Philosophy vs action

I find my thoughts drifting less and less towards philosophy, Bento. I did feel bad about this for a while, but then I more or less reconciled myself to it. Philosophy requires contemplation, and there is little room in my life for contemplation at the moment. Rather, I am geared towards action, more specifically, actions that will help me survive and prosper in the extreme circumstances of the current moment. I rather like this, I have to admit. It is simple and direct. While the process is complex (lots of financial models and the like), the goal itself is not. Rather like hunting a mammoth, I imagine, which is what after all our pale cro magnon forefathers evolved to do.

In this type of existenial activity, this modern mammoth hunting, then, we are still close to ourselves, our conatus, our true nature. Sticking to what we are and being as much of it as possible, this is what Spinoza suggests we do to attain happiness. I have evolved as a thinking machine, and it is in thinking that I am doing, if you see what I mean. Just as dogs are woofing machines, and are happiest when woofing, and lions probably cheer up when they sink their claws into zebras on the hoof. Though “evolved” may be an anachronism; I have often wondered how Spinoza’s ideas would have changed (if at all) had he somehow managed to read Darwin.

So I tell myself I am not in fact “betraying Spinoza” by abandoning philosophy temporarily (although I have started reading Montaigne who is like totally the first ever blogger, Bento, it is quite incredible); I am using the same tools, the same critical faculties that I need for thinking “deep” thoughts about Spinoza, to think about how to keep my job. Paradoxically I have a job which is 95% thought (which stocks to buy?) and 5% action (actually buying the stupid things, and making tea). If I was a lumberjack things might be different. It may look like I have completely contradicted what I said in the 1st paragraph of this post, but I don’t feel like I have — for me thought really is action, or rather, my current thought is action-oriented.

Not so for the subject of this post, the amazing KVOND, the blogger you told me about, Bento. His is a fundamental contemplative Spinozism to the extent of actually working out how to grind lenses! Kvond even has a theory that the Huygens microscope, based on some type of bead lens, if I have this right, was somehow snaffled from Spinoza’s estate, implying that if he had lived longer we may be thanking Spinoza for a lot of microbiology as well as his philosophical contribution. He understands (or seems to) detail like this:

This reported Spinoza lens is much shorter in focal length than three known to have been made in 1686 by Constantijn: w/ diameters 195, 210 and 230 mm, and w/ focal lengths of 122, 170 and 210 ft.; each ”made from the same very poor glass – a heterogeneous and discoloured potash-rich, but essentially lead-free `forest glass’.”

This is seriously cool, of course.

It is very different from our little endeavour here, a good thing. kvond’s more philosophical posts tend to have an quite Wittgensteinian tilt, not necessarily something I can get my head around, and I detect a more literary focus to his posts. I feel they are more about inner life, while ours tend to be more current affairs-focsed, very outwards-looking. Baldly put, his is the Spinoza of the Ethics, ours the Treatise.

We are both, I think, very happy to find another up-to-date Spinoza focused blog, are we not?


9 thoughts on “Philosophy vs action”

  1. Ours was hardly up to date until you posted, Baruch.

    Yes, I can’t wait for KVOND’s Spinoza-themed novel. It will no doubt be a philosophical thriller. As you know, Spinoza’s death was rather unexpected — the family with which he lodged left him that morning in good health. Perhaps some nefarious and ambitious scientist did away with our Spinoza in order to get to his lenses? Some objects were missing from his estate, as you know. Perhaps Spinoza had been observing microbes and documenting them, but someone else wanted the credit? Might Oldenburg have sent out his agents now that he finally understood the nature of Spinoza’s nature?

  2. Bento, as you know (you were there) we have both been on holiday for some time. I have resolved no longer to feel guilty for any lack of posting. I will trust our reader to understand that either we can’t think of anything interesting to blog, we are well busy with our day jobs, or we are simply not there for the moment.

    Michael, please call me Baruch, I am not actually sure that I have a last name. Certainly picking “Spinoza” would be presumptious.

    This Scanlon chap sounds interesting. New? There is nothing new under the sun. Actually it reminds me of Calvinism in its determinism, all this it’s not my fault I can’t help the way I am stuff. And most likely some Greek came up with something similar before that.

    Useful? Well, why not? Personally I think I disagree with Scanlon on whether bad people deserve punishment for doing bad things. I always look at actions, and whether they are proscribed by law or not, rather than motives, which I can never presume to know. The discussion he opens up is certainly useful.

  3. Excellent that there are multiple up-to-date Spinoza themed blogs! See how varied his effect is over the centuries, like star’s light brought through a variety of lenses.

    As for nepharious ends, your thoughts on a Hollywood Blockbuster telling of Spinoza’s death are amazingly close to the Non-fiction work “Heavenly Intrigue: Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and the Murder Behind One of History’s Scientific Discoveries” by Gilder and Gilder, which claims that Kepler poisoned Brahe for his valued observations of the orbit of Mars!

    Anyways, a good read.

    For my part, do expect a Spinoza themed novel, eventually, after this text is being worked out (an article potentially for “Cabinet” is in the works) but I dare say the novel’s content may veer from the expected. Philosophy and Literature stretch taut in opposite directions for me, forming a rather tense bow line.

    As for “Philosophy vs. Action” my thoughts are that if Spinoza tells us anything, thinking is action, and action is thinking. Contemplative thinking is nothing more than sharpening one’s gaze, body and Life. If one’s gaze, body and Life is no longer being sharpened, one is no longer really thinking in any Spinoza sense.

    Good Luck grinding all those lenses. As we all grind away. Metal and Glass.

  4. I must also add that though I agree that such detail is seriously cool, the quoted material:

    “This reported Spinoza lens is much shorter in focal length than three known to have been made in 1686 by Constantijn: w/ diameters 195, 210 and 230 mm, and w/ focal lengths of 122, 170 and 210 ft.; each ”made from the same very poor glass – a heterogeneous and discoloured potash-rich, but essentially lead-free `forest glass’.”

    is given by someone else. I wish my mind bent in such directions, but alas it does not.

  5. Faith without works is dead, as is philosophy without action in concert.

    The very best clue one has, as to the philosophy of another man, is not in conversation, but rather in observation.

  6. I haven’t seen anything that well said in a while. I wish the Spinoza was available for reading during my childhood. (Damn USSR)
    On the bright note, as long as we will preserve the market system, we will be fine. We’ll be fine in the long run, and that’s what matters.

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