Michael LeBuffe schreef zijn eerste boek: over Spinoza's Ethica

Vorige maand verscheen Michael LeBuffe’s eerste boek: From Bondage to Freedom: Spinoza on Human Excellence. Oxford University Press, USA, 272 pp. Opvallend is dat de uitgever het boek aanprijst met:
“This is the first full length study of Spinoza's moral theory in English.”
“Emphasizes, for the first time, the importance of Spinoza's moral theory of the gap between our conscious awareness and of ourselves and our true natures.”

Dat was voor mij aanleiding om iets meer over de auteur te weten te komen. Zo kwam ik ergens deze typering van zijn boek tegen: “He is currently working on a book on Spinoza's moral theory, in which he defends an account of the way Spinoza's normative ethics emerges from his cognitive and moral psychology.” [Op philosophy Compass]

Michael LeBuffe is sinds 2009 Associate Professor en sinds 2010 Director of Undergraduate Studies van het Department of Philosophy Texas A&M University. Z’n specialisme is de geschiedenis van de vroeg modern filosofie.

Sommige Amerikaanse Universiteiten kennen prijzen voor goed leraarschap. Voorbije herfst ontving hij zowel een ‘Texas A&M System SLATE Award’ als een ‘Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching’. Michael LeBuffe is an example of the best kind of academician a researcher who is dedicated to his students.” [Hier]

Hij schreef over Hobbes. En hij schreef diverse artikelen over Spinozistische onderwerpen (zie zijn CV) en besprak op Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews de boeken van Michael Della Rocca, Spinoza, en van Steven Nadler, Spinoza’s Ethics.

Michael LeBuffe is ook de auteur van het lemma Spinoza's Psychological Theory op Stanford.

Hij is gevraagd voor 'Chapter 9. Ethics and reason', in: John Skorupski (Ed.) The Routledge Companion to Ethics, dat volgens de uitgever in juni uitkomt en zeer prijzig zal zijn.

Ook schreef hij hoofdstuk 9. The anatomy of the passions, in het recente boek van Olli Koistinen (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza's Ethics.

Hij lijkt gespecialiseerd in 9e hoofdstukken...

Wel aardig is om hier te citeren wat Syliane Malinowski-Charles in haar review van dit boek van Koistinen schreef:

“Something particularly interesting about this book is the list of contributors, which includes a number of younger and very promising Spinoza scholars (e.g., Michael LeBuffe, Valtteri Viljanen, and Andrew Youpa), while also benefiting from the experience of more established academics such as Piet Steenbakkers, Susan James, and Don Garrett. This gives some fresh voices to the well-trodden themes already studied by older or more recognized contributors such as those who were included in the 1996 Companion to Spinoza, who had written the first important books on Spinoza at the time of the renewal of interest in his work in that decade as well as at the end of the preceding one -- crucial scholars such as Jonathan Bennett, Margaret Wilson, Alan Donogan, Edwin Curley, Richard Popkin, or Pierre-François Moreau. While their contributions remain jewels and a continued source of inspiration and knowledge for all Spinoza scholars, it is nice to see that some new names are being made known to readers. The choice of contributors is limited, of course, and many very valuable persons are left out, but it is an interesting start to a rather unusual practice for the Cambridge Companions." [Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews]  

Opvallend in het oog springend vind ik de titelSpinoza’s Normative Ethics.’ Die maakte me behoorlijk nieuwsgierig: hoe normatief ziet hij Spinoza? Gelukkig is zijn artikel LeBuffe, Michael. Spinoza's Normative Ethics. [In: Canadian Journal of Philosophy - Volume 37, Number 3, September 2007, pp. 371-391], vrij te downloaden (iets wat meer uitgevers zouden moeten doen). Het begint aldus:

"Spinoza presents his ethics using a variety of terminologies. Propositions that are, or at least might be taken for, normative include only very few explicit guidelines for action. I will take this claim from Vp10s to be one such guideline: Vp10s: So that we may always have this rule of reason ready when it is needed, we should think and meditate often about common human wrongs and how and in what way they may best be driven away by nobility. There are, however, several different kinds of claims, which are also much more numerous, that might be thought to imply such guidelines. These include a number of descriptions of what is useful to us, for example, IVp40, or what is good, for example, IVp39: IVp40: Things that lead to the general association of men, or that cause men to live harmoniously, are useful. IVp39: Things that cause the conservation of the ratio of motion and rest that the human body's parts have to one another are good. Another group of propositions, which includes IVp26, describes the demands of reason or what we do, strive to do, or ought to do if we are guided by reason. Sometimes, as at IVp53, Spinoza presents these claims as equivalent to claims about virtue…" etc.

Ik moet eerlijk zeggen: ik begon het artikel vanuit enig verzet te lezen (“Hoezo, Spinoza normatief…?”), maar ook al heeft LeBuffe enigszins de neiging teveel over ‘ought to’ en ‘presciptions’ en ‘should do’ te spreken, toch heeft hij mij enigszins over de streep getrokken om de diagnostische en ‘therapeutische’ adviezen van Spinoza iets meer dan ik geneigd was, als ‘normatieve’ uitspraken te zien. Ik was behoorlijk onder de indruk van de serieuze en overtuigende aanpak van LeBuffe in dit artikel. Ik blijf op m’n hoede, want – nogmaals – de auteur heeft de neiging wetenschappelijk bedoelde constateringen over samenhangen en ideeën over in bepaalde omstandigheden verstandig gedrag als normativiteit te interpreteren. Maar ik heb misschien teveel de neiging ‘normativiteit’ te vereenzelvigen met ‘deontologische uitspraken’. Ik had hierover onlangs nog een kleine discussie op dit weblog.

Graag neem ik de kwalificatie van Syliane Malinowski-Charles over zijn hoofdstuk in Koistinen (“remarkably well written and very clear”) over voor dit artikel - voortreffelijk leesbaar.

Het maakt mij nieuwsgierig naar zijn boek, dat jammer genoeg wel aan de prijzige kant is. Bij Amazon staat ’t voor £42,74, terwijl de Nederlandse internetboekhandel Boekstra €71,95 vraagt. Ik blijf nog even naar een prijsdaling uitkijken dus.

Op een of twee laatste pagina’s na is de lange inleiding in z’n geheel te lezen bij books.google




In al die boeken, niet alleen bij Michael LeBuffe, maar ook in die van Michael Della Rocca en Steven Nadler, mis ik node Spinoza's FYSISCHE aanpak en verklaring van het verschijnsel mens, zijn opzet dus om het gedrag van de mens enkel en alleen te verklaren met behulp van dezelfde maximes die hij gebruikt voor de verklaring van buiten-menselijke gebeurtenissen. Zijn ETHICA dient te worden opgevat als FYSICA van de mens. En dan kom je nergens een MOETEN (of SOLLEN)tegen, alleen een (op z'n Duits) MUESSEN. Of om het met Hume te zeggen: er is een afgrond tussen IS en OUGHT. Dat schijnt maar niet te willen doordringen in de weerbarstige koppen van die vele misleidende profeten.

Many thanks for your kind attention. I am sensitive to Professor Klever's concerns in my book, and do raise the Humean objection explicitly. Of course readers are free to disagree with my interpretation (it is extremely difficult material!), but, for what it's worth here is how I take Spinoza to understand "oughts":

we all make ought claims, that is part of human nature. In particular, we find worthy of pursuit ends that we desire or associate with happiness. Spinoza does not attempt to justify this practice: what would be the point in justifying what is a fixed part of human nature? The point of his ethical writing, then, is not to defend our evaluations but to show us how to attain what we do value.

The most important point that someone with a position like Professor Klever's needs to appreciate, I think, whether or not he or she likes my interpretation, is that it is a fact about human beings that we find things to have value, on Spinoza's view, and it is, of course, a feature of our lives that is very important to us.

Dear Michael,
I was warned by Stan that you gave a reaction to my reaction on his blog about your FROM BONDAGE TO FREEDOM. First of all, I only know the contents of your book from this source, i.e. very indirectly. If my information is faulty, it's not my fault.
1) Hume didn't object against Spinoza with his remark that there is an abyss between 'is' and 'ought'. He knew with Spinoza that our 'oughts' are the results of "our particular pains and pleasures" and that "the very feeling constitutes our praise or admiration" (Cf. TREATISE 3.1.2 in relation with ETHICA 4/8).
2) You are, therefore, fully right with your assertion that our ought claims are part of human nature. Neither he nor I nor Spinoza do deny this.
3) You are also right in rejecting the idea that Spinoza would try to JUSTIFY human behaviour. He tries (and succeeds) in explaining it.
4) And this not the same as "showing how to attain what we do value". How could he or would he like to do so? Our valuations are mostly below the required level and our aims not worth attaining.
5) Do things have value on Spinoza's view? Things in themselves? What kind of things? What kind of value? It is only the AMOR ERGA REM AETERNAM ET INFINITAM that adequately FEEDS (pascit) the soul (TIE 10).
6) Spinoz considers and explains human beings AS BODIES like trees and birds and saltpeter (AC SI QUAESTIO ... DE CORPORIBUS ESSET). In his footsteps Hume does the very same thing: IN JUDGING OF THE ACTIONS OF MEN WE MUST PROCEED UPON THE SAME MAXIMS, AS WHEN WE REASON CONCERNING EXTERNAL OBJECTS (Treatise 2.3.1). It is impossible that something like an obligation appears in this SCIENCE OF MAN. 'OUGHTS' are invisible for 'eyes of the mind' (not for our imagination).
7) I reproach the Della Rocca's, the Nadlers, the Curleys and so many other anglosaxian philosophers that they completely misunderstand the position of David Hume and, therefore, don't profit from his most excellent coammentary on what Spinoza really aimed at.
8) I just now finished in Dutch a book on DAVID HUME. THE SCIENTIFIC ETHICKS OF A CONVINCED SPINOZIST, in which I could place at least 50 paralleltexts and crypto-quotations next to each other in a table. Which native speaker offers himself to translate this document for the Engglish audience which badly needs to be confronted with the evidence? My energy is insufficient for this task.

This is a very interesting response. Thank you. I think the extended comparison of Spinoza and Hume an excellent project and look forward to studying the book. In response to point 5, no, I do not think that things have value in themselves for Spinoza. Perhaps the discussion of music at 4Pref. shows this most clearly. At the same time, however, things are valued by us, and I think that this fact alone is strong enough in Spinoza's view to warrant the claims for example, that we ought to try to understand our passions and that we ought to cultivate active affects. Spinoza does make apparently unqualified claims of this sort in Part 5 (p4s and p10s), out of which readers of the Ethics need to make some sense. The challenge is to understand his unqualified prescriptions (and his many claims about the good, the demands of reason and so forth) in a way that is consistent with his claims about value and his naturalism.

I am sympathetic with your need for a translator and will think about the issue. If I come up with a good candidate, I will contact you, Professor Klever, by e-mail.

Thanks again for this discussion.