza moves from a theory of causality as a linear sequence or series in favor of understanding the order and connection of beings or the interweaving that constitutes the fabric of reality.

This innovative interpretation opens a path in which it will be necessary: ​​first, to rethink the concept of substance beyond the framework of Aristotelian, scholastic, Cartesian and Leibnizian metaphysics, as well as the attempts of Kant and Hegel in order to arrive at what Vittorio calls the primacy of relation over form; second, to rethink the concept of necessity, assuming a new conception of contingency or randomness, which Spinoza would only apparently have discarded; third, to rethink the idea of ​​individuality as a structural plurality of complex internal and external relationships, therefore, as a process, meeting, connection and transitivity, going beyond the of amendment, that is, the concept of the interior as intimate essence and from abroad as circumstance, when the Ethics introduces the concept of power as a relationship regulated by an exterior and an interior that are constituted in the relationship itself; fourthly, to show how these ideas directly affect Spinoza's understanding of history (in the Treaty Theological-Political), affectivity (in Ethics), of plural temporality and of the event (in Political Treaty).

A historical work of firm and assured scholarship, ranging from Aristotle and Lucretius to Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel and Feuerbach, examining current interpretations of Spinozism such as those of Kojève and Bloch, this book is one of the most important contributions to the knowledge of philosophy. of Spinoza. Having it now translated into Portuguese and published in Brazil at a very dark time is an occasion for joy. Coming from a friend like Vittorio, it is, for us, a happy meeting.

Introduction [Vittorio Morfino]

In November 2004, Marilena Chaui invited me to the University of São Paulo to teach a week-long seminar within the Spinoza group. The meeting had been intense both from an intellectual and an emotional point of view; I strengthened friendships that the years have only strengthened. During the five days of the seminar, three hours a day, I presented the interpretative theses that had guided – and still guide – my reading of Spinoza, bringing from those discussions important suggestions for a re-elaboration and indications for further work.

In the research that had preceded this seminar, in particular in the doctoral thesis on the Spinoza-Machiavelli encounter, he had elaborated the interpretative hypothesis according to which Spinoza's encounter with Machiavelli's thought, in the context of the historical-political studies carried out in view of the composition of Theological-Political Treatise, had produced a redefinition of his concept of causality: to put it very briefly, from a model of serial causality to a model of causality commanded by the concept of connexion.

In the first text, I relate this model of causality to the question of the three types of knowledge, following the hypothesis that Balibar had suggested to me, from which other causes, besides mathematics, capable of breaking with the finalistic prejudice, of the which Spinoza speaks in the Appendix to the First Part of Ethics, may be a form of political rationality inspired by Machiavelli, a form of rationality that produces a historical-political torsion of the causality model (of the second genre) and that places as an object of the third genre the singular connections, in the example of Theological-Political Treatise, the history of the Hebrew people. From the issues raised in the first text, those developed in the others branch out: it is, in fact, in order to specify the causality model by connexion that I faced the questions of the primacy of relation over substance, of the primacy of encounter over form and of plural temporality.[1]

As I was saying, the discussions of those days influenced my subsequent research. However, those discussions were not just the formidable beginning of a journey: the friendship that linked me to Marilena and her group led me over the years to return to São Paulo many times for classes, colloquiums and participation in thesis defenses of doctorate degree. Not only that. Relations with Marilena's group also led me to strengthen relations with the Spinozist group in Córdoba and then with the Althusserian group in Buenos Aires and Santiago.

In short, Marilena literally opened the doors to a continent for me that I had come to love a year before all that, when I went to the CEMARX colloquium in Campinas. The works that I have published since then all bear the profound sign of this dialogue and, although the pole of my interests has shifted from Spinoza to Marx and Marxism, in reality, the questions I faced in that 2004 seminar are still at the center of my work. my research, although developed through new theoretical confrontations.

However, the encounter with Marilena's Spinozist group cannot be restricted to the academic field. July 2001 marked a decisive phase for Italy and Europe, police violence during the Genoa days had put a brutal brake on the hopes of the so-called “people of Seattle”, the effects of the September 11 attack and the establishment of a global police regime had done the rest. In this desolate picture, to which one can add that, in November 2004, the president of the Italian council was Berlusconi (and would continue to be so for two years and then again), my encounter with Brazil was the encounter with an extraordinary political experience, that of Lula's presidency.

It is difficult to measure to what extent this encounter was fundamental for my theoretical journey, which opened up many others for me, from that with the Kirchners' Argentina to that with Evo Morales and Garcia Liñera's Bolivia, but fundamentally with the history and political experience of the entire Latin American continent. I once told Marilena that I feel like an overseas member of USP's philosophy department, reversing Arantes' expression.

And this not only because of the bonds of friendship that bind me there, but because of the astonishing experience of thought that these bonds produced: the project that I have been carrying out for some years now on the issue of plural temporality in the Marxist tradition it would not have been even conceivable within a Eurocentric perspective. It is precisely the fact that I found myself thinking between Europe and Latin America that opened the way for research capable of problematizing the perspective of the Marxist tradition, sweeping it, so to speak, against the grain.

However, this experience has a more immediate political implication. The Brazil of the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was not only material for thought, but a powerful injection of political enthusiasm, a respite for someone, like me, who found myself in Italy facing a Berlusconi government, which included forces racists and neo-fascists.

For this reason, the great neoliberal offensive that upset the entire Latin American continent and, in Brazil, led to Lula's imprisonment in the prison of Curitiba and the election of Bolsonaro as president of Brazil, constitutes an open wound for all those who breathed those airs, that enthusiasm, that hope. An open wound over which the salt of fascism, racism, homophobia, sexism, anti-environmentalism and an anti-communism so visceral that it becomes caricature is spread. That is why the cry “Free Lula!” it means much more than the liberation of a man, it means “free Brazil!”, through a fight for those values ​​that Bolsonaro represents like a photographic negative.

*Marilena Chaui Professor Emeritus at FFLCH-USP. She is the author, among other books, of against voluntary servitude (Authentic).

*Vittorio Morfino is professor of history of philosophy at Universita Degli Studi de Milano. Author, among other books, of Il tempo e l'occasione. L'incontro Spinoza-Machiavelli (LED Edizioni Universitaire).


Vittorio Morfino. The science of singular connections. Translation: Diego Lanciote. São Paulo, Contracurrent, 2021, 180 pages.


[1] In this sense, the reader will find some repetitions that I decided not to remove precisely because the meaning and theoretical place of these ramifications are missing. the first text points to some questions regarding the primacy of relation over substance, the primacy of contingency over form and plural temporality that will be extensively developed in successive texts.


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