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What is the substance? In S., it is referred to as many names: substantia, Vevoda’s Black Vine, the black wine. Is it a drink or a weapon or ink for writing in the orlop or what?

We are given clues in The Territory as S. holds a conversation with the paralyzed governor that he is about to assassinate (p363).

Nemec, the Governor of the Territory, is married to Molybdena. She has five sisters: Bauxia, Ferra, Argenta, Urania, and Substantia. Here are the meanings of each name…

  • Molybdena: molybdenum, an element with atomic number 42. Symbol: Mo. Looks like and is often confused with lead. The greek word for lead is molybdos.
  • Bauxia: bauxite, an aluminum ore (Thanks, Lily)
  • Ferra: iron
  • Argenta: silver
  • Urania: uranium
  • Substantia: substance

After we learn about Substantia, S. and Nemec begin a discussion about the substance and what it really is.

S.: The blue-black material….But what is it?
Nemec: It’s simply substance. That’s all it’s ever been called.

Substantia, or substance, is a topic addressed by Baruch Spinoza. Some call Spinoza an atheist, while others called him the God-intoxicated philosopher. He talked much of God’s existence, but in very non-Western terms. He believed that God was made up of substantia, or substance, and that everything was created by God out of the same substance, making everything connected into one giant organism (makes me think of the Cylon ships of Battlestar Galactica). With this type of thinking in mind, it brings about a different philosophy of the self, as Spinoza explains in his work, Ethics

When a body or individual loses some of its parts which are replaced by others of the same nature, the body or individual will retain its nature as before, with no change in its form. Bodies are not distinguished by difference of substance; what constitutes the form of the individual consists in the union of the bodies that are its parts (by The Definition); and this union is retained even if a continual change of constituent bodies occurs. So the individual will retain its nature, as before, ·through such a change·.

Note how Spinoza’s philosophy of the self addresses the Ship of Theseus Paradox.

At one point, Spinoza was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant for being a “heretic.” Spinoza survived, but his cloak was torn by the knife. Spinoza continued to wear the unmended cloak as a reminder. Was this his burden-shirt (Fn5, p52)?

Such a view also seems to fit with the voices S. is able to hear through the strata of civilization and how those voices cease when the black wine returns to the earth, rather than be hoarded for selfish pleasure or used as a weapon to destroy – everything is  connected.

Given that the substance plays such a central role to the S. story, it seems that its connection to Spinoza is significant. I am sure research into Spinoza’s philosophies will produce much more than I have managed to discover. Your thoughts welcome.

(There is a LOST connection to Spinoza. For more on that, see here.)

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