One Answer

  1. I will immediately make a reservation that this is not a universal answer, but my modest attempt to talk about Spinoza's achievements. “Ethics” is a monstrously complex thing, it has a lot of interpretations.

    I. January 1670. Theological and political treatise.

    1) Spinoza is the founder of biblical criticism as a discipline. Spinoza in Philology.

    Biblical criticism is not” debunking and criticizing ” or reviewing, but a scientific study of the text.

    Spinoza was one of the first people in history (Stephen Nadler says – just the first, I'm being careful) to treat the Holy Scriptures not as the unquestionable Word of God, but as a text. To literature.

    This text had many authors, they worked at different times, not always and in everything agreeing with each other. Therefore, the time of writing and authorship of individual books should be set.

    His specific conclusions are not so important (although Soviet books took the conclusions as seriously as possible and directly wrote “Spinoza proved that the Pentateuch could not have been written by Moses”), as the approach itself.

    Spinoza's criticism is literary and historical.

    As an example:

    I also show that in the Scriptures the teaching is presented in accordance with the concepts and opinions of those who believe in it. to whom the prophets and apostles used to preach this word of God. They did this so that people would accept it without any resistance and wholeheartedly.

    In other words, the text has an addressee, and to understand why the text is like this, you need to understand who it was addressed to. Exactly what Alexey Bartoshevich does with Shakespeare's texts, Spinoza tries to do with Scripture.

    2) Spinoza is a harbinger of secular modernity.

    What does Spinoza need in order to do what he does? We need the freedom to doubt and hypothesize. And he was going to get that freedom.

    “Theological-political” means not quite ” a little bit about politics, a little bit about God.” The theological-political question is the question of the relationship between church and State.

    The goals of the treatise were extremely applied – it was to influence the political structure of the state, to give philosophers – that is, any scientists in general-freedom of thought, to free them from the control of the church.

    Here is what Spinoza says:

    “The object of revealed knowledge (cognitio revelata) is nothing but obedience, and therefore it is quite different from natural knowledge (cognitio naturalis) it has nothing to do with the object, with the grounds and means, and has nothing to do with it, but both have their own domain, without making any objection to each other, and neither of them should be subordinate to the other.”

    What if it's simple? Faith and knowledge of revelation are separate, science is separate. Nothing interferes with anything and does not obey, everything is in its place. That is literally the concept of disjoint magisteria by the famous biologist Stephen Jay Gould.

    The difference is that Spinoza wrote his treatise at a time when church doctrine in one way or another influenced all spheres of life, and Stephen Jay Gould simply repeated it in a new era, at the end of the XX century.

    And Spinoza is one of the founders of this era, when religion is separated from other spheres of life. This separation is called secularism and the “Theological and Political Treatise” is a detailed argument in its favor.

    Of course, the treatise was considered “a book written in Hell” and was already banned in 1674.

    Spinoza asked that the contents of his works be kept secret, and after the Tractatus he never published anything during his lifetime. The complete works, published posthumously on anonymous donations, were also banned in 1677.

    But he was not a solitary self-taught recluse, as many people think, but a close friend of the chairman of the Royal Society of London (the same Henry Oldenburg who invented peer-reviewed scientific journals) and spoke the common language of the scientific community.

    The people for whom he wrote knew about the content of his works already in manuscripts, they wrote letters to him, and visited him from all over the world. His influence was enormous. In 1733, he was already “The philosopher who made so much noise in the world.”

    Well, what is the “age of enlightenment” – you know without me, right? Spinoza was a little earlier than everyone else. Well, for a hundred years. You and I live in a world that was partly transformed after the Theological and Political Treatise.

    II. 1677. Ethics proven in geometric order.

    1) The method.

    In Spinoza's time, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics was considered the main work on ethics.

    Aristotle, in his study of happiness, warns that we should not ” strive for accuracy in everything equally, but in each case conform to the subject to be considered, and strive for accuracy to the extent that it is inherent in this method of research.”

    So he argues that the conclusions in ethics are not always true, but only in most cases, but this is enough to act on the circumstances in exceptional cases.

    That is, in everyday life, it would lead to something like this:

    Stealing is not good, but if you need to save someone's life, then you can already… Probably… hmm… Uh-uh…

    Spinoza is not satisfied with something like this. It needs a method to gain more accurate knowledge. What knowledge is most accurate? For Spinoza-mathematical, mathematics is a “model of truth”. Therefore, ethics must also be strictly evidence-based, following the model of Euclid's “Principles”.

    “Everything that is real is reasonable,” Hegel would later say. The same belief drives Spinoza. Everything is logical, everything can be explained intelligently.

    It seems strange that a book about happiness begins with a proof that “there is only one substance”, that is, “everything is one”. But for Spinoza, man is a part of nature, one of its modes. In order to explore man, you need to explore nature. The Spinoza method… strange. Spinoza ignores Hume's guillotine – because Hume is still half a century away from being born. Spinoza does not need experiments, he does not trust them. So no one has been exploring nature for a long time…

    2) Spinoza in neuroscience.

    It sounds strange, but I didn't call Spinoza a protoneurobiologist, but a neuroscientist named Antonio Damasio, who wrote a book about Spinoza's influence on neuroscience.

    By claiming that there is only one substance, Spinoza eliminates Cartesian dualism – the separation between mind and body that causes neuroscience a lot of problems. When Spinoza says that the soul is an idea of the body that changes with it, in more modern language, this means that each state of our psyche corresponds to a strictly defined state of the brain. This is called psychophysical parallelism (more precisely, the first option). two-dimensional theory) Damasio shares this view almost literally: for him, an emotion is a set of physiological responses to a situation, each corresponding to its own “brain map”.

    3) Freedom and necessity. Spinoza in modern metaphysics.

    “People only consider themselves free for the reason that they are aware of their actions, but do not know the reasons that caused them.”

    Spinoza is a strict determinist – that is, he believes that everything in nature is predetermined by a chain of causes and occurs out of necessity. People who think that something happened “of their own free will” simply do not yet understand the true reasons for their actions. Man is completely subject to the laws of nature – but he can understand these laws and realize his place in the world order. Then it can be called free, because it will “act in accordance with its nature.”

    Discussions about metaphysical necessity continue to this day, and Spinoza's arguments are almost as strong as ever.

    4) Spinoza in psychology. Affects.

    “By affects I mean those states of the body which increase or decrease the power of the body itself to act, favor it or limit it, and at the same time the ideas of these states. If, therefore, we can be the adequate cause of any of these states, then by affect I mean an active state, otherwise a passive one.”

    Spinoza introduces the concept of affect, which we still continue to use – in psychology, in criminal law, or simply in everyday life. If you look at the current definition of affect, we haven't tweaked it too much for Spinoza in 350 years, we just narrow it down or expand it depending on the field of research. In a narrow legal sense, the state of affect prevents you from acting consciously. This has stayed with us for centuries.

    Spinoza's theory of affect was developed by Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky, whose cultural and historical theory is a lifelong dialogue with Spinoza.

    Spinoza believed that some affects can be balanced by others – with unfavorable emotions we can fight with the help of favorable ones. So when Walter Cannon developed the theory of homeostasis, which implied that the body “balances” the influence of the external environment due to emotions, and experimentally confirmed the influence of emotions on activity, Vygotsky noticed:

    “If we recall the above definition of affects given in Ethics, it is impossible not to see that the experimental proof of the dynamogenic influence of emotions, which raises the individual to a higher level of activity, is at the same time an empirical proof of Spinoza's thought.”

    Vygotsky dreamed that the construction of Spinozist psychology would solve all the problems of this science, and his” Doctrine of Emotions “was originally supposed to be called simply “Spinoza”.

    Spoiler alert-it didn't allow it, Lev Semyonovich turned out to be youngishly optimistic here for some reason. He did not succeed in following Spinoza in everything, and rightly so. But Google, for example, the number of works on ” the unity of affect and intelligence.” This is not Vygotsky's own thesis, he took it from Spinoza.

    5) Reasonable selfishness. Moral anti-realism. Spinoza in ethics.

    What is “acting in accordance with one's own nature”?

    “Every thing strives to preserve its existence. The first and only foundation of virtue or a correct way of life is the search for one's own benefit. <…>. By good I mean every kind of pleasure and then everything that leads to it, especially that which quenches longing, whatever it may be; by evil I mean every kind of displeasure and especially that which hinders the quenching of longing. We do not desire anything because it is good, but, on the contrary, we call what we desire good; and, consequently, what we feel averse to, we call evil. Therefore everyone judges or evaluates, according to his passion, what is good and what is evil, what is better and what is worse, what is finally the best and what is the worst.”

    This is what Spinoza first decided. Then there were Helvetius, Chernyshevsky, and Ayn Rand. Spinoza is sometimes read as a stereotypical moralist, but in reality he is unusually paradoxical. It doesn't seem to be the case in Ethics, but in correspondence with Henry Oldenburg, he says that there are people with such a nature that if they try not to commit crimes, it will only make things worse for everyone. If you are a thief, if you know for sure that you are a thief, then steal already. This is a perverse nature (why – there is no answer in the letter itself) – but it is what it is.

    Well, then it's difficult and interesting.

    6) Various.

    And there's more:

    Spinozist pedagogy.

    Spinozist social philosophy (“Can Spinoza solve the problem of cultural relativism for us?”)

    Spinozist theology (I tried to avoid using the word “God” at all here, other people don't do it – and rightly so).

    French Spinozism, about which I don't remember anything at all, sorry.

    Etc.without end.

    Read Spinoza, in general. He's smart and weird. Boring only, the infection.

Leave a Reply