Dissertation, University of Birmingham (2018)

Xiaosheng Chen
Swansea University
In the last part of Ethics Spinoza introduces the doctrine of the intellectual love of God: God loves himself with an infinite intellectual love. This doctrine has raised one of the most discussed puzzles in Spinoza scholarship: How can God have intellectual love if, as Spinoza says, God is Nature itself? After examining existing.approaches to the puzzle and revealing their failures, I will propose a Neo- Confucian approach to the puzzle. I will compare Spinoza's philosophy with Neo-Confucian philosophy and argue that we can develop a new approach to the puzzle by appealing to the comparison. I conclude that the intellectual love of God can be properly understood from different perspectives. From God's perspective it is understood as the creative power of God. From an individual's perspective it is understood as the essence of this very individual. Moreover, once we combine these two perspectives we can reach what I consider to be the correct interpretation of Spinoza' s view: Given that intuitive knowledge and action are one and the same the intellectual love of God should be comprehended not only as man's final fulfillment of freedom through intuitive knowledge, but also as man's self-cultivation in practice. I maintain that a free man, as Spinoza endeavors to become, is equivalent to a Neo-Confucian sage.
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