The Vindication of Metaphysics: A Study in the Philosophy of Spinoza

The Vindication of Metaphysics: A Study in the Philosophy of Spinoza

The Vindication of Metaphysics: A Study in the Philosophy of Spinoza

The Vindication of Metaphysics: A Study in the Philosophy of Spinoza

Excerpt

This study in the Ethics of Spinoza is intended for students of philosophy whose training, naturally enough in these days, has been such that they can make nothing of the language of Spinoza. It is an attempt to make Spinoza 'say something' to ears accustomed to the modern idiom. I believe that he has something true and important to say, and that this is not merely by the way. Many people would grant that he says some good things about conduct and behaviour, while maintaining that the 'metaphysical' setting adds nothing to, if it does not positively detract from, their value.

On the one hand, then, we have able thinkers continuing to read and reflect upon such works as the Ethics and the Monadology, and other equally able thinkers who assure them that, apart from being given some verifiable statements belonging properly to psychology and ethics, they are being bemused by meaningless words, or enjoying æsthetically a deductive system. What Spinoza and Leibniz meant for statements are pseudo-statements. Since these statements contain words such as 'infinite space', 'eternity', 'necessary existence', they mistakenly think that they are engaged in philosophical reflection upon infinity, eternity, necessary existence. Others grant value to Spinoza's work as a whole, but think that this value lies in its 'directive' influence upon contemporary thinkers. They think, for instance, that Spinoza is recommending the concepts of a mechanical causal system rather than those of a teleological system, which, it is assumed, was a useful recommendation for his own times.

I will deal with these positions in the reverse order. It is not necessary for those holding the third position to show that Spinoza thought that this was what he was doing. It is quite possible that the value of a work lies in something not at all realised by its author. It will be enough to show that this is, as a matter of fact, what the work accomplished, or . . .

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