Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Almog, Joseph. Everything in Its Right Place: Spinoza and Life by the Light of Nature

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Almog, Joseph. Everything in Its Right Place: Spinoza and Life by the Light of Nature

Article excerpt

ALMOG, Joseph. Everything in Its Right Place: Spinoza and Life by the Light of Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. xi + 160 pp. Cloth, $45.00--This book begins with a story of intellectual development. At the age of seven, walking through the forest, Almog realized that Nature is one and everything is part of Nature. As he grew up into an analytic philosopher, however, he strayed from "the all-encompassing simpleminded picture of the boy in the forest." Two later experiences brought him back: first, a reading of Spinoza's Letter 32, in which Spinoza uses the image of a worm in the blood to illustrate the coherence of the parts of Nature with the whole; the second was when, caught in a blizzard in the Alps, Almog encountered a chamois and for a moment had the realization "that for all our differences and lives that would never cross again, we were pretty much the same, ploughing through." Almog says that the book is about the metaphysics of Spinoza, but it is at least as much an essay on Almog's own intuitions of Nature's unity and oneness.

The book offers some dazzling insights into Spinoza's metaphysics. In the second chapter, for instance, Almog captures the relation in Spinoza between the parts of nature and Nature as a whole with a pithy formula: The nature of x = Nature at x. Almog stresses the opposition between classical conceptions of the nature of an individual in terms of an "attributive" abstract property--rationality, for example, in the case of humans--and that of Spinoza, according to which the nature of each individual is set by the sequence of Nature's transformations by which it was produced. To say that Barack Obama is a human being is not to say that Obama has the essential human trait of rationality, but rather that Obama was produced by members of the human species, just as the human species is a development of the Hominidae, and so on, until we reach Nature as the source of all being. In short, writes Almog, "What makes me human is the very cosmic process by which I became human." There are moments of brilliance in Almog's analysis of the relationship between individual and species and Nature in chapter two, an analysis which he extends somewhat less convincingly in chapter four to sociopolitical relations; equally incisive is chapter three's discussion of the relationship between mathematics and nature. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.