In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Small CreaturesStuart Hampshire
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Spinoza 
by R.J. Delahunty.
Routledge, 317 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 7102 0375 6
Show More
Show More

In the academic study of philosophy in English-speaking countries Spinoza is not usually considered an indispensable source for the central tradition, on a level with Descartes, Locke, Hume and Kant; and probably he never will be. Even advanced students of philosophy often proceed on their way through the 17th century towards Leibniz and Locke without reading the Ethics, Spinoza’s posthumously published definitive work. There are two principal reasons for this comparative neglect. First, a rebarbative style in unbeautiful Latin, full of scholastic terminology, redolent of the Middle Ages, as if he was living in an intellectual ghetto at a time when he and all Europe could read the new, transparent prose of Pascal and Descartes. There is a knotted gracelessness, an obstinate refusal to please, on the surface of his writing. Secondly, he made no useful contributions either to logic or to the philosophy of language, and these have become the dominant interests within English-speaking philosophy. A third reason is that he was a strangely confident metaphysician who had a complete system of the world and of our place within it, a system that he flatly declared to be demonstrably true. Untouched by a decent scepticism or by the conventions of authorial modesty, he can at times seem slightly crazy in his ambitions, as if he has been invented by Swift.

For Spinoza, as for most laymen at all times, philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom and of the salvation and happiness to be realised only in the right conduct of life. Philosophy takes over the functions of the historical religions, and the theory of knowledge replaces the prophets in telling us how to control the destructive passions and to cultivate the necessary virtues. There is a life of reason, which can set us free from worry and from fear, and fear is the strongest human emotion. The claim is the same as in the Stoics and Epicureans, and this pagan wisdom, which looks for peace of mind, for social peace and for peace among the nations, is exalted in the Ethics at the expense of Judaism and Christianity: dark superstitions, both of them, which engender hatred and war, Protestant against Catholic, Christian against Turk, unless restrained by philosophy. Spinoza was an intensely political writer, and the Thirty Years War, together with the preceding wars of religion, was the background of his thought, always remembered. Living in Amsterdam and The Hague, an excommunicated Jew, a supporter of the De Witts against the House of Orange, famous as an advocate of religious toleration, he wrote two works of political philosophy, and one of them was the only book of his that it was considered safe to publish in his lifetime. He added a subtle variation to the political realism of Machiavelli and Hobbes, because he believed that there must always be two levels of thinking, and two kinds of belief, operative in society and in the course of history: at one level, philosophical enlightenment and scientific understanding among an élite, and, at the second level, conventional morality, ordinary decency, sustained by the prophetic tradition still attached to the various religions. The social function of religion and of prophecy is to keep alive the rudiments of morality in the minds of men and women governed by feeling and by imagination, who are naturally incapable of abstract reasoning, and who are therefore incapable of tracing morality to its source in reasonable self-interest. Religion deserves toleration, when it is tolerant itself.

Mr Delahunty’s monograph is similar in its aims to Jonathan Bennett’s recent A Study of Spinoza’s Ethics: both books examine Spinoza’s principal arguments in the spirit of contemporary analytical philosophy, tracing the steps in every argument and checking their validity. Mr Delahunty is never obscure and he is never difficult to read. He usefully remarks the many gaps in Spinoza’s arguments, and Spinoza is indeed like other great philosophers – Hume and Kant, for instance – in that he communicates a vision and does not effectively establish a case, in spite of the displayed apparatus of strict argument. Mr Delahunty begins with Spinoza’s theory of knowledge and then proceeds to the metaphysics, which is probably the right order of exposition for the modern reader. He does not examine Spinoza’s politics in any detail. In the later chapters he makes some interesting, though inconclusive observations on his theory of immortality, which no commentator so far has interpreted convincingly.

In spite of these solid merits, I have some reservations about Mr Delahunty’s exposition and criticisms of Spinoza. He has evidently drunk deeply at the well of wisdom which is analytical philosophy as taught at Oxford, where wisdom takes the form of sedate common sense, nicely put and never straying too far from home. This habit of thought leads him to underestimate, or simply to misunderstand, the radical transformations of our thought which Spinoza intended. The consequence is that he repeatedly criticises Spinoza for overlooking obvious features of ordinary experience, as this experience is recorded in ordinary language, while also oddly expressing great admiration for Spinoza as a philosopher. To take one example, he writes, not quite accurately: ‘Spinoza has to represent it as a necessary truth that a passion will be eliminated once we clearly and distinctly understand it by recognising its cause.’ To this he objects that a dentist’s knowledge of the cause of his toothache will not cause the toothache to go away. This wholly misses Spinoza’s point, which depended on a re-definition of emotions (and toothache is not an emotion) as being discriminated by the subject’s thought of the object of the emotion as being the cause of the pleasure or pain which he is feeling. In place of the Hume-Russell account of the emotions, which represents them as sensations like toothache, Spinoza represents emotions as pleasurable or painful perceptions of connections in the world – perceptions which could be enlarged and transformed by reflection. They are not unthinking reactions, as toothache is: they are causal beliefs, primitive or rational, about persons and things, tinged with pleasure or pain. We are not compelled to categorise our feelings in Spinoza’s way, or to look through the Hume-Russell lens either. The analytical illusion is that there is an irresistible classification of the elements of our mental life which is independent of any particular theory of knowledge.

On the relation of the material and spatial world to the world of thought, and consequently on the relation between a person’s body and his mind, Mr Delahunty goes astray, I think, because he does not sufficiently stress the fundamental distinction in Spinoza, which is between the intellectual order of things, an eternal framework, and the common order of nature, a scene of constant change always seen under some restriction of perspective. The intellectual world enters our minds as mathematics and logic, amazingly. Mathematics enters our minds bearing the irresistible marks of truth and certainty, because its propositions refer only to features of reality which are present at all times and everywhere, and which are independent of any particular perceptions. They allow no conceivable alternatives. Apart from mathematics, we are to think of ourselves as small creatures dumped in a vast, unbounded universe, with limited sense organs and limited brains, and hence with mere fragments of knowledge of the world and of ourselves. It is contrary to our intellectual nature, but in accord with the common order of our nature, to spend our lives fussing about our local misfortunes. But we can with luck and with care learn to take pleasure in more extended views of reality and in the reduction of our own pretensions to knowledge to their proper proportions.

Mr Delahunty does not sufficiently stress the fact that Spinoza is almost alone among the great Western philosophers in treating ordinary human knowledge naturalistically, as a by-product of the causal interactions between human beings – comparatively insignificant in size and in the range of their perceptions – and their immediate environment. There is therefore no conceivable possibility of our perceptions of the world around us corresponding to the true order of things in nature. Only mathematical objects exist in nature possessing the very properties that we ascribe to them.

Spinoza’s programme is to introduce into psychology, morality and politics as much systematic thinking, following mathematical and logical models, as is possible for us, and to place immediate political and moral concerns in a larger framework of theoretical understanding. Such a programme may at present seem too abstract to be useful. Spinoza touches interests in contemporary philosophy at two principal points: first, in his theory of the mirroring relation between the activities of a person’s mind and the activities within his body, and, secondly, in his theory of the cognitive element in the emotions and of their possible correction and improvement. The mind-body theory is both ingenious and immensely obscure, and Mr Delahunty has not quite unravelled the knots.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.