In 2004, two great figures of Europe’s Life of the Mind met to discuss the times of faith and secularization. This is the book containing their thoughts.
Ratzinger has been extremely bold in trying to confront the implications of science for a modern worldview in the full philosophical spectrum, not just limiting to the ethical backyard. Probably, he has been the last, being forced to recognize that the project set in motion by Galileo 400 years ago is now the master creator of metaphors, of contents, the framer of the boldest hypotheses.
The following videos (“Sea of Faith”) were realized by Don Cupitt for BBC and represent the attempt to factor in the role of modern science in the dissolution of the theological world view. They make for a very interesting view.
- Galileo, Descartes, Pascal (mp4)
- Freud, Jung, Darwin, William Smith (mp4)
- David Friedrich Strauss, Albert Schweitzer (mp4)
- Marx, Kierkegaard (mp4)
- Schopenhauer, Vivekananda, Annie Besant (mp4)
- Nietzsche, Wittgenstein (mp4)
At the end of the day, as Jonathan Israel’s book “Radical Enlightenment” shows, beside a conciliatory, Voltaire-like world-view, the Enlightenment knew a much more radical and uncompromising theoretical direction, meant to dispose of neuroses and childish dreams once and for all. Spinoza was its main driver, his ideas slowly percolating via German Idealisms into the main river of European Civilization.
“Sancte Spinoza, ora pro nobis” (Goethe)
Russell (History of Western Philosophy) did not understand Nietzsche when he said that he was an essentially moral philosopher.
As Kubrik later explored in his magnificent film (2001:A Space Odyssey), Nietzsche realized the full implications of Darwin’s ideas. He knew his Materialism (Frederick Lange docet).
He was the first to frame the collapse of a Parmenidean Fixed World and the emergence of a dynamic view of the world itself. Is it possible to identify some invariants in dynamical systems?
The reference today appears to be again and again Norbert Wiener.
Sebastiano Timpanaro did investigate the relationship between Giacomo Leopardi and d’Holbach in the Italian preface to the latter’s book “Good Sense”. Clearly, d’Holbach was just a broadcaster of the doctrine the Portuguese-Dutch thinker had previously elaborated. The Portuguese-Dutch thinker was behind some of the most radical propositions of Western materialism. Giorgio Colli once complained that no sign of the presence of Spinoza is detectable in today’s debate.
Things have changed, and radically.
Besides the books that Antonio Negri wrote in jail about him,
- The savage anomaly
- Subversive Spinoza
two very interesting recent books about Baruch Spinoza have appeared
- Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment
- Antonio Damasio, Looking for Spinoza
While Damasio’s book is a poetic rumination on how much of today neuroscience can be read amidst the pages of the Jewish thinker, Israel’s book is a solid scholarly work, where the author advances the thesis that it is Spinoza the real engine of most of the Enlightenment radical ideas that we now take for granted, Democracy, free thought and expression, religious tolerance, individual liberty, political self-determination of people, sexual and racial equality etc.
Karl Löwith also wrote on Spinoza: here a review (in Italian)
As an aside, as regards Heretics and Socinianism, Francesco De Sanctis (in Storia della Letteratura:pgg. 283ff.), Delio Cantimori, and later Adriano Prosperi investigated the link of their ideas to the modern concepts of democracy, equality etc.
Compare this very nice blog, in this article.
Apropos Muntzer and his reign, see Luther Blissett “Q”.
A source of ideas is also: this book by Igor Shafarevich on Socialism.