The Enigma of Spinoza's Amor Dei Intellectualis

In Noa Naaman (ed.), Descartes and Spinoza on the Passions. Cambridge University Press. pp. 222-238 (2019)
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Abstract

The notion of divine love was essential to medieval Christian conceptions of God. Jewish thinkers, though, had a much more ambivalent attitude about this issue. While Maimonides was reluctant to ascribe love, or any other affect, to God, Gersonides and Crescas celebrated God’s love. Though Spinoza is clearly sympathetic to Maimonides’ rejection of divine love as anthropomorphism, he attributes love to God nevertheless, unfolding his notion of amor Dei intellectualis at the conclusion of his Ethics. But is this a legitimate notion within his system? In the first part of this article, I will explain some of the problems surrounding this notion, and then turn, in the second part, to consider two unsatisfactory solutions. In the third part, I will attempt to rework Spinoza’s amor Dei intellectualis from his definitions of love and the other affects in part three of the Ethics. In the fourth part, I will examine closely how Spinoza tweaks his definition of love in order to allow for the possibility of divine intellectual love, and conclude by trying to explain what motivated this move.

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Yitzhak Melamed
Johns Hopkins University

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