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Introduction Spinoza

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Uit de History of Western Philosophy, door Anil Mitra, komt deze engelstalige inleiding op Spinoza.

Spinoza is a pantheistic [a probable interpretation: God is the universe conceived as eternal and necessary unity; Spinoza expressly denies personality and consciousness to God] and a rationalist [Descartes had given an example of the application of the geometric method - deduction from necessary and self-evident axioms to conclusions - in the appendix to his mediations; Spinoza follows the same method in Cogitata Metaphysica, an exposition of Descartes' philosophy, and in Ethics, his chief work].

He is successor to Descartes [in aim to construct a universal theory on rationalist principles and method: mathematical-geometric]; even though Spinoza is a monist [God is the one absolute from which all else is derived] whereas Descartes was a dualist [mind and body…] Spinoza's monism is derived from Descartes' notion of God as the absolute substance […this implies in fact that Descartes' philosophy is not perfectly defines as to monism and dualism and though predominantly dualist has, also, elements of monism].

The origin of Spinozism has also been sought in Averroism [Averroës [1126-1198], of the Spanish-Arabian school flourishing in the Moorish Caliphate of Spain, particularly at Cordova, derived from Arabian -Mohammedan philosophy, conceived of the universal active mind], in the cabalist and pantheistic literature of the Middle Ages, in the writings of the Jewish scholars Moses Maimonides and Creskas [Maimonides holds that to conceive God as the bearer of any attributes would destroy his unity, while Creskas defends this view], and in the speculations of Giordano Bruno [1548 - 1600] [with Nicolas of Cusa, Bruno conceived God as immanent in the active universe, the active principle as the unity of all opposites, as the unity without opposites, as the one and the many whom the finite mind cannot grasp].


Like Descartes, Spinoza is a rationalist: the goal of philosophy is complete knowledge of things, and this can be reached by clear and distinct thinking.


The problem of the nature of the world is handled by Spinoza like a problem in geometry.

The universal substance

God is in the world and the world is in him, he is the source of everything that is [Pantheism]; God and the world are one.

Attributes of god

The infinitude of God is of the second order - he possesses an infinite number of attributes each of which is infinite in extent; of these the mind of man can grasp but two: the attribute dimensions of man himself: physical and mental.

Theory of knowledge

Three levels of cognition: [1] Obscure and inadequate ideas have their source in sensation and imagination: [2] adequate knowledge - clear and distinct ideas, rational knowledge; [3] intuitive knowledge - the highest kind of knowledge.

Ethics and politics

"The Mind's highest good is the knowledge of God and the mind's highest virtue is to know God."

In the state of nature every man has the right to do what he can; might makes right. But conflict would rise in such a situation, for men would overshoot their powers; hence it is necessary that men relinquish their natural rights in order that all may live in peace [social contract].

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