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[Xmca-l] Re: The Russian Spinozists



Hi Larry,

Am not familiar with all of these thinkers, however I wonder if we can actually say there is a tradition that runs through?

Unless there is a personal connection, I wondered if it is possible to carry on a tradition, in the sense that one would be taught personally by a teacher a certain body of thought, and then that student, eventually becoming a teacher would then also teach a student and so on. That to me is a tradition.

How might this be different from one who just reads the works of? In that case it seems to me we would be borrowing thoughts, concepts, and ideas, if those might be proper classifications for thinking, in essence, appropriation, but not a tradition. 

We have the notion that what is taught is passed as if like a family heirloom (such as a great and beautiful book), that can be enjoyed from whatever viewpoint one stands, but I wonder if it is more like the game of telephone, in which there are distortions and misconstruals, whereby things that were not thought by the originator are held to be thought by the originator. This of course can happen even during the life of the originator!

I write all that because I sense that Spinoza is one of those thinkers who was misunderstood, as if anyone can take what they want or what resonates and leave what they do not like, like a cafeteria smorgasbord. I'm not sure that that is a fair thing to do, though while I say I am not sure if there is any way to prevent it. 

IN any case, it dawned upon me that the notion of will as Spinoza presents it could be matched with the belief of karma, in that if one chooses good acts to do, one will reap good results, and so how one chooses becomes paramount to how one acts in the world, toward oneself and others. One can point the bow wherever one chooses, but once the arrow leaves the bow, it is the physical laws that determine the rest. Given that Spinoza seems to have a deterministic flavor in his rendering of will, this seems to me the only way to make sense of it. If I do X and I will get the family of Y as a result, then I should be sure to do X if I want anything resembling Y to result. If I do W and I get the family of Z to result, and it is not Z that I care for, then I should refrain from ever doing W. 

What is always strange is when people do W and they expect Y to happen, which is perhaps what magical thinking is.

I believe that this might be why the ethics (which was the title of Spinoza's last work) then becomes a concern of study, because one wants to do what is good but how can one know what is good? 

So, I'm thinking, a space of reason, would likely line up with the Hindu understanding of dharma, which is hard to translate into English, but I see definite parallels of dharma to Spinoza's space of reason, if space of reason isn't abstract, but stands in the world as material cause and effects. Dharma is the order that is here, and the ethical code (which is truly stunted and oversimplified if we only see it in terms of good and bad, but instead a kind of physics of causes and effects) would be to live in dharma, meaning, to be in harmony with the larger order that is here. 

Further, because the dharma is of the manifest and unmanifest world, it is not something we construct, but which constructs us, in the sense that there are as-if laws that operate based upon activities that result in certain (sometimes understandable) ways. This is why I'm not sure about using the word "construct," because it makes it seem that we are authors of what we do, when it is a dynamic of the world acting upon us and us upon the world dialectically.

(nature AND nurture!)

I agree with Henry that Vygotsky and Spinoza rhyme, and I like that rendering of their thought, that they rhyme!

Apparently Marx and Spinoza rhyme as well, and it appears that Spinoza's philosophy was not only about existence, but also commitment to the polis. It seems to me there is much communistic thought in Spinoza's philosophy, as might be seen when he verbalized his projects with his Collegiant peers, similar to what Vygotsky did with his own community of peers. 

The Collegiants are actually quite an interesting historical group. I'm enjoying learning about them.

Kind regards,

Annalisa