One of the most peculiar features of Spinoza’s philosophy is his radical interpretation of the notion of freedom. Even though it plays a significant role in his metaethics and political philosophy, freedom is, for Spinoza, a deeply metaphysical notion, rooted in the most fundamental features of his ontology. In this paper, I analyze the internal structure that identifies a being as “free” within Spinoza’s metaphysics. I argue that this structure leads to an internal paradox, entailing that the very component that (...) allows a being its freedom – its essence or nature – is itself externally determined. I further proceed to resolve this issue indicating how Spinoza’s metaphysics of freedom can accommodate this paradox. I conclude by presenting possible solutions for both Natura naturans and Natura naturata, attempting to integrate the notion of metaphysical freedom with more familiar images of ethical and epistemological freedom. (shrink)
Spinoza’s recognition of the unpredictable fortunes of individuals, explicable through the interplay between their intrinsic natures and their susceptibility to external causes, informs his account of political success and – what for him is the same thing – political virtue. Thus, a state may thrive because it has a good constitution (an internal feature), or because it was fortunate not to be surrounded by powerful enemies. Normally, however, it is the combination of both luck and internal qualities that determines the (...) fate of things. What is true about the fate of states holds equally of the fate of other types of individual, both human and non-human. In a sense, even the fate of a theory is determined by the interplay between its intrinsic virtues, and mere historical luck. A quarter century ago, shortly after I began my graduate studies in philosophy at Yale, I started thinking about writing a dissertation on Spinoza’s philosophy. A good and caring friend in my graduate cohort advised me against the idea, which he believed was tantamount to “professional suicide” given the oddity of Spinoza’s thought. Indeed, the environment of analytic philosophy in the mid- and even late-1990s was not particularly auspicious for the academic study of Spinoza. Spinoza was – rightly – considered as having little commitment to commonsense, and commitment to commonsense – the most stubborn of prejudices – was (and still is) considered by many a minimal requirement for entry into the club of “decent” philosophers. Yet, things have changed over the past twenty-five years. So much so, that recently a (non-Spinozist) early modernist colleague of mine complained to me about the futility of changing the description of an event he planned from a ‘Spinoza workshop’ into an ‘early modern philosophy workshop,’ since “one way or another, most of the submitted abstracts are going to deal with Spinoza.” Indeed, in many ways, the interest and intensity of the study of Spinoza’s philosophy in the Anglo-American world has eclipsed that of almost all other early modern philosophers, and we seem to be facing a circumstance in which Spinoza is gradually competing with, if not replacing, Kant as the compass of modern philosophy. One can list many reasons for these dramatic developments: from Spinoza’s radical naturalism, to his dismissal of the fairytales of anthropomorphic and anthropocentric religion – while Kant on these issues could at best be said to kick the ghosts from the front door while inviting them back as ‘ideas’ or ‘postulates of practical reason’ through the back door –- to his unequivocal rejection of the illusions of humanism. Still, we lack a full explanation of the recent Spinozist upheaval in North American philosophy. (shrink)
This article is the SIXTH of several excerpts from my book The Nondual Mind: Vedānta, Kashmiri Pratyabhijñā Shaivism, and Spinoza (the full book is posted on this site). “I liked James H. Cumming’s The Nondual Mind a lot. It is beautifully written, thoughtful, and very clear.” (Prof. Yitzhak Y. Melamed, Charlotte Bloomberg Professor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University) “James H. Cumming’s scholarly interpretation of Spinoza’s works, persuasively showing how 17th century European ideas that ushered in the Enlightenment find a precursor (...) in 10th century Kashmir, is a masterpiece of reason and philosophy that will leave the reader with profound thoughts on the meaning of history, God, and life itself. As a senior staff attorney in my chambers for many years at the California Supreme Court and a top scholar of ethics and philosophy of law, Mr. Cumming never ceased to amaze me with his outstanding research and intellect. This scholarly book is a must read for all who want to know why Spinoza continues to influence contemporary philosophy and how his work is still relevant in today’s challenging, interconnected world.” (Hon. Ming W. Chin, Associate Justice (Retired), Supreme Court of California, 1996–2020). (shrink)
What does Spinoza mean when he claims, as he does several times in the Ethics, that particular things are expressions of God’s nature or attributes? This article interprets these claims as a version of what is called theophany in the Neoplatonist tradition. Theophany is the process by which particular things come to exist as determinate manifestations of a divine nature that is in itself not determinate. Spinoza’s understanding of theophany diverges significantly from that of the Neoplatonist John Scottus Eriugena, largely (...) because he understands the non-determinateness of the divine nature in a very different way. His view is more similar, I argue, to what is presented in the work of Ibn ‘Arabī, under the name “tajallī”. (shrink)
This guide has an introduction and five chapters, one for each of the parts of Spinoza's Ethics. The Introduction includes background material necessary for productive study of the Ethics: advice for working with Spinoza's geometrical method, a biographical sketch of Spinoza, and accounts of important predecessors: Aristotle, Maimonides, and Descartes. The chapters that follow trace the Ethics in detail, including accounts of most of the elements in Spinoza's book and raising questions for further research. Chapter 1, "One Infinite Substance," covers (...) central arguments of Spinoza's substance monism. Chapter 2, "The Idea of the Human Body," follows Spinoza's detailed metaphysics of ordinary objects, his theory of mind, and his epistemology. Chapter 3, "Desire, Joy, and Sadness," works from Spinoza's broad theory of finite activity in the striving to persevere in being to his detailed accounts of human action and passion. Chapter 4, "Bondage to Passion," emphasizes Spinoza's formal theory of value, his intellectualism in ethics, and particular claims about value that follow from these commitments. Chapter 5, "The Power of the Intellect," begins with Spinoza's criticism of Descartes's account of our ability to control passion and moves to Spinoza's own theory, which emphasizes reason, the eternal part of the mind, and human blessedness. (shrink)
Spinoza studies have seen a renaissance of interest in his views on modality, from which considerable disagreement has emerged about Spinoza's modal commitments. Much of this disagreement stems from larger interpretive disagreements about Spinoza's metaphysics. After a brief introduction, this SEP article begins with Spinoza's views on the distribution of modal properties, which quickly leads the heart of Spinoza's metaphysics, intersecting his views on causation, inherence, God, ontological plenitude and the principle of sufficient reason. Although the question of whether Spinoza (...) was a necessitarian is the predominant topic of discussion in the recent secondary literature on Spinoza's modal views, Spinoza also sketches interesting accounts of the nature of modality and the ground of modality that shed fresh light on his modal commitments. Though understudied by recent interpreters, these latter topics were of interest to Spinoza's peers and remain vibrant research questions in contemporary metaphysics of modality. (shrink)
An old question in Spinoza scholarship is how finite, non-eternal things transitively caused by other finite, non-eternal things (i. e., the entities described in propositions like E1p28) are caused by the infinite, eternal substance, given that what follows either directly or indirectly from the divine nature is infinite and eternal (E1p21–23). In “Spinoza’s Monism I,” “Spinoza’s Monism I,” in the previous issue of this journal. I pointed out that most commentators answer this question by invoking entities that are indefinite and (...) sempiternal, but argued that perhaps we should not be so quick to assume that in Spinoza’s system, an infinite and eternal substance could cause such indefinite, sempiternal entities. But if such eternal-durational causation is denied, then it seems harder to see how Spinoza’s system could be coherent: if Spinoza holds that the infinite, eternal substance cannot cause anything that is not infinite and not eternal, then how can he also hold that all things are modes immanently caused by substance (E1p15, E1p18, E1p25)? In this essay, I explain how Spinoza’s system could be understood in light of a denial of eternal-durational causation. On the interpretation I offer, God is the cause of all things and all things are modes because the essences of all things follow from the divine nature and all essences enjoy infinite, eternal reality as modes immanently caused by the infinite, eternal substance. The same non-substantial essences can also be conceived as enjoying non-infinite, non-eternal reality, but so conceived, they are enduring, finite (or sempiternal, indefinite) entities that cannot be conceived as modes caused by and inhering in the one infinite, eternal substance. I conclude by pointing out that if we take this interpretive route, we do have to understand Spinoza as committed to acosmism, or a denial of the reality of the world – at least the world of enduring, finite things. (shrink)
In this essay, I suggest that Spinoza acknowledges a distinction between formal reality that is infinite and timelessly eternal and formal reality that is non-infinite (i. e., finite or indefinite) and non-eternal (i. e., enduring). I also argue that if, in Spinoza’s system, only intelligible causation is genuine causation, then infinite, timelessly eternal formal reality cannot cause non-infinite, non-eternal formal reality. A denial of eternal-durational causation generates a puzzle, however: if no enduring thing – not even the sempiternal, indefinite individual (...) composed of all finite, enduring things – is caused by the infinite, eternal substance, then how can Spinoza consistently hold that the one infinite, eternal substance is the cause of all things and that all things are modes of that substance? At the end of this essay, I sketch how Spinoza could deny eternal-durational causation while still holding that an infinite, eternal God is the cause of all things and that all things are modes. I develop the interpretation more in the companion essay.1 1 In “Spinoza’s Monism II,” in the next issue of this journal. (shrink)
It is obvious that both Spinoza and Leibniz attach importance to the notion of expression in their philosophical writings and that both do so in a similar fashion: They agree, for example, that the mind expresses the body (although this claim has rather different meanings for each of them). Another – albeit related – use of ‘expression’ that appears in both thinkers provides a deeper insight into some metaphysical similarity as well as difference: The idea that expression is closely connected (...) with the perfection and action of individual things. While this relation is explicit in Leibniz, I will show that it is also in a less straightforward way found in Spinoza and, furthermore, that the relation of expression in regards to perfection is similar in Spinoza and Leibniz as both of them regard individuals as perfect insofar as they express the world and God. But one crucial difference in their accounts lies in the claim that, for Spinoza, what is being expressed and gives rise to perfection can be privative in nature, while such a thing cannot be the object of an expression for Leibniz. As I will argue, this not based merely on their different metaphysical views, but also on a difference in what can serve as content of an expression. (shrink)
El presente trabajo es un intento por repensar el modo en que ha sido interpretada la primera parte de la Ética de Baruch Spinoza por la tradición. Fundamentalmente, busca alejarse de las interpretaciones que llamamos “ontológicas” -que sostienen que las distinciones conceptuales allí postuladas refieren a diferentes ámbitos de lo real-, para defender una lectura que tenga al factor gnoseológico como principio explicativo de tales distinciones. Se intentará mostrar que mediante esta hipótesis de lectura se accede a aquello que nos (...) parece ser el más auténtico espíritu spinozista: aquel donde la multiplicidad de las perspectivas del conocimiento humano se vuelve coherente con la más absoluta univocidad de lo real. (shrink)
Recent literature on Spinoza has emphasized his commitment to universal intelligibility, understood as the claim that there are no brute facts. We draw attention to an important but overlooked element of Spinoza's commitment to intelligibility, and thereby question its most prominent interpretation, on which this commitment results in the priority of conceptual relations. We argue that such readings are both incomplete in their account of Spinozistic intelligibility and mistaken in their identification of the most fundamental relation. We argue that Spinoza (...) is one of the first moderns to address the problem of conditions of intelligibility, and show that, in his metaphysics, expressive relations are best understood as relations of dependence for intelligibility: what a thing ‘expresses’ is its condition of intelligibility, that which determines how, through what concepts, it can be conceived. (shrink)
Selfhood is a topic of great interest in early modern philosophy. In this essay, I will discuss Spinoza’s radical position on the topic of selfhood. Whereas for Descartes and Leibniz, there is a manifold of thinking substances, for Spinoza, there is, crucially only one: God. Minds, for Spinoza, do not have substantial status, they are instead merely complexes of ideas, and thus complex modes of the one substance: God. Observations such as these often lead Spinoza’s readers to the conclusion that, (...) whereas for Descartes as for Leibniz, human beings have robust or genuine selves, this is not so for Spinoza. However, this reductionist interpretation is also challenged—in recent times most intriguingly by Koistinen. Koistinen has argued that there are, fundamentally, human selves of whom agency can be predicated in Spinozism. In this paper I discuss to what extent this is true. In section 1, I introduce the reductionist interpretation of selfhood in Spinoza’s thought. In section 2.1, I present and criticize Koistinen’s proposal. In section 2.2, I acknowledge the strength of Koistinen’s view that insofar as human beings act, they are God somehow. In section 3, I propose an alternative reading of human selfhood in terms of witnessing being acted out rather than in terms of being an agent. This view isprima facieparadoxical. In section 4, I nonetheless support it by highlighting that Spinoza seems to have seen practical benefits in knowing oneself to be acted out by God. I conclude the essay by pointing out some comparative directions for future research. (shrink)
In this paper I contrast the metaphysical philosophies of Benedict de Spinoza and the ‘sudden enlightenment’ tradition of Chan Buddhism. Spinoza’s expressivist philosophy, in which everything can be conceived via a lineage of finite causes terminating in substance as a metaphysical ground of all things, emphasises the relative sameness of all entities. By contrast, Chan’s philosophy of emptiness, which rests on the dependent co-origination of all entities, renders such comparison fundamentally meaningless. Having no source beyond dependent co-origination to generate a (...) thing’s distinct nature leads to a metaphysics in which, rather than being relatively similar or different, all things are at one and the same time absolutely the same and absolutely distinct. As a result, Spinoza grounds ethics wholly is sameness or similarity, whereas Chan transcends the dichotomy of sameness and difference and offers an environmental ethics grounded simultaneously in absolute sameness and absolute difference. As a result, in Spinoza’s case, the dissimilarity between human beings and the non-human world places limits on our concern for it. In Chan Buddhism, however, insight into the emptiness of all phenomena leads to a concern for all entities in their suchness, regardless of whether they are similar or different to human beings. As such, I argue that Chan is in a better position than Spinoza to develop a robust environmental ethic. (shrink)
This chapter argues that the Ethics includes versions of the views about sensation and its role in the production of knowledge that are present in the TIE and the KV. ‘Idea of an affection’ replaces the earlier terms for sensation. A sensation is a modification of the mind closely associated with a modification of body and explained in terms of the mind-body relation. In the KV, Spinoza continues to treat sensation as the immediate perception of corporeal modification and continues to (...) take the inference from sensation to the union of mind and body as a valid one. The KV is the earliest source of Spinoza's view that the idea-object model accounts for the mind-body relation. The only occurrence of sensatio in the CM might seem to tell against an account of sensation as something different from imagination. Accounts of reason and imagination in the Ethics considerably advance Spinoza's theory of knowledge. (shrink)
Durante su intercambio epistolar con Spinoza, Tschirnhaus defiende la imposibilidad de deducir la naturaleza de los cuerpos particulares a partir de la sola extensión. El motivo de esta objeción reside en su dificultad para desmarcarse de la concepción sustancial de los cuerpos como partes finitas de la extensión sostenida por Descartes. Esta dificultad inicial, sin embargo, queda ensombrecida por la intervención de Leibniz en un momento clave de la correspondencia que convertirá la disputa de carácter físico en una controversia teológica. (...) Este artículo demuestra que el problema metafísico detectado por Leibniz consiste en la afirmación radical del principio de plenitud contenida en la proposición 16 de la primera parte de la Ética y las consecuencias heréticas que de ésta se desprenden. El examen del papel que la crítica de Leibniz jugó en el desarrollo de la discusión permitirá leer bajo una nueva luz tanto la paradójica actitud de Tschirnhaus como las enigmáticas y elusivas respuestas de Spinoza. (shrink)
In this article I critically assess Deleuze’s interpretation of Spinoza’s metaphysics of modes. I argue that the conception of modal essence that Deleuze attributes to Spinoza is untenable in terms of Spinoza’s metaphysics. I further show that the idea that modal essences are eternally static degrees of power is incompatible with Spinoza’s ethics, wherein modes strive to increase their power by means of positive interactions with others. I suggest that Deleuze’s interpretation of this crucial aspect of Spinozism runs the risk (...) of reinstating Platonic idealist and moralistic themes, of the kind that both Spinoza and Deleuze are committed to overcoming. (shrink)
Based on proposition 28 of Part I of Spinoza's Ethics, I argue that the idea of interdetermination set out there is formed by excluding indetermination and finalism. Spinoza conceives reality as an infinite network of singular interdeterminations without hierarchies or outside. From interdetermination itself the problem arises of what it means to be a finite mode of God. This problem, however, is more fully resolved through the notion of 'absolute necessity of relation'. Once we have these conceptual tools, we can (...) understand the way in which finitude and absoluteness merge in singular things, making them cognizable with objectivity. But just because all things are knowable, it does not mean that we can know them all. For the power of our understanding is also limited. Affirming the knowability of all things and the limitation of our capacity to know, Spinoza challenged both irrationalistic scepticism and the mistake of human thought for the infinite understanding of God. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Spinoza holds a perspectivalist view of mereological composition, a form of anti-realism. The paper has two parts: In the first half of the paper, I introduce interpretive puzzles for the standard realist reading of Spinoza’s mereology. In the second half of the paper, I discuss Spinoza’s positive view on mereological composition and present a perspectivalist reading that avoids the interpretive puzzles.
"Alexandre Matheron is considered one of the most important interpreters of Spinoza's philosophy in the 20th century. These 20 essays, translated into English for the first time, focus on ontology, knowledge, politics and ethics in Spinoza, his predecessors and his contemporaries."--Publisher description.
L'article vise à placer les rapports entre affectio et affectus au centre de l ’unité architectonique de l'Éthique. La définition d’affectus permet de connaître la vraie nature de l'affection, montrant que ce concept ne peut pas signifier un état mais doit désigner une disposition, ou une variation de la puissance. Ainsi le couple affectio/affectus articule toutes les parties de l'Éthique, en régissant non seulement la construction du problème éthique, mais aussi sa solution chez Spinoza.
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)
The example of the Spanish poet’s amnesia, mentioned by Spinoza in the scholium of proposition 39 of part IV of the Ethics in order to elucidate his conception of death, has given rise to many controversies in the scholarly interpretations, which in most cases maintain that the poet dies and that Spinoza himself thought this way. However, the matter is more complex than it at first appears and in this article I take a different path by reconstructing this scholium anew (...) and providing an alternative interpretation. The comparison with selected passages of part V highlights the presence of a bi-conditional between the ratio of motion and rest that a body possesses, and its aptitude to be affected and affect in many more ways. In particular, the latter allows us to acknowledge the continuity of the poet’s individuality, expressed in his mind–body union grounded by the parallelism theory. As a result, the poet case has a crucial explanatory role for Spinoza’s theory of the eternity of the human mind and if one misunderstands the former, the latter is also misconceived. (shrink)
My two principal aims in this essay are interconnected. One aim is to provide a new interpretation of the ‘infinite modes’ in Spinoza’s Ethics. I argue that for Spinoza, God, conceived as the one infinite and eternal substance, is not to be understood as causing two kinds of modes, some infinite and eternal and the rest finite and non-eternal. That there cannot be such a bifurcation of divine effects is what I take the ‘infinite mode’ propositions, E1p21–23, to establish; E1p21–23 (...) show that each and every one of the immanent effects of an infinite and eternal God is an infinite and eternal mode. The other aim is to show that these propositions can be understood as part of an extended critical response to Descartes’s infamous doctrine that God creates eternal truths and true and immutable natures. If we have the correct (Spinozan) conceptions of what God is and how God works, we see that an eternal and infinite God can only be understood to cause ‘eternal truths,’ and that these eternal truths are infinite and eternal modes of God. (shrink)
In chapter IX of the Principles, Anne Conway claims that her metaphysics is diametrically opposed to those of Descartes and Spinoza. Scholars have analyzed her rejection of Cartesianism, but not her critique of Spinoza. This paper proposes that two central points of Conway’s metaphysics can be understood as direct responses to Spinoza: (1) the relation between God, Christ, and the creatures in the tripartite division of being, and (2) the individuation of beings in the lowest species. I will argue that (...) Conway, in criticizing Spinoza’s identification between God and nature, defends a paradoxical monism, and that her concept of individuation is a reductio ad absurdum of Spinoza’s criterion of identity in the individuation of finite modes. (shrink)
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.
This chapter takes a fresh look at 3d2 of Spinoza’s Ethics, an absolutely pivotal definition for the ethical theory that ensues. According to it, “we act when something happens, in us or outside us, of which we are the adequate cause,” whereas we are passive “when something happens in us, or something follows from our nature, of which we are only a partial cause.” The definition of activity has puzzled scholars: how can we be an adequate, i.e. complete, cause of (...) an effect outside us (which clearly involves other causal factors as well)? However, the definition of passivity is hardly unproblematic either: how can something follow from the patient’s nature so that the patient can nevertheless be considered only a partial cause? I begin by outlining 3d2 and situating it in the historical context formed by Descartes, Hobbes, and the Aristotelian tradition. Then I show that the existing interpretations do not solve the problem of activity and argue that unraveling the problem requires taking properly into account the distinction between immanent and transeunt causality. In relation to the definition of passivity, I argue that Spinoza’s geometry-inspired theory of essence constitution offers the key to understanding the nature of passions. (shrink)
In the history of philosophy, two standard critiques of the reality of modes in Spinoza’s philosophy come from Pierre Bayle and Georg Wilhelm Hegel. Both philosophers in some way assume that attributes and relations among modes constitute a shared reality in which modes participate. As a result, they assert that Spinoza’s monism leads either to an over-identification of God with contingent modes or to a limited God. In this paper, I will show how attributes and relations among modes in Spinoza’s (...) work simply explain an active modal reality; modes do not depend upon or participate in ideal relations and attributes for their existence. The result is that in Spinoza’s philosophy attributes must be seen as unreal and modal reality must be understood as primary. (shrink)
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)
This paper compares two readings of Baruch Spinoza – those of Gilles Deleuze and Rama Kanta Tripathi – with a particular focus on three features of Spinoza’s philosophy: the relationship between substance and attribute; the problem of acosmism and unity; and the problem of the parallelism of attributes. Deleuze and Tripathi’s understanding of these three issues in Spinoza’s thought illustrates for us their own concerns with becoming over substance and māyā, respectively. This investigation provides not just two interesting and contradictory (...) interpretations of Spinoza, but also gives us insight into Deleuze’s metaphysics and Tripathi’s Vedāntic philosophy. (shrink)
Spinoza’s celebrated doctrine of the conatus asserts that “each thing, as far as it can by its own power, strives to persevere in its being” (E3p6). Shortly thereafter Spinoza makes the further claim that the (human) mind strives to increase its power of acting (E3p12). This latter claim is commonly interpreted as asserting that human beings (and their associations) not only strive to persevere in their existence, but also always strive to increase their power. Spinoza’s justification for E3p12 relies (among (...) others) on E3p6. For this reason, it seems reasonable that we strive to increase our power because having more power is likely to help us persevere in our being. The more power we have, the less likely we are to be out-powered by external causes that may conflict with our striving for persevering in our existence. The logic here is quite sound. Insofar as human beings are mere finite modes, i.e., entities whose existence is not guaranteed by their mere essence, and are distinct from other finite modes with whom we interact in various manners, it would seem that our striving for power should be insatiable. No finite degree of power can ever guarantee the continuation of our existence. On one occasion, Spinoza even defines good and evil as “what increases or diminishes, aids or restrains, our power of acting” (E4p8d). Having this sound logic in mind, we should be taken aback by a brief claim Spinoza makes in passing in the seventh chapter of Political Treatise. In this passage, Spinoza seems to assert that the stability of a state – which is one of the chief political virtues for Spinoza – is a function of having just the right degree of power, not less, but also, not more. The passage seems to imply that having too much power might be detrimental to the state. But how can such a view be consistent with Spinoza’s assertion and approval of our constant “will to power” in the Ethics? In the current paper, I will explain the tension between these two strands in Spinoza’s thought, and attempt to reconcile them. I will begin with a close examination of the passage from the seventh chapter of the TP, and its apparent contrast with Spinoza’s claim in the Ethics about our striving to increase our power of acting. I will then turn, in the second part, to consider whether Spinoza’s claims in TP Ch. 7 – a chapter dedicated to the exploration of the nature of non-tyrannical monarchy – are valid only with regard to a monarchic state, or whether we may generalize the claim that having too much power might be harmful to other forms of the state or even other kinds of individuals. In the third and final part I will attempt to solve the tension between Spinoza’s apparently conflicting claims by looking more closely at Spinoza’s understanding of human power, and its political dimensions. (shrink)
This book reconstructs Spinoza's theory of the human mind against the backdrop of the twofold notion that subjective experience is explainable and that its successful explanation is of ethical relevance, because it makes us wiser, freer, and happier.
Vardoulakis explores what Balibar means by designating transindividuality as ‘quasi-transcendental.’ He does so by turning to Balibar’s readings of Part IV of Spinoza’s Ethics, the Part that is central to Balibar’s understanding of the transindividual in Spinoza. Vardoulakis shows that the quasi-transcendental in Spinoza can only be a form of agonistic relations if his political theory in the Theological Political Treatise is to account for political change.
This essay offers an in-depth reading of the geometrical illustration of Ethics IIP8S and shows how it can be used to explicate the whole architecture of Spinoza’s system by specifying the way in which all the key structural features of his basic ontology find their analogies in the example. The illustration can also throw light on Spinoza’s ontology of finite things and inform us about what is at stake when we form universal ideas. In general, my reading of IIP8S thus (...) elucidates what it means, for Spinoza, to think geometrically or to consider geometry as a model: fundamentally, geometricity is not a form of exposition but the way in which reality itself is structured. (shrink)
In this paper I assess the sense of the odd expression that occurs in the explanation of the definition of desire, at the end of the third part of the Ethics: causa conscientiae, the cause of consciousness. I intend to show that the sense and the limits of the conception of consciousness that can be inferred from the analysis of this definition and its explanation can shed a new light on the reasons why Spinoza refuses the Cartesian thesis on the (...) right order of Philosophy: self-consciousness shall not be the point of departure of philosophy, not because it would be dependent on knowledge of the external world, but because it is a derivative concept in the sense that the qualification of thinking things as conscious beings supposes some ontological conditions that are not always met: finitude and duration. To establish that I will claim that the aim of the text where the expression arises is to elucidate the conditions under which the concept of consciousness applies, and not to express differently the same thesis of E2P23 and E3P9sc. We will see that Spinoza's point there is not that the human mind – or the human body – must be determined by an external cause in order to be conscious of itself, but that it has to be determined by any affection, regardless of its origin. Therefore, the inside-outside approach must be replaced by the consideration of the duplication of the determination. This twofold structure is the conceptual element that must be added to the definition of appetite in order to account for the cause of consciousness, and its analysis will show that for Spinoza only finite modes of thought that exists in the duration can be conceived as conscious beings. (shrink)
In this article, I develop an ‘aspectual’ reading of Spinoza’s doctrine of formal essence, objective being, existence and non-existence, and actuality of things that conforms to his monism understood as a one-level ontology. By an aspectual reading, I understand a reading that takes all these different qualifications to always refer to different aspects of one and the same thing rather than different entities. My aim is to refute and provide an alternative to a currently prominent Platonizing approach to Spinoza’s theory (...) of essences basing itself on a dichotomy of formal and actual essences that I take to be a false dichotomy. I argue in particular that any notion of unactualized formal essences is inconsistent with Spinoza’s commitments on the level of both ontology and modal philosophy. (shrink)
The article examines the relation between two kinds of ontological relations that hold together the building blocks of Spinoza’s metaphysics: “being in” and “affection of.” It argues that in order to speak of existence in a single sense, Spinoza equivocates on the notion of affection. On the one hand, substance is in itself in the same sense that every other existing thing is in substance. On the other hand, substance is not the affections of itself, affections of substance are not (...) related to substance in the same sense that affections of modes are related to modes, and affections of modes, which are affections of affections of substance, cannot, at least in some cases, be regarded as affections of substance. Thus, although “God is without passions,” the passions themselves exist in the same sense that God, human beings, and other modes exist, that is, in the sense that they are all in nature; but while the meaning of “being” remains the same, the meaning of “being affected,” or “feeling,” necessarily changes as the Ethics unfolds. (shrink)
Clarke attacks Spinoza's monism on the grounds that it cannot explain how a multiplicity of things follows from one substance, God. This article argues that Clarke assumes that Spinoza's God is countable. It then sketches a way in which multiplicity can follow from God's uncountable nature.
Spinoza (1632-1677) writes in the fourth proposition of the third part of his masterpiece, the Ethics (1677), the bold statement that self-destruction is impossible. This view seems to be very hard to understand given the fact that in our western world we have recently been confronted with an increasing number of suicides, all of which are - per definition – ―actions of killing oneself deliberately‖. Firstly, this article aims at showing, based on the last chapter of the first part of (...) the Cogitata metaphysica (1661), that Spinoza might have applied the mechanical analogy of a body in motion in his views on life. This interpretation allows to resolve the paradox of suicide in Spinoza. Secondly, this paper gives a new interpretation of one of the three categories of suicide (the ―Seneca category‖), which the Dutch philosopher distinguishes in E4p20s, making a link with his definition 39 of timor. (shrink)
In this paper I explore the question of the ways we might form enabling assemblages with non-human others, by returning to Spinoza’s theory of the composite individual. The challenge, as I see it, is less that of a need to move beyond a romanticized view of Nature as a harmonious whole, Nature as a perpetual threat, or Nature as motivated by a final cause (whether good or evil). The problem that confronts us, rather, is a problem of composition—which Nature do (...) we ally with, what components? How do we understand or define, much less defend, localized ecosystems which are supported (and threatened) by a dizzying and infinite array of intensive and extensive properties? This is a problem of the monstrous infinite. (shrink)
In this paper, I address the problem of generation and destruction in Spinoza’s philosophical system. I approach this problem by providing an account of how Spinoza can maintain that contrary finite modes cannot inhere in the same substance, while substance itself does not change. One must distinguish between the formal essence of a mode and the existence of a mode and how these two entities are “in” substance. Formal essences are eternal and are in substance in a Platonic sense, while (...) existent modes are temporal and are in substance insofar as they are parts of the whole of nature, or facies totius universi. Furthermore, the former are modes understood as pure relations, while the latter are modes understood as finite individuals. Formal essences are relations that specify how finite individuals will behave once they come into existence, while existent modes are individuals that express the relations defined by formal essences, as forces that possess a capacity to act and to be acted upon. According to these distinctions, I maintain that it is possible to develop a coherent account of contrariety and, consequently, of generation and destruction in Spinoza’s system. (shrink)