Reading Spinoza’s Ethics


“Reading the Ethics is supposed to persuade us to change in some way.  We are supposed to do things differently than we did before (in particular, we’re supposed to occupy ourselves with organizing joyous encounters and with escape ideas born of the imaginary)” (Larval Subjects)


How To Throw a Principle Away



Inspite of my objections with Kant, I take it that Kant managed to solve a similar dilemma as Spinoza confronted (more on this later) concerning the antinomies of reason, carefully resolved by objectively extending the aprioris to speculations about objects of experiences and by this Kant meant that pure reason had to annul itself, gracefully. Only when it annuls itself can pure reason negatively extend itself to objects of experiences (previously inaccessible to pure reason). Taking Kant into mind, Spinoza’s Ethics makes sense if, right before the exposition, the very principle that grounds Ethics is annulled, that is to say, in order to give room for practical reason, the sphere in which freedom can take effect, it must be thrown away owing to its incompatibility with freedom. The sphere of practical reason is the ethical itself.

In Spinoza, God assumed the function of Reason. But he lacked the Kantian magic to parcel out reason according to its speculative and performative categories. What Spinoza missed is when to throw a principle (determinism) away. But he did actually do this except that the principle kept coming back that he had to suppress it by axiomatizing the ethical, proofing it against the contamination of the external principle whose arguable strength is that it is already a decided mystery—there is God.

In Kant, God is reduced to practical reason, to the ethical, a marked contrast with Spinoza where God is extended to the ethical without telling us that pure reason is already extending itself, from the point of view of Kant, dogmatically. It should be the reverse, the ethical, now a pure rational practical faith, extending itself to the speculative that allows itself to think of God, or that which has to be discovered here as if for the first time.

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