So I, Baruch, have progressed from reading about Spinoza to actually reading Spinoza himself. My dear colleague Bento is no doubt gnashing his teeth; too busy sampling the fleshpots of Cairo, he is still probably reading the Cliff Notes (sorry apparently we are supposed to say Cliffsnotes) to Philosophy for Dummies. Now I have surpassed him in my Spinozan studies. I am the master now.
I am also, for the first time, scribbling thoughts and impressions in the margin of a book I’m reading. It makes me look more intellectual in cafés for sure, but I am also finding it helps me very much to keep track of the complex train of thoughts that make up the Ethics.
I also thought the Euclidean geometric format would be hard, with its Definitions, Axioms, Postulates, Demonstrations, Corollaries, and Scholia. In fact I quite like it, it is all nicely organised, and it makes reading what would have been a difficult book even in modern prose and paragraphs much easier. You don’t need to follow every argument in its entirety to understand the conclusions of each Part. The argument folds back in on itself a lot; you see each major point from a number of perspectives, you understand things you previously missed.
So I was initially quite impressed with my ability to understand and follow Part I, Of God. By his lights Spinoza makes the case for a unitary substance we can call God or Nature, but it is not a loving god, rather a largely indifferent one, and one without a “will” insofar as we know it. And god is definitely an “It” even if Spinoza doesn’t make the point himself.
I am now through with Part II, Of the Mind. This was heavier sledding, but I am pretty much OK with the end product, viz A. Our job is to “understand God”, B. we should “bear ourselves concerning matters of fortune” with equanimity and calm, C. social life should be based on respect, we should be as self contained as possible, and D. as such respect for the individual should be the prime value of government.
Part III Of The Affects is just starting, and I am 100% motivated. No problems so far. Go Baruch!