Anna Forbes Liddell (1891 — 1979) lijkt iets van Spinoza te hebben opgestoken

In het vorige blog heb ik laten zien dat deze Amerikaanse filosofe promoveerde op een dissertatie over onder meer Spinoza, The Logical Relationship of the Philosophy of Hegel to the Philosophies of Spinoza and Kant [1924], maar dat door een vergissing van een schrijver van haar obituary daarvoor in de plaats een andere titel, Alexander's Space, Time and Deity, en ander jaartal (1925) verspreid werd en dat deze fout sindsdien op meerdere, ook officiële websites, is terug te vinden.

Haar dissertatie is ook i.h.a. buiten beeld geraakt, want toont geen boeken waarin deze dissertatie van haar wordt besproken of waarin er zelfs alleen maar naar wordt verwezen. Alleen in verantwoordingen van de Research in Progress van de University of California wordt haar dissertatie vermeld. En behalve de Spinoza-bibliografieën van Theo Van der Werf, Heine J. Siebrand & Coen A. Westerveen, A Spinoza Bibliography: 1971 - 1983 [1984] waarin het # 2209 is – cf. – en Wayne Boucher, Spinoza In English, A Bibliography [1999], waarin het # 1438 is – cf. - komt hij in geen enkele bibliografie van een Spinoza-monografie voor. Dat is het lot van ongepubliceerde dissertaties. Goed dus dat tegenwoordig vele van deze studies via internet gepubliceerd worden.

Of er veel mee is gemist, weet ik dus niet, maar in het tweede werk dat abusievelijk als haar dissertatie werd gezien, Alexander's Space, Time and Deity [1925, cf. bij Hathitrust] zegt ze iets over Spinoza en daaruit komt – door haar jongleren met de termen kwaliteit en kwantiteit - een in mijn ogen enigszins eigenaardige visie naar voren. Om een indruk te geven neem ik hieronder het slot van haar niet heel omvangrijke boek vanaf de passage waarin ze de naam van Spinoza vermeldt. Ze bleef altijd een gelovige, begon als doopsgezinde en werd later episcopaals, maar ze lijkt wel iets – de immanentie van God - van Spinoza te hebben meegenomen, hoewel aan het eind van de geciteerde tekst een meer christelijk gelovige visie blijkt.


Spinoza named mind and extensity as the attributes of God. We have described the process of reality as quality related to quantity. The two statements are not essentially different, but the second expresses the effort to be metaphysically more exact. Mind is not the whole quality, but the highest known manifestation of pure quality; extensity is a limited term for universal quantity. God may be described as the whole process of reality, which is not passessed of quality and quantity as attributes, but is quality originally manifested in quantity. Speaking in admittedly anthropomorphic terms, we may say that the way of life of the universe is the quantitation of quality. On merely physical levels of existence, this process is carried on in orderly fashion, but without conscious design. Men, however, work out a "plan of salvation." They develop institutions, organize society, and frame laws. That is to say, they consciously quantitate the quality of human life. This conscious quantitation brings forth standards of value. Value judgments arise in the efforts of the individual to determine his place in the universe. It is frequently stated that a solitary human being would lack standards of value, because society is the source of values. Undoubtedly a human being would adjust himself to an otherwise manless universe in a fashion quite different from that necessary to life in human society. Undoubtedly he would lack the specific standards which we call human values. But grant-ing his intelligence, he would not be without value judgments. Though deprived of the society of his kind, he would yet know himself as a living being in a world, and he would be faced with the problem of establishing his place among other beings in that world. Mere physical beings find their places without conscious struggle, but man is not merely passive but also creative, he determines his own being.

The isolated man, however, is a hypothetical creature. Humanity is a genuine type, not an aggregation of pure individuals. Human life is largely a group life, but since the members of the group are conscious each of his own individuality, that is, of himself as a source of power, the group life is not mere typical behaviour but conscious society. The most import-[66]ant problem which the thinking individual encounters in adjusting himself to the universe is the problem of proper relationship to others of his own kind. As Alexander affirmed, man is originally social; he knows himself as one of his kind. No slight adjustment must be made to physical environment, but man is chiefly concerned with maintaining relations to other men. He develops and applies most of his standards in this human intercourse. It is not surprising that values are supposed to inhere in human society, since they are most readily discovered there. "The collective mind," as Alexander himself avers, is but the general term for the social consciousness of individual minds. This does not destroy the reality of social consciousness; for each particular man is as social as he is individual, but it eliminates the possibility of regarding society as the source of values. Conscious particularity is the source of discriminations of value, which take rise in the efforts of the particular man so to order his life that he may preserve both its individual and its social character. As the individual is the finite unit of pure quality, the particular is the corresponding finite unit of actual reality. If quality be the generating principle, then the individual is ultimately a source of value, but quality is continuous as well as discrete, and the continuity of quality, on the level of humanity, is displayed in society as such. From this point of view, society is also a source of value. Now as nothing can be derived from two sources, the origin of value must be traced to that unity which includes both individual and universal, the particular man, and ultimately the whole actual process of reality. Thus values though proper to human beings (because they are not explicit among any other group of finites) are grounded in the fundamental nature of reality, for there is but one process which engenders all finites, and whatever is manifested in finite existence is a manifestation of finite reality, God. God does not exclude values, he contains all values within himself, although he does not make human judgments. He is not confronted by the problem of finding himself in the universe, for he is immanent throughout the universe. God is reality, [67] both quality and process; quality quantitated. God quantitates his quality in the generation of finites. God is also infinite quantity, which is but to say that whatever is or can be, issues from and is contained in God.

God and Reality are synonymous terms, but the one belongs to the language of religious experience, the other to metaphysics. Metaphysical study is a rational process, whereas religious experience is primarily emotional. There can be no absolute cleavage between the two, for every process of reason is motivated by an emotional interest, and every emotion can be rationally justified. Furthermore, immediate intuition, basic to the emotional discovery of God, can not be altogether eradicated from the most rationalistic metaphysical theory, but there is room for wide divergence between mystic faith and logical explanation.

Curiosity inspires knowledge, fear inspires faith. Overwhelmed by the force of adverse circumstances, men is suddenly made conscious of his individual isolation and of the infinite something, he knows not what, which controls his life. The logic of the situation is that he is confronted with the fundamental antinomy of reality; hitherto he has accepted his particular life without question or criticism, now the events of his experience are such as to set off sharply, one against the other, its individual and its universal phases. He identifies himself with the individual, but in so doing reduces it to an isolated individual, a mere I. The principle of universality, on the other hand, he does not identify with his own personality; it is a power not himself, and greater than he. Yet vaguely he is aware of a connection with it, a dependence upon it it in some way seems able to guarantee his safety. Thus his problem is to propitiate that power, and he falls down and worships. This is the emotional effort to regain the unity of life, previously unconsciously enjoyed. We shall not undertake to follow through the whole course of religious experience. Alexander affirms that it is a genuine phase of human life, and that it takes its rise in fear or awe, but he fails to explain the nature of its origin. This is a necessary step which metaphysics when treating of God can not omit; [68] otherwise the statement "God is the object of worship" is meaningless. What is worship and why does it demand an object, and what must that object necessarily be? When we find that religious experience is the naive discovery of the antinomy of reality, followed by an immediate effort to restore the interrupted unity, the object of worship must be reality itself in its original unity.

We are not writing a history of religion, and it is therefore unnecessary for us to show how and why images, symbols and partial principles have been substituted for complete reality and called by the name of God. We are interested in the logic of the problem, not on its empirical history.

If this analysis of worship be correct, God can not be the next stage of empirical expression towards which the universe is striving, nor even the everlasting nisus towards a higher ex-pression. "As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be"; God is "Alpha and Omega".

Now if God be reality, and the whole universe is in and of God, then must not God contain evil as well as good? This is a familiar objection to the doctrine of immanent God and it is an objection which must be met. Alexander himself contends that whatever exists is real, and that distinctions of value are not distinctions between reality and unreality. Were evil a positive attribute of reality, which is to say of God, a genuine dilemma would arise: either God must be less than the whole of reality, or else evil must be admitted as characteristic of God. But Alexander explains error and illusion as the world of reality misread, and his explanation is essentially satisfactory. The same explanation will extend to evil. In other words, the mind in error mistakes the actual quantitation of quality, which is the real finite appearance, for some other; in evil or wrongdoing, the mind as conscious creator of its own process of reality quantitates quality in disproportion. It is the mark of the finite, the limitation of the particular that this should be so. The logic of the old dogma that original sin is essential to human freedom is sound. But goodness manifests the power of humanity to transcend its limits. Goodness is genuine progress. There is evolution in morality ; man "grows in [69]

grace" as his conscious quantitation of quality approaches the perfection of right proportion. The perfect man, the particular human being whose conscious processes illustrate the completeness of reality, transcends his finite limitations and identifies himself with God. Thus he becomes the infinite particular, very man of very man, very God of very God. As such he is the pattern of all mankind, "the way, the truth and the life."

Christianity is therefore essential to the logic of reality. Without it the antinomy of finite and infinite cannot be resolved. The infinite particular bears witness of the individuality of God and the universality of man. Thus the apposition of the two is reversed, each becomes the other and perfect unity is established.

It is only through understanding the achievement which Jesus made and endeavoring to attain it in his own life, that man is able to find himself in reality, to realize himself as a son of God. This is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine is so profound that it confounds the wise; the experience so simple that it is enjoyed by little children.

Spirit, as Alexander says, is a human term, but it is a more than human term. It expresses the absolute relation of man to that reality in which he lives and moves and has his being. It is not therefore a human quality, but the word used to express the identity of quality in man and God. Through the spirit, God becomes man, and man becomes God. The spirit is the unity of real process. God is spirit as God is revealed in process. The moments of the process are the individual, the particular, the universal. God therefore is trinitarian, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

God the Father is the generating principle of pure quality, the logical source of all being. God the Holy Ghost is the actualizing principle. God the Son is the concrete manifestation of the union of the two. If this is an anthropomorphic explanation of Deity, it is frankly so. All finite existents are in and of God, but only man is conscious of the spirit of God within him, he alone therefore of all creatures has become God. If another race of beings, supermen, angels, or finite deities, are to come into existence we can not actually anticipate them, [70] and if they do, their religious problem will be different from ours. For the problem of religion is the problem of establishing our own infinite reality, universal individuals, conscious of our-selves. The deism which Alexander sets forth is a system of empirical progress in which we should all be damned for the glory of a God who never existed but is always about to exist. For according to his theory God is a vanishing idea, an unattainable object, the hypothetical product of eternally unrealizable desire.

But what other notion of God is possible to a metaphysical system which denies the originality of quality and ignores the presence of individuality?

We cannot begin with original godless reality and develop God from it, such process is logically no more legitimate than to begin with the assumption of God and deduce the universe therefrom. Metaphysical investigation must ground itself in the actual complex particularity of experience where finally it eventuates. Analysis of the particular discloses the principles of individuality and universality in the actual union of reciprocal relationship. It is the same whether we call it the infinite-finite process of reality, or the perfect trinity of God.