This chapter argues that the standard conception of Spinoza as a fellow-travelling mechanical philosopher and proto-scientific naturalist is misleading. It argues, first, that Spinoza’s account of the proper method for the study of nature presented in the Theological-Political Treatise (TTP) points away from the one commonly associated with the mechanical philosophy. Moreover, throughout his works Spinoza’s views on the very possibility of knowledge of nature are decidedly sceptical (as specified below). Third, in the seventeenth-century debates over proper methods in the (...) sciences, Spinoza sided with those that criticized the aspirations of those (the physico-mathematicians, Galileo, Huygens, Wallis, Wren, etc) who thought the application of mathematics to nature was the way to make progress. In particular, he offers grounds for doubting their confidence in the significance of measurement as well as their piece-meal methodology (see section 2). Along the way, this chapter offers a new interpretation of common notions in the context of treating Spinoza’s account of motion (see section 3). (shrink)
Like most, if not all, of his contemporaries, Spinoza never developed a full-fledged philosophy of mathematics. Still, his numerous remarks about mathematics attest not only to his deep interest in the subject (a point which is also confirmed by the significant presence of mathematical books in his library), but also to his quite elaborate and perhaps unique understanding of the nature of mathematics. At the very center of his thought about mathematics stands a paradox (or, at least, an apparent paradox): (...) mathematics provides Spinoza with an epistemic model. Mathematical knowledge is certain (II/138/9 and II/138/9), clear (IV/261/8), and free from teleological thinking (II/79/33), but the objects of mathematical knowledge – i.e., mathematical entities – are nothing but “auxila imaginationis [aids of the imagination],” (IV/57/16 and II/83/15), entities that are not real and merely assist the imagination in carving the world in manner that is suitable to our limited and distortive cognitive capacities. (shrink)
In the present paper we propose to approach the Spinoza`s methodological project from a philosophical and historical perspective broad enough to adequately understand the reasons that led him to adopt geometric method to expose his philosophy. Even if the topic has been widely discussed by Spinoza´s commentators in the four centuries since the Ethics was published, we believe that the approaches are either inadequate or suffer from some fragmentation, in the sense that they address this or that aspect, but don`t (...) put together all pieces that make up the puzzle. Likewise, we consider that a full understanding of such application of geometric method transcends the mere question of whether it was successful or not in terms of logical rigor. So that, the fundamental task in the present work is unite various aspects that help us understand Spinoza`s methodological choice in a synoptic vision, in which both historical and systematic aspects can be included. To this end, we start from a hypothesis which allow us glimpse a certain unity behind the reasons that lead Spinoza to choose the geometric method, namely: our philosopher tries to reach an ideal of science, which combines some conceptual elements of Aristotelian tradition with others from Cartesian philosophy. (shrink)
Spinoza reasons about impossibilities on a regular basis. But he also says they're unthinkable and that reasoning is a mental process. How can he do this? The paper defends a linguistic account of counterpossible inferences in Spinoza's geometrical method.
After some reflections about the utility and singularity of philosophy, it is shown that the main utility of philosophy, following Spinoza, would be the perfection of human nature, with the aid of our understanding. Lastly, a synthesis is made of the path followed by Spinoza in his Ethica in the direction of this perfection.
This book interrogates the ontology of mathematical entities in Spinoza as a basis for addressing a wide range of interpretive issues in Spinoza’s epistemology—from his antiskepticism and philosophy of science to the nature and scope of reason and intuitive knowledge and the intellectual love of God. Going against recent trends in Spinoza scholarship, and drawing on various sources, including Spinoza’s engagements with optical theory and physics, Matthew Homan argues for a realist interpretation of geometrical figures in Spinoza; illustrates their role (...) in a Spinozan hypothetico-deductive scientific method; and develops Spinoza’s mathematical examples to better illuminate the three kinds of knowledge. The result is a portrait of Spinoza’s epistemology as sanguine and distinctive yet at home in the new Cartesian and Galilean scientific-philosophical paradigm. (shrink)
Dans cet ouvrage, Niamkey-Koffi, après avoir affronté l'idée de système, en écho chez Spinoza, se consacre à la constitution de contenus de vérité soumis à l'exigence fragmentaire. Celle-ci fut le souci primordial de Nietzsche. La notion de système philosophique engage dans un mouvement critique qui démasque la volonté de vérité dissimulée dans l'idéologie et les mensonges du système comme instrument de la socialisation totalitaire. Mais une telle démarche critique, tributaire d'une morale de l'ambivalence, ne saurait reconduire la dialectique des dichotomies (...) et des exclusions (vrai ou faux), nécessitant chez Hegel l'intervention d'un troisième terme, mais opte pour le maintien de la tension entre les termes opposés en vue de la production du choc révolutionnaire. (shrink)
Throughout much of his career, Deleuze repeats a problem he attributes to Spinoza: “we do not even know what a body can do.” The problem is closely associated with Deleuze’s parallelist reading of Spinoza and what he calls ethology. In this article, I argue that Deleuze takes ethology to be a new model for philosophy which he intends to replace ontology. I ground my claim in Deleuze’s suggestion that Spinoza offers philosophers the means of thinking “with AND rather than thinking (...) for IS...” The argument is developed through Deleuze’s monographs and collaborations on Spinoza and alongside his meta-philosophical critique of the Image of Thought. -/- A travers la plupart de sa carrière, Deleuze répète un problème qu'il attribue à Spinoza : « on ne sait même pas ce que peut le corps. » Le problème est étroitement lié à paralléliste lecture de Spinoza par Deleuze et à ce qu’il appelle éthologie. Dans cet article, je soutiens que Deleuze prend éthologie être un nouveau modèle de philosophie qu’il entend remplacer l’ontologie. Je centre mon contention sur la suggestion de Deleuze que Spinoza propose des philosophes les moyens de « penser avec ET au lieu de penser pour EST… » L’argument est développé à travers les monographies et collaborations de Deleuze sur Spinoza et aux côtés de sa critique méta-philosophique de l’Image de la Pensée. (shrink)
This paper offers a new interpretation of the young Spinoza’s method of distinguishing the true ideas from the false, which shows that his answer to the sceptic is not a failure. This method combines analysis and synthesis as follows: if we can say of the object of an idea which simple things underlie it, how it can be constructed out of simple elements, and what properties it has after it has been produced, doubt concerning the object simply makes no sense. (...) The paper also suggests a way in which this methodology connects to the ontology of the Ethics. (shrink)
This paper examines Spinoza’s view on the consistency of mental representation. First, I argue that he departs from Scholastic tradition by arguing that all mental states—whether desires, intentions, beliefs, perceptions, entertainings, etc.—must be logically consistent. Second, I argue that his endorsement of this view is motivated by key Spinozistic doctrines, most importantly the doctrine that all acts of thought represent what could follow from God’s nature. Finally, I argue that Spinoza’s view that all mental representation is consistent pushes him to (...) a linguistic account of contradiction. (shrink)
In Spinoza’s metaphysics, we encounter many puzzling doctrines that appear to entangle metaphysical notions with cognitive, logical, and epistemic ones. According to him, a substance is that which can be conceived through itself and a mode is that which is conceived through another. Thus, metaphysical notions, substance and mode, are defined through a notion that is either cognitive or logical, being conceived through. He defines an attribute as that which an intellect perceives as constituting the essence of a substance. Intellectual (...) perception, something cognitive, is used to define an attribute, something metaphysical. And he claims that if something exists there is a reason why it exists and if something doesn’t exist there is also a reason why it doesn’t. Thus, a reason, something cognitive or epistemic, is necessary for existence or nonexistence. What are we to make of the intimate connections that Spinoza sees between metaphysical, cognitive, logical, and epistemic notions? Between being and reason? In this book, I argue for what might be called a realist interpretation: although Spinoza is confident that the order of being mirrors the order of reason, he believes that they are two orders, not one. There is inherence over and above conceptual dependence; there is causation in addition to causal explanation; the world has a nature that we can grasp and that our way of grasping it does not interpose an impenetrable conceptual veil between it and us. (shrink)
Spinoza’s naturalism is unique. It explains conscious mind, physical behavior, and scientific, cultural, social and political phenomena by recourse to the deductive relation of causes to effects as expressed by Nature itself. This book provides an innovative and original interpretation of the way in which Spinoza achieved this unique vision.
Spinoza's guiding commitment to the thesis that nothing exists or occurs outside of the scope of nature and its necessary laws makes him one of the great seventeenth-century exemplars of both philosophical naturalism and explanatory rationalism. Nature and Necessity in Spinoza's Philosophy brings together for the first time eighteen of Don Garrett's articles on Spinoza's philosophy, ranging over the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, ethics, and political philosophy. Taken together, these influential articles provide a comprehensive interpretation of that (...) philosophy, including Spinoza's theories of substance, thought and extension, causation, truth, knowledge, individuation, representation, consciousness, conatus, teleology, emotion, freedom, responsibility, virtue, contract, the state, and eternity-and the deep interrelations among them. Each article aims to resolve significant problems in the understanding of Spinoza's philosophy in such a way as to make evident both his reasons for his views and the enduring value of his ideas. At the same time, Garrett's articles elucidate the relations between his philosophy and those of predecessors and contemporaries like Aristotle, Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, and Leibniz. Lastly, the volume offers important and substantial replies to leading critics on four crucial topics: the necessary existence of God (Nature), substance monism, necessitarianism, and consciousness. (shrink)
Spinoza’s Ethics, and its project of proving ethical truths through the geometric method, have attracted and challenged readers for more than three hundred years. In Spinoza and the Cunning of Imagination, Eugene Garver uses the imagination as a guiding thread to this work. Other readers have looked at the imagination to account for Spinoza’s understanding of politics and religion, but this is the first inquiry to see it as central to the Ethics as a whole—imagination as a quality to be (...) cultivated, and not simply overcome. Spinoza initially presents imagination as an inadequate and confused way of thinking, always inferior to ideas that adequately represent things as they are. It would seem to follow that one ought to purge the mind of imaginative ideas and replace them with rational ideas as soon as possible, but as Garver shows, the Ethics don’t allow for this ultimate ethical act until one has cultivated a powerful imagination. This is, for Garver, “the cunning of imagination.” The simple plot of progress becomes, because of the imagination, a complex journey full of reversals and discoveries. For Garver, the “cunning” of the imagination resides in our ability to use imagination to rise above it. (shrink)
Michael LeBuffe explains claims about reason in Spinoza's metaphysics, theory of mind, ethics, and politics. He emphasizes the extent to which different claims build upon one another so contribute to the systematic coherence of Spinoza's philosophy.
This chapter will discuss Spinoza’s critique of free will, though our brief study of this topic in the first part of the chapter will aim primarily at preparing us to address the main topic of the chapter, which is Spinoza’s explanation of the reasons which force us to believe in free will. At times, Spinoza seems to come very close to asserting the paradoxical claim that we are not free to avoid belief in free will. In the second part of (...) the chapter I will closely examine Spinoza’s etiological explanation of how we come to form the belief in free will. In the third part, I will raise and respond to a crucial objection to Spinoza’s explanation of the formation of our belief in free will. I will then turn to examine Fichte’s intriguing claim that Spinoza’s position on the issue of free will suffers from an internal contradiction, as evinced in Fichte’s suggestive remark: “Spinoza could not have been convinced of his own philosophy. He could only have thought of it; he could not have believed it [Er konnte seine Philosphie nur denken, nicht sie glauben].”. (shrink)
Spinoza never discusses the scenario of radical skepticism as it was introduced by Descartes. Why not? This paper argues that he chooses a preventive strategy: instead of taking the skeptical challenge as it is and trying to refute it, he questions the challenge itself and gives a diagnosis of its origin. It is a combination of semantic atomism, dualism and anti-naturalism that gives rise to radical doubts. Spinoza attacks these basic assumptions, opting instead for semantic holism, anti-dualism and naturalism. This (...) crucial shift of basic assumptions prevents radical skepticism from arising. To be sure, local doubts are still possible, but the possibility of global doubt is ruled out. The paper examines this preventive strategy, situating it in the historical context and building a bridge to more recent anti-skeptical strategies. (shrink)
Historians of philosophy are well aware of the limitations of what Butterfield called ‘Whig history’: narratives of historical progress that culminate in an enlightened present. Yet many recent studies retain a somewhat teleological outlook. Why should this be so? To explain it, I propose, we need to take account of the emotional investments that guide our interest in the philosophical past, and the role they play in shaping what we understand as the history of philosophy. As far as I know, (...) this problem is not currently much addressed. However, it is illuminatingly explored in the work of Spinoza. Spinoza aspires to explain the psychological basis of our attachment to histories with a teleological flavour. At the same time, he insists that such histories are epistemologically flawed. To study the history of philosophy in a properly philosophical fashion we must overcome our Whiggish leanings. (shrink)
Spinoza is commonly perceived as the great metaphysician of coherence. The Euclidean manner in which he presented his philosophy in the _Ethics _has led readers to assume they are facing a strict and consistent philosophical system that necessarily follows from itself. As opposed to the prevailing understanding of Spinoza and his work, _The Role of Contradictions in Spinoza's Philosophy_ explores an array of profound and pervasive contradictions in Spinoza’s system and argues they are deliberate and constitutive of his philosophical thinking (...) and the notion of God at its heart. Relying on a meticulous and careful reading of the _Theological-Political Treatise_ and the _Ethics_, this book reconstructs Spinoza's philosophy of contradictions as a key to the ascending three degrees of knowledge leading to the _Amor intellectualis Dei_. Offering an exciting and clearly-argued interpretation of Spinoza’s philosophy, this book will interest students and scholars of modern philosophy and philosophy of religion, as well as Jewish studies. Yuval Jobani is Assistant Professor at the Department of Hebrew Culture Studies and the School of Education at Tel-Aviv University. (shrink)
It is a challenge in teaching early modern philosophy to balance historical faithfulness to the arguments and concerns of early modern philosophers and interpreting them as relevant to the kinds of thinking that contemporary undergraduate students find plausible. Early modern philosophy is unique, however, in applying modern scientific method directly to problems concerning nonphysical aspects of reality that our contemporary scientific thought, and with it mainstream contemporary culture, no longer find amenable in their own, independent right to reliable reasoned approaches. (...) At the same time, early modern philosophy often also takes seriously purely conceptual or logically consequential thought in the investigation of these topics, as our mainstream contemporary culture does not. This kind of thought, we argue, is distinctive of philosophy in general and appropriate to nonphysical aspects of reality. Early modern philosophy, then, offers a bridge between the kind of reasoned, objective thought our mainstream culture finds plausible and thought about nonphysical reality or, in general, the thought that characterizes philosophy. (shrink)
Practices of the self are prominent in Spinoza, both in the Ethics and On the Emendation of the Intellect. The same can be said of Descartes, e.g., his Discourse on the Method. What, if anything, distinguishes their practices of the self? Michel Foucault’s concept of “spirituality” isolates how Spinoza ’s practices are relatively unusual in the early modern era. Spirituality, as defined by Foucault in The Hermeneutics of the Subject, requires changes in the ethical subject before one can begin philosophizing, (...) and claims to result in a complete transfiguration or perfection of the subject. Both these characteristics are present in Spinoza ’s Emendation while both are lacking in Descartes’ Discourse. Turning to the Ethics’ practices of the self, I show how affects can be moderated through other affects, and that this text establishes a thorough training of the self which will strengthen one’s overall power well into the future. My treatment of the Ethics differs in emphasis from many other readings which focus on reason’s power over affects, or on cognitive therapy which moderates individual affects to lessen current sadness. In both works, Spinoza ’s practices of the self promise significant changes to those who undergo them. (shrink)
i would like to thank Michael Della Rocca for his thoughtful response to my remarks. Needless to say, I am not entirely convinced by everything he says, but I am also sure that he did not think that I would be! The substantive points on which we differ are complex, and deserve careful consideration and argument; this is not the occasion on which to thrash out those differences. But I would like to add a few words about the methodological differences (...) that Della Rocca notes at the end of his contribution.In rejecting my attribution of a “superhero” methodology to his Spinoza, Della Rocca suggests the following contrast between our approaches:[P]erhaps the most general and appropriate way to see the methodological.. (shrink)
The Geometrical Method The Geometrical Method is the style of proof that was used in Euclid’s proofs in geometry, and that was used in philosophy in Spinoza’s proofs in his Ethics. The term appeared first in 16th century Europe when mathematics was on an upswing due to the new science of mechanics. … Continue reading Geometrical Method →.
This paper begins with a pressing question for contemporary philosophy: What does it mean to read Spinoza’s Ethics today? Before we can address this particular question, we pose another, one possibly prior, question. The question is situated within Spinozism itself. It asks, ‘What does it mean to read, for Spinoza?’ Given Spinoza’s commitment to the theory of parallelism, reading affects both the body and the mind. We first show how an explicit formulation of the three kinds of material bodies allows (...) us to understand the process by which the meaning of a text can affect the body of the reader. We then show how the three kinds of knowledge evince the order in which textual meaning can affect the mind of the reader. We then claim that these tripartite orders map directly onto each other. After demonstrating the structural parallelism at the corporeal and cognitive levels, we return to further characterize the nature of the meaning of the meaning of a text in order to understand what it means to read, for Spinoza. We conclude with an observation about the necessary interrelatedness of metaphysics and ethics. (shrink)
This paper aims at reconstructing the ethical issues raised by Spinoza's early Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect. Specifically, I argue that Spinoza takes issue with Descartes’ epistemology in order to support a form of “ethical intellectualism” in which knowledge is envisaged as both necessary and sufficient to reach the supreme good. First, I reconstruct how Descartes exploits the distinction between truth and certainty in his Discourse on the Method. On the one hand, this distinction acts as the basis (...) for Descartes’ epistemological rules while, on the other hand, it implies a “morale par provision” in which adequate knowledge is not strictly necessary to practice virtue. Second, I show that Spinoza rejects the distinction between truth and certainty and thus the methodological doubt. This move leads Spinoza to substitute the Cartesian Cogito with the idea of God as the only adequate standard of knowledge, through which the mind can attain the rules to reach the supreme good. Third, I demonstrate that in the Short Treatise Spinoza develops this view by equating intellect and will and thus maintaining that only adequate knowledge can help to contrast affects. However, I also insist that Spinoza's early epistemology is unable to explain why human beings drop conceive of the idea of God inadequately. Thus, I suggest that in his later writings Spinoza accounts for the insufficiency of adequate knowledge in opposing the power of the imagination and passions by reconnecting the nature of ideas with the mind's conatus. (shrink)
Spinoza is among the most pivotal thinkers in the history of philosophy. He has had a deep and enduring influence on a wide range of philosophical subjects, and his work is encountered by all serious students of Western philosophy. His _Ethics_ is one of the seminal works of metaphysical, moral, religious and political thought; his _Theological-Political Treatise_ inaugurated a novel method of biblical exegesis; and both his political works developed the pre-eminence of democracy above all other regimes. Nevertheless, the significance (...) of Spinoza's philosophy is matched by its complexity. His system presents a considerable challenge for the modern student; his language is frequently opaque, while the esoteric themes explored in his work often require elucidation. _Spinoza: Basic Concepts_ intends to overcome most of such difficulties. Each essay in this collection explores a key concept involved in Spinoza’s thinking, relating it to his understanding of philosophy, outlining the arguments and explaining the implications of each concept. Together, the chapters cover the full range of Spinoza’s interdisciplinary system of philosophy. (shrink)
The argument for modal collapse is partly responsible for the widespread rejection of the so-called Principle of Sufficient Reason in recent times. This paper discusses the PSR against the background of the recent debate about grounding and develops principled reasons for rejecting the argument from modal collapse.
Scholars have begun to explore Baruch Spinozas critique of rationalism, largely because of his importance for later thinkers deeply concerned about the nature of body, including Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Frankfurt school critical theorists, and feminists. Until now, however, Spinozas epistemological writings have not been properly addressed in this revival of interest in his materialism. My dissertation reconstructs Spinozas materialist method of knowing in an effort to reclaim it from Cartesian and idealist readings, offering instead a materialist reading of Spinozas epistemological (...) writings that shows him as the first serious critic of modern rationalism. Contrary to the predominant reading of Spinoza in Anglo-American philosophy, which presents him as a metaphysician dependent on Cartesian epistemology, I argue that Spinoza offers something separate, akin to an epistemology, that distinguishes him from the Cartesian model and allows him to critique it. The dissertation explores how Spinozas method of knowing must involve material conditions, including concrete history, psychology, society, and politics, that are experienced through the body and that render a purely mental criterion for knowledge impossible. (shrink)
In this article I dispute the claim, made by several contemporary scholars, that Spinoza was a naturalist. ‘Naturalism’ here refers to two distinct but related positions in contemporary philosophy. The first, ontological naturalism, is the view that everything that exists possesses a certain character permitting it to be defined as natural and prohibiting it from being defined as supernatural. I argue that the only definition of ontological naturalism that could be legitimately applied to Spinoza's philosophy is so unrestrictive as to (...) tell us nothing about the content of his ideas. The second, methodological naturalism, is the view that the natural sciences are the best means of finding out substantial truths about the concrete world. I present some historical research showing that Spinoza's way of positioning himself with respect to other philosophers in the Dutch Republic casts very serious doubt on the claim that he was a methodological naturalist. This adds further weight to arguments that have already been made against the naturalist reading of Spinoza. (shrink)
early modern philosophers commonly appeal to a mathematical method to demonstrate their philosophical claims. Since such claims are not always followed by what we would recognize as mathematical proofs, they are often dismissed as mere rhetoric. René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, and Benedict de Spinoza are perhaps the most well-known early modern philosophers who fall into this category. It is a matter of dispute whether the ordo geometricus amounts to more than a method of presentation in Spinoza’s philosophy. Descartes and Hobbes (...) clearly appeal to a method of discovery modeled after geometry, but neither employs it to develop a heavily quantitative physics. Whereas Descartes’s version of the geometrical method .. (shrink)
when reading spinoza’s Ethics,1 one comes upon a particularly disconcerting passage in Part Three. In an explication of two definitions of ‘favor’ (favor) and ‘indignation’ (indignatio), Spinoza writes,I know that in their common usage these words mean something else. But my purpose is to explain the nature of things, not the meaning of words. I intend to indicate these things by words whose meaning is not entirely opposed to the meaning with which I wish to use them. One warning of (...) this should suffice.2The passage cannot but give rise to some bewilderment. First, if Spinoza’s use of words is not “entirely opposed” to the (common) meaning of those words, one wonders to what degree his use of words is in fact .. (shrink)
Adequate and inadequate ideas play a central role in Spinoza’s system. A number of recent commentators have suggested that the internality or externality of an idea’s immediate cause is a necessary and sufficient condition of the idea’s adequacy or inadequacy, respectively. I show that this thesis is subject to counterexample and briefly explore the significance of this critique for recent interpretations. I offer an alternative interpretation on which adequate and inadequate ideas are characterized by the manner in which they grasp (...) their objects. Adequate ideas conceive of their objects as following from God. Inadequate ideas conceive of their objects as affecting the body at a time and place. (shrink)
In this paper, I discuss Spinoza on the proper methods and content of physical science. I start by showing how Spinoza's epistemology leads him to a kind of pessimism about the prospects of empirical and mathematical methods in natural philosophy. While they are useful for life, they do not tell us about nature, as Spinoza puts it, “as it is in itself.” At the same time, Spinoza seems to allow that we have some knowledge of physical things and their behavior. (...) So I go on to outline and critique a few of the accounts of how Spinoza thinks we can do this, focusing on the role of the common notions in physics. In the third section, I discuss the possible contents of physics, for Spinoza, and argue that they are not, as is usually thought, fundamentally Cartesian. I conclude by pointing to some promising directions for future research and suggesting a few heuristics for such research. (shrink)
It is argued first, that Spinoza's Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) is best seen as an auxiliary premise and not as an axiom of the Ethics; second, that Spinoza held the PSR to be a self-evident truth that indicates a necessary condition for clearly and distinctly representing the existence or non-existence of a thing; and third, that this interpretation of Spinoza's PSR explains the near absence of the PSR within the demonstrations of the Ethics as well as the importance of (...) the principle in Spinoza's thought. (shrink)
Both Plato and Kant devote much attention and care to deliberating about their method of philosophizing. And, interestingly, both seek to expand and explain their view of philosophical method by one selfsame strategy: explaining the contrast between rational procedure in mathematics and in philosophy. Plato and Kant agree on a fundamental point of philosophical method that is at odds with the mathematico-demonstrative methodology of philosophy found in Spinoza and present in Christian Wolff. Both reject the axiomatic approach with its insistence (...) on fundamental truths postulated from the outset. Both alike insist that philosophizing—unlike mathematics—is an exercise in theorizing where the questions of basicness and foundations come into view only after the inquiry has gone on for a long, long time—and certainly not at its start. (shrink)
Spinoza ’s letter of June 2, 1674 to his friend Jarig Jelles addresses several distinct and important issues in Spinoza ’s philosophy. It explains briefly the core of Spinoza ’s disagreement with Hobbes’ political theory, develops his innovative understanding of numbers, and elaborates on Spinoza ’s refusal to describe God as one or single. Then, toward the end of the letter, Spinoza writes: With regard to the statement that figure is a negation and not anything positive, it is obvious that (...) matter in its totality, considered without limitation [indefinitè consideratam], can have no figure, and that figure applies only to finite and determinate bodies. For he who says that he apprehends a figure, thereby means to indicate simply this, that he apprehends a determinate thing and the manner of its determination. This determination therefore does not pertain to the thing in regard to its being [esse]; on the contrary, it is its non-being [non-esse]. So since figure is nothing but determination, and determination is negation [Quia ergo figura non aliud, quam determinatio, et determinatio negatio est], figure can be nothing other than negation, as has been said. Arguably, what is most notable about this letter is the fate of a single subordinate clause which appears in the last sentence of this passage: et determinatio negatio est. That clause was to be adopted by Hegel and transformed into the slogan of his own dialectical method: Omnis determinatio est negatio. Of further significance is the fact that, while Hegel does credit Spinoza with the discovery of this most fundamental insight, he believes Spinoza failed to appreciate the importance of his discovery. The issue of negation and the possibility of self-negation stand at the very center of the philosophical dialogue between the systems of Spinoza and Hegel, and in this paper I will attempt to provide a preliminary explication of this foundational debate between the two systems. In the first part of the paper I will argue that the “determination is negation” formula has been understood in at least three distinct senses among the German Idealists, and as a result many of the participants in the discussion of this formula were actually talking past each other. The clarification of the three distinct senses of the formula will lead, in the second part of the paper, to a more precise evaluation of the fundamental debate between Spinoza and Hegel regarding the possibility of self-negation. In this part I will evaluate the validity of each interpretation of the determination formula, and motivate the positions of the various participants in the debate. (shrink)
This paper critically analyses two of Eckart Förster’s claims on the development of German idealism. The first claim is the following: In his writings on colour and on plant development, Goethe uses a method that is grounded in Spinoza’s third form of knowledge, scientia intuitiva. According to the second claim, Goethe’s methodology played a crucial role in establishing a developmental approach to knowledge in Hegel’s early Jena period. The paper assesses objections to both claims.
Spinoza scholars have claimed that we are faced with a dilemma: either Spinoza's definitions in his Ethics are real, in spite of indications to the contrary, or the definitions are nominal and the propositions derived from them are false. I argue that Spinoza did not recognize the distinction between real and nominal definitions. Rather, Spinoza classified definitions according to whether they require a priori or a posteriori justification, which is a classification distinct from either the real/nominal or the intensional/extensional classification. (...) I argue that Spinoza uses both a priori and a posteriori definitions in the Ethics and that recognizing both types of definitions allows us to understand Spinoza's geometric method in a new way. We can now understand the geometric method as two methods, one resulting in propositions that Spinoza considers to be absolutely certain and another resulting in propositions that Spinoza does not consider certain. The latter method makes use of a posteriori definitions and postulates, whereas the former method uses only a priori definitions and axioms. (shrink)
The guidebook is meant to be read alongside the Ethics. It thus follows the order of Spinoza’s text and discusses sets of propositions as the development of various strands of argument. It instructs readers to pause and, for example, read Propositions 1-5 of Part 1 together, before moving on to a different component of his argument for the simplicity of substance. Lord dedicates more elaborate discussion to crucial but problematic propositions, like Proposition 11 of Part 1, Proposition 7 of Part (...) 2, etc. It thus serves as a good map for new readers, who are often bewildered by Spinoza’s geometrical method, in addition to explaining his major teachings. The book includes various study aids, including a glossary, suggestions for further reading, examples of questions students are likely to encounter, and even tips for students writing about Spinoza. (shrink)
English summary: This volume takes Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz in comparison, meaning maximum nearness and maximum distance at the same time. Maximum nearness in terminology, in problem formation, in the way historical sequences refer to each other, but also in the right to think fundamentally and originally. Maximum distance achieved in the solutions and their evaluations, in the concepts of self-confidence and knowledge, in the understanding of science or the importance of ethics, and the relationship between immanence and transcendence. With a (...) focus on theory of ideas and knowledge, this volume draws this comparison as part of a historical similarity: all three thinkers transform from a more methodically dominated first phase to a metaphysical maturation that becomes stronger and more comprehensive, a change that can not only be understood as a continuity. German text. German description: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz im Vergleich, das heisst maximale Nahe und maximale Distanz zugleich. Maximale Nahe in der Terminologie, in der Problemstellung, in der Art in der historischen Reihenfolge aufeinander Bezug zu nehmen, aber auch im Anspruch fundamental und urspruenglich zu denken. Maximale Distanz in den Losungen und deren Bewertungen, den Konzeptionen des Selbstbewusstseins und der Erkenntnis, dem Verstandnis von Wissenschaft oder der Bedeutung der Ethik, dem Verhaltnis von Immanenz und Transzendenz.Der vorliegende Band zieht - mit einem Schwerpunkt in der Theorie der Ideen und der Erkenntnis - diesen Vergleich im Rahmen einer historischen Ahnlichkeit: Alle drei Denker wandeln sich von einer eher methodisch dominierten ersten Phase zu einer umfassender werdenden und gewissermassen starker metaphysischen Reifezeit, eine Wandlung, die nicht nur als Kontinuitat verstanden werden kann. (shrink)