My seminar recently read Elizabeth Grosz's latest book, The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism. Grosz is an insightful reader of philosophical history and she has assembled here the Deleuzean songbook with chapters on the Stoics, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Simondon, along with the lesser known French philosopher of biology Raymond Ruyer plus a chapter on Deleuze himself. The book follows a few themes that recur in multiple chapters, specifically the theme of ethics and how to live, as well as the notion of immanence and what it might mean to have a non-reductive or "flat" ontology. The provocative premise of the book however is something a bit different. In The Incorporeal Grosz continues her exploration of materialism, only now counterintuitively through materialism's putative opposite, that is, through the idea and the way in which the ideal always inheres in any material milieu.
I find it interesting how a number of theorists have recently embraced some of the very things that they might have avoided at a younger age: Kaja Silverman shifting away from difference and towards analogy; Donna Haraway coming out in favor of discipline (for dogs); and now Grosz, she a pioneer in what we today call New Materialism, writing a book on idealism, that hoary rival of all good materialists. I don't see any of these developments as conservative or reactionary per se. This is the mature work of mature thinkers who understand that every aspect of life ought to get its due, even those aspects that one might have formerly shunned out of a political or ethical commitment. And anyhow, why shouldn't a materialist be able to give a decent account of mind or form? Continue reading