Baruch Spinoza and Western Democracy: An Interpretation of His Philosophical, Religious and Political Thought

Baruch Spinoza and Western Democracy: An Interpretation of His Philosophical, Religious and Political Thought

Baruch Spinoza and Western Democracy: An Interpretation of His Philosophical, Religious and Political Thought

Baruch Spinoza and Western Democracy: An Interpretation of His Philosophical, Religious and Political Thought

Excerpt

IT IS NO EASY TASK to compress within a small volume the essentials of any man's thinking. This is particularly true if this man was a Spinoza who preoccupied himself throughout his life with fundamental ideas and who shunned deliberately the discussion of what seemed to him irrelevant observations, bounded by time and locale. It is an almost hopeless venture to reconstruct the general physical and mental atmosphere which prevailed some 300 years ago, when Spinoza wrote the Ethics , the Theological- Political Treatise , and the Political Treatise in his native Holland. No one can determine with certainty what Spinoza treated as evidence and how he glued his facts together. However, his way of reasoning is known to us from his own definitions. These definitions characterize his speculative temper, his predilection for metaphysics, the inquiry into the nature of ultimate reality. They reveal his desire for a unitary view of the world and of man's place in it.

It has become fashionable to dismiss all metaphysical systems as mere "armchair" philosophies which cannot possibly advance the frontiers of knowledge. It is reasoned that only by experiment and careful observation can anything be learned about the actual world of ours. This empiricism, which has its roots in Locke and Hume, who, it might be noted, were themselves "armchair" philosophers, has led to various specialized and undoubtedly valuable scientific endeavors. It has warned us to distinguish between "mere notions", subjective fictions of thought, and observable facts. It has focused on the problem of whether there . . .

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