The Young Spinoza: A Metaphysician in the Making

ISBN : 9780199971664

Yitzhak Y. Melamed
384 Pages
169 x 238 mm
Pub date
May 2015
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Ex nihilo nihil fit. Philosophy, especially great philosophy, does not appear out of the blue. In the current volume, a team of top scholars-both up-and-coming and established-attempts to trace the philosophical development of one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Featuring twenty new essays and an introduction, it is the first attempt of its kind in English and its appearance coincides with the recent surge of interest in Spinoza in Anglo-American philosophy. Spinoza's fame-or notoriety-is due primarily to his posthumously published magnum opus, the Ethics, and, to a lesser extent, to the 1670 Theological-Political Treatise. Few readers take the time to study his early works carefully. If they do, they are likely to encounter some surprising claims, which often diverge from, or even utterly contradict, the doctrines of the Ethics. Consider just a few of these assertions: that God acts from absolute freedom of will, that God is a whole, that there are no modes in God, that extension is divisible and hence cannot be an attribute of God, and that the intellectual and corporeal substances are modes in relation to God. Yet, though these claims reveal some tension between the early works and the Ethics, there is also a clear continuity between them. Spinoza wrote the Ethics over a long period of time, which spanned most of his philosophical career. The dates of the early drafts of the Ethics seem to overlap with the assumed dates of the composition of the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and the Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well Being and precede the publication of Spinoza's 1663 book on Descartes' Principles of Philosophy. For this reason, a study of Spinoza's early works (and correspondence) can illuminate the nature of the problems Spinoza addresses in the Ethics, insofar as the views expressed in the early works help us reconstruct the development and genealogy of the Ethics. Indeed, if we keep in mind the common dictum "-which Spinoza frequently cites and appeals to-it is clear that great works like the Ethics do not appear ex nihilo. In light of the preeminence and majesty of the Ethics, it is difficult to study the early works without having the Ethics in sight. Still, we would venture to say that the value of Spinoza's early works is not at all limited to their being stations on the road leading to the Ethics. A teleological attitude of such a sort would celebrate the works of the " at the expense of the early works. However, we have no reason to assume that on all issues the views of the Ethics are better argued, developed, and motivated than those of the early works. In other words, we should keep our minds open to the possibility that on some issues the early works might contain better analysis and argumentation than the Ethics.


1 Spinoza's Lost Defense
Edwin Curley
2 Fictio / Verziering (e) in Spinoza's Early Writings
Filippo Mignini
3 The Problem of True Ideas in Spinoza's Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect
Alan Nelson
4 Truth in Spinoza's Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect
John Morrison
5 Spinoza's Rules of Living
Michael LeBuffe
6 Leibniz on Spinoza's Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione
Mogens Laerke
7 Spinoza's Cartesian Dualism in the Korte Verhandeling
Daniel Garber
8 Reason in the Short Treatise
Colin Marshall
9 Spinoza's Calvin: Reformed Theology in the Korte Verhandeling
Russ Leo
10 Spinoza, the Will, and the Ontology of Power
John Carriero
11 Spinoza's Essentialism in the Short Treatise
Valtteri Viljanen
12 When was Spinoza not Young any More?
Frederic Manzini
13 Spinoza on Eternity and Duration: the 1663 Connection
Tad M. Schmaltz
14 Spinoza on Negation, Mind-Dependence and the Reality of the Finite
Karlolina Hubner
15 Temporalities and Kinds of Cognition in the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, the Short Treatise, and the Ethics
Oded Schechter
16 Spinoza's Early Anti-Abstractionism
Samuel Newlands
17 A Glimpse into Spinoza's Metaphysical Laboratory: The Development of the Concepts of Substance and Attribute
Yitzhak Y. Melamed
18 From the Passive to the Active Intellect
Ursula Renz
19 Degrees of Essence and Perfection in Spinoza
John Brandau
20 The Young Spinoza and the Vatican Manuscript of Spinoza's Ethics
Pina Totaro

About the author: 

Yitzhak Y. Melamed is a Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Spinoza's Metaphysics (OUP, 2013), and co-editor of Spinoza's Theological Political Treatise: A Critical Guide (2011), and of Spinoza and German Idealism ( 2012).

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