• Spinoza and the Rule of Reason

    Peter Critchley (see profile)
    Philosophy, Spinoza, Benedictus de, 1632-1677
    Item Type:
    rationalism, Spinoza
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    Spinoza is the rationalist philosopher par excellence, making every conceivable emancipatory claim for reason in delineating the connection of reason to freedom and power. This kind of philosophy has been challenged in recent times by postmodernist modes of thought. Whereas Spinoza affirms knowledge as power in a positive sense, the likes of Michel Foucault argue a knowledge/power nexus that savours more of an Hobbesian ceaseless conflict. This thesis highlights the ‘radical’ aspects of Spinoza’s rationalist philosophy, finding inspiration in his God-Nature relation, his democratic politics and his commitment to free rational thinking as subversive of all forms of coercive or state-sanctioned religious doctrine. The book argues that Spinoza makes it possible to resist the postmodernist drift by affirming the possibility of separating truth from illusion, reason from rhetoric. In this manner, philosophy can retain its emancipatory function and engage the political, social and economic issues of the day in a critical and emancipatory sense. In delineating the terms of freedom, knowledge and power and in showing their connection to each other, Spinoza offers a means of resisting the relativising tendencies of contemporary theory and, indeed, the way that this relativism in ethics serves existing power and entrenches the forces of political conservatism. The truth, for Spinoza, is the product not of consensus-belief but of rational critique which subjects existing norms and values to question. Not the least of Spinoza’s achievements is to have shown how such rational critique – the very stuff of philosophy – is no longer an elitist concern leading to the philosopher-ruler but has the potential to emancipate all humankind, since knowledge is key to an active relation to the world."
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    5 years ago
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