Interview door Alan Brill met Richard A. Cohen over Levinas & Spinoza

Al eerder had ik blogs waarin Richard A. Cohen over Levinas’ houding t.o. Spinoza aan de orde kwam. Zo in ´t blog van 10-12-2014: over o.a. ´t boek van Richard A. Cohen, Ethics, Exegesis and Philosophy: Interpretation after Levinas,  voorts ’t blog van 19-05-2015: Spinoza, Heidegger, Levinas en de dood; en ’t blog van 08-10-2015: Boek op komst: Confrontaties tussen Spinoza en Levinas.

Ik had in dat laatste blog al geconstateerd dat Cohen geheel aan de zijde van Levinas staat in zijn beoordeling van Spinoza in:

Richard A. Cohen, Out of Control: Confrontations between Spinoza and Levinas. State University of New York Press [Suny Series in Contemporary Jewish Thought], 2016.

Die positie blijkt nog eens heel duidelijk in het interview dat Alan Brill op 14 dec. 2016 plaatste:

Interview with Richard A. Cohen on Levinas and Spinoza [cf.]

Cohen positioneert Spinoza helemaal aan de zijde van de moderne wetenschap, zozeer dat hij hem zelfs medeverantwoordelijk acht voor de hedendaagse globalisering… 

Enige citaten

Obviously, then, modern science as Spinoza understood it stands in conflict with previous religious notions of Providence, of God’s Will, of righteousness and morality and justice.  Science grasps reality without any such notions, and indeed finds such notions – of will, freedom, purpose, goodness – false and deceptive, nothing more than anthropomorphic projections, no more truthful than animism, indicative of humankind in its ignorant immaturity.   In a word, Spinoza took modern science to heart, made it an absolute.


Levinas, for whom intelligibility is based first in goodness, of course rejects Spinoza’s positivism.  He considers Spinozism to be at the “antipodes” of his thought, because it denies the humanity of the human, denies freedom and transcendence, in its effort to assimilate humanity to the rest of nature.  So Levinas’s great antagonist, one might say, is Spinoza and Spinozism.


My book shows that Spinoza, contrary to “popular opinion” (in this case including scholarly opinion) does not represent a Jewish outlook.  In the history of philosophy and even more broadly in all the cultured circles of the West, Spinoza is usually taken to be representative of Judaism. Certainly it is true that Spinoza writes extensively about Jewish topics, and has a clear mastery of Hebrew and the Hebrew Bible.  Nonetheless, I believe we can hardly fault the rabbis of 17th century Amsterdam who excommunicated Spinoza: he is not only not representative of Judaism, which is to say he does not fully grasp what Judaism is about, he is positively antagonistic toward Jews and Judaism.  He abhors the ancient Jews, who are but “slaves” and “ignoramuses.”  He hates the rabbis, whose biblical interpretations he considers “mad,” “ravings,” and “malicious.”


Tenslotte de blurb van ´t boek:

After the end of superstitious religion, what is the meaning of the world? Baruch Spinoza s answer is truth, Emmanuel Levinas s is goodness: science versus ethics. In Out of Control, Richard A. Cohen brings this debate to life, providing a nuanced exposition of Spinoza and Levinas and the confrontations between them in ethics, politics, science, and religion.

Spinoza is the control, the inexorable defensive logic of administrative rationality, where freedom is equated to necessity a seventeenth-century glimpse of Orwellian doublespeak and Big Brother. Levinas is the way out: transcendence not of God, being, and logic but of the other person experienced as moral obligation. To alleviate the suffering of others nothing is more important! Spinoza wagers everything on mathematical truth, discarding the rest as ignorance and illusion; for Levinas, nothing surpasses the priorities of morality and justice, to create a world in which humans can be human and not numbers or consumers, drudges or robots.

Situating these two thinkers in today s context, Out of Control responds to the fear of dehumanization in a world flattened by the alliance of positivism and plutocracy. It offers a nonideological ethical alternative, a way out and up, in the nobility of one human being helping another, and the solidarity that moves from morality to justice."



Spinoza reduceren tot positivisme, bewijst dat niet vooral hem niet gelezen te hebben?

Lijkt mij ook Mark,
Maar voor wie een compleet ander godsbeeld hebben, met transcendentie en aparte (vrije) wil, zoals Levinas en blijkbaar ook Cohen, is het ook bijna onmogelijk om Spinoza goed te lezen - te begrijpen, laat staan te accepteren.