Dit wordt, zoals aangekondigd, een vervolg op het vorige blog “Henry M. Rosenthal (1906 - 1977) schreef over de Ethica “an original and emancipated religio-philosophic meditation.” In dat blog haalde ik de eerste alinea aan uit het review van Emily Grosholz van het boek van Henry M. Rosenthal, The Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes's Secret, Spinoza's Way [in: The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, New Series, Vol. 4, No. 3 (1990). Hier geef ik het informatieve deel van haar samenvatting van wat Rosenthal over Spinoza schreef.
The second essay, "Spinoza's Way," tries to show that Spinoza in the Ethics is not doing epistemology, but rather metaphysics or ethics. Rosenthal begins by reviewing the passage in Scholium 2 to II, 40 that outlines three kinds of knowledge, as the best mode of entry into the Ethics not only for what it reveals but also for where it stops short. The first kind of knowledge is perception of individual things that yields "knowledge from vague experience." From Spinoza's exposition, Rosenthal argues, we can see that he has considered and rejected the problem posed at the beginning of Descartes' Meditations, how we can be sure that we know what we know. In Spinoza's system, to be is to know, where the object of knowledge is the body; and to know is, not to be certain, but to be happy. The problem of knowledge is ethical rather than technical or methodological: how can we be blessed in the midst of vague experience?
The second kind of knowledge is conceptual knowledge of universals: common notions and adequate ideas. Rosenthal calls this procedural or clinical knowledge, the kind of knowledge that science is. But Spinoza knows that Descartes' goal, the increase of such knowledge, cannot be his own, because progress in clarification and articulation is not necessarily "progress toward more complex and expansive goals." A third kind of knowledge is called for, intuitive knowledge, to approach the method of freedom, the means for "increased efficiency in being." To explain this kind of knowledge, Rosenthal uses the illuminating example of El Greco's View of Toledo in a brilliant excursus on the nature of art. The artist, Rosenthal argues, does not create but performs the object of his vision. El Greco's Toledo, which we know neither by acquaintance nor by description, exemplifies performative knowledge or "intuitive science," the kind of world making (again) that Spinoza (and Rosenthal) has in mind for the third kind of knowledge.
But even this last kind of knowledge is not what Spinoza needs for his Ethics, for it is hypothetical. Human development needs art, as it needs embodied perception and science, but its performance of knowledge must be actual, with all the constraints, pain, and penalties of real life. Human freedom requires determination. This assertion, Rosenthal explains, seems paradoxical only if we misunderstand what Spinoza meant by "determination." Careful reading of the text reveals three meanings: individuation, advance, and causality. To become more determinate is to become more godlike, for as God advances, natura naturans, he infinitely individuates, and his being is an infinite causal order. "To be is to cause, and thus to hold membership in an infinite order of determination." And thus for Spinoza freedom and determination, an understanding that encompasses and goes beyond the three kinds of knowledge, are identical.
The more we submit to and enact determination, which is to understand causality's infinite spread, the closer we are to blessedness, even in the extremity of physical pain.
Therefore is [=it] seems appropriate to think and speak of it [knowledge] as the intellectual love of God; and to cultivate such sense as one can of its being part of the infinite love with which God loves himself. For what happens in such moments of "vague experience," whether the vagueness be occasioned by the wedding-emotion or the death-bed emotion, is that the body-and-mind of durational man becomes aware of the nature of Substance: that is to say, of infinite individuation in an infinite causal order; and to situate oneself in the knowledge of that order is, by the same token, to situate oneself as co-determinant of it. (p. 190).
Thus Rosenthal finds in Spinoza as well as Hobbes a deep and powerful, and somber, model of how we make the world we live in. His analysis also reveals the essential modernity of both thinkers; that is, we have no reason to reject their understanding of humanity in the midst of its fearful and painful cosmos because of any recent revelation of history. And by the same token we have no reason to reject the courage and equanimity of their visions.
The Pennsylvania State University
The Pennsylvania State University