This is a great text on the philosophy of Spinoza.
However, what I disagree with are the negative valuations thrown in here: Spinoza's philosophy is described as "ice-cold" et cetera. These are also attributes often thrown at Zarathushtra for his concept of Ahura Mazda, especially from Muslims and Christians. Which should make us pay attention. While the facts are basically correct, the valuations are not.
We of course know these valuations are deeply unfair and untrue. No religion is warmer towards us as human beings than Zoroastrianism. And the all-encompassing divinity, the monist pantheism of Spinoza is according to Spinoza himself a divinity of "joy", a message of "joy" and "joy" is the ethical imperative of Spinoza's philosophy.
What we also need to remind ourselves is that the Sufism and Jewish mysticism that inspired Spinoza was in itself originally Zoroastrian. It is hardly a secret that Sufism first appeared as a strong Zoroastrian influence on Islam, even possibly as a way of maintaining Zoroastrianism under an Islamic umbrella well into the middle ages and beyond.
What we should rediscover is therefore the ENORMOUS influence Zoroastrian thought has had on both Eastern thinking (especially Chan and Zen Buddhism, founded by the clearly Zoroastrian Persian prophet Bodhidharma) and via Sufism on Spinoza and thereby on Western philosophy.
Several Western converts to Zoroastrianism like myself and Arthur Pearlstein were originally Spinozist pantheists who joined Zoroastrianism as a declaration of "the roots of our beliefs". It is a recognition that proto-Spinozist thought does not begin with neither Spinoza himself or with Sufism, but starts within Zoroastrianism itself, among the wise philosophers of Persia.
And as for te issue of free will: What do we mean by will? What do we mean by freedom? The bodies in Spinoza's philosophy clearly have will and this will operates within different possibilities (offering freedom). This is not the Christian concept of free will, but we Zoroastrians never believed in the Christian free will (nor in the Christian concepts of sin and forgiveness), Zarathushtra's free will is radically different from the Christian variety and much closer to Spinoza's "mechanical" will and "direct" freedom.
And meanwhile the mystery of the mind as an attribute of the physical remains truly divine and sacred to us. Perhaps with or without Spinoza's support. But then we are not primarily Spinozists but truly Zoroastrians!
2008/7/17 SHAHROOZ ASH <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
SPINOZAShahrooz AshSpinoza was Jewish and came from a Spanish family, he eventually moved to Holland. He claimed, God had a physical body. And for this reason the Jewish community did not want to be associated with him, they did not want people to think that this was the view of the Jews, because this view was considered to be heresy. Spinoza's universe is very cold and impersonal, his system has one idea in its meta-physics, "God is the only thing that exists". According to Spinoza, God is perfect and the only thing that exists, apart from God there is nothing. We are all a part of God, and the world is a part of God, the world is physical and that's why God is physical. Everything is God.We do not exist permanently, we die and turn into something else. Mind and Consciousness loses its nature, but, it does not disappear, our mind is part of God and our consciousness is part of God. The world and nature is a part of God, if this is the case, then, does this mean God is just nature? God is just thinking of nature, it's the conception of nature. But it's even more than that, God is a substance, it is something that can exist independently. Hence God is the only existence.God also has an Essence, and his essence has Attributes, God has an infinite number of attributes. Out of all the infinite attributes we only know of two.1. Thought2. Extension > (leads to)> Space.God has no purpose, he is not making things more perfect or better for us. This is because God is already perfect. So, what is Thought, and, is Thought nature? And since we don't know the rest of the attributes, then we can never know it. It is beyond anything we can ever know. We exist among the attributes of Thought, Mind and Extension, which is body.So you and I don't exist permanently, we pass away. We are modifications of the attributes. We are like waves in the ocean, and God is the ocean, God creates the waves and not us. Water will always be there in the ocean, that's God. But waves are gone, while the water is still there. God causes everything that happens in the world. Spinoza does not believe in free-will he is a Determinist, God does everything. This means no one is ever praise or blame worthy, Evil ultimately does not exist. He also likes Occasionalism, one of Descartes students came up with it, his name was Malbranche. Causes are not a cause, they are an occasion of the effect, God creates both of them.Spinoza likes occasionalism and determinism. This is because of the Islamist theology which was around during his time in the Middle Ages in Spain and Holland. Why did Spinoza like this as a person? God is impersonal, and God does not care about us. It's all good to God whatever that happens, but, how about us. There is another connection, this can be traced to the middle ages of Judaism and Islam. It is Mysticism, there is a mystical side to Spinoza, an Islamic parallel.The Mutazilites (an Islamic school of thought) believed in free will and justice of God. But, by the Middle Ages we get the Ashrites (which is another Islamic school of thought), they opposed the existence of free will. They believed in the power of God and God's free will. God does what he pleases, and if God leads a person stray then you just have had it. So, if God decides to mess you up, you have had it. The Ashrites believed, if God is to be Omnipotent (All Powerful), then God must be permitted to do anything. If God is to be all powerful, then this means God cannot be all good, because, this will limit God. Man cannot be free, because, our freedom will reduces God's freedom and power, and this would mean God will no longer be all powerful and free. It is selfish to look at things that affect us, to Spinoza we are nothing.1. Free-willa: Matazilites > freewill > justice of Godb: Ashrites > no freewill > power and freedom of God.2. Occasionalisma: Al-Ghazzali3. Mysticisma: Sufism > compare to God we are nothing > they want to obtain "Extinction" of self.Sufism of the time had many similar beliefs; one such common belief amongst most of these different Islamic sects is this, a person should try and reach the state which enables one to get absorbed by God, so one becomes extinct. God is so overwhelming, we are nothing. According to Spinoza, you and I, do not exist apart from God. Spinoza was like Hallaj in Sufism. Hallaj said, "Extinction of Self". Spinoza wants to lose the sense of himself, and achieves extiction so that he can get absorbed by God. He has no separate freewill and his will becomes God's will.God is free because of his nature, God could not do anything different. But, the fact that God could not do anything different becomes a problem, because, does this mean God is limited? Why do things exist? Why are things the way they are? And why is God the way he is? Spinoza's answer is, you would know this if you saw God. All the Mysticism was a big deal in the Medieval times, Islamic and in some cases even Jewish mysticism, (things like the Cabbala).To Spinoza God is perfect, and individuals such as Hitler and Jesus are each a part of God, this means there is no difference between the two in terms of ethics. The interesting thing here is, despite the view that there is no difference between Hitler and Jesus in terms of ethics, Spinoza actually develops a system of ethics. How he explains this no one knows. However, the system of ethics which he developed is constructed like Geometry, he does Philosophy like Geometry which is what Aristotle would have expected. If we claim God's causes makes things happen, and his causes came from the past and the past makes things happen, then the future is determined by his causes of the past. Because of this we are not in control of the future events.Human freedom will reduce and restrict God's power and he will no longer be all powerful. This idea is strange and foreign in Zarathushtrianism, one of the most important concepts introduced by Zarathushtra is free-will and choice by individuals. In Zarathushtrianism human free-will does not limit the power of God, in fact it increase god's power. So in terms of free-will Zarathushtra and Spinoza are not similar.Ethics:Since God has no purpose and all causes are Gods, then evil does not exist. Hitler and Jesus are a part of God and there is no difference between the two. God is not making things perfect and better, because he is already perfect. So, for a perfect God there cannot be any imperfection in terms of values, there is no wrong for a perfect being. God is already perfect, so it has no purpose. Thus, God has no ethical value per-say in terms of right and wrong. God does not have a will and does not act for a good, or an end, but for his nature. With the issue of there not being any difference between Hitler and Jesus in terms of ethics, Zarathushtra would disagree. In this respect the two are a world apart and not similar at all.Determinism:For every physical event there is a physical cause, because of this there is no free will when it comes to humans, because humans are physical objects. Furthermore every event or state of affairs is brought about by previous events or states of affairs due to universal causal laws that govern the universe. This means, the state of the world and the position of things at any instant determines the state of the world and the position of things in the future. At any given time, given the past, only one outcome is possible in the future.Epistemology:The theory of knowledge. How do we know what we know in terms of knowledge. It takes the form of questioning, doubt and being sceptic of what we know. Is the origin of our knowledge experience or reason and how certain are we of our methods of deriving to true knowledge. Also as our conception of the world changes do we need to change our previous understanding and form of knowledge. The concern is how reliable is our knowledge which leads us to the truth.The 4 causes:This is related to Aristotle.1. Efficient cause; this is the type of Cause which makes something Happen.2. Final cause; this is a Purpose, to lead us to the end of the Action, which an event Aims at.Everything that happens has an efficient, and, a final cause.3. Material cause; this is Matter, that leads to Power and the Potential to be actual.4. Formal cause; this is Form, to Aristotle the Form is Substance which leads to Actuality.It is thought and intelligence. Aristotle's God is pure form, thinking itself.