קולוקוויום מחלקתי 4.12.2012

יום ג', 04/12/2012 - 14:00 - 15:30

הפקולטה למדעי הרוח                      המחלקה לפילוסופיה כללית

 

 

 

 

קולוקוויום מחלקתי

 

הנכם מוזמנים להרצאה שתינתן במסגרת הקולוקוויום המחלקתי

 

פרופ' יצחק מלמד

Johns Hopkins University

 

ירצה על הנושא:

 

המיראולוגיה של שפינוזה

 

ההרצאה תתקיים ביום שלישי, כ' בכסלו תשע"ג, 4 בדצמבר 2012

 

בשעה 14:00, בבניין 1002, חדר 201

 

 

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תקציר ההרצאה מצורף בהמשך.

 

ההשתתפות חובה לכל תלמידי התואר השני והתואר השלישי.


 

Spinoza's Mereology

In a recent elegant article, Jonathan Schaffer suggested that Spinoza belongs to the great chain of priority monists in the history of Western philosophy. The monist, according to Schaffer, “holds that the whole is prior to its parts, and thus views the cosmos as fundamental, with metaphysical explanation dangling downward from the One. The pluralist holds that the parts are prior to their whole, and thus tends to consider particles fundamental, with metaphysical explanation snaking upward from the many.” While it is true that for Spinoza God (or Nature) is prior to anything else, it would be a mischaracterization to claim that for Spinoza God is a whole. Spinoza hardly ever refers to parts of God, and, as I will later show, he seems to hold that parts are prior to their wholes both in the order of nature and in the order of knowledge. Thus, while Spinoza would clearly support Schaffer’s conclusion that the universe (i.e., God or nature, in Spinoza’s lingo) – conceived by Schaffer as an actual concrete object – is prior to anything that is in the universe, he would not characterize this priority relation as the priority of a whole to its parts, but rather as the priority of substance to its modes.

            It is already worth noting at this point that one does not have to make a principled choice between the priority of parts and the priority of the whole. It is at least initially plausible that one could hold some wholes to be prior to their parts, while holding that other wholes are posterior/dependent on their parts. Furthermore, one could even reasonably argue that the same whole is prior to some parts (e.g., the cake is prior to its slices), yet posterior to other parts (e.g., the ingredients of the cake are prior to the cake).  In such cases we would surely ask the proponent of the view to explain the precise senses of the priority at stake and show the consistency of his or her intuitions, but this is a universal requirement from any view on the issue.

            Mereology and the concept of part has a central role in Spinoza’s metaphysics and is closely related to many of his key notions, such as substance, Extension, power, infinity, infinite modes, parallelism, adequacy and inadequacy of ideas, individuals, and singular things [res singulares]. Yet, the topic has hardly been discussed in the existing literature.Mereology became a vital field in analytic metaphysics only relatively recently (roughly over the past two decades), and this could explain part of the scholarly neglect among historians of modern metaphysics who frequently follow the trends of contemporary metaphysics. Paucity of early modern primary sources discussing mereology was never an issue; most of Spinoza’s works include detailed discussions of part and whole. In fact, one of the major obstacles in the study of Spinoza’s mereology is finding a way to ease and reconcile the tensions among various claims of Spinoza, tensions that could be due to local inconsistencies, equivocal use of ‘part [pars]’, or genuine changes in Spinoza’s understanding of parts and wholes. Spinoza developed his philosophy over a period of almost two decades, and it is clear that he kept revising his views, including, as we shall see, some of his mereological assumptions.

            In the following I will attempt to reconstruct the outline of Spinoza’s mereology. Doubtlessly, I will not be able to provide here a full and comprehensive account, but I do hope to make some significant headway toward the development of such an account. In the first part of this paper, I will begin with a preliminary exploration of Spinoza’s understanding of part and whole and attempt to explain Spinoza’s claim that certain things are indivisible. In the second part, I will study and explain Spinoza’s view on the priority of parts to their wholes, and point out the contrast between the whole-part and substance-mode relationships in Spinoza. In the third part I will investigate the termini of Spinoza’s mereology: the largest wholes and the smallest parts (if there are any). In the fourth part, I will attempt to explain and motivate Spinoza’s claim that mereology cuts across the attributes, i.e., the fact that the parallelism among the attributes preserves the same mereological relations. In order to motivate this claim we will have to clarify the relationship between mereology and causation in Spinoza, and explain his notion of “singular things.”