Does Placidity Elevate Always? Hell No! On Spinoza’s Slumber


Do Cows Have Higher Minds? Spinoza’s Philosophy Condemned For Apathy

A famous leitmotiv of Baruch de Spinoza: “Man soll die Welt nicht belachen nicht beweinen sondern begreifen”. The quote (originally in Latin) is from his Tractatus theologico-politicus. English translation: “one should neither laugh at nor lament the world, but only understand it.” That sentiment has been much lauded, by those who want to feel elevated. It’s wrong in more ways than one.

Spinoza’s idea is that one would not associate the world with negativism, or positivism, tragedy or comedy, but just, well, understand it. Thus one would avoid categorizing, prejudice, bias, etc. which reminds us to avoid the tendency to categorize and judge other people or ideas (as if there was a different way of thinking than categorizing and judging stuff). 

Instead, Spinoza calls for an openness to learning, akin to what Jane Addams called “affectionate interpretation” in A modern Lear, her (flawed) interpretation of the lethal plutocratic events in Chicago in 1894. There was a strike, strikers were executed in a plutocratic plot, plutocrats won. Around 30 workers were murdered by railroad agents and their allies. Conveniently Ms. Addams depicts the malefactors as in need of “affectionate interpretation”. Quick! A Nobel Prize! 

Jane Addams: “good citizens actively pursue knowledge of others—not just facts but a deeper understanding—for the possibility of caring and acting on their behalf.” Depict suspected criminal against humanity Joe Biden, telling us “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble. The folks at the top aren’t bad guys…billionaires are actually nice guys”.  

Addams was famous for “Hull House”. Co-founder Ellen Gates Starr said of Jane Addams, “if the devil himself came riding down Halsted Street with his tail waving out behind him, [Jane Addams would say] what a beautiful curve he had in his tail.” Of course, Addams, as a good agent of plutocratic affectionate understanding, got the Nobel Peace prize in 1931 (she had also advanced “colored” people, etc…)

The idea is often attributed to HARVARD professor Santayana … probably because Hardwart is so superior. Actually Santanaya didn’t hide Spinoza’s influence on himYes, well, sometimes, the best citizens line up their U.S. Navy Dauntless dive bombers on that gigantic red sun on the yellow decks of the Akagi and Kaga plunging and waiting until the last second to drop their 1,000 pound bombs. In five minutes three large Japanese aircraft carriers from Pearl Harbor were on fire, shaken by explosions, and their elite aircrews were roasting… never to be replaced, as Japan, differently from the USA, didn’t have the plane-smart manpower, and gasoline, to train replacement aviators. 

Affectionate interpretation” as an advanced intellectual doctrine should have stopped long before it led to Auschwitz. The moral imperative is the exact opposite, when in doubt.

Now Baruch (“Blessed” in Hebrew) Spinoza had reason to play the passion-less violin, in times when people were executed for opinion on a routine basis by fascist autocrats such as Louis XIV, the Pope, the catholic Inquisition, and countless lesser tyrants throughout Europe. So, I excuse Spinoza, then. But I don’t excuse the same benevolent attitude to the world, now. Although I do use benevolence on a routine basis, I don’t make a religion of it. Actually, I made a religion of overruling it. 

Some view this method as the way to reject dogma and insist on reason. One couldn’t be more mistaken… A proof, as usual, was the apathy with which German Jews received Hitler: they got too busy trying to understand Hitler… affectionately, for the best. Thus they became not just victims, bt his accomplices 

The quote (originally in Latin) is from his Tractatus theologico-politicus, but the general idea recurs throughout his Ethics. It’s actually not so much a “should” as it is Spinoza’s attempt to describe his own method–what he’s endeavored to do through his philosophy.

Friedrich Nietzsche picks up on Spinoza’s method in The joyful wisdom (aka, “The Gay Science”, La Gaya Scienza). He emphasizes that the issue is not to replace emotions with reason, but actually to realize that reason grows from the emotions (hence their name, hey!):

“What does Knowing Mean? Non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere! says Spinoza, so simply and sublimely, as is his wont. Nevertheless, what else is this intelligere ultimately, but just the form in which the three other things become perceptible to us all at once? A result of the diverging and opposite impulses of desiring to deride, lament and execrate? Before knowledge is possible each of these impulses must first have brought forward its one-sided view of the object or event.”

Nietzsche is right, and Spinoza (whom he admired), at best, naive. Spinoza tried to deny our psychological motivation, as if intelligence was a castle in the air. Instead the deep emotions are the groundwork, the foundations, of logic. This is what Nietzsche noticed. Amusingly, René Descartes, contrarily to repute given by some cheap US author (Demasio), was not like Spinoza at all: Descartes was very aware, when constructing its magnificent advance in mathematics, of the psychological reasons to do so (I read the originals). To achieve constructive understanding was more satisfying he said, and thus he proceeded to make mathematics which could do so.

Spinoza was a great philosopher. To do so, he had to keep on polishing lenses (that killed him), refusing a belated university job. He had his reasons, that the times forced on him. He lived in a time where tyrants ruled Europe, and the world. The choice for free spirit was to be burned alive in Europe…many printers were, a century earlier, even in France:… or being eaten alive in the Pacific (no refrigeration!)

Nowadays, though, we have no excuses. The likes of Obama and the plutocratic leaders of the world dare say we need leaders, but, in truth, we need to be led by the best ideas, and that means the best cognition, no secrecy a la Xi. In that direction our moral trajectory curves.

Those trains of thought which advocate to collaborate with evil from “affectionate interpretation” should be rejected, so should Spinoza’s official lack of understanding upon how his mind worked. .

Patrice Ayme

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12 Responses to “Does Placidity Elevate Always? Hell No! On Spinoza’s Slumber”

  1. Gloucon X Says:

    “the apathy with which German Jews received Hitler: they got too busy trying to understand Hitler… affectionately, for the best. Thus they became not just victims, but his accomplices”

    I like this. Let’s use this with regard to our own situation:

    “the apathy with which nearly everyone receives Plutocracy: we get too busy trying to understand it… affectionately, for the best. Thus we become not just victims, but his accomplices”

    We are doing the same thing the Jews did with Hitler when we take the side of one plutocrat over another (Trump/Obama) hoping for the best from them, cherrypicking some trivial reform as a sign that they might be on our side when we know deeply that they are not. We know that they are evil and intent on perpetuating the self-serving plutocracy. We should know that trivial reforms by plutocrats are distractions, mere attempts to mollify. And this time, the victims are not just Jews or Russians, but the entire human race.

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    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks, Gloucon! Exactly! That’s what I trying to say.

      Actually, as Gmax pointed out, and i was explaining today to a young German visiting a top US university, Hitler was just a surface phenomenon. Below him, known to him, but not fully understood by him, stood US plutocracy and its attached Deep State. I have mentioned this all over: Henry Ford financed Hitler massively, before even 1923. US plutocrats (old terminology, poorly reflecting the extent of the phenomenon:”US capitalists”) were the basal system of the third reich, or even of Nazism before it got to power…

      “When I hear the word culture, I pull out my BROWING!” a top Nazi minister said… Now people say:…pull out my gun!… But he actually was armed wit a CONTRABAND Browning, from the Browning brand, a US made gun… as were all Nazis… IBM had the monopoly of computing in Nazi Germany…

      Dehomag was a German subsidiary of IBM with monopoly in the German market before and during World War II. The word was an acronym for Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft mbH (English: German Hollerith Machines LLC).

      All the Nazy Synthetic fuel making was from secret US plutocratic processes known only to the Nazis: the accord had explicitly excluded revealing the processes to US and Allied countries…
      Und so weiter…

      The very fact that Hitler-Mussolini-Franco were US plutocracy extensions has been kept secret… It’s a bit more known, paradoxically, about Stalin, who profited immensely of Lend-Lease (so did Britain, but to sink it, after it sank Germany) Saudi Arabia was part of the same trick… So are iraq and iran… to this day, in plain sight: the shutting down of their production, in the guise of irreconcilable differences, has insured a US plutocrats’ monopoly on fossil fuels…

      The key is that the core of the fossil fuel plutocracy is actually a branch of its dominant partner, the financial plutocracy. Now the NYT, say, has blatant US financial plutocracy plants posing as “journalists”…. Those individuals, with multiple family ties with Wall Street, and immense fortunes, never, ever, publish any of my comments… Of course… Most readers of the NYT and associated publications (dozen of millions of readers) have ZERO idea that this is happening. These days they produce several anti-Sanders articles, each day….

      As you say the entire human race, because the will to destroy other humans is the deepest secret of human neuroethics…

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    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Berkeley’s Boalt was a well-known racist, so was Henry Ford (Hitler first sponsor), US president Wilson, Bush, Harrimans, Dulles, Standard Oil, IBM, etc. Basically much of present US plutocracy’s ancestors in genes and ways collaborated with German racial fascism.

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  2. Gloucon X Says:

    This writer believes that the plutos in the Allied countries were more concerned about stopping the rise of socialism and the USSR than they were in stopping Hitler.

    https://dennisriches.wordpress.com/2020/02/03/still-fighting-the-great-war/#_edn9

    “Most discussions of wars focus on what had to be done to end them once they had started—on their proximate effects. These produce the simple narratives about good and evil, moral justifications for intervention, and patriotic tales of the soldiers who defeated villainy. I prefer to focus on the long prodrome of the illness—actions taken and actions not taken to prevent the catastrophe that every honest observer could see coming.”

    “After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, debate raged about whether to send aid to the Soviet Union, and Senator Harry Truman voiced this popular opinion: “If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.””

    “During Hitler’s rise in the 1930s, numerous American banks, investment firms and industries reaped enormous profits by helping Germany build up its industrial and military capacities. Britain and the US controlled most of the world oil supply, and if they had really been concerned about the threat posed by Germany, they could have cut off its access to oil. No oil, no war. It was that simple. This trade was done partly out of greed but also out of a desire to strengthen Germany so that it could defeat socialism in Europe and the Soviet Union.”

    “The policy was similar in Britain and France during the 1930s because these two countries continuously rebuffed Soviet offers to form an alliance against Germany. Stalin finally gave up trying to convince them to act together against the German threat. It was only then that he entered the non-aggression pact with Hitler (not an alliance, as anti-communist historians constantly mislabel it). Stalin had no illusions about Hitler honoring the pact for long, but it bought time for the Soviets to prepare for the invasion that came in June 1941.”

    “Many American companies continued doing business with Nazi Germany right up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As Ford Motor Company was happy to point out in its 2001 investigation into the activities of Ford-Werke, at the start of the war, 250 American firms owned more than $450 million worth of German assets, with 58.5 percent being owned by the top ten. Among the companies were familiar names like Standard Oil, Woolworth, IT&T, Singer, International Harvester, Eastman Kodak, Gillette, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Westinghouse, and United Fruit. Ford ranked sixteenth, holding only 1.9 percent of the total U.S. investment. Standard Oil and GM topped the list, holding 14 and 12 percent, respectively.”

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    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      “Now they say that the allies never helped us, but it can’t be denied that the Americans gave us so many goods without which we wouldn’t have been able to form our reserves and continue the war,” Soviet General Georgy Zhukov said after the end of WWII.

      “We didn’t have explosives, gunpowder. We didn’t have anything to charge our rifle cartridges with. The Americans really saved us with their gunpowder and explosives. And how much sheet steel they gave us! How could we have produced our tanks without American steel? But now they make it seem as if we had an abundance of all that. Without American trucks we wouldn’t have had anything to pull our artillery with.”

      Zukov was the greatest Soviet marshall, and directed the attack on Berlin…

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    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      US companies in Germany kept on working through the war. They were mostly spared bombing. Famous example is that Cologne was flattened by carpet bombing… Unbelieving US soldiers observed miles of untouched factories on the EAST (the other) side of the Rhine…
      None of the 35 IBM factories active in Germany got hit enough to stop operations. One got its roof blown off.
      US GIs met Ford Wehrmacht trucks in Normandy, and so on…

      The collusion between US plutocracy and German/Nazi was extreme: with this revelation I like to make, I have lost many of my once closest US “friends”… But said revelations tells lots about the NATURE of plutocracy (DIABOLICAL!)

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  3. Dennis Riches Says:

    Good point in the comment above about the lend-lease program of assistance from the US to the USSR. It just shows how divided the US was in those days. FDR saw the Soviets as allies while people like Allen Dulles were busy preparing the exfiltration and rehabilitation of Nazis in Western countries.

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    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hi Dennis and welcome!
      There was no contradiction. Fascist German plutocrats and fascist Bolsheviks collaborated tightly since 1916… German generals used by Hitler had often trained in the USSR… That’s why they thought they could get it, and may well have except for the Yougoslave/Greece/Crete campaign in 1941, and the deviation of “Case Blue”, in 1942, towards the Black Sea, back to Rostov, and then the sending of Manstein’s 4th army to Leningrad, preventing the seizure of the Don-Volga land bridge, and the seizure of the Baku oil fields the Nazis (and the Soviets) desperately needed.

      The Dulles Brothers and FDR had the same aim, the aim Wilson and Colonel House already had in WW1: US supremacy at any cost. Germans were just robots they used to fight other robots, chewing up the European world wide empires in the process to replace it by the “American Century” empire. It’s only now that the USA is thinking to let Africa and the Middle East go… 64 years after the US crushed France-Britain-Israel at Suez… While giving (again!) Eastern Europe to the Soviets…

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    • Gloucon X Says:

      Yes Dennis, that Truman quote was in June 1941 a few days after the German invasion of the USSR. Some aid was sent to the USSR in Oct. and then massive aid was sent after Dec. when we entered the war. Yet here was Truman clowning around, happy to see Russian soldiers killed—even though those soldiers were now fighting the same German army that was killing British and French troops in N Africa and would be killing Americans six months later. Even at that late date, American leaders did not see stopping Hitler as the highest priority.

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  4. Gmax Says:

    OK, down with Spinoza! There is much to say about Spinoza promoting the intellectual apathy of the Jews that enabled Prussians and Nazis to massacre them.

    Jews kept on not bemoaning the world… until it was too late

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    • Gloucon X Says:

      Wait. Didn’t the Jews excommunicate Spinoza and ban his writings? I’m not certain he’s the reason behind their behavior regarding the Nazis.

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      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Maybe he was not the reason, but he incarnated it. Spinoza was incredibly influential, especially among Jews: as one can see by reading Einstein…. Einstein collaborated intensely, including NATIONALISTICALLY, thus fascistically with Max Planck, who was perhaps the MOST prominent German barbarity denier… Planck paid a heavy price, in spite of his conversations with Hitler… He got devoured by the demon he contributed to launch with Einstein… attributing to Einstein more genius than he really had…. One needs to write a tragedy about that circus…

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