Frames /sing

kvond

Spinoza Transfigured and reExplained: “Idea” as Information

In two posts I began opening up the notion that Spinoza’s treatment of “Idea” has strong sympathetic correspondences to modern conceptions of information and organization. First in Is Spinoza a Cyberneticist, or a Chaocomplexicist? I raised the idea that Spinoza offered something of a Chaoplexic view of organizational development and ontological power, and then in Information, Spinoza’s “Idea” and The Structure of the Universe I adopted the general replacement of Spinoza’s “Idea” with an version of Stonier’s “Information” as the basic structuring element of the Universe.

To help with the thought-imagination of some of this it seemed interesting to offer some retranslations of Spinoza’s propositions dealing with “idea”. I had done this before, come out of some discusssions I had with David Chalmers, but I can seem to find them. The grammar does not always work fluently for such a replacement, and perhaps this will confuse the issue for some, but hopefully you’ll get the gist and the new propositions can bring about a change in the staid way “idea” has been conceieved:

Informational Propositions

E2D3: By informational structure [idea] I mean a mind’s concept that the mind forms because it is a thinking, informational thing.

E2D4: By adequate informational structure I mean information which, insofar as it is considered in itself without relation to its object,  has all the properties or intrinsic denominations of real information (a true idea) [verae ideae].

E2p7: The order and connection of informational structure is the same as the order and connection of material expression (things).

E2p11: The first thing that constitutes the actual being of the human mind [mentis] is nothing but the informational structure of a singular thing that actually exists.

E2p13: The object [obiectum] of the informational structure constituting the human mind is the body, or a certain mode of extension which actually exists, and nothing else.

E2p15: The informational structure that constitutes the formal being [formale esse] of the human mind is not simple [simplex] but is, through a multitude of informational structures, a composite.

E2p16: The information of any mode in which the human body is affected by external bodies must involve the nature of the human body and at the same time the nature of the external body. (The ability to to be changed informationally, to be reorganized by work.)

E2p4: The informational structure [idea] of Nature (God), from which infinite things follow in infinite ways, it is capable of only being singular [unica].

E2p23: The mind [mens] does not know itself except insofar as it percieves the information of the changes (affections) of the body.

E2p25: The information of any change (affection) of the human body does not involve an adequate cognition of an external body.

E2p26: The human mind [mens] does not perceive any external body as actually existing except through the information of the changes (affections) of its own body.

E2p27: The information of any affection of the human body does not involve an adequate cognition [cognitionem] of the human body.

E2p32: All information (ideas), insofar as it is related to Nature (God), is wholly real (true).

E2p33: There is nothing in an informational structure that is productive (positive) on accout of which it is called false (confused, untrue).

E2p35: Falsity consists in a privation of cognition, which involves partial (inadequate) or confused information.

E2p36: Partial and confused informational structure follows with the same necessity as adequate (whole) or clear and distinct informational structure.

E2p38: Those things which are common in all things, and which are equally in the part and the whole, can only be conceived adequately.

E2p40: Whatever informational structure that follows in the mind from informational structure that is adequate in the mind is also adequate.

E3p10: An informational structure which excludes the existence of the body cannot be in our mind, but is contrary to it.

E3p11: The information of any thing that increases or diminishes, aids or restrains or body’s power of acting, increase or diminishes, aids or restrains our mind’s power of thinking.

Def of Affects IV: Love is a joy (an increase in the power to act) coupled with an informational structure orientation towards an external thing, taken to be its cause.

E4p1: Nothing positive (productive) about false (partial) information is removed by the presence of real (true) information, insofar as it is real (true).

E5p18: No one can hate Nature (God). Dem: The informational structure of Nature (God) which is in us is adequate and perfect. Insofar as we contemplate Nature (God), we act. Consequently, there can be no sadness accompanied by an informational structure orientation toward Nature (God), that is, no one can hate Nature (God). 

E5p35: God loves itself with an infinite intellectual love. Dem: God is absolutely infnite, the nature of God enjoys infinite perfection, coupled with the informational structure of itself, the informational structure of its cause. And this is what we said intellectual love is.

General Defintion of the Affects E3: An affect (emotion) which is called a passive experience [animi pathema] (a pathema of the soul) is confused information whereby the mind informationally affirms a greater or less force-of-existing of its body, or part of its body, than was previously was the case, and by the occurance of which the mind [mens] is determined to think this rather than that.

Advertisements

53 responses to “Spinoza Transfigured and reExplained: “Idea” as Information

  1. 5150 October 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    E5p18: No one can hate Nature (God). Dem: The informational structure of Nature (God) which is in us is adequate and perfect.

    “perfection”– that’s part of Spinoza’s scholastic baggage that we should leave at Necessity Station. The Nature-clock may be orderly, continuous, even harmonious in some sense: perfect– or Gottly– it ain’t.

    • kvond October 17, 2009 at 12:19 pm

      Perhaps. Yet as I argue in Is Spinoza a Cyberneticist, or a Chaocomplexicist? [https://kvond.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/is-spinoza-a-cyberneticist-or-a-chaocomplexicist/], there are two kinds of things being discussed the “perfection” is actually just the complete informational distribution, the totality of “phase space” perhaps, that upon which there passes no judgment. I do not think that Spinoza though is in the Nature clock metaphor. In particular they way that he treats mathematics as insufficient he is far from this.

      In my view all that Spinoza is saying in the above proposition is that our own informational distribution/organization gains its footing, its capacity to act and interact from a larger, totalized expression of information in the universe. And this differential has critical impact on the way that we for emotional valuations of love and hatred for events/objects in the world.

  2. 5150 October 17, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Have you read Bricmont? Your writing seems to remind me of his writing on determinism, slightly–tho’ Dr. Bricmont’s no theist (and not a fan of “chaos theory”, or the pop-science reading of quantum mechanics). I will agree to a slightly spinoza-istic reading of modern science, but with reservations.

    A few years ago I re-viewed the Ethics, and remain convinced that Spinoza, while ridding himself of most scholasticism still to immanence of a sort. It’s orthodox monotheism but sans human will (or a final cause); all is determined, perfectly orderly, held in the Mind of God, even if He’s a nature-clock instead of transcendent (or Aristotelian). In ways spinoza seems sort of islamic.

    • kvond October 17, 2009 at 12:40 pm

      Not read Bricmont, and not really a fan of popularization of Science, especially of the Quantum kind (whince). But chaoplexic organization isn’t really under those principles. It pertains to just how things are organized in terms of inside and outside, the very things that Spinoza appealed to in his epistemology. There certainly are strong Cybernetic tendencies in Spinoza, in fact I would suspect that Spinoza’s philosophy influenced cybernetic modeling. The question is, in so far as Spinoza advocated an opening up the organization towards the world, was he also advocating some of the principles in Complexity theories. I think that there is some evidence that did was, if only in a kind of skepticism towards the capacities of human knowledge (for instance his rejection of linear mathematics in Letter 12, something no clock-work thinker of the age would have imagined).

      The determination of all things isn’t really clock-work determination, but simply, at least in my view, that information (idea) is the structuring constituent element of the material world, and the belief that all things have causes (as you know, Chaos theory is also deterministic, yet a determinism that yeilds no ultimate linear predictability). This, coupled with a skepticism towards the sciences and mathematics, puts him in a unique place. The “mind of God” can easily be read as “all information in the Universe” not far from rather ordinary Scientific presumptions of our day.

  3. 5150 October 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Not sure I would agree that Spinoza was anti-realist or some proto-postmodernist opposed to science. He says we can only know God by perceiving extension, or manifestation, perhaps–ie the natural world. And he makes mention of natural science as sort of a knowledge of God doesn’t he? That was one reason why the theologians thought him heretical–claiming that knowledge of nature was sufficient for theology or something.

    Recall also his denial of free will, and also his reading of biblical miracles in naturalist terms (political-theological treatise??): something to the effect that ie the red sea did not magically part, but Moses crosses at low-tide. He rejects the supernatural. So I think he was a type of naturalist, but retains some scholasticism (was it to appease authority, or “for real”? I think Spinoza believes, but it’s only immanence). So perhaps I misspoke, Spinoza’s scheme is not orthodoxy in christian terms; there are no souls, or afterlife, or aristotelian forms–but it’s not the vaguely pantheistic or hindu BS that some read it as either.

    • kvond October 17, 2009 at 1:19 pm

      I don’t think that using anachronistic terms such as “Realist” or “non-Realist” is helpful, and Spinoza was not a post-modernist — though very significantly he departed from Descartes on important issues and may represent an unfollowed modernist branch. He was right at the “stem-cell” (should be say) of modernist conceptions (Descartes, Huygens, etc).

      Much of the assumption that Spinoza was a kind of atheistic reduction of God to Nature was that he was taken up after his death as part of the rationalist and Scientific revolution, against the Church (culminating in the pantheism controversy), but Spinoza it would seem, both questions the adequacy of linear mathematics (which he regards as imaginary knowledge products) and the ultimately capacity for human beings to hold completely adequate ideas about things external to them (both Micheal Della Rocca and Eric Schliesser argue this point from different perspectives, and I largely concur). There are many reasons why theologians thought him heretical, no small one being the way that he historicized the bible, as you mention. But his public standing does not always reflect the detail of his position.

      I am in strong favor or reading Spinoza as scientifically minded (in fact most of my research has to do with his optical theories and practices, heavily neglected), but there is a big difference between rejecting the supernatural and simply reading the world as clock work, a clock work fully disclosed by mathematical or scientific description. In fact, Spinoza moves between these two positions.

      And I agree it is not vague pantheistic. It is strictly, and narrowly pantheistic, in the most concrete sense.

      This one sentence though: “He says we can only know God by perceiving extension, or manifestation, perhaps–ie the natural world.”

      I don’t know where you find this. We know God because our Ideas are necessarily the ideas of God.

  4. 5150 October 17, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Ethics Part I, Proposition 29, AND also a supplementary passage from “God Man and His Well Being” (in Beardsley’s collection of euro-phil): Spinoza discusses Motions (from Hobbes, I believe), and says God may be “understood ..only by means of extension”. Blasphemy wit’ a capital B. The naturalist’s Spinoza was a different creature than the conty. one (even slightly anglo).

    • kvond October 17, 2009 at 2:54 pm

      Sorry, I was out of the house. I don’t see where you have concluded what you do from E1p29. Perhaps you can cite the exact portion. p29 reads “nothing in nature is contingent, but all things are from the necessity of the divine nature determined to exist and act in a definite way”. And there is nothing in the proof or the scholium that gives extension the privilege in our knowing of God. As to “God, man and his well being” I can’t really comment until you cite further.

      • kvond October 17, 2009 at 3:17 pm

        I should add, that because Spinoza defines our knowledge of other things (external to us) strictly as ideas not of those external things, but rather as ideas we have of our own bodily states, any direct (idea/object) knowledge of external things is foreclosed. It may be reasoned that the mind only knows itself through the affections of its body (and hence extension)(E2p23), following the parallel postulate, and that coming to know God through this parallel connection between idea and extension necessarily involves extension, this is NOT to say that one comes to know God through our scientific understanding of external things, as extended. It is precisely the opposite for Spinoza.

        Looking for the passage you try to refer to in the Short Treatise I come upon this, which argues apart from your conclusion:

        “If once we get to know God, at lease with a knowledge as clear as that with which we also know our body, then we must become united with him even more closely than we are with our own body…

        …For, as regards the Body with its effects, Motion and Rest, these cannot affect the Soul otherwise except so as to make themselves known as objects; and according to the appearances which they present to it [i.e. imaginary knowledge], that is according as they appear good or bad, so also is the sould affected by them, and that happens not inasmuch as it is a body…but in as much as it is an object like all other things, which would also act in the same way if they happen to reveal themselves to the soul in the same way.” Part II, Chap 19

  5. 5150 October 17, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    For, as regards the Body with its effects, Motion and Rest, these cannot affect the Soul otherwise except so as to make themselves known as objects

    That sounds like externalism to me, ie empirical realism, more or less. He’s no Cartesian skeptic (or Kantian, or whateverian). However there is a slightly idealist point–which I imagine Hegel perceived, ie, assuming Thought exists, Thought is extended as is Nature …that’s the pantheism–Spin. still accepts substance in a sense. Yet Spin. does not accept human free will/intentionality, except in some limited volitional sense (which I would relate to Hobbesian naturalism).

    Nature may have other modes, possibly infinite, but the only modes that humans know of are extension and understanding (and understanding meaning, knowledge of nature via…extension)–that’s one of the confusing parts of Spinoza’s infinite that many don’t quite get from Ethics 1/Prop. 29.

    The quote re motions/extension comes from “A Short Treatise of God Man and his Well-Being.” Beardsley quotes it under natura/naturata in his European Phil. That includes most of Ethics, and Theo-Poli. treatise, plus appendixes (where Spinoza sort of clarifies matters, really).

  6. kvond October 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    “That sounds like externalism to me, ie empirical realism, more or less.”

    You didn’t read the whole quote, objects are merely presented to the mind as imaginary presentations, and as such are subject to the passions. You seem to be failing to consider the actual epistemic architecture Spinoza provides, at some length.

    I don’t understand your points about Hegel and Idealism. Hegel tried, essentially, to synthesize Kant and Spinoza, but Spinoza is not an Idealist, and yes, this can be traced down to his rejection of free volition.

    And yes, spinoza is a pantheist.

    “Nature may have other modes, possibly infinite, but the only modes that humans know of are extension and understanding (and understanding meaning, knowledge of nature via…extension)–that’s one of the confusing parts of Spinoza’s infinite that many don’t quite get from Ethics 1/Prop. 29.”

    Attributes, not modes, I think you mean, but I have no idea how you get from infinite attributes to “one comes to know God ONLY through the Attribute of Extension”. I need a citation so I can see where you are arguing from. Saying the Beardsley quotes it gives me no help. What exactly is the citation?

    • kvond October 17, 2009 at 5:08 pm

      By the way, here are two postings of my thoughts on Spinoza and mathematics which may be of some use, for either you or future readers:

      https://kvond.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/spinoza-and-mechanical-infinities/

      https://kvond.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/by-mathematical-attestation-spinozas-use-of-mathematics/

    • kvond October 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm

      Take for example, contra your idea that God is understood only through the attribute of extension, the proof of E1p31:

      …”by intellect we do not understand absolute thought, but only a definite mode of thinking which differs from other modes such as desire, love, etc., and so must be conceived through absoulte thought – that is, an attribute of God which expresses the eternal and infinite essence of thought – in such a way that without this attribute it can neither be, nor be conceived.”

      It isn’t that God is understood through extension (let alone ONLY through extension), it is the opposite. Extension can only really be understood through God, hence, E1p15…”Whatever is, is in God, and nothing can be or be conceived without God”.

      I am very much interested in your Beardsley quote, but mostly because I would like to put it in its context to some rather complex epistemic interweavings Spinoza has worked out.

  7. 5150 October 17, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    The translation (fairly standard) of the Ethics is by William Hale White, quoted in Beardsley’s European Philosophers. Ethics 1/ prop. 29 has “modes” and attributes. The quote on motions/extension from A Short Treatise of God Man, and his Well Being also may be found Beardsley’s anthology of European Philosophers (page236).

    My point on naturalism is not some worked-out thesis, but follows from the Ethics, AND Theo-political treatise, where Spin. does insist scripture is in harmony with natural science, and he rejects miracles and the supernatural (in keeping with his determinism, really)–and teleology as well. I use primary texts at times, but keep this as reference.

    Not sure how Spinoza gets around the mind-body problem. I don’t think he really overcomes Descartes, except by insisting that our ideas of extended objects are real knowledge of God, etc. And the scholastic baggage actually in ways a drawback–Descartes does not retain substance, or Aristotle, etc.

    Even the Larval Subjects dude reads Spinoza as naturalist, with substance as natural objects. It’s not merely phenomena–but Thought as Extended. Material idealism, in a sense.

  8. kvond October 17, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    “The translation (fairly standard) of the Ethics is by William Hale White, quoted in Beardsley’s European Philosophers. Ethics 1/ prop. 29 has “modes” and attributes. The quote on motions/extension from A Short Treatise of God Man, and his Well Being also may be found Beardsley’s anthology of European Philosophers (page236).”

    I still don’t understand your point about an infinity of either modes or attributes. The reason why I mentioned attributes is that an infinity of Attributes is something that is much discussed as important and controversial. An infinity of modes has almost no bearing on your point. I thought your point was about the Attribute of Extension.

    And I still don’t understand your continued reference to Beardsley. One doesn’t quote a commentary, one quotes the source. I don’t doubt that you have read the quote, but why doesn’t it have a reference? Any commentary that doesn’t actually footnote a quotation isn’t very trustworthy. I have to read the quote in its actual context (and not the context of a book on European philosophy).

    “My point on naturalism is not some worked-out thesis, but follows from the Ethics, AND Theo-political treatise, where Spin. does insist scripture is in harmony with natural science, and he rejects miracles and the supernatural (in keeping with his determinism, really)–and teleology as well. I use primary texts at times, but keep this as reference.”

    I can see that it’s not well worked out, but because it doesn’t actually refer to actual citations I can’t see from where the argument comes. Spinoza must be read in context. He is constantly qualifying what he says in one place with what he says in another place. As I have said before, he can reject the supernatural and still remain skeptical about the complete adequacy of external knowledge of objects in the world. That you cannot see this though is I think a product of the modern conflation of materialist Scientific explanation and the denial of the supernatural. Spinoza position is different.

    “Not sure how Spinoza gets around the mind-body problem. I don’t think he really overcomes Descartes, except by insisting that our ideas of extended objects are real knowledge of God, etc.”

    He gets around it through his parallel postulate. But I don’t know what you mean by “our ideas of extended objects are real knowledge of God”. I just don’t understand what this is supposed to say.

    “Even the Larval Subjects dude reads Spinoza as naturalist, with substance as natural objects. It’s not merely phenomena–but Thought as Extended. Material idealism, in a sense.”

    Larval Subjects is actually rather thin on understanding Spinoza (he admits as much in our discussions, as his main focus has been on Spinoza’s psychology of affects). While was commenting over there he actually referred to me as the resident Spinoza expert, whatever that might mean or be of value.

    I don’t know what it means to say “with Substance as natural objects”. Substance expresses itself as natural objects (and also natural ideas), but it is not merely natural objects. I also don’t know what it would mean to call Spinoza a naturalist.

    For Spinoza we certainly can know states of the world through our mutual participation with them and God, but what is denied is that we can Completely, Adequately know external states of the world. And adequacy is a very important concept in Spinoza.

    The term “material idealism” is simply a poor version of Spinoza’s parallel postulate. Spinoza is not a materialist, nor an Idealist. Putting the two terms together does not quite capture what he is saying.

  9. kvond October 17, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    I’m still trying to figure out what you meant by:

    “Nature may have other modes, possibly infinite, but the only modes that humans know of are extension and understanding (and understanding meaning, knowledge of nature via…extension)–that’s one of the confusing parts of Spinoza’s infinite that many don’t quite get from Ethics 1/Prop. 29”

    What are the “confusing parts of Spinoza’s infinite” that is found in E1p29? In reading it I didn’t see any reference to infinite modes or attributes other than “…that is from the necessity of each one of God’s attributes” (scholium).

    Could you quote the part of E1p29 that produces the “confusing parts of Spinoza’s infinite”?

    Here’s the whole thing from the Elwes translation (not the best, but the easiest to cut and paste), if that helps:

    PROP. XXIX. Nothing in the universe is contingent, but all things are conditioned to exist and operate in a particular manner by the necessity of the divine nature.

    Proof.–Whatsoever is, is in God ( Prop. xv.). But God cannot be called a thing contingent. For (by Prop. xi.) he exists necessarily, and not contingently. Further, the modes of the divine nature follow therefrom necessarily, and not contingently (Prop. xvi.); and they thus follow, whether we consider the divine nature absolutely or whether we consider it as in any way conditioned to act (Prop. xxvii.). Further, God is not only the cause of these modes, in so far as they simply exist (by Prop. xxiv., Coroll.), but also in so far as they are considered as conditioned for operating in a particular manner (Prop. xxvi.). If they be not conditioned by God (Prop. xxvi.), it is impossible, and not contingent, that they should condition themselves; contrariwise, if they be conditioned by God, it is impossible, and not contingent that they should render themselves unconditioned. Wherefore all things are conditioned by the necessity of the divine nature, not only to exist, but also to exist and operate in a particular manner, and there is nothing that is contingent. Q.E.D.

    Note.–Before going any further, I wish here to explain, what we should understand by nature viewed as active (natura natarans), and nature viewed as passive (natura naturata). I say to explain, or rather call attention to it, for I think that, from what has been said, it is sufficiently clear, that by nature viewed as active we should understand that which is in itself, and is conceived through itself, or those attributes of substance, which express eternal and infinite essence, in other words (Prop. xiv., Coroll. i., and Prop. xvii., Coroll. ii.) God, in so far as he is considered as a free cause.

    By nature viewed as passive I understand all that which follows from the necessity of the nature of God, or of any of the attributes of God, that is, all the modes of the attributes of God, in so far as they are considered as things which are in God, and which without God cannot exist or be conceived.

  10. 5150 October 17, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Thought is an attribute of God as is extension (beginning of Ethics II, which sort of expands on I/29 and end of I)–those are the only attributes by which we can understand Him (though Spin. says he has infinite attributes). That’s fairly standard Spinoza (Scruton’s reading along those lines). It’s monism, but also has dualistic elements–one may conceive of God under thought, or through extension, though he is still the same substance (and a bit odd, given the famous Deus sive Natura, seeming to imply that we do know God via nature).

    My point was taken as a whole, along with his comments in Theo-political treatise, Spinoza does seem “more naturalist” than idealist or metaphysical, especially considering his insistence on knowledge of nature limited only to extension. I think one problem is that he hints at empiricism of a sort, but his archaic axiom system doesn’t really allow for observation.

    I’m sort of opposed to Spinoza-ism, except as a type of interesting proto-determinism–and his comments contra-dogma in Theo-poli. treatise.

  11. kvond October 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    “It’s monism, but also has dualistic elements–one may conceive of God under thought, or through extension, though he is still the same substance (and a bit odd, given the famous Deus sive Natura, seeming to imply that we do know God via nature).”

    this is NOT what you said. What you said was that we know God ONLY through the attribute of extension, not that we may concieve of God through the attribute of extension. But importantly, the link through extension is NOT found in knowing adequately the state of things external to us, but rather through our own Extended expression. This knowledge begins internally to the limits of our bodies, and only is extrapolated outwards through our partaking in God.

    “My point was taken as a whole, along with his comments in Theo-political treatise, Spinoza does seem “more naturalist” than idealist or metaphysical, especially considering his insistence on knowledge of nature limited only to extension.”

    Agreed, but unfortunately “naturalist” and “idealist” are not the only two positions available to Spinoza. Spinoza is definitely metaphysical in his explanations (note the role of imaginary relations in the Theo-political treatise). It is just that his metaphysics is not Idealist.

    ” I think one problem is that he hints at empiricism of a sort, but his archaic axiom system doesn’t really allow for observation.”

    I don’t know how you say this at all. Spinoza carried out experiments in answer to Boyle, but his is not an epistemic empiricism since ultimately he restricts human knowledge of external states due to the finite nature of human beings.

    “I’m sort of opposed to Spinoza-ism, except as a type of interesting proto-determinism–and his comments contra-dogma in Theo-poli. treatise.”

    Sure. But as you argue him I’m not sure how much you know his position in detail (I’m not being harsh here, I’ve just probably read him more closely then you have, as you have probably read other philosophers more closely than I have). We all have our uses of philosophers.

    As a sidenote I looked up your Beardsley reference through Amazon, and it seems that the reference is from part I, chapter IX of the Short Treatise. I see no foundation for the idea that we can ONLY know God through the attribute of extension, or even specifically through the attribute of extension (God is more than this attribute). Instead it merely says that of MOTION, this can only be understood under the Attribute of extension, can best be said in a Natural Science treatise. This in no way says that it is only through the attribute of extension that we know God, in fact it says the opposite.

    Further though, if you look at the citation of the Short Treatise you find a footnote to the issue of motion which reads:

    “What is here said about motion in matter is not said seriously. For the author intends to discover the cause thereof, as he has already done so to some extent a posteriori…”

    The Short Treatise is a very early text, and certainly these comments on motion and extension are provisional. Yet even if they stand they do not make your point.

  12. 5150 October 17, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    OK I may have been unclear on difference between mode and attribute. The attributes which matter are thought and extension (in a sense he’s offering a limitation, somewhat like Descartes, i.e. God/the universe may be infinite, but here we know him via those two attributes). Mode then –really I think close to an aristotelian form–how substance presents itself to thought or something, but even Scruton a bit unclear. ( Spinoza Ethics I and II, taken prima facie, seems like a mishmash to me. so via some naturalizing, a bit clearer)

    • kvond October 17, 2009 at 6:54 pm

      I can see why you think that. It is very hard to appreciate. Modes are something like Aristotle’s substances. And I can see why naturalism tends to bale out the mishmash. It is just that Spinoza does not hold a strictly Natural Philosophy position, due to his epistemology. This may result in Spinoza becoming more of a mishmash for you, but it is his position.

      • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 7:12 pm

        There’s only one substance for Spin.: Gott himself. The modes are not substances. And they are not attributes, ie thought and extension–the ONLY attributes that matter, so to speak in Spin’s system (do you dispute that? explanation/cite, then). So what are they? Something like forms.

        I think you are misconstruing one or two points on ideas being not clear and distinct or something (again, echoing Descartes). But he’s not at all engaging in some cartesian skepticism. It’s really another point calling for knowledge via extension (meaning geometry, and really physics).

  13. 5150 October 17, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Well, that quote from part I, chapter IX of the Short Treatise sort of pointed out how he gets around the “infinite attributes” jazz. Most readers of Spinoza (especially theological types) think it’s some vast system, but he limits knowledge of God to thought, and via extension (really he means geometry, but still applies it to nature). Scruton says that as well. So it’s only potentially infinite–and I was correct insofar that extension is a primary attribute.

    • kvond October 17, 2009 at 6:57 pm

      Yes, you are right, extension is a primary attribute, one of only two that human beings can grasp, but knowledge of God comes not through the extended states of things external to us (scienfic knowledge of those things), but due to our very Idea/Extensional expression, the nature of our minds and bodies.

      And you are right too, few people take into account Spinoza’s Infinty of Attributes. It positions the very finite nature of human knowledge.

  14. kvond October 17, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    I want to say that the general conflation that you make between some kind of natural sciencism and the renouciation of the supernatural, in Spinoza, is extremely common, in fact it was just this, along with his Theo-pol treatise that produced the huge uproar of the “pantheism controversy” dividing people into those that thought he promoted a clockwork universe (atheistic, fatalistic, nihilistic), and those that thought he presented a mystical pan-en-thesism. When in fact he presented neither. Both of these positions were taken up in some reference to 18th century questions of State authority and Church.

    I think that it is in the particular way that Scientific Materialism has historically developed in juxtaposition to various Theists beliefs, it is quite natural to take Spinoza as something of a friend of the former against the latter, when really he drove his position straight through, between the two.

    • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 7:25 pm

      Well, I’m not agreeing to the pantheism in any religious sense, but as I said, reading it in somewhat secular terms (as have others). So oxbridge metaphysicians make the same mistake. Spinoza does keep the theological jargon, obviously such as substance, and perfection. And Spinoza does suggest geometic knowledge via extension provides knowledge of nature, and thus of God. I don’t worship Scruton, but he gives fairly tight readings of mod.phil. He says “the idea of extension delivers God’s essential nature to our intellects.” Which is to say, Spinoza suggests a type of rational Deism: even Jefferson quoted “Spinosa” once in a great while

      • kvond October 17, 2009 at 7:43 pm

        “Well, I’m not agreeing to the pantheism in any religious sense, but as I said, reading it in somewhat secular terms (as have others).”

        I don’t know what you mean by “religious sense”. Pantheism is simply the belief or assertion that everything IS God. This is Spinoza’s position.

        ” So oxbridge metaphysicians make the same mistake.”

        I don’t know which theologians you are thinking of, but it surely isn’t anything I’ve asserted.

        “And Spinoza does suggest geometic knowledge via extension provides knowledge of nature, and thus of God.”

        Again because you don’t actually cite Spinoza, I have no way of reading your “suggest”. You have no argument here, rather you seem to have an “impression” you have received.

        “I don’t worship Scruton, but he gives fairly tight readings of mod.phil. He says “the idea of extension delivers God’s essential nature to our intellects.” ”

        You may not worship him, but you seem to follow a bit blindly. I’m not really interested in his going interpretation, across philosophers. But one doesn’t have to turn to Scruton, Spinoza says it outright that the Attribute of Extension is that in which the Intellect can perceive the essence of God. But it does not follow that Spinoza’s a Deism. Deism generally holds that creation is APART from the architect God that creates it. This is completely refused in Spinoza. This is one of Spinoza’s main points.

        If Jefferson quoted Spinoza, many people quoted Spinoza. This doesn’t mean that everyone who quotes Spinoza understand him, or even that they hold the same ideas as Spinoza.

      • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 7:49 pm

        I m not a deist, but I don’t think Deism necessarily implied transcendence or whatever–the unitarians often suggested a type of naturalism, Deity present in the world etc. For that matter I don’t think Spinoza’s system necessarily implies pantheism. Really it’s a monism–the monism allows him to avoid the Cartesian issues– with unknown attributes (excepting thought and extension), but not a spiritual battle or pagan concept. I am sort of trying to understand it without the theological baggage.

      • kvond October 17, 2009 at 7:59 pm

        Well, if you are just throwing out a term without a specific defintion “deist” then debating whether someone is a deist or not is pretty much meaningless. But Spinoza does NOT argue that God is “present” in the world (if that is what you mean by some form of Deism). He says that God IS and ACTS through the world. God literally IS in the world. And when God IS the world, this is pantheism by any of its usual defintions. This table IS God, and this dog IS God, and this thought IS God. Being a monist does not prevent him from being a pantheist. In fact his monism propells him towards his pantheism, as well as his panpsychism.

      • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 9:02 pm

        Well, that’s the official academic line, but some of us might find it odd that one can uphold monism AND pantheism. God is the world (as I agreed) for Spinoza at least, but he never says you see Him in his entirety–just through various modes, via the attributes of thought and extension. Since extension relies on geometric
        knowledge, seeing a table isn’t seeing “God.” You don’t penetrate to the 2nd type of knowledge (really, mathematics and science) until it’s been sort of given some type of mathematical form.

        I’m not too much into debating definitions for mostly archaic metaphysics, but in some way I feel the pantheist label is misleading, or at least subsumed by the monism. Spinoza rationalism does not equate to the 10,000 names of Vishnu or something. There are two attributes by which we know the countless modes of His substance, or something close to that–and I think he meant extension was the primary one ( what he means by knowing God merely by thought not quite clear….).

  15. kvond October 17, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    “The modes are not substances…(do you dispute that?”

    No. I don’t dispute that. I was trying to agree with your point via Aristotle.

    “I think you are misconstruing one or two points on ideas being not clear and distinct or something (again, echoing Descartes). But he’s not at all engaging in some cartesian skepticism. It’s really another point calling for knowledge via extension (meaning geometry, and really physics).”

    I’m not sure that you understand what Spinoza means by Adequate Idea.

    • kvond October 17, 2009 at 7:33 pm

      On the nature of adequate ideas:

      “the mind has, not an adequate, but only a confused knowledge, of itself, of its own body, and of external bodies, so long as it perceives things from the common order of nature, that is, so long as it is determined externally…For so often as it is disposed internally…then it regards things clearly and distinctly” E2p29s

      As Della Rocca writes:

      “…it seems difficult, if not impossible, for the human mind to have genuinely unconfused and adequate ideas. How can any of our ideas fail to be caused – at some remove or another – from outside the mind? (Spinoza, 114).

      It is precisely that knowledge of external states depends upon a causal relationship to those external events that precludes completely adequate knowledge of those states.

      This, coupled with the Letter 12 skepticism towards mathematical knowledge (a product of the imagination), along with Spinoza’s assertion that ens rationis are NOT ens reale (E2p49 Cor. dem. [III. B (iii)]), produce no real grounds to allow a mathematical, or scientific wholly adequate knowledge of external events.

      • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 7:43 pm

        Not to sound a bit analytical, but I think he meant mere naive empiricism does not provide the “real” knowledge of extension, but geometric knowledge does. So it’s not denying extension, but against naive sensationism without geometry, which depends on some internal starting points– or mathematics. Though I admit I haven’t memorized Spinoza’s entire oeuvre.

      • kvond October 17, 2009 at 7:54 pm

        Unfortunately because you do not refer to any actual Spinoza passages your thoughts are really hard to deal with. They seem gleaned from some distance of the text, dependent mostly upon wide view interpretations of the history of philosophy. This is not to disparage them, but rather to say, I have no idea where to go in this discussion. I cite Spinoza, you tell me how you feel about Spinoza given some commentary you have read. There is not much else to do.

      • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 8:06 pm

        He distinguishes between faulty reasoning (imagination, I believe) and the necessary knowledge offered by geometry (via extension) in Part II of the Ethics, does he not. The intuitive knowledge is a third, and he holds that to be necessary as well (though I think he meant something like analysis, not introspection). Spinoza the rationalist does say we have knowledge of the external world, and that our ideas correspond with objects in a real world–that can hardly be doubted. But it’s not mere knowledge of “images” (the sun example). Perusing Prop. 38, Book II: common to everything. Again, he hints at something like universals (but sort of avoiding Aristotle)

      • kvond October 17, 2009 at 8:07 pm

        One specific thing to reply to:

        “So it’s not denying extension, but against naive sensationism without geometry, which depends on some internal starting points– or mathematics.”

        I think you would find his Letter 12 of interest, if you have not read it (sorry, not the best translation).

        http://home.earthlink.net/~tneff/let2912.htm

        There he regards mathematical figures as products of the imagination. As you may know, imaginary knowledge is the lowest form of knowledge that Spinoza offers. The idea that such products would then render to us wholly adequate knowledge of external events would be something of a contradiction. Again though, until you want to discuss the actual texts of Spinoza, I don’t know how much further we can go.

      • kvond October 17, 2009 at 8:09 pm

        “He distinguishes between faulty reasoning (imagination, I believe) and the necessary knowledge offered by geometry (via extension) in Part II of the Ethics, does he not.”

        If you want to cite a particular passage (Spinoza’s language is often very exact), and not just ask a rhetorical question, please do.

      • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 9:29 pm

        You’re just Ad Hom-ing now. Everything I have said I have backed up with cites–Ethics I and II (in fact the three levels of knowledge quite well known, as is the necessity), the Beardsley quote (and not that obscure), AND the Theo-poli.treatise. And Scruton may not be politically your cup of tea, but he understands the Ethics, and provides a convincing case for Spinoza the rationalist –and monism. The other isms are sort of secondary if not tertiary.

      • kvond October 17, 2009 at 9:35 pm

        As I specifically pointed out, the quoted material by Beardsley is footnoted in the original context, and we are told to NOT take it seriously.

        Of course you ignore this because you are not looking at the text. And saying things like “Its in the Ethics part II, or in the Theo-political treatise does not constitute a citation or even an argument. I am left feeling that I am discussing Spinoza with someone who hasn’t read much Spinoza. What can I say?

  16. kvond October 17, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    “God is the world (as I agreed) for Spinoza at least, but he never says you see Him in his entirety–”

    I’m think I’m at the edge of the end of our discussion. Nowhere in pantheism does it suggest that you must be able to “see” God in his entirety in some aspect of the world. Pantheism simply does not have this epistemic component. It simply requires that God BE all things, which is exactly the position that Spinoza holds.

    “You don’t penetrate to the 2nd type of knowledge (really, mathematics and science) until it’s been sort of given some type of mathematical form.”

    Unfortunately you seem to not have read Letter 12, so your comments on Spinoza and mathematics come out of a certain kind of ignorance.

    Why you are mentioning the 10,000 names of vishnu, I have no idea.

    • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 9:21 pm

      Au contraire. You are the one overlooking Part II of Ethics–specifically Prop. 39 to like 42 , 43 or so–where he does distinguish mere sensory knowledge (images) from “adequate ideas of the properties of things” (mathematics), which is necessary (Prop40). The first type is imaginary, but 2nd,mathematics and 3rd (“intuition”, but I think he meant analysis, or even metaphysics as a whole) necessary: that’s how the fiendish Scruton interprets Book II as well.

  17. kvond October 17, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Unfortunately you are not a very close reader of Spinoza. Nowwhere does Spinoza say that the “adequate ideas of the properties of things ARE mathematics” you simply are making this up. He uses mathematics as an analogous example, an “illustration” of how ideas follow from on to another, but strictly speaking mathematics are not examples of definite adequate knowledge. And, as I have repeated, your refusal to grasp this passage in the context of letter 12 pretty much makes this conversation moot.

    The thing with Spinoza is that unless you take ALL of him, you are pretty much missing his point.

    • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 10:17 pm

      No, you’re the one offering the non-standard/postmod/antirationalist reading.

      And that can be easily proven. The entire section from Ethics II/Prop 38 to like 43 concerns the difference between 1)imagination, 2)reason, and 3)intuitive knowledge. 2 and 3 are necessary–and perhaps the inference is a bit much for you, but necessary knowledge IS mathematical knowledge. And he does say “adequate ideas of the properties of things” is the 2nd type of knowledge. And discusses ratios and Euclid. So the inference that the 2nd type is warranted (as Scruton suggests as well).

      • kvond October 17, 2009 at 10:19 pm

        Like I said, discussion’s over. I’m not interested in talking about what you find while googling “Spinoza” and “knowledge” or citing some interpreter. Clearly you are thinly read in Spinoza, which is no crime.

        My interpreation is not po-mo nor is it completely anti-rationalist. And I’m certainly not interest in whether a reading is “standard” or not.

      • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 10:27 pm

        You’re mistaken, and missing Spinoza’s rationalism, as clearly outlined in Part I and II of the Ethics (and the three types of knowledge)–as you overlooked the point on extension. If not anti-rationalist, then you may be advancing an occultic interpretation. And that fits your other strange posts. Not googling anything: have the Ethics right here, and have quoted it routinely, and you simply don’t read my posts.

        Maybe try Bricmont. Or even Scruton’s Spinoza for Beginners.

        Hasta

      • kvond October 17, 2009 at 10:30 pm

        “You’re mistaken, and missing Spinoza’s rationalism, as clearly outlined in Part I and II of the Ethics”

        You crack me up. You only recently admitted that parts I and II of the Ethics was just a big “mishmash” to you. Now you have done some reading in some book and you’re an expert on what was confusing to you. Such is the case with philosophy. People become experts on a topic in just over an hour.

        Sigh.

  18. kvond October 17, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    This is my final comment on the issue, a selection from letter 12 which is pretty self-explanatory of the place mathematics (number) or time or measurement have before the modes of Substance:

    “Hence it can be clearly seen that Measure, Time and Number are nothing other than modes of thinking, or rather, modes of imagining. It is therefore not surprising that all who have attempted to understand the workings of Nature by such concepts and further more without really understanding these concepts, have tied themselves into such extraordinary knots…Nor again can the Modes of Substance ever be correctly understood if they are confused with such mental constructs (entia rationis) or aids to the imagination. For by doing so we are separating them from Substance and from the manner of their efflux from Eternity, and in such isolation they can never be correctly understood.”

    • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 10:21 pm

      Does that take precedence over the Ethics? I doubt it, except maybe for french marxists. For that matter, he doesn’t mention geometry in that quote, but does allude to it as necessary type of knowledge in Prop. 40. Indeed, he may be suggesting 3rd level is logical analysis, since he gives a simple deduction as example (with 2nd as physics/natural science perhaps).

      • kvond October 17, 2009 at 10:24 pm

        It was written approximently at the same time as the passage in the Ethics, and to a Cartesian. As far as not mentioning “geometry” try doing geometry without NUMBER or MEASURE. And he explicitly uses geometry in the letter to illustrate its abject failure to adequately describe the modal expression of Substance.

      • 5150 October 17, 2009 at 10:30 pm

        Funny that he calls geometry necessary knowledge in Prop40/part II of the Ethics, the CANONICAL work. And he also insists on extension as attribute, ie–geometric knowledge. Not merely sensory.

        But logic, mathematics, geometry sort of interferes with the Visions. 10,000 names of Vishnu, kvond-man!

        hasta

    • kvond October 17, 2009 at 10:32 pm

      dude. if you stop reading books for beginners, and start reading the actual texts, perhaps you’d understand things in a different way. Spinoza is complicated. People long have confused his method more geometrico with a statement about the status of geometry, mathematics and science. The form of the Ethics is meant to have a causal effect upon the reader, to produce the intuition of God, the goal expressed in the fifth part of the Ethics.

  19. 5150 October 18, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Dude, I completed upper div.and grad. philosophy courses (mostly with As) many moons ago–and grew bored with metaphysical windbags (especially given reality apres-Darwin, Marx, Freud, Einstein, analytical phil., etc), and took up computing and other quantifiable endeavors. I have been studying the Ethics and Theo-poli treatise for years (and theo-poli just a few steps away from Hume’s remarks contra-scripture).

    Scruton’s reading is orthodox, and he views Spinoza as monist and rationalist, and it’s superior to the usual gloss (like Bertrand Russell’s), or the postmodernists’ twistings. You should read it. Anyway you’re the one offering the non-standard reading: and YOU yourself admit it, even in regards to the mysterious letter 12:

    “”” the Appendix of Ethics part I makes a strong distinction between things of the imagination, and things of reason””””

    That’s correct. In Ethics I and II, he clearly indicates a separation between mere imagination (or knowledge of images), and reason, and what he calls intuition (analysis). So you just conceded the game.

    • kvond October 18, 2009 at 4:41 pm

      All I know is that when we started our discussion you admitted that you didn’t really understand the first two parts of the Ethics (calling it a mishmash), didn’t show any capacity to actually refer to any Spinoza texts until you consulted a beginners book on Spinoza, and you were citing “Larval Subjects” as an authority on Spinoza. ‘Nough said. Hey, we all fake our ways through philosophers at times, but it seems that “grad school” specializes in teaching these skills.

  20. Perezoso October 18, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Nyet. I said, taking it prima facie, with the scholastic jargon (ie substance, and “perfection”–not to say God) it is a mishmash, and also said I had read most of the Ethics and Theo-poli treatise, but not avidly or regularly.

    You might, say, by reviewing the Ethics (say Parts I and II, where he separates “imagination” from Reason and intuition, thereby disproving anti-rationalist readings) note that Spinoza does not start with some “First Philosophy” as does Descartes , or even Locke. He accepts most of the scholastic dogma (even Aristotle, except for teleology), modified by a bit of empiricism (Hobbes). At times he seems to suggest universals–see Part II, 38+ (or modes themselves).

    Spinoza’s in the scholastic tradition–and that’s the flaw. Substance could not be defended once the experimentalists got rolling (and already were in late 17th cent). Ergo, Spinoza represents a sort of regression, to pre-Cartesian views–one might say the same about certain Hegelian views, though Hegel’s idealism seems far more dynamic, and informed by history, and modern science.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: