Philosophy Today

Volume 60, Issue 1, Winter 2016

The Power of the Monstrous

Susan Ruddick
Pages 89-105

Governed as It Were by Chance
Monstrous Infinitude and the Problem of Nature in the Work of Spinoza

In this paper I explore this question of the ways we might form enabling assemblages with non-human others, by returning to Spinoza’s theory of the composite individual. The challenge, as I see it, is less that of a need to move beyond a romanticized view of Nature as a harmonious whole, Nature as a perpetual threat, or Nature as motivated by a final cause (whether good or evil). The problem that confronts us, rather, is a problem of composition—which Nature do we ally with, what components? How do we understand or define, much less defend, localized ecosystems which are supported (and threatened) by a dizzying and infinite array of intensive and extensive properties? This is a problem of the monstrous infinite.