Sunday, June 9, 2013

Spinoza to Simon De Vries: No Experience Necessary

from Spinoza in Cartoons*
Respected Friend,You ask me if we have need of experience, in order to know whether the definition of a given attribute is true. To this I answer, that we never need experience, except in cases when the existence of the thing cannot be inferred from its definition, as, for instance, the existence of modes (which cannot be inferred from their definition); experience is not needed, when the existence of the things in question is not distinguished from their essence, and is therefore inferred from their definition. This can never be taught us by any experience, for experience does not teach us any essences of things; the utmost it can do is to set our mind thinking about definite essences only. Wherefore, when the existence of attributes does not differ from their essence, no experience is capable of attaining it for us. ...[Italics mine, more info below]**
Letter XXVIII, courtesy of Online Library of Liberty.

To which I, Sarah Sarai, say, what?  Experience doesn't teach us a thing's essence? Okay, then. I vote for intuition and a holy flash of understanding. Experience can be a first step, but if something is what it is, well, then, that's that, and it can stay on the top shelf in a Chinese pagoda while I know it, just know it, from afar. My oldest sister experienced Europe. She came back and said, "It's just old." Living in New York City after having lived in Seattle for ten years and Los Angeles for over twenty-five years, I got it, believed her, understand the essence of her critique. It's old here in Manhattan, too. The infrastructure is weak and every tall building is on a sinkhole of mildew resulting from poor caulking. Trust me. Without experiencing the absolute collapse of European culture I nonetheless tell you it's inevitable. Move west. West.

[Sarah Sarai, June 9, 2013] [written because I was blown away] [written because Spinoza's torments were worse than mine and he got a grip] [written because I ain't kidding anyone anyway] [written because yowza writing's fun ((not sure if all these are prose poems but they are definitely probably paragraphs))]

*** Spinoza, pg. 316-317 of Benedict de Spinoza's On the Improvement of Understanding/The Ethics/Correspondence tr. by R.H.M. Elwes, Dover Books. BUY IT! [Italics, mine] [He continues a few more lines to talk of eternal truths.]

Spinoza in cartoons. I'd like to see him in Khartoum.

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