Spinoza

 

From THE BUDGET OF PARADOXES, 1872 by Augustus De Morgan

Some of my readers are hardly inclined to think that the word paradox could once have had no disparagement in its meaning ; still less that persons could have applied it to themselves. I chance to have met with a case in point against them. It is Spinoza's Philosophia Scripturæ Interpres, Exercitatio Paradoxa, printed anonymously at Eleutheropolis, in 1666. This place was one of several cities in the clouds, to which the cuckoos resorted who were driven away by the other birds ; that is, a feigned place of printing, adopted by those who would have caught it if orthodoxy could have caught them. Thus, in 1656, the works of Socinus could only be printed at Irenopolis. The author deserves his self-imposed title, as in the following:1

"Quanto sane satius fuissed illam [Trinitatem] pro mysterio non habuisse, et Philosophiæ ope, antequam quod esset statuerent, secundum veræ logices præcepta quid esset cum Cl. Kleckermanno investigasse ; tanto fervore ac labore in profundissimas speluncas et obscurissimos metaphysicarum speculationum atque fictionum recessus se recipere ut ab adversariorum telis sententiam suam in tuto collocarent. Profecto magnus ille vir . . . . dogma illud, quamvis apud theologos eo nomine non multum gratiæ iniverit, ita ex immotis Philosophiæ fundamentis explicat ac demonstrat, ut paucis tantum immutatis, atque additis, nihil amplius animus veritate sincere deditus desiderare possit."

This is properly paradox, though also heterodox. It supposes, contrary to all opinion, orthodox and heterodox, that philosophy can, with slight changes, explain the Athanasian doctrine so as to be at least compatible with orthodoxy. The author would stand almost alone, if not quite ; and this is what he meant. I have met with the counterparadox. I have heard it maintained that the doctrine as it stands, in all its mystery is a priori more likely than any other to have been Revelation, if such a thing were to be ; and that it might almost have been predicted.

      1  "Just as it would surely have been better not to have considered it (i e., the trinity) as a mystery, and with Cl. Kleckermann to have investigated by the aid of philosophy according to the teaching of true logic what it might be, before they determined what it was ; just so would it have been better to withdraw zealously and industriously into the deepest caverns and darkest recesses of metaphysical speculations and suppositions in order to establish their opinion beyond danger from the weapons of their adversaries. . . . Indeed that great man so explains and demonstrates this dogma (although to theologians the word has not much charm) from the immovable foundations of philosophy, that with but few changes and additions a mind sincerely devoted to truth can desire nothing more."
[Note by D. E. Smith 1915.]

Chicago, London : Open Court 1915, pp. 2-3.

 

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W. Paul Tabaka
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