Sunday, December 4, 2022


      Spinoza challenged the older philosopher's segregation of mental substance from material substance, arguing instead that mind and matter were not two separable substances but simply two different attributes, or aspects, of one and the same substance, which he called Deus, sive Natura, "God, or Nature."  This unitary substance would appear as matter, on the one hand, or as mind, on the other, depended upon the vantage we viewed it from. Just as, according to Spinoza, the vast and originating power that his contemporaries called "God" was nothing other than the creative dynamism and intelligence of Nature itself, so the human mind was simply the specific sensitivity and sentience of that part of nature we recognize as the human body.  Every material body or thing, for Spinoza, had its mental aspect—all things were ensouled.  The human body was the outward material aspect of the human mind, as the mind was nothing other than the internal, felt experience of the body.  "The mind and the body are one and the same thing. . ."

     It was such heretical assertions, articulated in numerous conversations with his contemporaries, that in his twenty-fourth year earned Spinoza the harshest possible reproach from the elders of the flourishing synagogue in Amsterdam: he was excommunicated, formally cursed, and banished from the Jewish community.  Spinoza accepted this exile without the least objection, remarking only that it left him freer to pursue his researches without distraction.

-David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

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