Negri, Spinoza

J Laari jlaari at
Fri Feb 16 08:25:05 MST 1996


few hasty lines (I have phil. books at home so I might do some errors 
nows but I'll clarify them later if necessary):

"Substantia sive Natura sive Deus": substance is one [Spinoza is monist], 
but either we can consider it only under the attributes of extension and 
thought (one interpretation which allows there to be other attributes), 
or it manifests itself through these attributes (other interpretation; 
there are of course several others but these two exemplify problem of the 
status of attribute, also in relation to modes). In "Ethics" Spinoza 
starts with god: he doesn't write about 'substance or nature or god' 
because he is doing philosophy. I'll explain: substance as such is so 
general and abstract category that it doesn't tell us much. As soon as we 
start to think of it (dare I say 'universum' or kosmos..) we start to 
consider it under some attribute ('universum' implies nature). But 
philosopher works with concepts and categories, not with matter. Ergo: 
god. But that is something thought, 'ideal', not the real thing. Spinoza 
wasn't empiricist. In that context it means that he didn't thought ideal 
to be only, not even primarily, in our minds as some particular ideas 
(which easily leads into solipsism) but thought that ideal/-ity is 
something objective: nowadays we could say that ideality refers to whole 
cultural process which is prior to our individual, singular minds. 
There's nothing idealistic in that. Idealism comes when you say that 
this ideality is prior to materiality. 

Duality of ('known') attributes isn't a sign of dualism, because 'under' 
these attributes is fundamental monism of substance. There's difference 
between duality and dualism. 

> Others I have met have suggested
> that Spinoza is "really" a dualist of sorts


> Philosophy is a struggle between materialism and idealism  -- the
> distinction between materialism and idealsim is basic to philosophy and
> cannot be abandoned. The ideal/material opposition, on the other hand, is
> idealist, and for Marxists, must be abandoned. 

There's nothing idealist in it.

Besides, let's not call it opposition, but distinction: distinction 
between ideal and material.

Ideality is what makes difference between humans and other animals. I 
don't see how dropping the category of ideality out of materialist 
theory would be progressive move. It would lead us back to French 
materialism of 18th century. Philosophically that stuff isn't 
particularly worthy.

More little bit later.

Yours, Jukka L

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