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December 12 , 2008

Spinoza and Dutch Cartesianism


Alexander X. Douglas offers a new understanding of Spinozas philosophy by situating it in its immediate historical context. He defends a thesis about Spinozas philosophical motivations and then bases an interpretation of his major works upon it. The thesis is that much of Spinozas philosophy was conceived with the express purpose of rebutting a claim about the limitations of philosophy made by some of his contemporaries. They held that philosophy is intrinsicallyincapable of revealing anything of any relevance to theology, or in fact to any study of direct practical relevance to human life. Spinoza did not. He believed that philosophy reveals the true nature of God, and that God is nothing like what the majority of theologians, or indeed of religiousbelievers in general, think he is. The practical implications of this change in the concept of God were profound and radical. As Douglas shows, many of Spinozas theories were directed towards showing how the separation his opponents endeavoured to maintain between philosophical and non-philosophical (particularly theological) thought was logically untenable.

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