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Thursday, May 18, 2006 

"A permanent ongoing epiphany"

This article (kindly sent to me by K as well!) on Spinoza of course gets some things wrong, but not anything most people who aren't me are likely to care about. A quick mention of a couple of old bugbears, though: Spinoza was not a monist, and he's about as hostile to romantic love as the Stoics were; in other words, not nearly as much as people think. But the article is overall very very good; if nothing else, this passage about the effect of really reading the Ethic is fantastic and very true to my experience:

Goldstein, a professor of philosophy at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., writes of seeing her students transformed by Spinoza's "Ethics." At first, they're put off by the "eccentricity -- both in form and content -- of this impenetrable work." But eventually, they make "their way into Spinoza's way of seeing things, watching the entire world reconfigure itself in the vision ... One feels oneself change, however impermanently, as one beholds Spinoza's point of view -- the point of view that approaches, though it can never match, 'the Infinite Intellect of God.' One's whole sense of oneself, and what it is one cares about, tilts -- in a direction that certainly feels like up. Year after year, I've watched what happens with my students when Spinoza begins to take hold, and it's always moving beyond measure."

All this and Neal Stephenson quotations! How can you resist?

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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