Date: Thursday, November 5, 2009
Time: 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Location: On Campus, Room KH B3012
Topic: Disputing Transcendence
Please join us in the next discussion group. We’ll be discussing Spinoza’s Ethics, beginning where Spinoza begins, with metaphysics. If we could discuss two of Spinoza’s critiques against transcendence, as a plausible response to two notorious philosophical problems that are inherited from Descartes’ definition of substance and his latter use (or misuse) of that term. The infamous philosophical problem of Cartesian dualism appears from attempting to explain the interaction between two, purportedly, distinct substances. Spinoza’s analysis develops from taking up seriously Descartes’ first definition of substance, as that what requires nothing but itself to exist, and then just consistently following it through to all of its rational implications. For those of you who are particularly ambitious, you can read the entire text here or you may just click on any of the appropriate links below.
The first critique is of God as the transcendent cause of nature. How can a non-material God interact at all with a material world?
Reading: PART I. Of God.
Prop. XVIII. God is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things.
Proof.–All things which are, are in God, and must be conceived through God (by Prop. xv.), therefore (by Prop. xvi., Coroll i.) God is the cause of those things which are in him. This is our first point. Further, besides God there can be no substance (by Prop. xiv.), that is nothing in itself external to God. This is our second point. God, therefore, is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things. Q.E.D
Reading: Appendix. (read if you read nothing else)
Spinoza highlights not only his major moves taking place in Part I, but also lays out some astonishing insights into motivations behind some prejudices and misconceptions we have of our own nature, primarily the propensity of imagining an anthropomorphic God, or in another way, conceiving of Nature as having a goal. This goal we interpret to believe to be for our own sake and form abstract notions for the explanation of the nature of things, such as good and evil, beautiful and ugly, and more of the like. These notions are our imagination and we confused them as proper understanding of true nature. In regards to style, where Nietzsche clears up by way of the hammer, Spinoza makes clear by way of seeing through a polished glass lens.
Prop. II. Body cannot determine mind to think, neither can mind determine body to motion or rest or any state different from these, if such there be.
Proof.–All modes of thinking have for their cause God, by virtue of his being a thinking thing, and not by virtue of his being displayed under any other attribute (II. vi.). That, therefore, which determines the mind to thought is a mode of thought, and not a mode of extension; that is (II. Def. i.), it is not body. This was our first point. Again, the motion and rest of a body must arise from another body, which has also been determined to a state of motion or rest by a third body, and absolutely everything which takes place in a body must spring from God, in so far as he is regarded as affected by some mode of extension, and not by some mode of thought (II. vi.); that is, it cannot spring from the mind, which is a mode of thought. This was our second point. Therefore body cannot determine mind, &c. Q.E.D.
Notes on the Text: Translated from the Latin by R.H.M. Elwes (1883) This edition of the Ethics utilizes internal hypertext coding to faciilitate the logical analysis of Spinoza’s reasoning; because inferences and explications can be easily scrutinized via clickable links to the definitions, axioms, postulates, and theorems of the system. MTSU Philosophy WebWorks Hypertext Edition © 1997
I’ll look forward to seeing you all there! There is a lot of stuff going on in this reading not mentioned that is worth mentioning so please share your thoughts, ask your questions, submit your complaint and post your comment here.