Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Philosophical tidbit #2

Spinoza can seem astonishingly contemporary. From the appendix to part one of the Ethics:
Further, since they find within themselves and outside themselves a considerable number of means very convenient for the pursuit of their own advantage - as, for instance, eyes for seeing, teeth for chewing, cereals and living creatures for food, the sun for giving light, the sea for breeding fish - the result is that they look on all the things of Nature as means to their own advantage.
Which view Spinoza of course insists is mistaken. It is this very same phenomenon which is adduced to explain the metaphorical applicability of the language of purpose to discussion of evolution, all the while insisting on the essential purposelessness of the processes involved (as Georg B├╝chner put it, "Alles, was ist, ist um seiner selbst willen da" - "Everything that exists, exists for its own sake").

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