dinsdag 25 juli 2017

Spinoza over goed en kwaad

In 2002 verscheen Susan Neiman’s indrukwekkende Evil in Modern Thought. An Alternative History of Philosophy. Het werd in het Nederlands vertaald als Het kwaad denken. Een andere geschiedenis van de filosofie (2004). In november 2014 ontving zij de Spinozalens [cf. blog] waarna het boek in 2015 een revised edition kreeg. Uitgebreid beschrijft ze de theodicee van Leibniz en ook Kant komt in haar overzicht uitvoerig aan bod, maar ook hoe Spinoza over kwaad dacht kwam - zij het wel heel kort - aan de orde.
Wellicht door dat werk geïnspireerd verscheen bij Routledge een vijfdelige reeks The History of Evil [cf.]. Eind van dit jaar of begin volgend jaar gaat als laatste deel in die reeks verschijnen:

Tom Angier, Chad Meister, Charles Taliaferro (Eds.), The History of Evil in the Early Modern Age - 1450–1700. Routledge, 2018 [nog geen cover]
Daarin zal hoofdstuk 15, van de hand van Eugene Marshall, gaan over “Baruch Spinoza on Evil.” Marshall geeft het concept op zijn site al ter inzage – cf. PDF.
Dat boek zal als opvolger te zien zIjn van (het al vóór dat van Susan Neiman verschenen)

Elmar J. Kremer & Michael J. Latzer (Eds.), The Problem of Evil in Early Modern Philosophy. University of Toronto Press, 2001 [Books.google; hier bij De Gruyter is de inhoudsopgave goed te zien]
Dat werk bevatte twee hoofdstukken over Spinoza:
Graeme Hunter, “Spinoza: A Radical Protestant?” Pp 49-65 *)
Steven M. Nadler, “Spinoza in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Pp 66-80.

In de inleiding schreven Kremer & Latzer: Spinoza, by contrast, makes a conscious and systematic effort to undermine the traditional preconditions of theodicy in favour of what he regards as a more truly philosophical (and more sublime) analysis of God, destiny, and the human condition.
Steven Nadler points out in his 'Spinoza in the Garden of Good and Evil' that Spinoza's denial that God acts by free choice, that God is 'good' (as defined by classical theism), and that God acts for the sake of ends, places him outside the domain of traditional theodicy. But Spinoza is also interested in the project of consolation. Nadler locates Spinoza in the context of medieval Jewish theodicies, and notes that although Spinoza rejects such elements as post-mortem recompense for good deeds done and injustice suffered, he sees in Gersonides hints of his own prescription for happiness: freedom through scientia  intuitiva, or knowledge through essences, related to their infinite causes. Through possession of adequate ideas, and indifference to the affective modes of good and evil, the reward of virtue can be found in this world alone and authentic human good realized.
However, as Graeme Hunter points out in 'Spinoza: A Radical Protestant?' Spinoza also had close ties with some of the radical Protestants in the Netherlands, and in some passages presents his work as part of a new and more radical Protestant reformation. Hunter rejects the traditional reading of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus through the lenses of the Ethics, and examines Spinoza's dicta in the Tractatus concerning the spirit of Christ, the essentials of Christian belief, and the principles of Christian reformation on the premise that they were sincerely held and seriously intended. Hunter argues that against the crude anthropomorphism of Cartesian divine voluntarism, the Spinoza of the Tractatus offers an orthodox understanding of divine providence, ruling all things by grace, mercy, and pity.

Terug naar het nog te verschijnen boek. Zijn tekst daarvoor heeft Eugene Marshall blijkbaar al geruime tijd geleden geschreven, want hij citeert steeds zijn The Spiritual Automaton: Spinoza's Science of the Mind als forthcoming terwijl dat al in 2014 bij OUP Oxford verscheen. Ook is opvallend dat Adam of de Tuin van Eden bij hem niet voorkomen, terwijl Spinoza best veel van zijn denken over goed en kwaad uitlegt door in te gaan op het verhaal van Adam – en tegen te spreken zoals de kerken zich over dat thema uitten.

Ik citeer hier Eugene Marshall’s Introduction:
The seventeenth Century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza held several iews that his contemporaries found heretical, his beliefs about the nature of good and evil among them. According to Spinoza, nothing at all is either good or evil, from the perspective of God or the natural world. Instead, he argues, good and evil are merely words that humans employ to label things we find pleasant or unpleasant, desirable or undesirable. We only ascribe intrinsic goodness or evil to things because we falsely believe the world to have been created for our benefit.

This may sound like moral nihilism, but Spinoza is not properly understood this way.1 Spinoza does claim that people generally call things good and evil only because they find them to be pleasant and desirable or unpleasant and undesirable. When we speak more carefully, however, these words are best used to pick out what is really useful or harmful for us; so, we should not do away with concepts of good and evil. Rather, he argues, we should retain these concepts and use them to pick out what can really benefit or harm us. In short, then, Spinoza is not a nihilist about good and evil, but a kind of reductive relativist. What’s more, he is not a simple subjectivist, taking good and evil to be whatever anyone happens to like or dislike, because, he argues, human beings have a real and fixed nature that determines our good. Those things that consistently benefit or hinder our advancement towards that good are, in that instance, rightly called good or evil for us. More precisely, Spinoza argues, because the true human good resides in a life guided by rationality, evil is thus anything that hinders our living lives guided by reason.

Finally, Spinoza argues that, because human beings are fragile and dependent creatures, the best way to live a life guided by reason is to live in a relatively harmonious society of others with such interests. Thus, anything that prevents the operations of a harmonious society is also rightly called evil for us.

In short, then, Spinoza denies the objective reality of good and evil but argues for the usefulness of retaining the words to identify what is beneficial or a hindrance to our living a life guided by reason, which can only occur in a well-ordered society. Thus, evil is nothing intrinsically real in things, but we can still use the term to describe what helps us to live rationally with others.

The next four sections contain an analysis of his views on good and evil. They shall establish the following four claims, respectively: that neither good nor evil are intrinsically real; that good and evil are terms we should retain to describe what we know to be truly useful or a hindrance to our good; that a life guided by reason is our true good and, thus, anything that aids this is rightly called good and anything that hinders it evil for us; and, finally, that our true good is only achievable in a relatively harmonious, rational society, so that anything that prevents us from doing so is also rightly called evil.


Ik kan uiteraard geen blog aan dit onderwerp wijden, als ik niet verwijs naar het schitterende
Spinoza, Brieven over het Kwaad. Hertaald en ingeleid door Miriam van Reijen. Wereldbibliotheek, 2012.  

*) Dat onderwerp werd verder uitgewerkt in zijn

Graeme Hunter, Radical Protestantism in Spinoza’s Thought. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005 -- cf. Amazon

Ik breng hier meteen de link naar het PDF van zijn artikel
Graeme Hunter, "Spinoza on miracles." In: International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 56: 41–51, 2004.

1 opmerking:

  1. Met binnengehaalde hoofdstuk 15 van Marshall en de verwijzing naar het boek van Miriam van Reijen heb ik een geïntersseerde een groot plezier kunnen doen.