Richard H. Kennington (1921 – 1999) In Spinoza’s denken zou de analytische en niet de synthetische methode centraal staan [1]

Op weg naar de cursus over de PPC [14]

Met het oog op deze serie neem ik hieronder uit een artikel van Kennington een passage op over de analytische en synthetische methode bij Spinoza. Opmerkelijk is dat, i.t.t. Curley [cf. blog], Kennington datgene wat Lodewijk Meijer daarover in het voorwoord op de PPC schreef, aanneemt als was dat door Spinoza geschreven, althans geheel onderschreven.

Richard H. Kennington was filosofieprofessor aan de Catholic University of America. Een groot deel van zijn jeugd bracht hij door in China, vanwege missoneringsactiviteiten van zijn ouders. Hij studeerde af in economie aan de universiteit van Californië. Na WOII, waarin hij in de marine diende, studeerde hij in Chicago, de Sorbonne en behaalde aan de the New School for Social Research zijn doctorsgraad in filosofie. Daarna doceerde hij op diverse plaatsen en vanaf 1975 aan Catholic University. [Cf.]

Aanvankelijk stond hijn vooral bekend als Descartes scholar en later meer als Bacon scholar. Hij publiceerde zegge en schrijve één artikel over Spinoza, “but it sheds brilliant new light on the Ethics,” aldus Joshua Parens, die zich in zijn Maimonides and Spinoza: Their Conflicting Views of Human Nature [University of Chicago Press, 2012 - cf. blog] voor zijn interpretatie van Spinoza flink op dat artikel baseerde en er in een Appendix in dat boek zelfs een aparte nadere analyse over gaf.

Kennington’s artikel was getiteld “Analytic and Synthetic Methods in Spinoza’s Ethics” en verscheen in het boek, waarvan hij ook de redacteur was: The Philosophy of Baruch Spinoza [Washington, DC : The Catholic University of America Press, 1980. - 323 pp.], waarin dit artikel/hoofdstuk prijkte naast bijdragen van: Henry E. Allison, Robert N. Beck, Jose Bernardete, Alan Donagan, Willis Doney, Lewis S. Feuer, Isaac Franck, Hilail Gildin, Micheal Hooker, Hans Jonas, James C. Morrison, Kenneth L. Schmitz, Stewart Umphrey, Paul Weiss, en Margaret D. Wilson.

[Latere aanvulling] Toch even in de Duitse Spinozabibliografie de hoofdstukken opgezocht:

Tabel of contents
Allison, Henry E., Kant's critique of Spinoza
Beck, Robert N., Some idealistic themes in the 'Ethics'
Bernardete, Jose, Spinozistic anomalies
Donagan, Alan, Spinoza's dualism
Doney, Willis, Spinoza's ontological proof
Feuer, Lewis S., Spinoza's political philosophy: The lessons and problems of a conservative democrat
Franck, Isaac, Spinoza's logic of inquiry: Rationalist or Experimentalist?
Gildin, Hilail, Notes on Spinoza's critique of religion
Hooker, Michael, The deductive character of Spinoza's metaphysics
Jonas, Hans, Parallelism and Complementarity: The Psycho-Physical Problem in Spinoza and in the Succession of Niels Bohr
Kennington, Richard, Analytic and synthetic methods in Spinoza's 'Ethics'
Morrison, James C., Spinoza and history
Schmitz, Kenneth L., Hegel's assessment of Spinoza
Umphrey, Stewart, De natura
Weiss, Paul, Some pivotal issues in Spinoza
Wilson, Margaret D[auler], Objects, ideas, and ‘minds’: Comments on Spinoza's theory of mind

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Kennington’s artikel verscheen vervolgens ook nog eens in
Pamela Kraus & Frank Hunt (Eds.), On Modern Origins: Essays in Early Modern Philosophy. Lanham, Lexingtong Books, 2004, p. 205-228 -

In de inleiding van Maimonides and Spinoza schrijft Parens: “For example, Kennington gives us a way to approach the fact that the opening definitions lack the intuitive obviousness that one would expect in an apparently synthetic or deductive argument such as the Ethics. Another example: he argues persuasively that Spinoza's use of synthesis or deduction is not nearly as continuous throughout the Ethics as is widely assumed—indeed, a prominent role is to be played by analysis. Others have noted that some of the most important moments in Spinoza's argument, for example, in long appendices and scholia such as lapp and 3p2s, do not fit neatly into the putatively deductive structure of the whole, but no one other than Kennington, as far as I am aware, has made the argument that Spinoza seriously employs analysis. Above all, Kennington shows that the extended (analytic) digression on physics in part 2 between propositions 13 and 14 plays a more foundational role than has been previously acknowledged. In short, Kennington compels us to rethink our approach to the Ethics.” [p. 2-3]

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Dan hier een gedeelte uit Kennington’s “Analytic and Synthetic Methods in Spinoza’s Ethics:


To understand why Spinoza chose the geometric order of demonstration in the Ethics we must understand why he chose it in his first publication, the Descartes (1663). It is reasonable to suppose that he expected readers to study the Descartes for this purpose: nowhere but here does he justify or even discuss the geometric method. In the Descartes Spinoza utilizes the geometric method to demonstrate what is in fundamental respects for him a false doctrine. The preface identifies several false Cartesian doctrines, for example, the "statements about will . . . even though they seem to be satisfactorily proved with great care and completeness?' "The foundations of knowledge laid by Descartes and the things erected upon them do not suffice." We can then conclude that the geometric demonstration of Descartes's principles is a pseudodemonstration, a fact to which Spinoza even invites the reader's attention. The geometric method then is neutral to the truth of the doctrine conveyed, or it is peculiarly suited for the communication of false doctrines, or both.

The preface begins by identifying "the method of the mathematicians" with the geometric method of "demonstrating conclusions from definitions, postulates, and axioms." This is "the best and surest means of searching out and teaching the truth." All the more striking is it that when Descartes is intro-duced —"that splendid light of our age"—we learn that he did not employ the geometric method "used in the Elements of Euclid and in other Geometries:' In his "philosophic writings" he preferred the analytic method, "which shows the true way in which a thing has been methodically discovered, even, as it were, a priori." Both this statement and the following description of synthetic method are quoted in the preface from Descartes's 2nd Replies, accompanying the Meditations. Synthetic method "uses a long series of definitions, assumptions, axioms, theories and problems, so that if anything in the consequences is denied, it is at once shown to be contained in the premises, and so extorts the assent of the most contrary and obstinate reader." The synthetic—plainly the "geometric"—method demonstrates only what is "contained in the premises," but not the premises themselves. If geometric demonstration is formally correct, the doctrine demonstrated may be true or false depending on the status of the premises. Only analysis as the vera via of discovery can establish the status of premises. Hence for Descartes "the true and best way of teaching" is the analytic.

For Descartes the geometric method "extorts the assent of the most contrary and obstinate reader," whereas only the analytic method contents "the eager learner" because it "shows the way in which the matter taught was discovered" (2nd Replies). More precisely, the analytic method is addressed to the philosophic reader, the geometric-synthetic to the nonphilosophic, as we learn from correlation with a distinction in the preface to the Meditations. "In geometry, since each one is persuaded that nothing is advanced of which there is not a certain demonstration, those who are not entirely adept more frequently err in approving what is false, in order to give the impression that they understand it, than in refuting the true." But "in philosophy" everyone believes that all is problematical, and "few give themselves to the search af-ter truth." The geometric method is not addressed to the philosophic reader because it is not suited to philosophy as distinct from geometry. "The presuppositions of geometric proofs harmonize with the use of our senses, and are readily granted by all . . . on the contrary, nothing in metaphysics causes more trouble than the making the perception of its primary notions clear and distinct" (2nd Replies). […]


Cf. Vervolgblog