Schopenhauer’s philosophical engagement with Spinoza spreads over many fronts, and an adequate – not to say, complete – treatment of the topic, should cover at least the following issues: Schopenhauer’s critique (and misunderstanding) of Spinoza’s pivotal concept of causa sui; Schopenhauer’s claim that Spinoza confused reason [ratio] and cause [causa]; the relationship between Schopenhauer’s and Spinoza’s monisms; the eminent role that both philosophers assign to causality; and finally, Schopenhauer’s view of the world as a macroanthropos, as opposed to Spinoza’s attack (...) on anthropomorphic thinking. An attempt to reconstruct a genuine philosophical dialogue between Schopenhauer and Spinoza should begin by setting the record straight and clarifying the former’s mis-readings of the latter (and there are quite a few of this kind ). We could also benefit from comparing Schopenhauer’s reception of Spinoza’s with that of Schopenhauer’s German contemporaries. Regrettably our space here is limited and so if we wish to treat any of the issues in any depth, we must restrict the scope of the current chapter. For this reason, I have decided to concentrate on two central issues: animal rights (Part I) and evil (Part II). These issues are, clearly, at least as important as the others listed above. (shrink)
In this paper I defend an eudaimonistic reading of Spinoza’s ethical philosophy. Eudaimonism refers to the mainstream ethical tradition of the ancient Greeks, which considers happiness a naturalistic, stable, and exclusively intrinsic good. Within this tradition, we can also draw a distinction between weak eudaimonists and strong eudaimonists. Weak eudaimonists do not ground their ethical conceptions of happiness in complete theories of metaphysics, epistemology, or psychology. Strong eudaimonists, conversely, build their conceptions of happiness around an overall philosophical system that extends (...) far beyond ethics, while nevertheless being directed at the promotion of a happy life. I will show that Spinozistic happiness is not only naturalistic, stable, and exclusively intrinsically good, but that Spinoza is also a strong eudaimonist because his ethical account of happiness is incomprehensible without appeal to metaphysical, epistemological, and psychological doctrines. As well, I will explain how the apparent subjective and relativistic features of Spinoza’s ethics do not undermine the eudaimonistic reading, because both Spinoza and the ancient eudaimonists grant that the beliefs/feelings of the subject play a necessary (but insufficient) role in happiness as the highest good. Published on 2023-03-24 11:32:59. (shrink)
In the lecture of December 16, 1980, Deleuze proposes a cross-reading of Spinoza and Rousseau. First, Deleuze reinterprets Rousseau’s morality in the light of Spinoza’s critique of ‘morality’ based on the opposition of good and evil; second, and reciprocally, he rereads Spinoza’s practical and ethical philosophy from a concept extracted from Rousseau’s work: that of the ‘materialism of the wise’. According to Deleuze, this ‘practical materialism’ evoked by Rousseau, consisting of both ‘determinism’ and ‘sensualism’, has a Spinozist inspiration, insofar as (...) it has an amoralist dimension, close to the critique of morality developed in the Ethics. But on the other hand, Rousseau’s ‘materialism of the wise’ allows us, conversely, to reread the Spinozist explanation of the conquest of freedom, by revealing the presence of practical principles very close to those of Rousseau’s ethical materialism. The cross-reading of Spinoza and Rousseau thus presents a double aim: on the one hand, to identify the presence of amoralist themes and issues in Rousseau’s work; on the other, to reveal the existence of materialist principles in the Spinozist ethical itinerary. (shrink)
The central argument of Youpa's book is that Spinoza's moral philosophy offers a distinctive variety of moral realism, grounded in a standard of human nature. In this review essay, I provide an overview of Youpa's remarkably lucid interpretation of Spinoza. However, I also critique Youpa's conception of the 'free man' as an objective standard of perfection which (a) applies equally to all humans, and (b) which has objective moral force in the sense that it ought to be approached. I sketch (...) an alternative reading of Spinoza which denies a shared human essence, and which denies that an individual ought to become more perfect than they in fact are. I argue that Youpa's reading rests on the conflation of Spinoza's concepts of active power and adequate causation. I then suggest that Youpa's resultant excessive focus on a rational human essence as 'what we fundamentally are' leads him to downplay a more developmental and imaginative dimension to Spinoza's moral philosophy. (shrink)
This book examines the longstanding debate between philosophical optimism and pessimism in the history of philosophy, focusing on Aristotle, Maimonides, Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Camus. Philosophical optimists maintain that the world is optimally arranged and is accordingly valuable, and that the existence of human beings is preferable over their nonexistence. Philosophical pessimists, by contrast, hold that the world is in a woeful condition and ultimately valueless, and that human nonexistence would have been preferable over our existence. Schopenhauer criticizes the optimism (...) he locates in the Hebrew Bible and in Spinoza for being unable to square the presumed perfection of the world and its parts, including human life, with the suffering and misfortunes observable in them, and for leading to egoism and thereby to cruelty. Nietzsche, in turn, criticizes Schopenhauer's overtly pessimistic view, inter alia, for furtively positing a perfect state for one to aspire to, thus being latently optimistic. Similarly, Camus charges Nietzsche, who announces his rejection of both optimism and pessimism, with deifying the world and oneself, thereby reverting to optimism. Interestingly, Aristotle countenances an optimistic theory, later adopted and developed by Maimonides, that is arguably capable of facing Schopenhauer's challenge. Aristotelian optimism accounts for the perfection of the world in terms of a hierarchy of value between its parts, with human beings ranked relatively low, and recommends an attitude congruent with that ranking. (shrink)
In the current paper I rely on two outstanding studies. The one, by Warren Zev Harvey, draws a portrait of Spinoza as Maimonidean, stressing the continuity between Maimonides and Spinoza on the issue of morality and the highest good. The other is the magisterial study by Steven Shmuel Harvey of the reception of the Nicomachean Ethics in medieval Jewish philosophy, from its being subject to almost complete indifference in the period before Maimonides until it became “the best known and most (...) cited work of Aristotle” in sixteenth-century Jewish philosophy. In the first part of this paper I will discuss some main junctions in the medieval Jewish reception of the notion of the highest good. This discussion will be cursory and will mostly focus on matters that will help us approach Spinoza’s views on the issue, views which will be examined closely in the second part of the paper. (shrink)
Andrea Sangiacomo offers a new understanding of Spinoza's moral philosophy, how his views significantly evolved over time, and how he himself struggled during his career to develop a theory that could speak to human beings as they actually are--imperfect, passionate, and often not very rational.
Contributors: Steven Barbone, Laurent Bove, Edwin Curley, Valérie Debuiche, Michael Della Rocca, Simon B. Duffy, Daniel Garber, Pascale Gillot, Céline Hervet, Jonathan Israel, Chantal Jaquet, Mogens Lærke, Jacqueline Lagrée, Martin Lin, Yitzhak Y. Melamed, Pierre-François Moreau, Steven Nadler, Knox Peden, Alison Peterman, Charles Ramond, Michael A. Rosenthal, Pascal Sévérac, Hasana Sharp, Jack Stetter, Ariel Suhamy, Lorenzo Vinciguerra.
Andrew Youpa offers an original reading of Spinoza's moral philosophy, arguing it is fundamentally an ethics of joy. Unlike approaches to moral philosophy that center on praiseworthiness or blameworthiness, Youpa maintains that Spinoza's moral philosophy is about how to live lovingly and joyously. His reading expands to examinations of the centrality of education and friendship to Spinoza's moral framework, his theory of emotions, and the metaphysical foundation of his moral philosophy.
Objects are inert, passive, devoid of will, and as such bear no intrinsic value or moral worth. This claim is supported by the argument that to be considered a moral agent one must have a conscious will and be sufficiently free to act in accordance with that will. Since material objects, it is assumed, have no active will nor freedom, they should not be considered moral agents nor bearers of intrinsic ethical vale. Thus, the apparent “moral neutrality” of objects rests (...) upon a kind of subject/object or mind/body dualism. The aim of this paper is to explore two paths by which western thought can escape this dualism, re-valuate the alleged “moral neutrality” of material objects, and initiate a sort of “object oriented ethics,” albeit with surprising results. To do so, this paper explores the work of Arthur Schopenhauer and Baruch Spinoza to interrogate both the claim that material objects have no will and that freedom is the necessary condition for ethical responsibility. This paper concludes by arguing that not only should objects been seen as bearers of their own ethical value, a determinate judgement can be made regarding that value through a basic understanding of the laws of physics. (shrink)
I argue that Spinoza is more of a moral realist than an anti-realist. More specifically, I argue that Spinoza is more of a realist than Kant, and that his view has deep similarities with Plato's metaethics. Along the way, I identify three approaches to the moral realism/anti-realism distinction. Classifying Spinoza as a moral realist brings out a number of important complexities that have been overlooked by many of Spinoza's readers and by many contemporary metaethicists.
Among Spinoza’s principal projects in the Ethics is his effort to “remove” certain metaethical prejudices from the minds of his readers, to “expose” them, as he has similar misconceptions about other matters, by submitting them to the “scrutiny of reason”. In this article, I consider the argumentative strategy Spinoza uses here – and its intellectual history – in depth. I argue that Spinoza’s method is best characterised as a genealogical analysis. As I recount, by Spinoza’s time of writing, these kinds (...) of arguments already had a long and illustrious history. However, I also argue that, in his adoption of such strategies, we have good reason to think Spinoza’s primary influence was Gersonides. Elucidating this aspect of Spinoza’s critique of his contemporaries’ axiologies brings a number of explicatory and historical boons. However, regrettably, it also comes at a cost, revealing a significant flaw in Spinoza’s reasoning. Towards the end of this article, I consider the nature of this flaw, whether Spinoza can avoid it and its ramifications for Spinoza’s wider philosophical project. (shrink)
How can we think about evil if we exclude free will? Spinoza and Freud define freedom in terms of the understanding of mechanisms arising in a person by necessity. Spinoza's letters to Blijenbergh, analyzed here through a Freudian lens, allow us to formulate a response to this problem.
In this paper I examine the question whether Spinoza can account for the necessity of death. I argue that he cannot because within his ethical intellectualist system the subject cannot understand the cause of her death, since by understanding it renders it harmless. Then, I argue that Spinoza could not solve this difficulties because of deeper commitments of his system. At the end I draw a historical parallel to the problem from medieval philosophy.
Some critics have claimed that Spinoza's philosophy has nothing to offer aesthetics. I argue that within his conception of an ars vivendi one can discern a nascent theory of art. I bring the figure of the prophet in relation to that of the artist and, alongside a consideration of Spinoza's views on goodness and beauty, show that the special talent of the artist should be understood in terms of the entirely natural expression of the conatus.
In this essay, I claim that certain passages in Book IV of Benedict de Spinoza’s Ethics suggest a novel version of what is known as metaethical constructivism. The constructivist interpretation emerges in the course of attempting to resolve a tension between Spinoza’s apparent ethical egoism and some remarks he makes about the efficacy of collaborating with the right partners when attempting to promote our individual self-interest. Though Spinoza maintains that individuals necessarily aim to promote their self-interest, I argue that Spinoza (...) has an atypical conception of self that allows the interests of other people to be partially constitutive of one's own self-interest. In this way, Spinoza can account for the rationality of concern for the interests of others. This interpretation attributes to Spinoza a form of constructivism that differs in important ways from contemporary Humean and Kantian constructivisms and which can in principle be detached from Spinoza’s particular metaphysical commitments in order to yield a third general category of constructivist view. Though my treatment is necessarily brief, it is my hope that it can serve both to motivate a constructivist reading of Spinoza and, perhaps even more crucially, to suggest a Spinozistic variety of constructivism as a live theoretical option in metaethics. (shrink)
According to a widely accepted reading of the "Ethics," Spinoza subscribes to a desire-satisfaction theory of value. A desire-satisfaction theory says that what has value is the satisfaction of one’s desires and whatever leads to the satisfaction of one’s desires. In this paper I argue that this standard reading is incorrect, and I show that in Spinoza’s view the foundation of what is truly valuable is the perfection of a person’s essence, not the satisfaction of a person’s desires.
In this paper I argue that, for Spinoza, the power to produce effects through one's nature alone is the key constituent of the good life. Indeed, to exist in the strict sense is to be the causal source of effects. On this reading, a temporally long life that is entirely governed by causal factors external to one's essence is not a genuine existence.
Spinoza presents his ethics using a variety of terminologies. Propositions that are, or at least might be taken for, normative include only very few explicit guidelines for action. I will take this claim from Vp10s to be one such guideline:Vp10s: So that we may always have this rule of reason ready when it is needed, we should think and meditate often about common human wrongs and how and in what way they may best be driven away by nobility.
As Spinoza presents it, the knowledge of God is knowledge, primarily, of oneself and, secondarily, of other things. Without this know‐ledge, a mind may not consciously desire to persevere in being. That is why Spinoza claims that the knowledge of God is the most useful thing to the mind at IVP28. He claims that the knowledge of God is the highest good, however, not because it is instrumental to perseverance, but because it is also the best among those goods that (...) we seek for their own sakes. It is acquiescentia in se ipso, the highest form of laetitia. (shrink)
A tradição judaico-cristã crê na existência de um ser supremo transcendente que, por um ato de vontade, cria o mundo e os seres humanos, dando a estes o livre-arbítrio para escolher entre o bem e o mal. QUando Espinosa (1632-77) afirma: "Deus, ou seja, a Natureza", ele subverte essa crença. DEmonstra que o ser absoluto é imanente ao universo e que todas as coisas são efeitos necessários de sua ação.SÃo inúmeras as interpretações da obra de Espinosa; alguns consideram até que, (...) para ele, a liberdade humana é impossível. NEste livro que é fruto de mais de trinta anos de estudos, Marilena Chaui opõe-se a tal visão e mostra que a imanência de Deus à Natureza é a condição necessária para a existência dos seres individuais e para a sua liberdade.PRêmio Jabuti 2000 de Melhor Livro de Ciências Humanas e Educação. (shrink)
A puzzling feature of Spinoza's discussion of the good is that it takes place on two different levels whose compatibility seems uncertain. He advances a view of the nature of ascriptions of “good” to certain individual things, but he also devotes a large part of the Ethics to recommending a particular conception of the good person. The first theory appears to undermine the force of the second. For Spinoza's view of ascriptions of “good” to any objects apparently leads in the (...) direction of subjectivism; what is good from one person's viewpoint may be bad for another's, and no viewpoint is privileged. Yet a subjectivist view of ascriptions of good would mix poorly with Spinoza's own presentation of a standard for human conduct; he himself voices a view of human good which he takes to be more than just another sound in the chorus of ethical opinions. Professor E.M. Curley expresses concern with such a difficulty in his recent article “Spinoza's Moral Philosophy: “The greater portion of Spinoza's ethical theory is devoted not to metaethics, but to normative athics. not to the analysis of ethical judgments, but to the making of ethical judgments. (shrink)
The problem of evil has always haunted theologians and philosophers. Throughout the course of this paper I will peruse the concepts of evil put forth by Spinoza and Plotinus. These two notions of evil have many similarities, yet there are some vital distinctions between the two. Plotinus and Spinoza both had rather unique views on the concept of evil that seemed to be ahead of their time in many ways. These two philosophers’ outlook on the notion of evil departs from (...) the classical theological perspective on evil. This departure from this classical line of reasoning is extremely significant for our modern-day outlook on the concept of evil. Therefore, perusing their ideas of evil will prove worthwhile. The aim of this paper is to compare and contrast these notions of evil and highlight their similarities and differences. Ultimately, by examining and connecting Spinoza’s and Plotinus’ way of dealing with the problem of evil, I hope to present the reader with a sound alternative route to the problem of evil. (shrink)