Thursday, January 12, 2017

636: A concluding lecture on Spinoza

We have seen that, Spinoza rejected the teleological account of human nature, that means, life has no goal, 
and hence  its implications to political societies in favour of rational, scientific understanding with its contractual implications. 
Therefor, political societies to Spinoza are not natural organisms but artificial entities “designed” and “manufactured” by human beings for certain ends.
One of the aims of Spinoza’s political writings is to demonstrate that, given the central role played by emotions in human motivations, political authority is a necessary evil. 
Human beings, as they are, are not the kind of beings capable of surviving without it. In addition, Spinoza (1677+) does not think, 
that politics are good for much more besides keeping us from chaos, murder, anarchy. In this, he is in agreement with Thomas Hobbes  (1679+). 
There are two ways of dealing with the political question. On the one hand you can depict a utopia, an ideal state
and believe that this state with its political institutions will transform human nature into something more desirable or virtuous than it is in its natural state.
You find such an approach in the political philosophy of Plato, Thomas More or Karl Marx.
Spinoza instead commences with a contrarian conviction, by and large rejecting such a possibility. This conviction proceeds from Spinoza’s interpretation of human nature.
Human nature should be understood as a part of the universe, of Nature, just like  any other organism or object.
Nature does not act with an end in view. Thence human nature has no end in view either, according to Spinoza.
The only thing, which drives man is his striving to persevere in being. Thence our actions are based on self-interest.
In the absence of political authority we are “natural enemies” to each other.   This makes Spinoza say:
“no society can exist without government, and force, and laws to restrain and repress men’s desires and immoderate impulses.” 
Spinoza argues that no one ever neglects what he regards as good, except with the hope of gaining something even better, or for the fear of some greater evil  
and no one ever endures an evil, except for the sake of even greater evil, or gaining something good. 
The logic of this is that all of us, given a choice of two goods, choose the one we think is the greatest and, 
given a choice of two evils, choose the least evil. When we combine this axiom with our striving to persevere in being,
we can see that we determine what is good and what is evil for us by judging what is most or least conducive to our survival.
Now, Spinoza argues, based upon this psychological axiom, that we would forsake the state of nature in favour of some form of political authority, 
because we would judge the situation under political authority to be a greater good or a lesser evil  than the state of nature. 
Thus Spinoza comes, like Thomas Hobbes, to a political authority based on a social contract between citizens.
This was the concluding lecture on Spinoza and of this year. Time for enjoying the Holidays.
What we learnt from Spinoza is that Nature and thence our life as part of Nature has no purpose or end in view.
This means that the question of The Meaning of Life becomes urgent and therefor will be the first theme of The Philosophy Class in 2017.
Thank you all for your interest and participation through the year and Happy Holidays to you all…. ^_^

The Discussion

[13:18] CB Axel: Thank you!
[13:18] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): Spinoza was interesting but not very enticing
[13:18] herman Bergson: He is a rationalist....
[13:19] CB Axel: We seem to be grappling with the same questions now as Spinoza was way back then.
[13:19] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:19] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:19] CB Axel: We've made no progress.
[13:19] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): that has been the same since the class started so many years ago
[13:19] herman Bergson: Always this top down philosophy, where Frans de Waal promotes a bottom up philosophy :-)
[13:19] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): always more to search for
[13:20] herman Bergson: Yes CB....the questions hardly change through the centuries
[13:20] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): that is why we dont graduate
[13:20] herman Bergson: also science can not answer these basic questions
[13:20] herman Bergson: yes Gemma :-)
[13:20] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): they keep trying tho
[13:21] herman Bergson: Science can describe what is happening....
[13:21] herman Bergson: It can not investigate what should happen....that we have to decide ourselves
[13:21] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ok
[13:21] herman Bergson: In ehtics and politics
[13:22] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): seems so
[13:22] herman Bergson: Yes Bejiita... :-)
[13:23] herman Bergson: We  have to tell what the meaning of life can't tell you
[13:23] CB Axel: One problem, as I see it, is that we keep choosing wrong about what should happen.
[13:23] herman Bergson: I wonder, CB
[13:24] herman Bergson: If that were the case mankind would be extinct by now, I would say
[13:24] CB Axel: Ah, science can't tell us everything? Take that, Bejiita! LOL
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hahaha
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i know already it cant
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): only almost everything
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:25] CB Axel: Mankind seems to keep going in spite of ourselves.
[13:25] herman Bergson: Such a statement presupposes a specific view on man....
[13:26] herman Bergson: plus it seems that mankind is not ourselves?
[13:27] herman Bergson: Spinoza had no clue about what we are doing here on this planet ^_^
[13:28] CB Axel: That's something I have in common with him.
[13:28] herman Bergson: That was a revolutionary point of view in those days
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes CB, today we don't even frown when we come to such a conclusion
[13:28] CB Axel: Christians still do.
[13:29] CB Axel: According to them we are here to praise their god.
[13:29] herman Bergson: Oh yes...a lot of people have theories about the WHY we are here question...
[13:29] CB Axel: Doesn't he have angels to do that for him?
[13:29] herman Bergson: I thought so too CB :-)
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:30] herman Bergson: I have to spend the coming weeks searching for the meaning of life
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hhee
[13:31] CB Axel: Good luck with that!
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:31] bergfrau Apfelbaum: lol
[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): most man need a lifetime for that Herman
[13:31] CB Axel: I know I haven't found it.
[13:31] herman Bergson: thnx CB, I think I need that
[13:32] herman Bergson: important question is of course....Why should life have a meaning?
[13:32] herman Bergson: A purpose....a goal?
[13:32] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): is that neccesary?
[13:32] herman Bergson: Indeed Beertje.....
[13:33] CB Axel: It would give some meaning to all the suffering.
[13:33] herman Bergson: and another question could be.....Why should it be ONE final goal....can't there be many goals?
[13:33] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): my goal in life now anyway is to set this one perfect

[13:33] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): no CB, it would have meaning for all the joy

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