When philosophers meet. Sort of.

Baruch writes: I have been away, thus the lack of posting. Here’s a little gem, Rebecca Goldstein of the wonderful and moving Betraying Spinoza dramatises Leibniz and Spinoza’s rendévous in 1675.

 Warning: some vaguely annoying intellectual posing and name-dropping, mostly from the blogaviewer, has to be endured to get to the interesting stuff from Goldstein. There is a part 1 and part 3 of the blogalogue, accessible from the link.

 This I like particularly:

He is sitting in a sparsely furnished room, although it does contain the large four-poster bed that he had inherited from his parents, as well as a simple wooden chair and table, where he is seated. His long silken black wavy hair partially obscures his face as he leans over the table, quietly scribbling with a quill. He will remain there the entire time, intent at his writing, as ushers continue to show the audience to their seats.

The audience members will either discover his silent presence for themselves, or be directed by the bemused gesturing of their neighbors to the figure on the stage. Eventually, it is to be hoped, all of them, even the most distracted, will become aware of him and be swathed in the hush of anticipation as well, most importantly, of confusion.

Thus, even before a word of dialogue is spoken, the audience will be entangled in theatrical-ontological uncertainty, each onlooker forced to consider for himself the fundamental metaphysics of the situation: is the play in progress or is it not? And if it is not, at what point will it be? And if it is, then was it even before there was anyone there in the theatre to see it?

At some point, Benedictus Spinoza will look up, pushing away his luxurious locks from his brow and squinting out at the audience. He will pick up one of the lenses that lies, quite naturally, near to hand, and place it before his eye, studying the audience for a long uncomfortable time, provoking uneasy laughter, at which noise he will scowl. This can be drawn out for as long as it remains funny, which may amount to absolutely no time at all.

I didn’t know Goldstein and Steven Pinker get it on. Bento, did you? Also odd she seems to be a bit down on Matthew Stewart, but maybe that is just a bit of Spinozan scholar backroom back-biting. No doubt they’ll both start on us soon.


2 thoughts on “When philosophers meet. Sort of.”

  1. Ah, thank you Baruch for that wonderful read. It is enough to make me reconsider my views on women, which must look horribly condescending 350 years on. But truth be told, 350 years ago there were no Rebeccas: Pinker would’ve had to choose the illiterate maid or a holier-than-thou nun — pilarenbijters, we called them; biters of the Church’s pillars. I tried both, of course — neither got my conatus going, if you get my drift.

    So, yeah, I’d do Rebecca, and it’s always good to know beforehand it’s a “sure thing”.

    But I do think she gives far to much credit to that fool Leibniz, and she should know better after what she said about laughter and humor, because Leibniz HAD NONE. That bit about me wanting to go out and put a sign up to protest the de Witt murders but being locked in by my landlord? It was a joke, or rather some irony at his expense (as what happened to the de Witts isn’t a laughing matter), but that poor fool Leibniz took it at face value. Granted, it was a bit mean of me, but it came at the end of a long day of trying to get him to understand that God IS logic, God IS maths, but that was just too new to him.

    The upshot: obviously I would never do anything suicidal — how could I when I fondle my Caute ring every other minute, like a wedding band?

  2. I don’t really know how to respond to this. Are you being Bento or pretending to be Spinoza here? Or are you pretending to to be Bento pretending to be Spinoza. After all, you are really someone else, as am I; your name is not really Bento, and mine is certainly not Baruch.

    I suspect you really would like to snog Rebecca Goldstein. She certainly gives good book. I was getting book from her just today, over lunch actually, re-reading Betraying Spinoza. It is rather good.

    No chance for you, of course. Not just because of the distance, but as she makes clear she has a hair fetish. Thus Steven “Funky Afro” Pinker.

    For some reason, whenever I think of the word “conatus”, I think of rabbits. Why do you think that is?

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