Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Soyarslan (North Carolina State) on Spinoza at ITU, 27.05

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The Transformative Ascent from Ordinary Life to Blessedness in Spinoza’s Ethics

Sanem Soyarslan

North Carolina State University

27th May 2014, at 13:30

Seminar Room, Department of Humanities and Social Science, Faculty of Science and Letters, Central Campus Istanbul Technical University (by ITU metro station)

Abstract: The origin of Spinoza’s philosophizing is the ethical dissatisfaction with ordinary life and its values. An ordinary life, for Spinoza, is prone is bondage to the passions, as it is a life dominated by the pursuit of transitory goods like honor, sensual pleasure and wealth. According to Spinoza, human happiness and wellbeing do not lie in ordinary life. Rather, the good human life is a life according to the order of the intellect. This is because for Spinoza there is an intrinsic relationship between the pursuit of understanding and the pursuit of the good life, where the latter consists in increasing the power of the mind over the passions and, thereby, becoming free and virtuous. Life according to the order of the intellect is marked by two ways of understanding (adequate knowledge) according to Spinoza’s taxonomy of knowledge [cognitio] in the Ethics: reason (ratio) and intuitive knowledge (scientia intuitiva). In this paper, I give an account of the transition from ordinary life to life according to the order of the intellect with a particular emphasis on intuitive knowledge, which Spinoza describes as the source of the highest human happiness. While reason has received much attention from Spinoza scholars with regard to its power and limits in restraining the passions, the power of intuitive knowledge vis-à-vis the passions has been largely overlooked. Drawing on this neglected aspect of Spinoza’s thought, I propose that the above mentioned transition (a) is achieved by way of a transformative ascent that culminates in intuitive self-knowledge—i.e. adequate knowledge of our own essence as it directly follows from God’s essence, and (b) consists in a change in perspective that helps us to reorder our desires and, consequently, become less prone to harmful passions in this life.


Written by Barry Stocker

May 23, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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