Part of Nature: Self-Knowledge in Spinoza's Ethics

Part of Nature: Self-Knowledge in Spinoza's Ethics

Part of Nature: Self-Knowledge in Spinoza's Ethics

Part of Nature: Self-Knowledge in Spinoza's Ethics

Synopsis

In this lucid and elegantly written book, Genevieve Lloyd reads Spinoza's philosophy as a profound articulation of ideas of individuality, selfhood, and freedom. Focusing on Spinoza's Ethics, Lloyd illuminates as well his transformation of Descartes's concepts of substance, mind, and body, and the relations between Spinoza's metaphysics and his ethical views.

Excerpt

The idea of human beings as part of nature has diverse—and often conflicting—associations. It resonates in contemporary consciousness with the history of Romanticism, evoking nostalgic yearnings for uncorrupted experience and for lost unities of passion and reason, for an undivided human nature responding spontaneously to a world with which it forms a whole.Contemporary aspirations to an undivided unity with nature link us, through the Romantics, to Rousseau's dream of reattaining a closeness to nature through a transformed version of reason—reflective without abstraction, lively and imaginative without loss of judgment.It is a vision largely formed in reaction against the heritage of seventeenth-century rationalist philosophy. But also implicit in the idea of ourselves as part of nature is another strand, which belongs with those older rationalist ideals to which Romanticism is, perhaps all too readily, seen as diametrically opposed: a commitment to the idea that human beings, no less than the rest of reality, can be understood through rational, scientific method.

In exploring the connections between these two threads—apparently so different—of the idea that we are part of nature, the study of Spinoza is crucial.His thought occupies a strangely ambiguous position. It belongs, on the one hand, firmly with the rationalist tradition—with the philosophies of Descartes and Leibniz.He extols the rationalist ideal of the world as an ordered, intelligible whole, subject neither to the intrusions of divine purpose nor to the vagaries of an . . .

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