Saturday, July 08, 2006

Courting the Heretic--or how this blog got its name (Part 3 of 3)

Some of the themes of The Courtier and the Heretic that I have been exploring are still kicking around in my head. Nevertheless, I think it's safe to close my official discussion of that book--and of Spinoza and Leibniz--since I'm not sure exactly how I want to explore those themes at this point. I reserve the right to bring them up at a later date. I know you will all be waiting.

On a related note, I had intended to comment on the source of the name of this blog some time ago and never did. For those of you who are interested, here goes. Emending my Mind is a play on the title of Spinoza's work, Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect. The book covers his philosophical methodology and lays the groundwork for his entire metaphysical system. I was taken by the title--admittedly an English translation of the Latin but still as cool as it gets for book titles. defines "emend" as "to improve by critical editing" and the project of trying to systematically emend one's intellect struck me as a beautiful one.

Of course, some might say that it is self-interested and self-absorbed and maybe they are right. I certainly have moments of inappropriate self-interest and self-absorption. But I think Spinoza was simply hitting on the fact that we have all kinds of confused beliefs about the world and ourselves and that living the best life possible necessitates sorting through some of this confusion. Moreover, Spinoza was as much a political and social philosopher as he was a metaphysician and so he was profoundly concerned with the ways in which people interact with one another. So for him, emending one's mind is an important part of engaging with the world--not retreating from it.

In naming the blog as I did, I was just trying to acknowledge the muddle in my head--that I have false beliefs about a world that is often itself a profoundly confusing place--and that I'm trying to emend those beliefs so as to live the best life possible. This blog is just one of the places where I hope to be able to do that.

(Incidentally, I've since read Spinoza's Treatise and it remains to be seen whether it helped to emend my mind or simply contributed to the muddle.)


cory said...

do you read jon's blog. do you? answer me! oh, sorry, i was temporarily unaware of my medium. anyway, jon has been blathering on and on about this spiritual formation/growth class he is taking, and how the prof is consistently hammering on the idea that the bible only refers to spiritual growth in the plural. that is, that it is only meant to happen in community. while this seems to fly in the face of all those monks in the caves, the point is well taken. so, i was wondering, what does spinoza say about the community/interactive component of the emend-ation of intellect?

AJK said...

I have read Jon's blog a little bit but haven't noticed anything about the spiritual formation class--maybe that was from before I started reading. In any case, Spinoza doesn't seem to have given much credence to the interactive/communal aspect of philosophy. In fact, none of the moderns really do. There was a lot of correspondence about their ideas but no real sense that it was a group endeavor. This seems to be a definite difference between them and the ancients (especially someone like Socrates who seems only to have done philosophy in conversation with others). I side with the ancients (and, I guess, Jon's professor). I don't see how we can really make intellectual/spritual progress without others.