maandag 4 september 2017

James Allanson Picton (1832 – 1910) een discipel van Spinoza. Zijn Spinoza-handboek werd besproken door Bertrand Russell

De andere van degenen die op de bibliografie van Lewis Browne, Blesséd Spinoza [cf. Blog] voorkwamen en mij nog onbekend waren, is deze James Allanson Picton, naar wie ik dus vervolgens op zoek ging.
James Allanson Picton was de oudste zoon van Sir James Allanson Picton te Liverpool; hij kreeg zijn opleiding aan het Liverpool Institute, ‘t Owens College Manchester, en behaalde in 1856 een M.A. in klassieke talen aan de Universiteit van Londen. Dat jaar werd hij onafhankelijk predikant in Cheetham Hill, Manchester; vervolgens in Leicester (1863-68), en Hackney (1858-76); Van 1884-1894 was hij lid van het Parlement voor Leicester. [Cf. van hier foto uit 1868; cf. wikipedia; cf. The Online Books J. Allanson Picton]
Van hem verschenen diverse boeken over religieuze kwesties: The Bible in School: A Question of Ethics (1901, 1907); The Religion of the Universe (1904); Pantheism: Its Story and Significance (1905 – En dan het boek waar het hier om gaat, dat apart werd uitgegeven in Londen en New York:
J. Allanson Picton, Spinoza, A Handbook to the Ethics. London: A. Constable, Limited, & New York: E.P. Dutton& co., 1907 - 261 pagina's – en

Door het hele boek heen verwijst Picton naar Spinoza als naar "the Master". De uitleg van Spinoza’s filosofie laat hij over aan Pollock, naar wie hij regelmatig verwijst. Hem gaat het om moraal en godsdienst en hij bespreekt vooral de laatste twee delen van de Ethica. Hij schrijft: "My object is simply to bring within reach of ordinary people like myself the religious peace and joy that result from his [Spinoza's] identification of God with the Universe" (p. 29). Picton geeft een positieve en sympathieke uitleg aan de Amor Dei intellectualis, waarvan hij de nadruk die Spinoza op het intellectuele legt onderschat:
The doctrine is that the confused and inadequate ideas associated with passion are excluded. This being so, a man who clearly and distinctly recognises his place in the Universe, or God, necessarily regards God as the cause of whatever joy or satisfaction he has in existence; or if little of such pleasure has fallen to his lot, he can look beyond himself to "the glory of the sum of things." The glow of feeling with which such a man responds to the universe is what I understand the Master to mean by "the intellectual love of God." (P. 187)

Review van Bertrand Russell
Het bijzondere wat er van Picton’s Spinoza-boek te zeggen valt, is dat Bertrand Russell er een review van schreef, dat – anoniem - verscheen in The Nation van Londen op 13 april 1907. Dat het review van Russell was, wordt afgeleid uit de stijl en de inhoud, de argumenten waarvoor te vinden zijn in §21 van
Kenneth Blackwell, The Spinozistic Ethics of Bertrand Russell. Blackwell 1985. Reprint, Routledge, 2012 – cf. Dit review, dat ik hieronder overneem, is opgenomen in
The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Volume 5: Toward Principia Mathematica, 1905–08. Editor Gregory H. Moore. Routledge, 2015 – book,google
De voornaamste reden waarom Russell het boek gunstig bespreekt is waarschijnlijk daar het Spinoza’s psychologie en ethiek weergeeft op een wijze die overeenstemt met Russells eigen interpretatie, aldus Kenneth Blackwell.

Russell’s Review

Spinoza: A Handbook to the Ethics. By J. Allanson Picton. London: Archibald Constable, 1907. Pp. ix, 264.
0F ALL THE great modem philosophers, Spinoza is probably the most interesting in relation to human life, and is certainly the most lovable and high-minded. Unfortunately, the difficulty and crabbedness of his writing make it very hard for people who are not serious students of philosophy to understand even what is not inherently difficult in his doctrines. He therefore requires commentaries to translate him into easier language, if his main ideas are to be appreciated as widely as possible. Sir Frederick Pollock's book has performed this task with rare skill, and might be thought to have rendered Mr. Picton's work unnecessary. But I do not think such a view would be just. Mr. Picton's book is shorter and easier; it confines itself wholly to the Ethics; and it can be read by those who have no previous acquaintance with philosophy.
"The aim of this book", we are told in the Preface, "is practical; that is to say, I have endeavoured to avoid discussing the philosophy of Spinoza more than is absolutely necessary to an understanding of his moral code." The author is an enthusiastic admirer, and, in the main, adopts Spinoza's metaphysics. He has, perhaps, a somewhat excessive desire to find resemblances between Spinoza and Herbert Spencer, and a tendency to urge that what Spinoza says is common sense, when it is really something much better. But in the main he successfully extracts his master's teaching on the conduct of life and on the intellectual love of God. Much of the moral teaching of the Ethics, being inspired by a general tolerant large-heartedness, remains valid, whether we accept or reject the metaphysic by which it is "proved"; but the more interesting and characteristic portions stand or fall with that metaphysic, and remain unconvincing to readers who are not pantheists. Spinoza subordinates the good to the real: "By reality and perfection", he says, "I understand the same thing." Hence, to prove a thing perfect, he need only prove that it is real. If humanity had ardently desired to prove that the world is made of gem cheese, some philosopher would doubtless have declared: "By reality and green cheese I mean the same thing", whence comforting conclusions would have followed as cogently as in Spinoza. As an illustration of the resulting fallacies, the following may serve: Prop. 16, pt. 5, states—"This love of God above everything ought to occupy the mind." The proof is as follows: "For this love is connected with all the affections of the body (Prop. 14, pt. 5), by all of which it is cherished (Prop. 15. pt. 5), and, therefore (Prop. 11, pt. 5), above everything else ought to occupy the mind." But when we refer to Prop. 11, pt. 5, we find the following: "The greater the number of objects to which an image is related, the more constant is it, or the more frequently does it present itself, and the more does it occupy the mind." There is not a word here about what ought to occur, but only about what does occur. Thus, what Spinoza has really "proved" is that the love of God above everything else does occupy the mind—a conclusion which is palpably false, and has no bearing whatever upon the question as to what ought to occupy the mind.
Spinoza's philosophy, however, whether we agree with it or not, remains one of the noblest monuments of human genius, and whoever makes it more widely accessible is doing a useful work. To readers unacquainted with philosophy, Mr. Picton's book may therefore be confidently recommended.
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Opmerkelijk is dat de Russell Society, die dit review ook geeft, daarbij niet vermeldt dat het anoniem verscheen. Slordig. Voordeel is weer wel dat we daar de titel van het stuk krijgen waaronder het in The Nation verscheen: “Spinoza’s Moral Code” [cf.].

Cf. ook Bertrand Russell, “Spinoza,” in: The Nation (London), 8 (Nov 12 1910), 278,280  Review of Ethics, by Benedictus de Spinoza. Trans. W. Hale White and Amelia Hutchinson Stirling. 4th ed. (London, New York and Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1910)  The first edition of this translation of Spinoza’s Ethics was published in 1883 [Op de website van de Russell Society]

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