Friday, March 17, 2006

Spinoza was adolescent rebellion

Speaking of being misunderstood, reader Benedict S., a disciple of the philosopher Spinoza, is a case in point. He is trying to understand this blog through the lens of Spinoza's purely rational philosophy, which cannot be done without reducing it to an image of Spinozistic pantheism. I specifically reject any form of pantheism based not upon intellectual speculation, but upon objective metaphysics and personal experience. I'm sure that most readers who enjoy this blog would agree entirely with me.
I see no evidence that Spinoza had any personal acquaintance with the transcendent God, which is why he attempted to reduce the vertical to a simple horizontal oneness. In short, he engaged in a misguided search for the One through the application of reason, therefore taking him down the sterile road of cosmolatry. Like all wrong philosophies--no matter how brilliant--when they reduce reality to mere cerebral intellection they will be only faint shadows of the Real--adumbrations that are missing a few vital dimensions, because the higher reaches of thought lie outside any application of worldly Aristotelian logic. posted by Gagdad Bob at 6:35 AM 24 comments
Now, I have no objection to Spinoza the person (or Benedict the person, for that matter). What I object to is his dangerous ideas. Even then, I should hasten to point out that, in his day, Spinoza undoubtedly represented an advance over what had come before. Remember a few days ago, I made the point that one of the key developments of modernity was the separation of the realms of religion, science, politics, and aesthetics. Prior to the enlightenment, those realms were thoroughly conflated--just like the Muslim Middle East today--so that the church wielded all kinds of inappropriate power over who was in charge or what people were free to discover with their intellect.
In fact, Spinoza was actually excommunicated from his orthodox Jewish community, presumably because of his heretical ideas, although no one knows for sure. I don't know much about 17th century Judaism, but it may have been quite intellectually stifling, much like the Catholicism of the day. So for someone to rebel against it may well have been a courageous thing to do. Looking at it from a world-psychohistorical standpoint, I see the Enlightenment as mankind's adolescence, as we rebel against mother and father God and move out on our own for the first time. This is obviously a vital and unavoidable stage in psychological development...
But again, that will only happen if you raise your intellect up to religion, not drag religion down to ego-level pseudo-rationalism. This vulgar form of religion is undoubtedly what Spinoza and his ilk were objecting to. In fact, Spinoza is considered one of the first, if not the first, to introduce "higher criticism" to the study of the Bible, and to regard it simply as a historical document rather than a revealed one. Again, this undoubtedly had its place in the adolescent scheme of things, but it takes a grown man to get over one's adolescent rebellion and to realize that our parents weren't complete idiots--or how much uncannily luminous wisdom there is in scripture. posted by Gagdad Bob at 6:22 PM 43 comments

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