The Day in Which All Cows Are White: Spinoza’s Acosmism in Another Light
Abstract. In this essay, I aim to defend Spinoza against Hegel’s claim that he annihilated finite things and the real differences they instantiate. To counter Hegel’s charge of acosmism, I try to conceive of a Spinozist kind of acosmism that would mean not a metaphysical eliminativism or nihilism about finitude and diversity, but rather a metaphysical fictionalism about finitude that entails a latent application of the principle of the discernibility of identicals. I do this by focusing on the correspondence between Spinoza’s three kinds of knowledge – imagination, intellection, and intuition – and his understanding of things as being finite, infinite in kind, and absolutely infinite. In the process, I also entertain Yitzhak Melamed’s argument that Hegel was wrong to accuse Spinoza of acosmism, but was onto something by noting the lack of full or self-subsistent existence on the part of finite modes. Melamed offers a reading that claims Spinozist individuals are weak and functional properties that follow from God as his effects. I respond that Melamed would be correct only if we view things from the perspective of the first kind of knowledge, which is a perspective that is by definition false. I conclude, then, that finite things in Spinoza, qua finite, are not illusions, but fictions, and that when viewed truly or truthfully they are so many infinite in kind or absolutely infinite ways one infinite and eternal substance, God or nature, is discernibly identical to itself.
Keywords: Spinoza, Hegel, Acosmism, Discernibility, Infinite, Knowledge, Truth