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The 129 Enemies of Spinoza: The “dead dog” of Philosophy

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Reading up on the so-called “Pantheism Controversy,” perhaps in terms of study the most neglected philosophical event in European history bearing ramifications from Kant (his writing of the Third Critique) to the rest of German Idealism flowering, I came across this little tidbit that Spinoza was the proving ground for the orthodoxy of newly christened doctors. From The fate of reason: German philosophy from Kant to Fichte by Frederick C. Beiser.

But Beiser does not let us rest with this stereotype of universal rebuke. In fact among the Left-wing radicalism of its time, Spinoza remained a kind of (closet) hero:

I would like one day to post on this Controversy, as  it had tremendous echo throughout Western Philosophy, echo I suspect has not abated. In order to understand much of what followed one has to grasp the “fear” of Spinozism (both in the philosophical sense, but also in the social/political sense). In particular, Beiser’s reading of Spinoza as 18th century radical Lutheranism without the Bible has something significant to say about the political aspects of Spinoza application for our day, and ultimately one must ask if we are still living in the aftermath of the 18th century fear that Spinozism would erase both God (separate from Creation) and Man.

The Cocoon of Spinoza

Eric in our discussion of Spinoza under the post of Is Spinoza a Cyberneticist, or a Chaocomplexicist? ends with something that made my mind turn a bit…

…I think something that has been confusing about my reading of the Ethics is that I came to it without having ever really thought of eliminating representationalism and binarisms so completely. His thought is so much different from that of Bergson, Hegel, Heidegger, Kant, Levinas, Hobbes etc. who are often used to critique it. Spinoza is so much more interesting than they are.

It seems to me that Spinoza has been cocooned in history in ways we cannot fully appreciate the force of. The accusation and stain of a purported atheism in effect hermetically sealed his philosophy for more than a century from common investigation. Apart from any otherwise atheistic tracks, people suspected the very clean piousness of Spinoza’s vision as importing the most dangerous of things, the subtle atheism of a Jew. Further, what Nietzsche called Spinoza’s armor, the great interwoven more geometico chainmail of propositions, rather than warrior’s defense served as more a historical chrysalis, in their very form locking in something of a revelatory core, the causal result of their reading. If you search for the truth Spinoza is presenting at the level of the proposition, you cannot find it really there. What happened, I suspect, is that once Scientific materialism came into social power, both the chrysalis form of logical truths and the purported atheism fit quite nicely in which the new doctrines of what was true, and to a certain degree Spinoza was reborn…but outside of the purview of his own meanings. The failure of the literalism of stated truths (Analytic philosophy) and a re-enchantment of the Natural (Nature is not a bunch of dead stuff moved around by abstract Laws), has release Spinoza from his resuscitators to a great degree, placing him back within the milieu from which he came, a kind of proto-soup of modernist elements within which we are struggling anew.