Julie R. Klein
Villanova University
In proposition 7 of the second part of the Ethics, Spinoza famously contends that the “order and connection of things is the same as the order and connection of ideas.” On this basis, Spinoza argues in the scholium that thought and extension are different ways of conceiving one and the same substance: “the thinking substance and the extended substance are one and the same substance, which is now comprehended under this attribute, now under that”. Less famously, in the same scholium, Spinoza insists that the relation of thought and extension is not the only issue at stake. He notes that “certain Hebrews” saw, “as if through a cloud,” the unity of God and the world in knowing: “they maintained that God, God’s intellect, and the things understood by him are one and the same.” The cloud is the idea of divine transcendence. Commenting on this passage, Aviezer Ravitzky has observed that Spinoza’s mention of these “certain Hebrews” should inform us about “an inherent problem, about dynamite concealed in the teachings of the Jewish Aristotelians such as Maimonides.” If, as Aristotle argues in the De Anima and Metaphysics, the knower and the known are one in knowing, then the distinction between God and the objects of God’s knowing is undermined. Noetic union is ontological union, for the intellect is its ideas. Thus Aristotelian noesis undermines divine transcendence. E2p7 and its scholium, then, presage the most famous—or infamous—expression of the Ethics, Deus sive Natura. Maimonides qualifies his Aristotelianism with an hierarchical emanationist cosmology, thereby avoiding the implications of noetic union by differentiating between the creator and the creatures and between the agent intellect, the lowest of the celestial spheres and source of the human acquired intellect, and the divine intellect. Gersonides, the fourteenth century giant of the medieval Jewish tradition and its most consistent Aristotelian, endorses the Aristotelian formula, arguing consistently that the intelligible is an intellect and offering a meticulous explanation of “why it is said of non-material things that the intellect, the thinker, and the intelligible are all one.” In this article, I argue that Gersonides’ own highly Averroian position is evoked in E2p7s and that Spinoza extends and radicalizes the Gersonidean inheritance. Beginning from E2p7 and its scholium, I explore the implications of noetic union for the relationship of God and the world and that between thought and extension.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  Continental Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0093-4240
DOI 10.5840/gfpj20032414
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Spinoza on Composition, Causation, and the Mind's Eternity.John Grey - 2014 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (3):446-467.
Descartes on Will and Suspension of Judgment: Affectivity of the Reasons for Doubt.Jan Forsman - 2017 - In Gábor Boros, Judit Szalai & Oliver Istvan Toth (eds.), The Concept of Affectivity in Early Modern Philosophy. Budapest, Hungary: pp. 38-58.
A Spinozist Aesthetics of Affect and Its Political Implications.Christopher Davidson - 2017 - In Gábor Boros, Judit Szalai & Oliver Istvan Toth (eds.), The Concept of Affectivity in Early Modern Philosophy. Budapest, Hungary: Eötvös Loránd University Press. pp. 185-206.
The Concept of Affectivity in Early Modern Philosophy.Boros Gábor, Szalai Judit & Toth Oliver Istvan (eds.) - 2017 - Budapest, Hungary: Eötvös Loránd University Press.

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