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Peeling Potatoes or Grinding Lenses

Spinoza and Young Wittgenstein Converse on Immanence and Its Logic

Aristides Baltas

Publication Year: 2012

More than 250 years separate the publication of Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In Peeling Potatoes or Grinding Lenses, Aristides Baltas contends that these works bear a striking similarity based on the idea of “radical immanence.” He analyzes the structure and content of each treatise, the authors’ intentions, the limitations and possibilities afforded by scientific discovery in their respective eras, their radical opposition to prevailing philosophical views, and draws out the particulars, as well as the implications, of the arresting match between the two.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Front Cover

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Front Flap

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xv

The National Technical University of Athens, where I started studying and where I continue teaching, has always been liberal with leaves of absence and helpful in many other ways. I am grateful to those who people and have peopled it—students, colleagues, secretaries, chairpersons, rectors—for unfailing support and encouragement...

Note on References and Abbreviations

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p. xvii

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Coordinates of a Conversation

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pp. 1-22

Throughout the following pages I argue that Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosphicus (TLP) and Spinoza’s Ethics (E) both pursue the same end. We can profitably take each as aiming to establish that there cannot be any position outside the world, thought, and language, that there can be no overarching standpoint from which anyone...

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Chapter 1. Mutual Introductions

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pp. 23-39

Nietzsche acknowledged that God might well not be the traditional God of monotheism, a superperson endowed with all the proper anthropomorphic attributes elevated to the superlative. He understood perfectly that God is fundamentally a transcending court of ultimate appeal and an overarching position put there to collect whatever might satisfy humanity’s...

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Chapter 2. Purposes and Ends

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pp. 40-62

Whether it is spelled out ontologically, logically, or otherwise, the perspective of radical immanence leaves no room for any higher power to which one can appeal in case of need or any higher authority one can obey in case of doubt. To go on with one’s life, one can work only with what the world at large can provide for the purpose, or more specifically, with...

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Chapter 3. Grammar

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pp. 63-87

Almost 300 years of historical distance separates Spinoza from Wittgenstein. Hence the question inevitably surfaces: why are their works so strikingly similar? Were the associated historical changes not important enough, or is the relevant philosophical activity capable of ignoring—or eradicating—historical change? How does it take account, if it does...

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Chapter 4. Strategies

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pp. 88-112

The difference in the philosophical spaces available to Spinoza and Wittgenstein gave Spinoza’s strategy a narrower range of possibilities for unfolding; the wider range Wittgenstein enjoyed let him pursue a more intricate strategy. For this reason, understanding Wittgenstein’s strategy may help in understanding the perspective of radical immanence overall...

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Chapter 5. Organizing Content

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pp. 113-136

If the first movement of Wittgenstein’s strategy is subsumed under the second, then the propositions Wittgenstein advances along the first movement should be set forth in a way that makes them all self-destruct when the second movement is completed. Everything identifying and connecting those propositions within the body of that work—the way they...

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Chapter 6. Metaphysics

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pp. 137-173

To answer these questions, recall how the scientific upheavals of his day determined how each man set out to accomplish his task. My discussion of this, however, was restricted and in a sense anachronistic: it highlighted only the conceptual and hence grammatical aspects of those upheavals and aimed only at displaying how awareness—sharp in the case of Wittgenstein...

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Chapter 7. Matching Content

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pp. 174-193

The minimalist metaphysics we have been examining envisions us as inseparably bonded bodies and minds thrown into a world that consists of other bodies and other minds and, in the last analysis, nothing else. It remains to see how Spinoza and Wittgenstein take account of these absolutely fundamental facts, as well as whether and to what extent their...

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Chapter 8. Matching Form

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pp. 194-230

We just saw how Wittgensteinian facts and their pictures match Spinozistic extended modes and their ideas taken one by one. But Spinoza holds that both extended modes and ideas are “ordered and connected,” with the order and connection identical in the corresponding two Attributes. The task at this juncture is thus to clarify this relationship and to examine...

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Exodus: Toward History and Its Surprises

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pp. 231-251

Evidence provided by his biographers shows that Spinoza had neither the opportunity nor the inclination to return to the Ethics after finishing it. As is well known, he had interrupted its composition to write his Theologico-Political Treatise, and after going back to complete the Ethics, he started composing the Political Treatise, a work his death interrupted...


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pp. 253-273


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pp. 275-284


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pp. 285-290

E-ISBN-13: 9780822977902
E-ISBN-10: 0822977907
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822944164
Print-ISBN-10: 0822944162

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 794925898
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Peeling Potatoes or Grinding Lenses

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Subject Headings

  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1889-1951. Tractatus logico-philosophicus.
  • Spinoza, Benedictus de, 1632-1677. Ethica.
  • God.
  • Logic, Symbolic and mathematical.
  • Immanence (Philosophy).
  • Language and languages -- Philosophy.
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