Ryan Daum karlp at burn.ucsd.edu
Mon Apr 17 13:28:49 MDT 1995

On Mon, 17 Apr 1995, Chris Burford wrote:

> Santiago's suggestion of a Spinoza reading is for me lethally tempting,
> because
> a) if I were to be religious, I would like to be a follower of Spinoza

Although I don't really think Spinoza would like you to follow him.
Certainly there is a feeling of "spirituality" to Spinoza's philosophy --
after all, he did choose God as the center-piece of his ontology -- but
from my understanding of him, Spinoza seems to come out as an atheist,
opposed to religion, religious institutions, and superstitious worship.
If Spinoza was religious, his "God" was nature, and his method of worship
was rationality.

> So  could Santiago or Ryan or anyone, suggest with all due modesty,
> why some people who are interested in Spinoza get interested in Marx and
> vice versa ? There appears to be a strange attractor here.

Why Spinoza and Marx?  Having not read any of the key Marxist-Spinozist
works (having only read bits of Althusser, Balibar, or Negri) I have to
say that for me the two were separate interests which happened to collide
when I realized that a) Spinoza has a method of analysis based on the
composition of "bodies" that he uses for an understanding of human
emotions and other structures that can also apply to the analysis of
human social structures b) Spinoza's ethics is pre-disposed to a
socialist vision, his conception of freedom is one which lays the basis
for self-liberating praxis c) Spinoza's epistemology is also pre-disposed
to a socialist vision as well as pre-disposed to a working-class vision
(that is, he states somewhere that the philosopher should always start
with common notions, with trying to find the origins and value of the
ideas of ordinary people and try to speak in the language of the people)
-- his theory of knowledge is also pre-disposed to an understanding of
the operation of ideological systems.  d) Spinoza offers a new language
for Marxism, or a new way of talking instead of the tired and cryptic
dialectical mysticism.

What interests me most is Spinoza's ethics which may fill that gap which
Marxism (mostly deliberately)  .. rather than prattling on about "working
class morality" or denouncing any sort of codes of contact as ideology,
Spinoza lays the foundation for a sort of "socialist ethics" which prizes
autonomy, associates vision and rationality with freedom, and urges
humanity to see itself as part of an infinite and eternal Nature.

> Chris Burford

karlp at burn.ucsd.edu (Ryan Daum)	"In so far as people live under the guidance
                                 of reason, thus far only they always
(403) 488-0093                   necessarily agree in nature." -- Spinoza

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