Spinoza, Ethics

PXL_20230822_075622617~2 Spinoza, Ethics was recommended by Russell; that is recommended in the influence on thought sense. I "read" (browsed, skimmed, eventually gave up) this on Kindle during last summer's holiday; these are my notes from that reading.

You can tell from the title (Ethics, Demonstrated in Geometrical Order) that its going to go wrong, being another (but perhaps the first (no: the rather more successful Leviathan predates it by 10 years)) to ape geometry. It doesn't take him long to go wrong, he doesn't really understand definitions / axioms well: thus he defines finite (not rigourously, obvs) and then uses infinite without defining; he uses eternal before deffing it; etc. We get a pile of propositions that all depend on e.g. exactly what he means by "substance" so I didn't care.

Then, the ontological proof of god, which no-one believes, including him, because he immediately follows it with another proof variant (see wiki: by God he may mean Nature; which may or may not be the simple material universe (in which case why bother prove it exists?) or some pantheistic god).

Later, he proves that you can't cut an infinite thing in half because it would then be two infinities which is twice as large. Duh. He also neglects to consider one part being finite. I hope we get past this dull stuff soon.

Doesn't like free will (prop xxxii) since will needs a cause which must regress ro god; similarly (xxxiii) the world could not be other than is, since it proceeds from god and god cannot be different it would be absurd. Confusingly (corr to prop xxxi, but another ordering of props) things are contingent.

There's very little actual ethics in there. In discussing good / bad (mostly in terms of desire / aversion in which he is close to Hobbes) I think he goes wrong (e.g. later: good-v-evil is nothing but emotions of pleasure-v-pain). He is missing the key concept of societies only existing if they have moralities that allow existence. This is unsurprising but means all his stuff is broken. Note: it is important to realise when things are broken. Not doing so, and endlessly chattering, is a key failure of most philosophy. Of his many propositions re emotions, some are kinda interesting aphorisms, and so of some value, but the proofs are all uninteresting.


Hazlitt, in The Foundations of Morality, quotes Spinoza for "In no case do we strive for, wish for, long for, or desire anything because we deem it to be good, but on the other hand we deem a thing to be good, because we strive for it, wish for it, long for it, or desire it" (written between 1661 and 1675). That would make me think him worthwhile, had he originated it. But it is just a rip-off of Hobbes: "But whatsoever is the object of any mans Appetite or Desire; that is it, which he for his part calleth Good: And the object of his Hate, and Aversion, evill; And of his contempt, Vile, and Inconsiderable. For these words of Good, evill, and Contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person that useth them" (Leviathan, published in 1651).


Two Federal Courts Rule Against Biden's New Student Loan Forgiveness Plan on the Same Day.

* France 2023 part four: Les Deux Alpes to La Berade; around; Dibona; and to Bourg D'Oisans.

No comments: