Spinoza's Ethics is one of the most remarkable, important, and difficult books in the history of philosophy: a treatise simultaneously on metaphysics, knowledge, philosophical psychology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. It presents, in Spinoza's famous 'geometric method', his radical views on God, Nature, the human being, and happiness. In this wide-ranging 2006 introduction to the work, Steven Nadler explains the doctrines and arguments of the Ethics, and shows why Spinoza's endlessly fascinating ideas may have been so troubling to his contemporaries, (...) as well as why they are still highly relevant today. He also examines the philosophical background to Spinoza's thought and the dialogues in which Spinoza was engaged - with his contemporaries, with ancient thinkers, and with his Jewish rationalist forebears. His book is written for the student reader but will also be of interest to specialists in early modern philosophy. (shrink)
ABSTRACT ABSTRACT: In this paper, I examine Spinoza’s âmodel of human natureâ in the Ethics, and especially his notion of the âfree manâ. I argue that, contrary to usual interpretations, the free man is not an individual without passions and inadequate ideas but rather an individual who is able consistently to live according to the guidance of reason. Therefore, it is not an impossible and unattainable ideal or incoherent concept, as has often been claimed, but a very realizable goal for (...) the achievement of human well-being. (shrink)
Most discussions of Spinoza and consciousness—and there are not many— conclude either that he does not have an account of consciousness, or that he does have one but that it is at best confused, at worst hopeless. I argue, in fact, that people have been looking in the wrong place for Spinoza's account of consciousness, namely, at his doctrine of "ideas of ideas". Indeed, Spinoza offers the possibility of a fairly sophisticated, naturalistic account of consciousness, one that grounds it in (...) the nature and capacities of the body. Consciousness for Spinoza, I suggest, is a certain complexity in thinking that is the correlate of the complexity of a body, and human consciousness, for Spinoza, is nothing but the correlate in Thought of the extraordinarily high complexity of the human body in Extension. In this respect, Spinoza anticipates the conception of mind that is presently emerging from studies in the so-called embodied mind research program. Moreover, this research program, in turn, may hold out hope for a clearer understanding of some of Spinoza's more difficult claims. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
The French philosopher and theologian Nicolas Malebranche was one of the most important thinkers of the early modern period. A bold and unorthodox thinker, he tried to synthesize the new philosophy of Descartes with religious Platonism. This is the first collection of essays to address Malebranche's thought comprehensively and systematically. There are chapters devoted to Malebranche's metaphysics, his doctrine of the soul, his epistemology, the celebrated debate with Arnauld, his philosophical method, his occasionalism and theory of causality, his philosophical theology, (...) his account of freedom, his moral philosophy, and his intellectual legacy. (shrink)
Baruch Spinoza was one of the most important philosophers of all time; he was also arguably the most radical and controversial. This was the first complete biography of Spinoza in any language and is based on detailed archival research. More than simply recounting the story of Spinoza's life, the book takes the reader right into the heart of Jewish Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and, with Spinoza's exile from Judaism, right into the midst of the tumultuous political, social, intellectual and (...) religious world of the young Dutch Republic. Though the book will be an invaluable resource for philosophers, historians, and scholars of Jewish thought, it has been written for any member of the general reading public with a serious interest in philosophy, Jewish history, seventeenth-century European history, and the culture of the Dutch Golden Age. Spinoza: A Life has recently been awarded the Koret Jewish Book Award. (shrink)
This paper examines a common misreading of the mechanics of Malebranche's doctrine of divine causal agency, occasionalism, and its roots in a related misreading of Malebranche's theories. God, contrary to this misreading, is for Malebranche constantly and actively causally engaged in the world, and does not just establish certain laws of nature. The key is in understanding just what Malebranche means by general volitions'.
After a brief analysis of the nature of occasional causation, distinguishing it from both efficient causation and the doctrine of occasionalism, it is argued that this model of causation informs Descartes' account of the generation of sensory ideas in the mind. It is further argued that, consequently, Descartes is not an occasionalist on this matter.
Nicolas Malebranche's account of the nature of ideas and their role in knowledge and perception has been greatly misunderstood by both his critics and commentators. In this work, Nadler examines Malebranche's theory of ideas and the doctrine of the vision in God with the aim of replacing the standard interpretation of Malebranche's account with a new reading. He argues that Malebranche's ideas should be seen as essences or logical concepts, and that our apprehension of them is thus of a purely (...) intellectual character and serves to provide us with knowledge of eternal truths. He then shows that the visionary representationalist reading usually given to Malebranche's theory of perception simply misconstrues the nature of ideas and the role he intended them to play in perception. Nadler's discussion includes detailed analyses of Malebranche's notion of representation and of his arguments for the presence of divine ideas in knowledge and perception. These aspects of Malebranche's system are considered both in light of his Cartesian and Augustinian commitments and in the broader seventeenth-century philosophical context. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Arnauld’s conception of God is more radical than scholars have been willing to allow. It is not the case that, for Arnauld, God acts for reasons, with His will guided by wisdom (much as the God of Malebranche and Leibniz acts), albeit by a wisdom impenetrable to us. Arnauld’s objections to Malebranche are directed not only at the claim that God’s wisdom is transparent to human reason, but at the whole distinction between will and (...) wisdom in God, even if that wisdom were “hidden.” Arnauld’s God, in fact, approaches the extreme voluntarist God of Descartes, and thus transcends practical rational agency altogether. (shrink)
Louis de La Forge and the Development of Occasionalism: Continuous Creation and the Activity of the Soul STEVEN NADLER THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE CONSERVATION is a dangerous one. It is not theologi- cally dangerous, at least not in itself. From the thirteenth century onwards, and particularly with the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas, the notion of the continuous divine sustenance of the world of created things was, if not univer- sally accepted, a nonetheless common feature of theological orthodoxy, Chris- tian (...) and otherwise. Rather, the danger is philosophical in nature . The philosophical problem I am concerned with is not some logical incoherence at the heart of the doctrine; nor does it lie in any objections that can be raised against the arguments that, historically, have been given for the thesis that God, as a causa secundum esse, must continually act in order to conserve the world in being. The question I address -- and it is a pressing one for any seventeenth-century Cartesianmis whether the doctrine of divine conservation establishes too much. I believe that, under certain circumstances, it does, and that the ultimate ramifications of the doctrine for natural causality must be unacceptable to an orthodox Cartesian such as Louis de La Forge , perhaps the most strict follower of Descartes of the.. (shrink)
Why was the great philosopher Spinoza expelled from his Portuguese-Jewish community in Amsterdam? Nadler's investigation of this simple question gives fascinating new perspectives on Spinoza's thought and the Jewish religious and philosophical tradition from which it arose.
Spinoza is often taken to claim that suicide is never a rational act, that a ‘free’ person acting by the guidance of reason will never terminate his/her own existence. Spinoza also defends the prima facie counterintuitive claim that the rational person will never act dishonestly. This second claim can, in fact, be justified when Spinoza's moral psychology and account of motivation are properly understood. Moreover, making sense of the free man's exception-less honesty in this way also helps to clarify how (...) Spinoza should, and indeed does, recognize the possibility of rational suicide. (shrink)
Good things come to those who wait. In this case, the waiting period was just a bit shy of the amount of time that the ancient Israelites had to spend in the desert before entering the Promised Land. But now, over thirty years after the appearance of the first volume of Edwin Curley's English edition of the "collected works" of Spinoza—and almost fifty years since the signing of the original contract with Princeton University Press—we have been magnificently rewarded. Volume 2 (...) is, like its predecessor, a major scholarly achievement; something for which we should all be grateful.1 The second volume, which contains the Theological-Political Treatise, the Political Treatise, and the remainder of the correspondence... (shrink)
This is a short book on a small topic with big ramifications. I call it a small topic because Descartes's account of perception occupies only a corner of his overall philosophical project, which is dominated by his concern to provide a solid metaphysical and epistemological grounding for his science. At the same time, Ott's discussion of sense perception in Descartes comes part and parcel with an account of the theory of ideas in Descartes and later Cartesians, a theory of how (...) to read the Meditations, and an interpretation of Descartes's mind-body dualism, including the similarities and differences... (shrink)
Three general accounts of causation stand out in early modern philosophy: Cartesian interactionism, occasionalism, and Leibniz's preestablished harmony. The contributors to this volume examine these theories in their philosophical and historical context. They address them both as a means for answering specific questions regarding causal relations and in their relation to one another, in particular, comparing occasionalism and the preestablished harmony as responses to Descartes's metaphysics and physics and the Cartesian account of causation. Philosophers discussed include Descartes, Gassendi, Malebranche, Arnauld, (...) Leibniz, Bayle, La Forge, and other, less well-known figures. (shrink)
Contrary to what appears to be popular belief, Port-Royal was not a bastion of cartesianism. In fact, Of all the port-Royalists of the seventeenth century, Only arnauld can be considered a cartesian in any interesting sense. Most of the others associated with the order were hostile to the new philosophy and actively campaigned against it, Believing it to pose a threat to piety and "true" religion. This can be seen by examining the writings of de sacy, Du vaucel, And nicole, (...) And the various philosophical and theological objections they raise against descartes's philosophy. (shrink)