[Hersteld] Rebecca Goldstein over Spinoza en Leibniz

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Rebecca Goldstein over Spinoza en Leibniz

Vanavond ontdekte ik op een serieuze website, Jewcy, een interessant Spinoza-dialoogje dat daarop maart 2007 plaats had. 

Michael Weiss, schrijver en redacteur van Jewcy, had op die website een briefwisseling/discussie (a kibitz) met Rebecca Goldstein, filosofe en schrijfster van o.a. Betraying Spinoza. Zij is momenteel fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University [zie hier recent eerder op dit weblog


Het is een speelse en interessante uitwisseling van ideeën.

Vooral hetgeen Rebecca Goldstein op 'dag twee' schrijft over de ontmoeting tussen Spinoza en Leibniz, vind ik een waardevolle bijdrage (en een zekere correctie op Matthew Stewart, De ketter en de hoveling. Spinoza en Leibniz en het lot van God in de moderne wereld) in het begrijpen van wat die twee grote filosofen bezig hield en waarin ze van elkaar verschillen. Ik neem dat stukje hier over:

But let me just say that Leibniz had very sound reasons for rejecting Spinoza's proffered solution to the problem that occupied them both, which is basically: why is there something rather than nothing?

Both of them were committed to there being an ultimate answer to that question. That question could serve as a fine way of dividing up philosophers, according to those who think that that question has an answer, even if it's one we can't get at, and those who think that there's simply no answer out there at all to that question. On this score, Spinoza and Leibniz were playing in the same band, tooting on the same horn and singing the same lyrics, to wit that there is, because there has to be, an explanation for the world at large.

The question that divided them was whether logic alone provided that explanation. Spinoza said it did, thus committing himself to the claim that this is the only logically possible world. Leibniz, who was by far the better logician—-in fact, the advances he made in mathematical logic are staggering, though he kept almost all of them to himself—said there was an infinite plurality of logically possible worlds, so logic itself can't answer the question of why this particular world is the one that got realized.

For Spinoza, logic has generative powers; logic is the only thing that explains itself, the very causa-sui itself—that's his famous Deus sive natura. But for Leibniz, the logician, logic isn't generative. Logic is perfectly inert insofar as existence is concerned, which is why he brings a transcendent God—a God over and beyond logic itself— back into the picture, though Transcendent God had to have his reasons for choosing to realize this world among all the logically possible worlds, and that's why the mockable, Voltairean notion of the "the best of all possible worlds" gets put into play.

Stewart's claim that Leibniz was just too much of a philosophical wuss and company man (where the company is Christendom, Inc.) to swallow Spinoza's no-helpings-of-God-on-the-side universe isn't doing justice to the issue that joined them. Leibniz accepts Spinoza’s intuition that there's an ultimate answer for everything but can't accept Spinoza's claim that logic itself is the causa-sui.

Their disagreement is perched on top of a towering assumption—shared by both, but which Leibniz went ahead and named, thus appropriating it for himself, "The Principle of Sufficient Reason''—and that went like this: for every fact, there's a reason why it's a fact. There simply is no brute contingency in this world. By the way, this is an assumption to which Kurt Gõdel also ascribed, which is why he identified so strongly, to the point of doing him the great honor of extending his paranoid delusions to him, with Leibniz. His Princeton walking partner, on the other hand, famously identified his own views with Spinoza's, though it's not clear to me that Einstein actually agreed, as Gõdel actually did, with that fundamental rationalist assumption.

Anyway, if you miss understanding how seriously Spinoza and Leibniz took this assumption, the very one that holds up their rationalism, then all you see is two guys with fabulous hair prancing about in an elaborate seventeenth-century dance, suspended in the middle of what looks for all the world like empty air.

[van hier]

Via het zoekprogramma op die site is nog heel wat over Spinoza te vinden