zondag 8 juli 2018

Paul Vernière (1916 – 1997) schreef “Spinoza et la pensée française avant la révolution" [1954] - #spinoza

Paul Vernière schreef, zoals bekend, een gezaghebbende tweedelige studie over Spinoza en diens receptie in Frankrijk vóór de Franse Revolutie:
Paul Vernière, Spinoza et la pensée française avant la révolution. Tome premier, Le XVIIe siècle (1663-1715). Tome second, Le XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1954

In het blog van 04-06-2014, "Spinozana op Yumpu," liet ik zien dat het eerste deel naar Yumpu was geüpload. Over dit boek vinden we e.e.a. bij Jonathan Israel, maar ook zo ontdekte ik vandaag in het boek van
Alan Charles Kors, Naturalism and Unbelief in France, 1650–1729. Cambridge University Press, 2016 – books.google.
"This is the long-awaited sequel to his classic Atheism in France, 1650-1729. [Volume I: The Orthodox Sources of Disbelief. Princeton University Press, July 14, 2014].  The sequel shows how the development of atheism in 18th Century France emerged from philosophical and theological disagreements between different schools of orthodox theologians. Modern atheism, Kors argues, is largely the unintended end result of these debates. [cf.] Tegelijk verscheen van Kors bij CUP Epicureans and Atheists in France, 1650-1729 - books.google.

In Chapter 2 of Naturalism and Unbelief in France, 1650–1729, "Reading the Ancients and Reading Spinoza," gaat Kors uitgebreid in op dit boek van Vernière. De betreffende passage op de pagina’s 69 - 71 neem ik, daar ze mij zeer informatief voorkwam, hier graag over (mét de cijfers der voetnoten voor de inhoud waarvan ik echter naar books.google verwijs):

Singular minds attract singular inquirers, and Spinoza's qualities and complexity have drawn so many deep scholars to the study of his ideas, his texts, his milieu, his influences and his influence. Modern debates about the most coherent reading, the inherent logic, or the intended meaning of Spinoza, and about his precise relationship to prior or subsequent epistemology and ontology, reflect philosophical and critical perspectives of great significance and rigor. My interest here, however, is purely (or, if one insists, merely) historical, and, within that confine, yet further limited to his relationship to the problem of naturalism as part of the inheritance and debates of early-modern French learned culture. Beyond those questions, there lies a vibrant world of Spinoza scholarship.80 All who discuss Spinoza in this historical context are deeply indebted to Paul Verniere's rich and suggestive Spinoza et la pensée française avant la Révolution (1954), which illuminated so many responses to Spinoza in France during the late seventeenth and, above all, eighteenth centuries.81 Vernière well understood how Spinoza touched (and was useful to) the debates that swirled around Cartesianism in the late seventeenth century. For Vernière, however, much of the Cartesians' criticism of Spinoza was purely defensive, a response to their rivals' attempts to equate them with the Dutch philosopher.82

While sensitive to context, Vernière's formulation perhaps missed the full confidence of the Cartesian enterprise in the late seventeenth century. The Cartesians, in fact, were sufficiently astute and self-assured to see all of their differences with Spinoza, even without the presence of opponents who tried to tar them with the brush of "Spinozism"; they attacked Spinoza directly for what they understood as his faults, not merely to defend themselves. Indeed, they were assertive enough to use polemically the specter of Spinoza (although the ancients alone often sufficed for them in this regard) against their own enemies, as their critics were doing to them.

One must be cautious, thus, not to assign too great an historical role to Spinoza and too small an historical agency to both the early-modern classical inheritance and to early-modern discussions of that inheritance. For Vernière (I do not think that I caricature his argument here, but I am sensitive to that possibility), Spinoza's contemporaries cast about for "obscure" ancients such as Strato through whom to denigrate a Spinoza whom they read as atheistic. For Verniere, they played "erudite games [les jeux érudits]," arising from an ignorance of Spinoza's "Cartesian" origins. In such a state of ignorance, "The general error of all these érudits is to relate Spinozism to hylozoism ... For them, Spinoza seems to defend a strange doctrine in which every living thing is matter and all matter is animate [L’erreur générale de tous ces érudits est de ramener le Spinozisme à l'hylozoïsme ... Spinoza semble défendre pour eux une étrange doctrine où tout vivant est matière et toute matière animée]."83 There is an immense problem here, however: The ancients, even including Strato, were not at all "obscure" to Spinoza's audience. Indeed, the ancients provided the prism through which Spinoza was seen and read (explaining, perhaps, why so many moderns are convinced that the early-moderns could not "understand" him). Vernière, in a work of countless virtues, held a sometimes elastic, some-times rigid view of Spinoza's perspective, labeling as specifically "Spinozist" a very broad set of phenomena, as if, at times, Spinoza were the ubiquitous nature naturante of which all subsequent naturalist free-thought were but the nature naturée.84 Much of what Vernière saw as "Spinozist" was demonstrably already in the culture, both by common inheritance and by debates engaged or emergent before he wrote.
Scholars with interests in French intellectual history have produced a remarkable series of studies on the relationship of Spinoza to specific thinkers, specific texts, and, indeed, specific arguments.85 These works are almost always impressive, but burdened by too awkward an empirical case. It is, to say the least, problematic to distinguish between, on the one hand, Spinoza's influence, and, on the other, that of a critic, or, indeed, a thinker independently pursuing related questions, or, for that matter, a predecessor of both Spinoza and his critics or contemporaries. Further, it is problematic to specify "influence" when any given text itself may have been influenced by the classics, by more recent predecessors, by Spinoza, by his critics, and by independent contemporaries simultaneously.
Hierna gaat Kors in op Jonathan Israel’s boek over de Radicale Verlichting.



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