online: 15 may 2002
modified: 17 may 2002

15 may 2002 non-dualism

9:23 Since 13th I have been intermittently reading and thinking about the theory of Spinoza and feeling that it is the first and only one that I like. As I read its beginnings I feel a conceptual warmth that to me is new, and most pleasant. And why? Because it is unitary, singular, and non-dualistic! And not Cartesian, not, not.

When I read it before (in Stuart Hampshire's introductory book*) I did not realise this - perhaps Stuart Hampshire does not realise it himself, though so open to Spinoza's thought; perhaps he is writing in and from and for a dualistic picture of life whereas I am not; perhaps I am incapable of dualism and perhaps Spinoza's is the first truly non-dualist theory I've read and that is why I so much like it! Perhaps that is why I have previously failed to enjoy or to understand ANY other theory or logic - all other rational theories of modern times being dualistic, at least in their beginnings, their assumptions, and their hateful language. Yes, yes.

And after writing that I feel better! (Whether it is true or not.)

After beginning to read of Spinoza, on 13th May, I noted this in my chronotes:

Spinoza, by Stuart Hampshire. Wonderful! As I read slowly through his axioms which proceed with complete and seamless logic to identify god and nature and all substance as one (!) I feel an intellectual warmth I've never felt before (even in art!).

And when I read how Spinoza disproves and replaces the dualism of 'a creator' (distinguished from) 'created entities' I feel a relief such as I've never felt. These simple means seem to lead me into a perception of unbounded happiness!...

and later I wrote this in my journal:

23:55 Having read Spinoza for most of the evening (provoked by reading Dijksterhuis** for most of the morning) I am in, not (quite) heaven, but delighted non-dualism. This is the first philosophy I feel in affinity with and which I enjoy. His equating of mind with body, idea with thing, and his other such assumptions, seem to constitute a view of life in which I am for the first time at home. Goodbye Descartes!

And now, on 15th May, I re-read the passages I'd underlined (in Stuart Hampshire's Spinoza) and decide to copy some of them here:

What must we suppose if Nature as a whole is to be regarded as completely intelligible? This is the question from which Spinoza begins. (page 218)

The Universe ... an infinite, eternal and self-creating substance... (page 217)

...the extravagant extension of pure reason in its furthest ambition, of which Spinoza is, after Plato, the greatest philosophic example. (page 226)

...his doctrine of the single substance conceived under two attributes implies that there can be no idea without something extended of which it is the idea, and there can be no extended thing of which there is no idea... (page 66-67)

This is the key to Spinoza's method in his moral theory and throughout his writing. (page 67) follows that for every extended thing there is an idea of that thing, and in the special case of a human body, that idea is a human mind. (page 67)

God or Nature [he treats the two as one] is free because self-determined; but self-determination is incompatible with undetermined or arbitrary choice, which is the meaning often attached to 'free' in its application to human actions. (page 50)

I have the impression that though A J Ayer (on page 7) writes that despite
Mr Hampshire's lucid exposition of it, Spinoza's thought is sometimes hard to follow
this difficulty may be great only to one (like A J Ayer) accustomed to dualism but unfamiliar with non-dualism - for I feel the logic of Spinoza's assumptions and axioms to be warm and easy to my mind whereas the principles of (dualistic?) logic are to me terribly hard, even meaningless and artificial! And now, to relate all this to the thinking of René Descartes, represented only by his most famous remark:
I think, therefore I am
...what do I feel and what do I notice? I feel a sense of egoic isolation and I notice the absence of concrete words. Where is the body? Insofar as he thinks like that - he is not René, he is mind. That is good, it is something of all of us, but it is not any one. There is something missing. Dualism is not inclusive, perhaps... What is?

...and then I noticed that it was already four in the afternoon and I'd not yet eaten breakfast. The power of ideas!

* the theory of Baruch, (or Benedictus, de) Spinoza as beautifully described by Stuart Hampshire in Spinoza, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex 1953.

** A chance process led me to E J Dijksterhuis, The Mechanization of the World Picture, translated by C Dikshoorn, Oxford University Press, London, Oxford, New York 1969 - which reminded me that DEmechanisation of things is my lifework - and that led me to begin re-reading Spinoza - with far more understanding and pleasure than before.

This began on 13th May, the magical birthday of Sarah Elizabeth Jones, student of philosophy and literature, and much besides. When I phoned to wish her a happy birthday she told me that her daughter Jennifer, my eldest grand daughter, has been reading this - and I was pleased.

17th May. And now Sarah tells me that she taught Stuart Hampshire's daughter at Wychwood School for a short time? Coincidence!

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© 2002 john chris jones

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