Saturday, September 11, 2010

Betraying Spinoza by Rebecca Goldstein

My last post about this book left on page 82. Here is a quote from page 82:
Aristotle's system was the best scientific thinking of his day, though the great thinkers of the seventeenth century--Galileo, Descartes, Newton--would have to declare themselves its enemy and dismantle its teleological explanatory apparatus in order to lay the foundations of modern science. Spinoza could not have been more irreconcilably opposed to all teleological thinking.
Much of chapter III, Ms. Goldstein talks about the persecution of the Jews around 1492 (I suppose) to offer us the climate in which Spinoza's family left Portugal/Spain for Amsterdam. Many Jews were converting to Christianity to escape persecution.
Ms Goldstein tells us that the family of St Teresa of Avila converted to Christianity. Ms Goldstein is comparing St Teresa (a jew by heritage) to Spinoza in this quote on page 115:
St Teresa's Interior Castle is one of the classic Christian texts, a masterpiece of mystical literature. The castle is the soul which has (in her metaphorical vision) seven rooms. Spiritual advance made through the medium of prayer is a progressive movement through these rooms, drawing ever nearer to the center of the castle, which is where one finds unity with God. Teresa makes of spiritual activity an entirely inward private process , the self's communing with itself alone. Spinoza, too, will emphasize the entirely inward and self-reliant process of spiritual advancement though in his case the medium is not prayer but mathematically rigorous reason. It is intriguing to speculate how the Marrano psyche necessarily oriented inward, found such different expressions in there two spiritual geniuses.
end quote
My comment: I feel attracted to the metaphysical. quote on page 121:
Spinoza was to offer something rather new under the seventeenth century's European skies: a religion of reason. His religion asks us to do something that is far more difficult for us than the most severe practices of asceticism. It asks us to be reasonable. It asks us to look at ourselves with unblinking objectivity. It asks us to subdue our natural inclinationation toward self-aggrandizement.

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