Event Detail

Thu Sep 20, 2007
Howison Library, 4:10–6 PM
Philosophy Colloquium
Michael Ayers (University of California, Berkeley)
Spinoza, Platonism and Naturalism

The aim of this paper is to achieve a broad understanding of the structure and point of Spinoza’s metaphysical arguments in the light of their philosophical context. Even taken in context, however, his wonderful system is capable of being read in quite different ways.
He could, for example, be a neoplatonist in the Jewish philosophical tradition, looking for a way to include Cartesian physics within his monism. He could be a disciple of Descartes, seeking to find solutions to certain difficulties for Cartesian metaphysics. He could be something quite different, a philosopher aiming at a thoroughly naturalistic system, reducing God to nature. Which is he? I will propose a perhaps surprising answer that I believe accounts for the real plausibility of each of these stories. There is some close analysis of the text in illustration of relevant features of his argument, but this is a ‘gateway to Spinoza’s metaphysics’ paper, seeking an overall understanding of his philosophical position.