Paul Bond's Reviews > Ethics
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I idealized philosophy as the art of progressing from mundane, obvious facts to grand cosmic conclusions, all made unanswerable through the authority of logic. I now see that this is a fantasy of philosophy, though never more alluring than in Spinoza's Ethics. In a relatively small book patterned after Euclid's Elements, Spinoza lays claim to not only deep knowledge of the universe, but certain knowledge. It is difficult to keep from being swept up in Spinoza's audacious project. Here, he proves God exists. (But a God that pays us no mind). There, Spinoza dispels all contingency from the universe. (But insists on individual moral responsibility). Good, evil, freedom, knowledge, and fate... Spinoza hits all the fundamental issues in rapid-fire. In the years since, load-bearing elements of his logical process have been debunked. More important to me, his bottom line conclusions are totally unworkable. If life is just a matter of watching the necessary unfold, action and commitment would be drained of all dignity. As stunning as Spinoza's work is, it supports only one mode of life (the contemplative) and fails as a complete model for human endeavor. Essential but not sufficient.
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