Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My Knee Jerk Reaction to Spinoza

I've been reading Spinoza's Ethics for my Early Modern Philosophy course. It's been a painful follow up to Descartes' wonderful Meditations to say the least. A few points of frustration:
  • It reads like Hegel, or at least, what I would intuitively think Hegel's writing would be like. I've only read about Hegel and not Hegel's work itself (though I'm somewhat interested). Apparently Hegel was influenced by Spinoza, so this makes sense: pantheistic, quasi-pagan meandering in its finest hour.
  • It reads like Aquinas in the sense that he beats you over the head with abstract words like essence, God, nature, power, etc. without properly explaining what he's exactly referring to.
  • It doesn't even address morality, at least, not that I've seen. What a misleading title for arguably the most boring philosophic work I've set my hands on.
That's about it. I shall continue mulling through. While I'm at it, I may as well express my disinterest in Aquinas. I managed to find Penguin Classics' Selected Writings from Aquinas in a free books bin last year, so I took it. As nice as it is to find a free book, based on what I've read of his work, his ideas don't even hold a candle to Augustine (I've read Confessions). Maybe it's because Aquinas was so heavily influenced by Aristotle (whom I've not read much if anything from - I forget - I should really get on that since philosophy is my minor)? Then again, Augustine was influenced by both Plato and Aristotle ... but wait, according to Wikipedia, both influenced Aquinas as well! I'm pretty sure he liked Aristotle more, though. Anyway, I probably need to read more Plato and Aristotle in order to prepare me for Aquinas. On the contrary, I did enjoy his commentary on Aristotle's definition of the soul. I just think he's overrated at this point and I don't quite understand where the zeal of his admirers comes from.


  1. I don't mind Aquinas, but it's really just guesswork on his part. No one can really apply Hellenism to the divine things. It might be a fun mental exercise, like most theology, but I don't base my beliefs on it.

    1. Yeah, I feel the same way about it. It seems like he was intent on creating a catholic Aristotle. Of course, all philosophers and theologians have their influences ... but maybe he limited the potential of his ideas by keeping them within the Hellenistic frame?