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460 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 34:3 JULY 1996 Graeme Hunter, editor. Spinoza: The Enduring Questions. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Pp. xi + 182. Cloth, $70.00. This volume of eight essays is dedicated to the memory of the late David Savan, and originated from a conference held in his honor prior to his untimely death. The lead essay is by Savan himself, and most of the other essays acknowledge the influence of his work. The first three essays address not only an "enduring question," but a question about enduring: namely, the nature of eternality and immortality in Spinoza's metaphysics. In a dense and detailed essay that amply rewards close analysis, Savan aims to clarify Spinoza's conception of eternity. That conception, Savan argues, cannot be identified with any of the three main conceptions dominant in previous philosophizing: (1) eternity as sempiternity; (2) eternity as Platonic timelessness; and (3) eternity as necessary existence, following from a thing's own essence. Chief among his reasons is that Spinoza characterizes eternity not as one superlative kind of existence, but rather as "existence itself," conceived in a certain way (i.e., conceived as "following from the definition itself of the eternal thing"). On Savan's interpretation, Spinoza has a strict or absolute sense of "eternity" in which only God can be said to be eternal, and another, qualified sense in which all singular things are eternal (as well as being contingent and durational). Thus, on Savan's interpretation, each individual human mind is itself eternal. His attribution of this latter doctrine to Spinoza is greatly facilitated by three other aspects of his interpretive procedure: (1) his unwillingness to draw a distinction between "eternal" and "conceived under a form of eternity"; his treatment of a thing's formal and actual essences as two "aspects" (eternal and durational, respectively) of what is in reality the same essence; and (3) his nominalizing tendency to read Spinoza as identifying (or nearly identifying) singular things with their essences. The result is that Spinoza's various remarks about the conceivability of the human mind "under a form of eternity" and about the eternality of the formal essence of the human mind can all be recruited as evidence that Spinoza regarded human minds themselves as eternal. Savan goes on to attribute to Spinoza the seemingly un-Spinozistic doctrine that "each distinctive existent is eternally free." In the essay immediately following Savan's, James C. Morrison outlines and reaffirms the strong textual evidence that, for Spinoza, it is only a part of each individual mind, and not the individual human mind itself, that is eternal. Leslie Armour offers a wildly speculative interpretation of Spinoza according to which human minds survive death because they will be re-expressed--complete with sets of distinctive personal memories--at some future time (or perhaps even "in some different world"), so that God and his eternal idea of each human being's essence may be expressed with maximal reality. Armour recommends interpreting Spinoza as holding this doctrine of the "afterlife as a continuing adventure" partly because of the doctrine's alleged capacity to provide emotional comfort--evidently without noticing that Spinoza's psychology involves a claim to demonstrate that the emotions attending adequate understanding are themselves capable of overcoming fear of death, quite without the need for quasiresurrections or quasi-reincarnations. BOOK REVIEWS 461 Edwin Curley's "Notes on a Neglected Masterpiece: Spinoza and the Science of Hermeneutics" takes as its starting point Savan's claim that Spinoza is the "founder of scientific hermeneutics." Rejccting the most extreme interpretation of this claim--i.e., that Spinoza created scientific hermeneutics ex nihilo--Curlcy carefully compares Spinoza 's contributions to Biblical criticism with those of Hobbes and Isaac La Peyr~re, and concludes that Spinoza's work possesses, in addition to a generally higher level of hermeneutical rigor, something quite specific that they do not--namely, "a well worked-out theory of what is required for the interpretation of a text." This theory demands that we begin by applying to textual interpretation the Cartesian strategy of "removing all prejudices" and preconceptions; doing so allows us to interpret a text such as the Bible in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 460-461
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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