In het blog van 9 juli 2017 “Stanislaus von Dunin-Borkowski SJ (1864-1934) - "Das Studium über Spinoza wurde für ihn zur Lebensarbeit," gaf ik links naar vele eerdere blogs die ik aan hem en zijn werk wijdde. Daarna meende ik dat de blogs van 12 augustus 2017 en 14 augustus 2017 wel de laatste zouden zijn “over deze jezuïet die zoveel over Spinoza publiceerde, tenzij ik ooit nog eens iets heel fraais over hem tegenkom.”
En zie, toevallig kwam ik onlangs het review tegen dat R. McK. over de laatste twee van de vier delen van Dunin-Borkowski gaf in: The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 34, No. 14 (Jul. 8, 1937), pp. 380-383. Daar het zeer informatief is over de inhoud van al deze werken, neem ik het hier over.
Spinoza. Band III. Aus den Tagen Spinozas. Geschehnisse, Gestalten, Gedankenwelt. II. Teil: Des neue Leben. Band IV. Aus den Tagen Spinozas. Geschehnisse, Gestalten, Gedankenwelt. III. Teil: Das Lebenswerk. STANISLAUS VON DUNIN BORKOWSKI, S.J. Münster i. W.: Aschendorffschen Verlagsbuchhandlung. 1935, 1936. 444 pp., 587 pp. 15.60 M., 20 M.
The first of the four volumes of Father Dunin Borkowski's monumental study appeared in 1910 under the title, The Youth of Spinoza; when the learned Jesuit scholar died on May 1, 1934, the second volume had been published, the third was on the press, and the fourth ready for publication. Even the space of several decades and the labor of a long lifetime seem short when viewed in terms of the erudition he has been able to crowd into those 2000 pages. Data and explications important to the study of the seventeenth century and its intellectual background, bibliographies, recondite information concerning men, movements, and places, brief histories of concept, problems, and methods, frequently carried far beyond the immediate scope of Spinoza's usage or his knowledge, make Dunin Borkowski's work indispensable in the study of Spinoza or of the seventeenth century.
Father Dunin Borkowski's historical method is directed to reconstructing, as means of elucidating Spinoza's philosophy, the historical, moral, and intellectual atmosphere in which he worked. The places and people among which he lived, the men he knew or might have known, the books he read or might have read, the problems he dealt with or might have considered preliminary to his work, are reconstructed with minute care. Usually one begins with the specific persons or things with which Spinoza had known connections: the persons with whom he corresponded or whom he mentioned in his letters or the books in his library; to these are added the persons or things that he might conceivably have known: the professors of philosophy in the neighboring University town, the well-known figures of the day, the religious or political movements of Holland, or the books in the nearby University library; finally, the history of questions and the bibliographies are sometimes pushed further to origins and backgrounds important for the understanding of the problem but which, the reader is warned, Spinoza could never have known. The effect of this meticulous accumulation is to create a rich and dense picture of the seventeenth century in which detail after detail of the thought of Spinoza (who like Aristotle in the Middle Ages appears as the Philosopher in the pages of Dunin Borkowski) takes on clarity and definition from associations unsuspected to the modern mind coming to Spinoza's pages without con-temporary references.
Volumes III and IV are concerned with the mature period of Spinoza's work (1660-1677) following the completion of the Short Treatise. The problems of this period are considered in general in terms of five stages of development: (1) the formulation of a theory of truth as fundamental to the possibility of accurate knowledge, (2) the recognition of the necessity of understanding the problems of the Scholastic, Cartesian, and other intellectual groups, (3) the construction of a system in which the conception of eternal being is brought into relation with a conception of human life, freedom, and happiness with a consequent organization of moral problems, (4) a resultant consideration of the problem of the freedom of philosophizing, and (5) an examination of the problem of scriptural interpretation. Volume III opens, after a vivid account of the country and people about Leyden, with a consideration of the first stage. As introduction to the examination of the De Intellectus Emendatione the works in Spinoza's library dealing with subjects there treated are analyzed (involving a much needed formulation of the influence of Stoic doctrines on Spinoza) ; the treatise itself is considered in terms of four groups of questions, those concerned with idea and ideatum, with res fixae et aeternae, with notions communes, and with the rationalism of Spinoza. The Principles of Descartes' Philosophy is considered very briefly, but on the other hand the Cogitata Metaphysics is made the subject of a long and very enlightening commentary on the influence of Scholasticism and Cartesianism on Spinoza, in the course of which Freudenthal's notions are subjected to criticism and correction, the doctrines of two philosophers of Leyden, Arnold Geulincx and John de Raei are expounded, and the bearing of Niels Stensen's work upon that of Spinoza is set forth at length. The problem of the unity of being is broached by a short statement of the problem in the Renaissance followed by an examina-tion of its discussion in popular philosophers, scientific philosophers, and free-thinkers in the seventeenth century. The volume closes with an admirable brief history of the discussion of the freedom of thought as it leads to Spinoza. Volume IV, opening with a consideration of the correspondence from 1660 to 1677, devotes some 270 pages to the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and to the problems of textual and historical criticism. The history of these problems which Father Dunin Borkowski has prepared is a valuable contribution to scholarship in itself; his survey involves the examination of six kinds of treatises which have contributed to the development of historiography and text criticism: (1) theoretical treatises on criticism, historical method, and history itself, (2) the antes criticae, (3) introductions and notes to editions based on reexamination of manuscripts, (4) critical treatises on individual authors, (5) writers of contemporary history, (6) treatises concerned with the paleography of documents as such. The final 130 pages of the last volume are devoted to problems connected with the Ethics. Throughout both volumes the notes are full of highly compressed information, lists of men and books and brief treatises on a vast variety of subjects.
Despite their similarity of purpose and their comparable solidity of achievement, the work of Father Dunin Borkowski has surprisingly little in common with that of another historian of philosophy who has recently brought great erudition and a conscious historical method to bear on the interpretation of Spinoza. Wolfson's two volumes on the Ethics were published too late, apparently, to have come to the attention of Dunin Borkowski, but it is significant that the latter makes no reference even to the early chapters of Wolfson's work, which appeared in the Chronicon Spinozanum, although he quotes abundantly from that collection. Wolfson finds elucidation on all points in the Hebrew Medieval tradition with occasional excursions into the Latin Middle Agee; the Spinoza of Dunin Borkowski is wholly native to the seventeenth century and historical lines lead back only to Cartesian, Renaissance, and Latin Scholastic writers. Wolfson is concerned with the significance and sequence of the propositions and their demonstration and he finds both the words and the proofs in earlier writers; Dunin Borkowski's method is rather to assemble many names, titles, and generally relevant citations in order to sketch the background and indicate the nature of the problems envisaged. As a natural consequence the points which are clearest in the one, even limiting consideration to the Ethics, which is examined by both historians, are untouched in the other. The future student of Spinoza would do well consequently to supplement the one with the other. He should derive from them, as well as a vast composite fund of information invaluable for the understand-ing of the philosopher, an insight into the nature of the history of thought and an accompanying realization that when the scholar has succeeded in rendering a time or a doctrine intelligible, the philosophic problems which were the main concern of the philosophers studied remain, rendered accessible but otherwise untouched by labors of historical reconstruction. That two works which contribute so successfully to the understanding of a single philosopher by means of the historical background of his work should have so little in common involves no contradiction, for the work of discovering what a philosopher meant, though distinct from, is preliminary to recovering what he achieved, the one an historical, the other a philosophic undertaking.