- Behind the Geometrical Method: A Reading of Spinoza's "Ethics", and: The Form of Man: Human Essence in Spinoza's "Ethic" (review)
- Journal of the History of Philosophy
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 29, Number 1, January 1991
- pp. 135-137
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS 135 curious twist of reasoning, saw prae-Adamism not merely as a critical or scientific solution to the difficulties of Biblical history but as the key to history's denouement: Only if humanity at large could understand that Israel had once been chosen, would be recalled and ultimately united with an intellectually reformed Christendom, could the age of peace begin on earth. A second twist could make a weapon of racism out of what La Peyr6re called his Copernican hypothesis, his simple shift of perspective that changed nothing but seemed in his eyes to make sense of everything. L. E. GOODMAN University of Hawaii at Manoa Edwin Curley. Behind the Geometrical Method: A Reading of Spinoza's "Ethics." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. Pp. xxi + 175. Cloth, $25.oo. Paper, $9.95. Lucia Lermond. The Form of Man: Human Essence in Spinoza's "Ethic." Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, Vol. 11. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988. Pp. 86. $24.oo. Behind the Geometrical Method is a revised version of E. M. Curley's Jerusalem Spinoza Lectures, originally given at Hebrew University in May, 1984. Like the original lectures , the book is aimed at a dual audience: Spinoza scholars and persons with less knowledge of, but interest in, Spinoza. Although Curley is apologetic regarding his efforts to make Spinoza intelligible to the latter, he has achieved success in this respect without sacrificing interest to scholars. The title alludes to his strategy, which is to show how Spinoza might have arrived at his system through critical reflection on the work of his important predecessors, Hobbes and Descartes, an origin which is largely concealed by the geometric mode of presentation. The first two chapters deal with metaphysical topics, chiefly Spinoza's substance monism, his theory of human nature, and the relation of mind and body. The third chapter focuses on the psychology and ethical doctrine. In Chapter 1 Curley attempts to show that Spinoza has "a powerful argument, from principles Descartes would have had difficulty rejecting, to the most uncartesian conclusion that there is only one substance, God" (3o). The argument he refers to is that given by Spinoza in the demonstration of E 1. 14, which cites def. 6 and props. 5 and 11 of Ethics 1. On Curley's view the most problematic of these premises for Descartes would have been E 1. 5: "In nature there cannot be two substances of the same nature or attribute." Descartes must have rejected this, since he held there could be a plurality of thinking substances. Curley, however, cites solid textual evidence and makes a strong argument that Descartes was in fact committed to the identification of substance and attribute and other principles which underlie the demonstration of E 1.5. Thus Spinoza correctly saw that on Descartes's premises numerically different substances must have different attributes. In Chapter 2 Curley defends an interpretation of Spinoza's view of the mind-body relation first put forward by Stuart Hampshire, and again attempts to show how Spinoza could have come to that view of the mind and body through reflection on the 136 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 29:1 JANUARY ~991 Cartesian view? Like another recent commentator, Jonathan Bennett, Curley is struck by those passages in which Spinoza says that a mode of extension and its idea, or mind and body, are one and the same (E 2.7, sch.; 2.2 l, sch.).~But Curley rejects Bennett's theory of the transattribute differentiae as a way of explaining these passages, saying that he finds the theory incredible since the transattribute differentiae cannot be grasped by the intellect (156). On Curley's interpretation those passages which attribute identity to mind and body are best understood as expressing Spinoza's affinity with materialism. The materialism which Curley attributes to Spinoza is not reductive materialism; he does not attempt to trivialize or explain away the conceptual independence of the order of thought and the order of extension in Spinoza's system. Rather, he emphasizes two other aspects of Spinoza's theory which seem to justify calling it materialist. These are that the essential nature of the mind is to be the idea...