Graag wijs ik weer eens op master-thesis over Spinoza – deze van
Ellen Sandum, Ethics and Freedom within Spinoza's system of necessary determinism. Master Thesis in Philosophy, University of Oslo. May 15th 2012 [PDF]
Wel aardig vond ik dat ze, na het bedanken van haar studiebegeleider en haar partner, ook Spinoza bedankt.
Om een indruk te geven hier haar inleiding en daarna haar slotalinea.
Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1672) was a rationalist philosopher which in his main work, the Ethics, used a geometrical method to show that we can arrive at truths about the world following postulated definitions, axioms and propositions. Spinoza held that from his propositions, substance monism and parallelism of mind and body would follow as something logical necessary, and that the implications of that in turn had importance for ethics and practical philosophy. Spinoza rejected any notion of an anthropomorphic God, and identified God with Nature: Deus sive Natura. In nature, causes and effects are necessary, and this is an important cornerstone in Spinoza's universe; since everything according to Spinoza is part of, or follows from, a necessary causal chain, everything is in a way necessary.
Necessarianism is stronger than determinism (even in its strictest form), because a strict determinist would allow that the causal chains constituting the world could have been different as a whole, even though each member of the chain could not have been different, given its antecedent causes.
Whether Spinoza is seen as a necessitarian or a determinist will bring about important implications for how we interpret and understand his ethical project as a whole. There are reasons to believe that Spinoza is to be seen as a necessetarian. Understanding Spinoza's modal metaphysics, i.e. his basic ideasand metaphysical framework regarding necessity and possibility, is crucial to later on be able to say something about what this means for his ethical project, morality, agency and prospects of living well.
Given the rigid framework of ontological necessity and the unquestionable rejection of free will we are presented with in the Ethics from first part and onwards, several questions are raised. The text more than just implies that we are not agents in the traditional sense; given that everything is necessary and nothing is contingent (EIp29), our common understanding of being free agents are put to the test. Even if we accept the premise of necessity, does it have to mean the end for concepts like voluntary actions, responsibility, intentionality and autonomy, concepts that often define how we understand free agency?
Spinoza ties the subject of determinism up to mental causality and defends the position of parallelism. His idea is that the physical is determined, the mental is determined, and thus he postulates a sort of oneto-one correlation between mental and physical items. Everything physical has a correlating ''mental idea''. The mental sphere that is determined parallels the determined physical sphere.
This master’s thesis will also deal with questions regarding Spinoza’s views on determinism and mental causality. Mental causality regards the idea that the mental acts causally upon the physical world and whether it can be cause for human agency. How we understand ''the mental'' (and also ''the physical'') in this context is important. Whether it is seen as a set of properties, events or a vocabulary, it’s associated with intentionality, feelings and qualia, but is also closely related to how we think of morality. It is many people’s clear intuition that the moment the notion of mentality is threatened, free will, responsibility, and thus morality is immediately in a position under pressure. In many ways it may seem like the old question of free will versus determinism. I will argue that, following Spinoza, we should and can allow room for responsibility and morality – concepts often related to freedom – even in our defending determinism. True Freedom is in fact one of Spinoza’s main goals. This means I will discuss the compatibilism in Spinoza's thoughts, and show how he defines true freedom as something compatible with determinism and necessity.
I'll argue that despite Spinoza’s strict determined world view, human agency (which is often seen as standing in discrepancy to Spinoza’s necessitarianism) is different from what it would have been when postulating radical freedom of the will, but still not at all so restricted (or eliminated) in Spinoza's thought as one may think. We can rather postulate a sort of self-determinism, and I will consider and conclude that a natural consequence of this rejection of free will is not any amoral mayhem, or cancellation of responsibility for ones actions. Rather it contributes to the formation of a (moral) selfidentity where one understands that our minds with its thoughts and ideas are causally necessary, and can be acted upon like any other cause and effect. Several reflections is thus involved in this. As I will show, we need to be aware of questions like ‘What is my nature?’, ‘What does my nature strive for’, and this can, in turn, answer questions of goals in life (or if there are any, given Spinoza’s rejection of teleology), of the related meaning in life, and of what we ought to do. Spinoza was influenced by the scholastics and it has an undeniable Aristotelian association to it. Arête is the virtue of functioning in the best possible manner in tune with one’s nature; and, likewise, to live at best as human being can be seen directly connected to the goal of the Ethics. God's essence is to be cause of itself, and it is in its nature to be its own nature completely. The human essence is in a way to strive for the same thing. What are the goal and the meaning when we strive towards being most fully our nature? Are there any oughts, or is it just is?
Tot slot haar laatste alinea:
I think like Wolfson that Spinoza has a great deal of important insights to offer us, and as I have argued, his moderate necessitarianism shows us that there is still room for ways we might live, that we in fact can steer ourselves in one direction rather than another, and that when we truly understands something it becomes a necessary part of what we want to do. In that way we can make free humans of ourselves, and this is compatible with a necessary determined world.