Improvement of the Understanding: Ethics and Correspondence of Benedict de Spinoza

Improvement of the Understanding: Ethics and Correspondence of Benedict de Spinoza

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Improvement of the Understanding: Ethics and Correspondence of Benedict de Spinoza

Improvement of the Understanding: Ethics and Correspondence of Benedict de Spinoza

Read FREE!

Excerpt

In the wave of philosophical inquiry which swept over Europe in the middle of the seventeenth century and is regarded as the beginning of a new, scientific age of the world, there were two controlling, but divergent forces, those namely represented by Bacon and Descartes, the first the founder of the experimental and the latter the idealistic or dogmatic method of philosophizing. From the former we may trace a continuous influence through Locke, Berkeley, Hume down to Mill, Spencer, Darwin, and Huxley: from the latter the development of the modern idealism represented by Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Lotze.

A potent factor in the latter development was the philosophy of Spinoza (1632-1677) which had its roots in both Bacon (1561-1626) his immediate predecessor and Descartes his contemporary (1596-1650 and, leaving its immediate impress on Leibnitz his successor (1646-1716) even to-day is traceable in schools of thought of widening influence. From Bacon he conceived the idea of a novum organum or new method of learning which should be applicable to the laws of human conduct as well as to the processes of nature. Inspired by the love of Descartes' mathematics he resolved to construct, after the plan of a geometrical science, a complete system of the knowledge of God, of the universe and of man. Human nature, he says, obeys fixed laws no less than do the figures of Geometry. "I will therefore write about human beings as though I were concerned with lines and planes and solids." And hence it is that we have in Spinoza's "Ethics" a treatise consisting of Axioms, Propositions, and Demonstrations like the Geometry of Euclid.

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