The Desired System as a Goal Lying Beyond the Horizon

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Should you look for Spinoza’s complete system, you cannot find it in the most important of his works, the Ethics. This work is not the complete emendation by the supreme grade of knowledge of all the relevant empirical data (or of the common order of nature, which is the worldview of the first grade of knowledge, i.e., imaginatio). Moreover, it lacks even the complete method or the full list of the a priori principles that Spinoza’s philosophy requires and which pertains to ratio, the second grade of knowledge. In fact, the Ethics rests upon imaginatio and ratio and it refers to or describes some part of the supreme grade of knowledge (i.e., scientia intuitiva), but this essential information about this supreme grade of knowledge does not provide us with even one example of this grade of knowledge. In other words, there is not even one proposition in the Ethics that pertains to scientia inutitiva. Spinoza is the greatest challenger of the idea of piecemeal philosophy as he adopted the notion of open system, rejecting that of a closed, final one. I would say that the notion of a closed, final philosophical system is a product of the first grade of knowledge. It is an error, a philosophical failure, at least according to my interpretation of his philosophy. Behind this view of Spinoza lies an imperative: Never consider any achievement of our knowledge and understanding as final or closed. Any intellectual achievement of us, however great, is only a part, albeit adequate, of the complete desired system. The confidence of Spinoza in the truth of his philosophy is simply methodical. His method opens for us an infinite way leading to the desired system. The method guarantees that Nature is a coherent system, in which all its parts are united within an all-comprehensive whole. Each detail of Nature is necessarily, inseparably connected and united with the rest of them. Insofar as this method is not refuted, the way remains open. The truth of the method depends on the actual success of the emendation of the empirical data of our knowledge and that of our emotions. The truth of the method and its promises is conditioned by the particularization and concretization of its general rules and laws. In any case, the method is the constitutive part of the desired system. The open and incomplete nature of Spinoza’s system requires the efforts of other philosophers, now and in the future. Each can contribute her or his part to the desired system. Hegel similarly considered Spinoza’s philosophy but, alas, he believed his own system to be final and closed. A crucial part of Hegel’s system, its starting point, was, in his view, Spinoza’s system. Such was also the view of the Hegelian interpreters of Spinoza.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Archives of the History of Ideas/Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Idees
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameInternational Archives of the History of Ideas/Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Idees
ISSN (Print)0066-6610
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0307

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy
  • History
  • Religious studies


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