Recently I have taken up cycling. I used to take great joy in this all the way up through graduate school until my bike got stolen. I wasn’t a serious cyclist. I used my bike simply to get places and often to just cruise about. I loved jumping off of curbs or taking turns at breakneck speeds. This time around I’m taking it more seriously, riding for fitness and mental health. I’m not a beast like some of my friends who are avid cyclists, but every day I go a bit further, a bit faster, and get more endurance.

I’ve named my bike Spinoza. Why? In Part II, Proposition VII of the Ethics, Spinoza says that “the order and connection among ideas is the same as the order and connection among things.” This is Spinoza’s famous parallelism. Unlike dualists, he does not claim that there is one order of the body ruled by extension and cause and effect interactions and another of thought governed by different types of relations (it would be odd, perhaps, to say that one idea causes another in the way that one billiard ball hitting another causes it to move in a particular direction). Unlikely the materialist he does not say that thought is an expression of neurological events like the Churchlands claim. For Spinoza, thought does not cause bodily events, nor do bodily events cause thought. Rather, they run parallel to one another. Perhaps we can even say they are one and the same thing expressed through different attributes, now seen under the attribute of thought, now seen under the attribute of extension. As such, while they are the same, they do not resemble each other. Nothing about my thoughts as I write this rather vapid post resembles neurological events in my brain, nor does anything about neurological events that resemble my thoughts, but for each thought I have there’s a neurological event (along with other bodily events) and for every bodily event there’s a thought. Our thoughts might not be at all veridical in many cases for this reason. For example, I might be irritated by another driver on the road (a thought). I think the other driver is the cause of my ire. But maybe I’m just hangry (hunger + angry) and am suffering a deficiency of various nutrients in my body that makes me especially sensitive to stimuli from my environment such as the other car seeming too close to me. Perception is as much about filtering stimuli out as it is about sensing stimuli. When we are tired or our chemistry is off kilter, that ability to filter stimuli comes painfully flooding in. We are overwhelmed by the world. Notice how well this accords with Deleuze’s account of desire where there is no lack. At the bodily level there’s no lack, just gradients and differentials.

These thoughts are what have led me to name my bike Spinoza. There’s a sort of experiment here. If parallelism is true— a big if —then what becomes of my thought as I live my body in this way? As my body undergoes transformations, becoming stronger, having more endurance, breathing better, etc, will the nature of my thought change as well? Already, in the weeks I’ve been cycling, I’ve begun getting the exercise high. I find myself less irritated in the evenings. The horrors of the world and the mundane frustrations of daily life seem more muted, more distant. Will there be other changes? Will there be new lines of thought running parallel to the becomings my body is undergoing? In Part III, Proposition II, Spinoza says we don’t know what a body can do. I certainly don’t know what my body can do and experience wonder as it does more and more. But if parallelism is true, then we also don’t know what thought can do and discover more and more of the power of thought as we discover the power of our bodies.