Monday, 16 January 2012

Species of madness

Death and the Miser
Hieronymus Bosch
from Wikipedia
But when a miser thinks nothing save money or coins, or an ambitious man of nothing save honour, these are not thought to be insane, for they are harmful and are thought worthy of hatred. But in truth, avarice, ambition, lust, etc., are nothing but species of madness, although they are not enumerated among diseases.
Benedict Spinoza – Ethics – Boyle translation.

Spinoza had a thing about ambition. In his strangely austere writings, there are very few hints of the man behind the words because he wanted his philosophy to be judged purely on its own merits. Nobody now writes like Spinoza and I suppose few ever did. The need to persuade is too strong.    

2 comments:

Sam Vega said...

Interesting point.

The writing is similar to Hobbes, when he sets out his view of human nature in accordance with the natural sciences. I wonder whether both Hobbes and Spinoza were deliberately suppressing their rhetorical flourishes precisely because they thought they were delineating a science of human behaviour? They certainly had as much, if not more, reason to persuade as modern writers.

A K Haart said...

SV - both were powerfully influenced by Euclid and that may be the link.

Euclid was Spinoza's ideal scholar in that he left enduring work but very little of the man behind that work.