Spinoza : the way to wisdom

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There is a paradox in Spinoza's attempt to combine strict scientific thinking with his powerful commitment to what today we would call existential questions. Also paradoxical are his extremely impersonal philosophical method and its unique and idiosyncratic style and content. Although Spinoza's philosophy concerns itself with salvation there is no hint of religious fervour or fanaticism.

Its message is too paradoxical for that: we have not been planned and nature has no purpose. Salvation consists in realising this and in that insight finding peace and an acceptance of life. Comfort without hope.

Spinoza The Way To Wisdom Purdue University Press Series In The History Of Philosophy

If there is any divine transcendence it is not the transcendence of Someone who cares about us. It is only a trans de scendence: an in-being of the human in the Non-human. Spinoza's wisdom is wisdom without illusion. It is built on the negation of what, even today, many consider to be absolute truths: free will, the existence of evil, the immortality of the soul and a universal purpose. Spinoza's philosophy is a modern philosophy. It would be unthinkable without Galileo. Its relationship with modern science is one that calls on science to search for a truth that will liberate us from all kinds of virtually unavoidable illusions.

Modern science reveals a reality that is indifferent to our dreams and it is therefore able to contribute to a genuinely illusion-free life. Again this is not obvious. For modern culture has evolved in a direction where science is forced into the service of anthropocentric desires and ideas. In the form of technology it has become a slave to the pursuit of wealth, honour and pleasure.

Spinoza: The Way to Wisdom - Herman De Dijn, Benedictus de Spinoza, Baruch Spinoza - Google книги

Combined with the illusion of spontaneous anthropocentrism it leads alternately to hubris or cynicism: the hubris of believing that anything can be achieved or manipulated , or the cynical realisation that - as Isaac Bashevis Singer says - we are no more than a temporary fungus on the surface of a planet doomed to extinction. Spinoza's philosophy is exceptional in the sense that it does not harness science to the pursuit of power or pleasure, but attributes to it a spiritual function that leaves it completely free. Although it takes the brutal insights of science completely seriously, this does not lead to cynicism.


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What does a love of God, amor Dei , and an enjoyment of one's own glory in the realisation of God's majesty gloria signify if God is nothing but an impersonal Substance or Natura Naturans? My question is not whether or how particular statements about this can be proved: for that one can consult part V of the Ethica.

My question is whether one can even imagine what it is all about if one has not yet achieved that amor or that gloria.

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Perhaps a kindred spirit, not a scientist-philosopher but a scientist-poet, can help us out. Here the scientist sees his own activity and his own emotions as a part of nature, a part in which nature becomes a paradoxical self-reflection. A self-reflection that shares in the joy of understanding but at the same time recognises it as inevitably somewhat illusory is all of it actually produced behind our backs by nature's mechanisms? But through this recognition he comes to a tender acceptance of himself be-.

Insight into an initially harsh truth I am only this combines with the joyful experience of one's own activity and leads to tender feelings for oneself and love for that which makes everything possible, including these paradoxical experiences. It would be doing Spinoza less than justice to confine his relevance to questions of ethics and the proper way to live. He is rightly being appreciated more and more as a political philosopher; and a political philosopher, moreover, who raises questions that nowadays it is increasingly difficult to avoid, such as the relationship between politics and religion, between politics and science.


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  • This means that in his political thinking Spinoza also develops a theory of religion and science including philosophy as social realities that impact on politics. A single substance absolutely infinite, we are only modes. The God of Spinoza, the subject of ethics has nothing to do with that of the Judeo-Christian transcendent principle in the world. God identifies with this substance.

    Journal of the History of Philosophy

    In this unique substance of that nature being one with God, the human mind grasps only two attributes, extension and thought, the defining attribute to Spinoza as follows: what the understanding perceives of a substance as constituting its essence. This tripartite substance-attribute-mode enables us to grasp the meaning of the concepts of nature and of Nature Nature natured:.

    Such a system is strictly deterministic: the infinite attributes of God necessarily produce certain effects. Nothing is given contingent in nature:. Within this doctrine, how to understand the essence of human nature? There is in us an active element, named Spinoza conatus:. Joy and sorrow are the two fundamental passions which derive other passions: joy is the transition to greater perfection, the sadness, the passing of the man is less perfect.

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