What does it mean for the design debate if Spinoza outsells Heidegger?
In Prospect (25 May 2011), Rebecca Goldstein advises us to “Sell Descartes, buy Spinoza,” because “Investors, take note: this Dutch rationalist is a hot stock.”She starts out taking a swipe at glitterate airheads,
Thinking of buying shares in a great philosopher? The first question you need to ask is whether you’re interested in long or short-term investment. If you are looking long-term, then prepare yourself for serious scholarship. Alternatively, short-term investment could merely involve comparing the battle over women’s hemlines on catwalks in Milan and New York to Wittgenstein’s language-games. Investors must also keep in mind a philosopher’s obscurity, as this allows room for interpretation. Counter-intuitive shock appeal is also a plus.
But then, because she really is tired of post-modernism’s “whatever”, she gets serious:
Today, we value any early modern who sides against Descartes’ dualism between mind and body. Spinoza not only rejected such dualism, but also denied the dualism between cognition and emotion. In Looking for Spinoza, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio expresses his amazement that Spinoza reasoned his way to the integration between thinking and feeling, which Damasio has now verified in his laboratory. There’s nothing like the imprimatur of science to increase a philosopher’s price-to-earnings ratio.
This introduces yet another reason to consider shares in Spinoza: the heightened public interest in the raucous debates between science and religion. Spinoza’s identification of God with nature, though as subtle as that Lord whom Einstein once invoked, makes an invaluable contribution to this issue—precisely because it’s subtle. As does his attempt to establish morality on the purely secular grounds of the scientific study of human nature.
Any other tips? The rising value of Spinozas indicates that postmodernism, which plays fast and loose with rationality, might be heading for a bear market. I’d advise short-selling Heideggers.
Some doubt that Spinoza, interpreted in this way, would be much use against post-modernism, which is at war with reality, whatever that is. Thoughts?