File spoon-archives/nietzsche.archive/nietzsche_1998/nietzsche.9801, message 98

Date: Sat, 31 Jan 1998 17:24:53 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Inkonsequenz Spinozas (9 of 11)

(9 of 11)
(IV cont)

Now in the case of God or Nature, which is
absolutely infinite, perfect, and in itself, the
equivalent of the conatus is infinite causa sui
(cause of itself; see Part I, Def. 1), that is,
God's infinite power, and this could, in a sense,
be described as self-preservation, since
nothing greater or more perfect than God
exists or can can exist.  But no finite thing
is in itself absolutely; the axiom to Part IV,
stating that everything in nature is surpassed
in strength and power by something else, is
another expression of this.  Since no finite
thing is in itself absolutely, the conatus or the
striving of an individual to preserve himself, as
Spinoza puts it often enough in Part IV, must
be not just a will to merely exist or survive,
but rather a will to greater expression of the
individual's essence or being, to a greater
degree of "being in itself", of power, of
perfection in its being--although, of course,
a drive for survival is presumably a frequent
consequence of this conatus.  "For no individual
thing can be said to be more perfect because for
a longer time it has persevered in existence."
(Part IV, Preface)

Hence, for example, the wording of proposition 20
of Part IV, the first proposition to speak of virtue, is
in terms of degrees of virtue, a point analogous to
the one we noted in reference to proposition 6 of
Part III.  It is also noteworthy that Spinoza takes
the trouble to show that the desire to be happy,
to act and live well, implies the desire to exist 
simply (Part IV, Prop. 21).  Still, it must be
admitted that Spinoza's wording is at times 
misleading on this point, particularly in Part IV,
and this fact seems to be at least a partial
vindication of Nietzsche's remark.

Having raised the question of vindicating Nietzsche's
remark, we are struck by the fact that as an
historical thesis, concerning, say, the origin of
Darwin's "struggle for survival", it is highly
implausible.  Spinoza's actual historical influence
was hardly that great, a fact of which Nietzsche
was presumably not ignorant.  Spinoza is, on this
level, being used by Nietzsche as a representative
of a certain line of thought, and Nietzsche's
remark is to this degree not aimed at Spinoza
personally at all--a strategy which, I note in
passing, is typical of Nietzsche.  To understand
this more clearly, we would have to not only
look at Nietzsche, but also take a more careful
look at Spinoza's derivation of the conatus in
_Ethics_ III; this I will, however, leave for 
another time.

     Kelly Timothy Lynch     ||    "Dei potentia est       ||  ipsa ipsius essentia."
   Toronto, Ontario, Canada  ||         Spinoza

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