Spinoza

We finish Lenoir’s Philosopher’s Guide in Happiness today. He’s given us a Gallic perspective on our subject, and a refreshingly happier one than we’re accustomed to getting from the likes of Sartre and Camus. We must imagine Sisyphus happy, with his rock? But the Algerian was onto something crucial when he said “real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.” The cultural stereotype says French people don’t want to be happy, not in the American way at least, but Lenoir delightfully defies it.

Lenoir exits the page with Spinoza, who breathed his last request… for beer. Something about that strikes me as deeply reverential for life (if you like beer). I intend to follow suit.

But I still can’t embrace a “Spinozism of freedom,” or agree that free will is a cruel illusion. It may be a happy one, or none at all. If he’s right, though, we can’t actually choose either to renounce or affirm it – can we? Or reconstruct our conative wills, at will? “We can do what we want, but cannot want what we want,” if we take this line. Or so Schopenhauer, another determined fatalist, supposed.

And: a truly pantheistic universe, perfectly and integrally stitched by rational necessity, really ought to yield universals and absolutes. But Spinoza rejects this. Why?

Why do Spinozists allow themselves to entertain and applaud even delusional sources of bliss? Einstein’s endorsement of “Spinoza’s God” seems the better model, admitting our relative ignorance of all the cosmic laws but still wonder-struck by their consistency and compelled by intellectual curiosity (aka “love of god”) to seek their accurate articulation.

Lenoir cites a Bengali Swami, Anandamayi, as having expressed the core of Spinoza’s bliss in these terms: “There isn’t an inch of earth where God is not.” The world in its totality (as distinct from its parts, in all their unreconciled plurality) would be a lot easier to accept, if you believed this. 

But, seriously: how can you?
5:30/6:49, 60/87

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