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Anyone here read Spinoza?

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I am taking a class on Spinoza's Ethics, and I see several connections between the philosophies of Spinoza and Ayn Rand. My professor told me he has not come across much writing comparing or analyzing the two together. I was wondering if any of you have thought about this comparison? I'm researching for a paper comparing Spinoza's egoism with Objectivist Egoism.

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You might be on to something. I'm not acquainted with Spinoza, but he gets some brief mentions in the Objectivist literature. Rand somewhere (I can't find the passage) mentions him in passing as one of the great system-builders, along with Plato and Aristotle.

Peikoff's OPAR mentions him twice:

248: Because of the influence of religion, the code of sacrifice has always dominated the field of morality, as far back as historical evidence goes. A handful of Western thinkers did reject this code. The two with the best and fullest ethical systems were Aristotle and Spinoza, each of whom sought in his own way to uphold the value of life, the virtue of rationality and the principle of egoism. But even these rare dissenters were influenced, both in method and content, by Platonic and by subjectivist elements

460:"All things excellent," said Spinoza, "are as difficult as they are rare." Since human values are not automatic, his statement is undeniable.

In 1961, Esquire published a letter from Peikoff in response to Gore Vidal's piece on Rand, mentioning Aristotle and Spinoza as counter-examples to Vidal's assertion that nobody in the history of philosophy had ever presented an ethic of self-interest. He also said that Vidal displayed "an ignorance of the history of philosophy that would be shocking in a college sophomore." The assertion is good evidence for this.

As a onetime philosophy student I would advise you to argue that their systems show similarities in important, principled respects and not to to try to prove that Rand knew Spinoza and was consciously imitating him. According to the biographers, she learned most of the history of philosophy from Peikoff after her theory was in place.

Let us know what you find.

Edited by Reidy
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This might be the passage you're thinking of Peter.
The Chickens' Homecoming, The Objectivist, June 1970

Man came into his own in Greece, some two-and-a-half thousand years ago. The birth of philosophy marked his adulthood; not the content of any particular system of philosophy, but deeper: the concept of philosophy—the realization that a comprehensive view of existence is to be reached by man's mind.

Philosophy is the goal toward which religion was only a helplessly blind groping. The grandeur, the reverence, the exalted purity, the austere dedication to the pursuit of truth, which are commonly associated with religion, should properly belong to the field of philosophy. Aristotle lived up to it and, in part, so did Plato, Aquinas, Spinoza - but how many others? It is earlier than we think.

 

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