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Philosophy, Literature, and the Critique of Spatialization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


Try as we might, kant conclusively explains in his “exposition” of “space” in the critique of pure reason's “transcendental Analytic”—the opening section of that inaugural work, in which Kant demonstrates the fundamental, “practical” necessity of its guiding, “theoretical” premises—we cannot imagine, let alone perceive, any external “matter” or object without first representing it to ourselves as occupying space. Objects are individual, distinct, exactly because they are material—whether empirically experienced or merely imagined as such—and the always impure, partly intellectual, partly empirical basis of their apprehension indicates that objects cannot themselves be the basis of their spatial perception by us. A less “philosophically” descriptive, somewhat more contemporary, but certainly contemporarily more recognizable analysis of the same intellectual procedure may be recognized in Marx's upending account of the things we perceive and value as “commodities.” As on Marx's analogous terms, “commodities form the presupposition” of the “circulation” of “values” (that “produces exchange value”) and not the other way around, and thus have “constantly … to be thrown into [circulation] anew from the outside, like fuel into a fire,” so no number and variety of objects or quantity and quality of the general object we call “matter” could ever suffice to account for space, the indispensable basis of their own conception as phenomenal, material objects (Grundrisse 254-55). While Kant deduced that no knowledge, and no possible access to knowledge, would result from the solipsistic wish to make space itself an object of spatial perception—or, for that matter, of pure (immaterial) speculation, that is, the wish to spatialize or idealize a “real,” or nonperceptual, reality of space—Marx deduced, conversely, that, without “standing in any connection to [the] commodities” that “mediate” it, “circulation” itself—the basis of valuation—would “flicker out in indifference,” “d[ying] out with money” or, rather, taking money along with it, destroying the abstracted “economic existence” of this essential while “non-substantial form of wealth” precisely by reducing it to an object “with only its metallic existence left over” (255).

Theories and Methodologies
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2016

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