Spinoza – Basic Concepts
Edited by Andre Santos Campos
Imprint-Academic – £40.00
If it is the external world that is holding us hostage, it is the internal world that will set us free.
(‘Virtue and Freedom’)
Behind the views that Spinoza was either afraid of the multitude or sanguine about their possible power lies the question of democracy. If Spinoza loved the multitude, then his championing of democracy is clear. If Spinoza detested and feared the multitude, then he cannot be the kind of democrat that he claims. These questions are intertwined. Spinoza’s changing view of the multitude reflects his changing view of democracy and what it requires to succeed.
The first of the above two quotes is beyond spot on; although it does need to be said that most people, for whatever reason, invariably seek solace from the external world. Maybe because it is easier to grasp, quintessentially apparent or obvious; and in most instances, more immediate. Although not necessarily more fulfilling.
Hence the runaway, diversionary fog that so plights modern society.
Everything from designer labels to drug-abuse, McDonald’s to a moral redundancy which appears increasingly endemic throughout much of the western world.
One need look no further than the mere fact that seventy-four million Americans voted for former President, Donald Trump, in the 2020 Election. Or, a little closer to home, the (other deplorable) fact that perpetual liar, Boris Johnson, won the British election of 2019 with a resounding landslide.
There again, populism and morality do make for a rather inflammatory cocktail, which, throughout the 176 pages (excluding Introduction, Bibliography and Index) of Spinoza – Basic Concepts, is made cohesively clear, time and again: ‘’If it is out myopic localism that has placed the stranglehold of our immediate world upon us, then it is the rational operations of the mind in reconfiguring our experience in terms of the infinity of nature that will set us free. So it is reason, the intellect, which becomes our salvation for it can resolve both the passivity and localism that drive our ‘servitude’ as Spinoza understands it (‘Virtue and Freedom’).
Admittedly, the above, written by Heidi M. Ravven, is one of the more easily readable chapters of what can only be described as an exceedingly dense and altogether difficult book to read. Each of its fifteen chapters do take intrinsic negotiation.
There again, we are talking about one of ‘’the most pivotal thinkers in the history of philosophy,’’ which warrants both patience and a continuation of the immediate above: ‘’We can discover the true explanations for things, for self and world, in actively retracing the causes of our singular experiences, as well as of our historical worlds, as product of natural causes in infinity, that is, in terms of bodies or fields of scientific explanation. And we can be released, in the same way and at the same time, from the ongoing pain and anxiety that the death grip of the local milieu – its institutions, rules, incentives and disincentives – exert upon our emotions and also released from the choke-hold it has upon our agency.’’
Again, not the easiest book to read, but ultimately rewarding nevertheless.