“WHEN THE LORD, also known as god, realized that adam and eve, although perfect in every outward aspect, could not utter a word or make even the most primitive of sounds, he must have felt annoyed with himself, for there was no one else in the garden of eden whom he could blame for this grave oversight, after all, the other animals, who were, like the two humans, the product of his divine command, already had a voice of their own, be it a bellow, a roar, a croak, a chirp, a whistle or a cackle.”
– Jose Saramago, Cain
“No one can have lived in the world without observing that most people, when in prosperity, are so over-brimming with wisdom (however inexperienced they may be), that they take every offer of advice as a personal insult, whereas in adversity they know not where to turn, but beg and pray for counsel from every passer-by.”
– Baruch Spinoza
Johnathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment series is provacative and spot on concerning his estimation of Spinoza and his influence on the thinkers of his age. As Ann Talbot in a recent exploration of Israel’s work tells us “Spinoza was part of an international ideological movement. It has become customary to view the Enlightenment from various national perspectives, so that we have the French Enlightenment, the German Enlightenment or the Scottish Enlightenment. In rejecting this approach Israel is standing out against the prevailing academic attitude to the Enlightenment in which each national tradition has its own source material, its own secondary sources and its own body of professional specialists. And in doing so he finds a coherence that the period often lacks in other more national oriented treatments. (Spinoza Reconsidered)”
This was the Age of the Enlightenment in which natural philosophers travelled across the boundaries of nation states and corresponded with each other in an international mileau and regarded themselves as part of a global Republic of Letters. For Israel it was Spinoza who first waved the banner of a new form of materialism. Spinoza rejected Descartes dualism between body and soul and instead regarded the whole of nature, including mankind, as consisting of a single substance. For Spinoza, man’s thinking, just as much as his bodily nature, is a property of substance and is not the activity of an immaterial soul that animates the body as it was for many of his contemporaries.