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Discussing Books II through V of the Ethics. Continues the discussion from Ep. 24.
What is the relation between mind and body? How do we know things? What are the emotions? Is there an ethical ideal for us to shoot for? What is our relationship to God?
Our rational nature prevails over urges to scream, sleep, or slap each other as we plow to the end of this strange and thorny text.
Read a free version online or purchase the book.
End song: "When I Think of You" from The MayTricks' Happy Songs Will Bring You Down (1994).
I am not clear about what you guys concluded on Spinoza’s attitude about animals.
I think you indicate he is similar to Descartres – may he suffer for eternity at the fangs of famished wolves and non-omnivorous cows – with an anthropocentrism based on that highly vaunted capacity for rationalization inherited from Aristotelian and Scholastic thinkers.
Correction: meant to say the cows should be non-herbivores (it really doesn’t matter, as the wolves alone should take care of things).
Mark Linsenmayer says
Burl, I think S’s position is closer to Kant’s. Whereas Descartes thinks animals don’t feel, Spinoza and Kant think that they do, but think that moral obligation isn’t grounded in the victim’s ability to feel.
The difference is that Kant is being consistent in his position, in that our duties are to rational agents in virtue of their rationality. For Spinoza, arguably, good and bad are rooted in pleasure and pain (as for the utilitarian). However, for Spinoza, our obligation to others comes from our perceiving them as the best means for ourselves to be happy, whereas animals are ungrateful bastards, so we can use them. But, of course, this argument shouldn’t apply to animals of a sort that can help us out, give us affection, etc., i.e. pets, and as Wes was saying, their similarity to us as far as their mental lives go should make us on Spinozan grounds have some affection/respect for them.
Thanks, Mark. I forgot the Jant comparison. Of all the famous philosophers, I guess it is Hume who came down most favorably for animals probably because he did not place rationality as being so special. I love his “Of the Reason of Animals” from _An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding_;
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14. at http://www.bartleby.com/37/3/13.html
When I see reason being used as a cleaver (knife of reason – ratio-dialectic-division) to separate humans out as a species so special that the others are nearly negligible, I focus on the term ‘rationalization’ and ask if what we do with reason fused with primate emotions geared to deception is all that damn noble.
nice podcast but…WHERE’S THE FREUD EPISODE!
Wes Alwan says
Mark Linsenmayer says
In general, we take 3 weeks between recordings, so that’s my target re. posting, though in this case, we’ll beat that target by a few days at least (the last one went up 10 days ago as of this posting by my count, and we will definitely have the Freud one up within the week.)
Mike S. says
I’ve never read Spinoza, so my comment on him comes from my understanding, of your understanding of him.
That being said, your conversation in part 2. seems to reveal a duality about him, that i eluded to in one of my previous posts.
It seems to me, that Spinoza seems to both generalize the human emotional experience or just human experience and adds that generalization or uses that generalization to deny/assign value to aspects of that same experience.
On the one hand, he seems to be pointing to some harmony that is built in nature and then he seems to be arguing against that harmony, as being more or less harmonious based on his understanding of its use.
So as far as i can gather, he seems to have this philosophy of ethics or motivation that is somewhat incoherent with his overall general philosophy.
What i mean is, his take on animals is pretty much insane , set up by his own boundaries of sanity. I think this helps make evident that his understanding of emotions seem to be neutral and then not neutral.
It just seems to me, that it’s absurd to have a view of causality that is deterministic, and then also take a view on ethics that is limited to people’s own ability to address such ethics.
For example, it’s a little like saying, “the reason you’re what you are, is beyond your ability to control……but if you don’t control it, you’re a jerk”
I think, for me, the reason that Spinoza seems to be unable to seperate the physical from the moral or ethical world, is the same reason he’s unable to seperate God from his whole philosophy. He’s really a moralist disguised as a rationalist. Or atleast, he’s got a lot of moralist in him for a rationalist.
And possibly, that’s because of the age he lived in. (certainly i’d say) Clearly he’s quite hung up on god.
I wonder how much of his “god” talk/theory was self-imposed and how much was possibly to satisfy the time he lived in.
Anywho, i liked Spinoza much much more in part 1. He seems to fall apart a little for me, in part 2.
I think it was Seth who said “this is either the greatest thing ever written or off just enough that it’s lunacy”
And i think i would somewhat agree with that statement. I found half of what he seems to be saying (spinoza) so logical and the other half, totally illogical. To me, it seems like he was a man struggling to reconcile to competing views of reality. Which i imagine, would make sense given the difference between the way of seeing the world he was taught/dwelled in and the way he was trying to craft.
this is worth a listen
Mark Linsenmayer says
Frank Callo says
Hi Guys. I am loving the discussion of Spinoza who is probably my favorite thinker of the western tradition. My comment concerns the difference between the second kind of knowledge (from clear and distinct ideas) and the third (intuitive science). My understanding is that intuitive science refers to something that can not be reduced to any deeper order. for example, a triangle has certain triangular qualities (like all the angles, when added together equal 180 degrees). There is no deeper reason why this is so, this quality is simply part of the “suchness” , of triangles. So if the student asks (what is the shape of this long, narrow shard of glass”? You can lead him, through clear and distinct ideas (the idea of what a shape is, what an angle is, and so on)., to the conclusion that the shard of glass is triangular. But from there, there is no further to go, it is a triangle because because it has these qualities/it has these qualities because it is a triangle, If this makes sense.
BTW, all this Spinoza talk makes me think of another guy I like who got excommunicated from the catholic church for more or less the same reasons that Spinoza did. Ever hear of Johannes Scotus Eriugena? Y’all might dig his work if you dig Spinoza.
I am looking forward for that Passions episode. It was a good experience that I had reading that with the objections to the hydraulic model of emotion. I began looking at the logic of emotion from Sartre’s book on that subject.