The Departmental Colloquium
(Ben Gurion University)
Spinoza on Being Finite
Among the many questions that are raised regarding Spinoza’s metaphysics, none is as challenging as the one concerning the viability of finite things within his espoused monism. Simply put, having established that there exists only an infinite substance, there seems to be no ontological space for other individual beings. Commentators have offered different strategies for addressing this issue. Idealists claim that given Spinoza’s more fundamental metaphysical and epistemological commitments, ultimately, there are no finite things for Spinoza. According to this interpretation, finite beings are at best mind-dependent and, at worst, incoherent. Realists stress textual evidence where Spinoza claims there are finite modes but fail to explain how they are to be accounted for metaphysically. In this paper, I propose an account of finite modes that answers the metaphysical concerns that guide the idealist account while going beyond the mere insistence on textual grounds that guide the realist camp. That is, I offer both a metaphysical account of what finite modes are within Spinoza’s metaphysics as well an epistemological justification of their existence. To this end I will claim that finite modes, paradoxically seeming perhaps at first, are not wholly finite. That is, a finite thing is determined by the totality of finite things—wherein lies its finite aspect, but at the same time, and equally, partially actively determines this totality—wherein lies its infinite aspect. Furthermore, I will suggest that some of my claims about Spinoza can be seen as a particular instance of a strategy for forestalling radical monism more generally. Central to this claim is the recognition that all inquiry necessarily originates from the first-person perspective and that the confusion that is the mark of the origin of inquiry is itself possible only on the condition that there is real diversity of one kind or another.
Tuesday, 7 January 2020 | 12:30-14:00
LLCC/CogSci seminar room, Australia Complex, Mt. Scopus