collegial intellectualism

3 pg google doc by Maxime Rovère .. read prior to m of care – feb 10 – where he is talking on spinoza




Maxime Rovère

A principle: collegial intellectualism

intellect ness.. augmenting collective intelligence.. collective intelligence.. beyond the monastic self.. et al

what to know to approach this text? in an intro..usually something about author and historical context. Yet biographical elements must be approached here with unusual caution. Indeed, if Spinoza asked his friends not to write his name on the cover of the book, if he mocks writers who chase after fame,  if he unambiguously refers to the thought of the Ethics as ‘our philosophy’, this can, of course, be attributed to the modesty of a man with a heart all the more noble because he claims nothing for himself. But this would be to miss the fact that his position is based on two objective reasons, one of which refers to principles, and the other to precise and explicable practices. In order to shed light on them, it is worthwhile to place these reasons in history, and this is a good thing: we will be able to say the essential things about Spinoza and his friends without betraying their project. Along the way, we will see the philosophy that animates this book emerge at the confluence of four great traditions: Cartesian philosophies, Jewish philosophies, Christian exegetical practices and Dutch rationalisms.

The principle that explains the irrelevance of a summary of Spinoza’s life lies in a completely original and collective conception of truth to which many seventeenth-century scholars were very attached. According to this conception, some of our ideas possess the property of being absolutely indubitable.

indubitable: impossible to doubt.. unquestionable

Descartes ..gave an original demo of this in his Metaphysical Meditations (1641): based on the idea that I cannot doubt the truth of my own existence (“I think, therefore I am “), he proposed new scientific criteria. In order to be undoubtedly established, an idea must meet the requirements of clarity and distinction assessed by the intellect, and by it alone. Thus, from the point of view of science, it does not matter which texts are sacred (because the Scriptures teach faith and not science), nor does it matter which authors are authoritative, Greek, Latin, Arabic, ecclesiastical or scholastic (because only experience can disprove a theory), It doesn’t matter what pretty ways of writing are used (because metaphors and pathos easily lead us astray), and it doesn’t matter what philosophical categories are used (because we have to simplify things and ways of describing them until they become clear and distinct). The only point that matters, in short, in order to make this ‘new philosophy’ the foundation of the sciences is the application of a method that is the simplest, the purest, the closest possible to the functioning of ‘the understanding alone’. In contrast to neo-Aristotelian logic, Descartes and his friends, such as the mathematician Frans Van Schooten (1615-1660) in Leiden, called this method “universal mathematics”, mathesis universalis.

of math and men.. literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism/control/enclosure.. we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things

Among the so-called ‘Cartesians’ at the University of Leiden, some students, united by their common ‘love for truth’ , wanted to apply this indubitability requirement to all objects of ‘natural philosophy’: Lodewijk Meyer (1629-1681) is interested in physics, Johannes Bouwmeester (1634-1680) in medicine, Adriaan Koerbagh (1633-1669) in law, his brother Johannes Koerbagh (1634-1672) in theology, Niels Stensen, known as Nicolas Sténon (1638-1686) in anatomy, Bento de Spinoza (1632-1677) in geometry. Who is this Spinoza? A young professor of philosophy who, around 1660, gave classes at his home, a few hours’ walk from the university. Brought up as a merchant in the typical multicultural spirit of Amsterdam, raised in the Portuguese community and then banished by the Jewish institutions in 1656 because of a legal, economic and theological imbroglio about which they keep the secret , he settled in the village of Rijnsburg at an unknown date. For this young teacher, the term ‘mathematics’ in the singular does not refer to a discipline divided into algebra and geometry; it designates all knowledge that achieves the indubitable by combining clear definitions with simple deductions, thus enabling a ‘mathematical certainty’ to be derived. On this point, its referent is therefore less Euclid’s Elements of Geometry than Descartes’ Principles.

yeah .. oh my..


Except that these young people, from their very first research, detected flaws even in Descartes’ philosophy. Of course they do! No man is pure intellect, so even the most brilliant mind can still make mistakes. Friends thus realise that the criteria for *’mathematical certainty‘ cannot be absolutely guaranteed by an individual.

perhaps rather.. there is *none

Only collegiality can identify and correct the discrepancies between the individual mind and the pure intellect – Sténon will even demand this collegiality to guarantee the visual observations in the anatomy room. Thus, whereas Cartesian intellectualism was based on the autonomy of the individual mind, the rationalism of Spinoza and his friends extends this autonomy to a shared intelligence.

still not enough to be certain

graeber unpredictability/surprise law.. intellect ness.. et al

It would therefore be strange to present the abstractly isolated life trajectory of the individual Spinoza as if it were relevant, since the Ethics is the fruit of a philosophy of the pure intellect, written without engaging individual particularisms, or more precisely by rubbing and eroding these particularisms against each other in order to guarantee the purity of the deductive path. In fact, this conception of supra-individual knowledge has a history of its own;

am thinking all knowledge.. knowing ness does

Practices of thought: the decentralised text

Thus, instead of a theoretically universal truth emitted by a singular individual, Ethics proceeds from the bet that it is possible to set up a really shared truth. Is the book the place for this sharing? Well, not really. Our sources show that Spinoza’s text is conceived as a support for a rather curious work. Luckily, this way of philosophising has been documented in a letter from Simon De Vries, sent from Amsterdam on 24 February 1663 to Spinoza. Here,” De Vries explains to his friend in Rijnsburg, “is how the college is instituted: someone (we alternate between us) does the reading, explains it according to his conception, and then gives the complete demonstration, following the sequence and order of your propositions”.

This testimony allows us to consider the text of the Ethics as a first draft intended for an assembly of philosophers where the readers are anything but passive. It documents a practice in which, Simon De Vries writes in black and white, friends make and redo demonstrations themselves; it even seems that their suggestions are sometimes integrated into the text, for when De Vries thanks Spinoza for sending certain passages, he expresses himself thus: “They gave me great joy, especially the scholia of proposition 19”. This means that De Vries is proud, because he recognises in this passage something of himself, something that he wrote or to which he directly contributed. In the next sentence, he assures us that he wants to do more: ‘If I could be useful in anything, here or there, that is within my competence, I am yours’ .

Yet the point of this document is not to remove Spinoza’s authorship or to reassign pieces of the Ethics to his friends, but to make two important corrections. On the one hand, it allows us to *question the hierarchy of the different functions linked to the text: here, against the prestige attributed to authors and innovations, the difference between writing, reading, commenting, translating and editing becomes blurred, as they all play an essential role in the very conception of this philosophy. In the eyes of these men, philosophical practice is defined as cooperative work, no matter where one stands. Of course, the hierarchy between these works does not disappear altogether, and Spinoza remains first among his peers; but this also means – and this is the second important corrective – that, far from being Spinoza’s ‘disciples’, **his friends experience themselves as partners in a practice of collective reflection, even if they do not all participate in it with the same confidence: the flamboyant Lodewijk Meyer (see below, appendix 1, p. 863) does not occupy the same place in it as the modest Simon De Vries.

*again.. lit & num as colonialism et al

**public consensus always oppresses someone(s)

we need a means to undo our hierarchical listening


This practice, by the way De Vries refers to it (“collegium”), refers to the meetings, documented in Amsterdam from 1646 onwards, in which men and women of all denominations met to comment on the New Testament without admitting any hierarchy between their readings or their convictions. These assemblies, which were called ‘colleges’, never formed a unified movement, since they opposed all religious institutions; rather, there was a collegial practice of reflection dedicated to interpreting, listening to and exercising discordance, and thus tolerance, in order to restore concord and fulfil God’s message. In order to avoid quarrels and religious wars, the ‘collegians’ tried to define a spirituality without a church, where each one relied on his or her ‘inner divine light’ to enlighten the others as a ‘free prophet’. All were convinced that the so-called religious truths were not inaccessible, and that they would discover them together, through exchange.

yeah to itch-in-the-soul ness.. to already in/on each heart ness.. but the exchange and the enlightening others ness is cancerous to the dance

Several of Spinoza’s close friends, such as Pieter Balling (?-1664), Jarig Jellesz (1620-1683) or his publisher Jan Rieuwertsz (1617-1687), who were involved in these meetings, also played roles in the ‘college’ where the Ethics was born. Thanks to them, the practices of understanding and comprehension considered by the Cartesians from a rationalist and intellectalist angle were joined by a heartfelt impulse, especially turned towards social concord and spiritual fulfilment.

has to start with the heart.. not have the heart join in.. also not about turning toward social concord.. again to the consensus/cancer

we have no idea what legit free people are like.. just whales in sea world.. who we assume are trying to achieve fulfillment.. i’m thinking legit free people wouldn’t even be thinking about fulfillment ness.. ie: they’d be too preoccupied w the dance

However, insofar as Spinoza does not comment on the Scriptures, the way in which he responds to these aspirations is based on what was announced above as the fourth tradition that the Ethics extends and from which it ultimately takes its title: a form of literature that the Netherlands has made a specialty of, and which is now referred to as secular ethics. Indeed, when it came to behaving well and living happily, the Dutch were (and still are) characterised by a pragmatism that was sceptical of or indifferent to religious dogmas and prescriptions; even in the seventeenth century, citizens of the Republic who spent their lives without contact with any church, who married and then brought up their children out of wedlock, were a large enough minority for the clerics to complain. In the philosophical literature, this tradition of secular life goes back a long way. Books, usually written in the vernacular, were aimed at readers who were neither church nor university members, who were not professional philosophers or theologians and who had little or no knowledge of Latin; they simply wanted to explore the ‘art of living’ (zedekunst) and to approach life by reasoning, without relying on sacred texts. As early as the fourteenth century, Jacob Van Boendale (1279-c. 1350) proposed to moderate one’s own passions out of love for oneself, taking one’s own interest as a criterion ;

everyday anew.. first thing.. not tainted/consensatized/compromised by anything else..

Hendrik Laurensz Spiegel (1549-1612) maintained that “in the innocent man, Truth, Virtue, Nature, God and Reason are one and the same thing “; finally, Dirck Volkertszoon Coornhert (1522-1590), known as the greatest of them all, wrote that “in all matters, man develops a will that is proportional to his knowledge “.


For Spinoza’s compatriots, Coornhert’s admirable lessons were as valuable as those of the Roman moralists such as Cicero and Seneca, whom they knew by heart, or those of the humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam (1467-1536), respected throughout Europe. Spinoza, by giving his book the same title as Coornhert’s (Zedekunst), as a Leiden professor named Arnout Geulincx (1624-1669) had done just before him (1665), was thus affirming his belonging to the lineage of these profoundly Dutch ethical authors.

brown belonging lawthe opposite of belonging.. is fitting in.. true belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are.. it requires you to be who you are.. and that’s vulnerable.. –Brené Brown

et al

we need a nother way to org ourselves..