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[Xmca-l] Different cultural approaches to Spinozism



Dear Ivan,The fact that we understand Spinoza differently is quite obvious. Hence the different assessment of Vygotsky's theoretical legacy. I think that we established this circumstance with absolute certaintyBut what should we do now, having fixed this difference in our approaches?Just continue to go the same way that we went before? Agree that such an outcome of our discussion would be unproductive, if not utterly sterile.Or still try to compare our approaches more closely in the hope of deepening our understanding of the subject under discussion. Given that each of us has a different tradition in reading the same Spinoza, a different theoretical culture, such a comparison of our positions would allow us to compare not our personal, our individual theoretical tastes, but something more significant, different cultural and historical approaches to theorizing about a human.Based on my own experience in studying philosophy, and my experience in teaching philosophy and theoretical psychology, I can argue that the understanding of classical philosophical texts essentially depends on the socio-cultural context in which the one who studies them is. To study old philosophers outside of all current socio-cultural contexts is a fundamentally unreal thing. In these contexts we live, they are part of our thinking, our human affects. Therefore, the difference here can only be whether we consciously proceed from our social and cultural position, or it happens spontaneously and unconsciously.Agree that for a serious thinker, a serious researcher, it is preferable to be aware of his own cultural and social grounds.Therefore, I believe that it is advisable to approach the study of the texts of the same Spinoza not with a "clean head", but with a head armed at least to the minimum degree with modern, maximally developed ideas. In the case of Spinoza under such modern and more developed ideas, I mean the philosophy of Marx. Moreover, even more specifically, the most modern Ilyenkov’s interpretation of Marx's philosophy. In this approach, I proceed from the old Marxist idea (which Vygotsky liked to quote) that the anatomy of man is the key to the anatomy of ape. In our case, I want to say that the philosophy of Ilyenkov is precisely such a key to the philosophy of Spinoza.In this regard, I have a question for you - which school of Spinoza's reading you refer to yourself? After all, before judging whether Vygotsky's ideas correspond to something in Spinoza, it is advisable to first deal with Spinoza's own ideas. In brackets, I note that it is hardly possible to speak seriously about a certain Vygotsky tradition in the interpretation of Spinoza. Yet Vygotsky did not discuss the philosophy of Spinoza as such, but in his psychological reflections he tried to rely on Spinoza's separate statements. At the same time, he admitted sometimes gross, student's mistakes in the interpretation of Spinozism. So, he stated that the psychophysical problem is solved by wordless animals in a different way than by a human with his language signs. The last statement is especially anecdotal, since the psychophysical problem in Spinoza's logic does not exist at all, and for Descartes it makes sense only and exclusively for human. According to Descartes, animals perfectly live without any soul, and therefore they do not need any special solution of not existing for them psychophysical problem.So, I repeat the question once more - with what school of Spinoza's interpretation do you identify yourself? What philosophers who interpreted Spinoza, did you read BEFORE you read the texts of Spinoza himself? Or, perhaps, with what living philosophers you communicated before hitting the texts of the old Dutchman. Agree that the result of reading the same "Ethics" by a theoretician who first acquainted himself exclusively with the interpretation of Spinoza as, presumably, a predominantly religious Jewish thinker, and a theorist who proceeded from the fact that Spinoza resolutely retired from religious dogma, both Jewish and Christian. even in his youth, and that as a philosopher he was primarily an atheist, a materialist and rationalist, would be essentially different. Two of these theorists will see in his texts primarily what their teachers taught them. And who of them will understand Spinoza better, will depend more authentically on their original socio-cultural position, from the school in which they were brought up as theorists.As for me, as a young student I was lucky enough to meet with Ilyenkov. Very early – in 1976 at the seminar, which was led by Evald Vasilievitch, I have read two of his classic works on the analysis of Spinozism:  "the Question of identity of thinking and being in pre-Marxist philosophy" and the first two essays from his "Dialectical logic". Both of these texts are quite close to each other in content, and the second one exists in English. However, you have the advantage over most colleagues on XMCA that you can read original Russian text.I must say that especially now, looking with big, life long distance, I understand that this two texts embody Ilyenkov’s Central philosophical idea. Moreover, I believe that this Spinoza-Ilyenkov’s definition of thinking as the mode of action of a thinking body is the main Ilyenkov’s contribution to the world philosophy. Of course, errare humanum est. Both I may be wrong in this assessment, and Ilyenkov could be wrong, interpreting Spinoza in this way. By the way, the Russian philosopher A. Maidansky insists that this idea not only does not reveal the main essence of Spinozism, but it roughly distorts it. That the "thinking body" is an oxymoron, and that only a (disembodied) soul can think, and that attributing Spinoza the thought that thinking can be the action of the body is a gross mechanism, vulgar materialism..Well, if Maidanskiy is right, then we will have to admit that Ilyenkov did not establish himself as a philosopher. For behind the minus of this central idea, Ilyenkov's theoretical legacy can hardly claim any special originality and relevance.Of course, as theorists and not believers in the philosophical guru we can not abstractly deny such an option.And yet, thinking about the problem not abstractly, but concretely, we will insist with all categorical that Ilyenkov's reading of Spinoza is true, whereas the interpretation of Maidanski is theoretically vulgar return to the latitudes of Cartesian dualism. The path from Ilyenkov's interpretation of Spinoza, from his "thinking body", leads straight to Marx with his “Das Kapital” and then to the activity psychology of Leontiev and Bernshtein. Whereas, the path from Maidanski’s  Cartesian interpretation of Spinoza doesn’t leads us forwards, but brings us back to Descartes. Once again, Ivan, thank you for an interesting conversation. And please do not rush to answer me. I know that you are now busy. You answer me then, when you can.Most importantly, I would like to see our «intercultural communication» is not interrupted in mid-sentence.  For the Internet in General and in particular XMCA gives us of course the wonderful technical tool for such communication. But this tool does not make any sense, if there is no desire to really understand each other. Moreover, we are not talking here about the quirks of our private philosophical taste, but the need to bridge the gap between traditional for English-speaking countries empiricism and eclecticism, and German-Russian rationalism. As a Marxist, I am not inclined to exaggerate the difficulties caused by these different traditions. I am confident that our common social and political beliefs give us far more opportunities for mutual understanding than bad textbooks on the philosophy of the school and University libraries..All the best,Sasha
   
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   - Dear Sasha   

   - I think we are reading Spinoza differently.   

   - IMHO, the interaction of relatively active and relatively passive bodies is a central problem in Spinoza's work.  It is implicit perhaps in the Ethics, but more to the fore in the TIE. Vygotsky's treatment of the child/learner and the social environment is congruent with this.    

   - By "social environment" I mean a body like "окружающий взрослый", as in the following (from Thinking and Speech):   

   - Он [ребенок] только следует за речью взрослых, усваивая уже установленные и данные ему в готовом виде конкретные значения слов. Проще говоря, ребенок не создает своей речи, но усваивает готовую речь окружающих его взрослых.   

   - He [the child] only follows the speech of adults, adopting the specific meanings of words, meanings already established and given to him in their finished form.  Simply stated, the child does not create his speech, but he adopts the ready-made speech of the adults around him.   

   - (unsurprisingly, усваивать is translated as "learn" in the English Collected Works translation.  IMHO adopt or imitate is more accurate.)   

   - Granted, "social environment" is more abstract than "surrounding adults» are.   

   - As for "the intellect" in E1d4.  IIRC Spinoza does not define this term anywhere in the Ethics.   

   - When I am back, I'll be sketching out my understanding of Spinoza as a foundation for other work.   

   - Best wishes   

   -   Ivan