Saturday, December 1, 2007

Spinoza and The Nature of God--Or Divinity of Nature

As I briefly indicated—too briefly—in my introduction, modernity has always been a contested zone—bitterly contested, from time to time. Consider, for instance, the intense hostility that Spinoza’s ideas instantly aroused, even before he gave them their final form in his (virtually unreadable) Ethics. Shakespeare had implied, in King Lear, that Nature is all there is and Hobbes had come pretty close to saying so, but Spinoza was the first person to say that Nature=God, God=Nature, that everything flows necessarily from the laws of nature, which exclude supernatural happenings, miracles, and providence. [Spinoza also shows why the so-called mind-body, or consciousness-brainstate connection or relationship cannot be explained or explicated for the simple reason—simple to say but hard to understand—that consciousness and brain-states are two aspects of the same thing (or “substance”, to use the scholastic terminology he inherited from medieval and classic antiquity) like the opposite sides of a coin.] Spinoza was (rightly, I think) accused of atheism and expelled from the Jewish community of Amsterdam, and for the next hundred years or more, Spinozaism was the worst intellectual and moral disease that anyone, especially in Germany, could be accused of having.

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