It was the elimination of a human experience apart from Ein Sof, the suicide of the self, that led Spinozism to deny free will and the value of the creative imagination. Man has nothing to add to nature, he is not even subsidiary to the original Substance, or an addendum to it. He is simply subsumed into Spinoza’s great presupposition, which is where Spinoza’s philosophy is reflective of Luriunic Kabbalah, in particular Tikkun, the process by which cosmic restoration and repair are to be accomplished.
It is from this position that man should be considered as a slave to truth, rather than the maker of truth.
Whilst nominally an idealist and influenced by Kant, it was Hegel who astutely understood the challenge posed by Spinoza. He explained that for Spinoza it is the infinite 'Substance' which is real, while the finite world doesn't exist. ‘But the accusers of Spinozism are unable to liberate themselves from the finite; hence they declare for Spinozism everything is God, because it is precisely the aggregate of finitudes (the world) that has there disappeared. If one employs the expression ‘All is One’ and [claims] therefore that unity is the truth of multiplicity, then the ‘all’ simply is no longer. The multiplicity vanishes, for it has its truth in the unity.’1
Ironically, it was the imperfect understanding of Spinoza by his followers that led to the rise of the subjectivist motive of certainty - the appeal to sense-certainty. Innate ideas are not certain, argued Locke, because they are not the product but the presupposition of experience.
Sensation for Locke was therefore to be determined by an external world described in Newtonian terms. Mind, for Locke, was originally a passive thing, a tabula rasa. There is a presupposed world, or Nature, is external to the sentient, that inscribes itself upon the human mind.
Berkeley’s immaterialism did not challenge what appeared to be its Lockean opposite, but rather confirmed its core principle. Berkeley’s God was Locke’s Nature by another name, imposing the same limits upon the constructive process of experience.
Hume’s skepticism - that our belief in an external world cannot be rationally justified - showed that the experience which claims to be the most anti-dogmatic does in fact coincide with its contrary - pure dogmatism. The subject can do nothing.The subject is nothing.
Locke, Berkeley and Hume retained the essence of Spinozist monism i.e. the suicide of the self, except that this apparent death was rather a coma, a state of limbo in a passive state of abject dualism.
That which is, is outside of the comatose subject, and only outside of the subject. This was the materialist metaphysics, the chink in the wall of the Spinozist citadel, which gave Kant something to attack.
1 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Hodgson, Peter C. Ed. (2006) Hegel: Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion: One-Volume Edition, The Lectures of 1827, OUP, pp.28-29 & 123-126
© John Dunn.