A SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY READER OF SPINOZA'S OPERA POSTHUMA PIET STEENBAKKERS Utrecht Spinoza's audience For whom did Benedictus de Spinoza (1632-1677) write his Ethica? Per- haps this is the wrong question: for all we know he wrote it primarily for himself, that is: he wrote because he had something to say. Even so, the work was conceived from the very beginning as a text for others to read and discuss. Spinoza sent instalments of the work in progress to his friends in Amsterdam, who studied them carefully, translated them into Dutch and sent him letters with their comments and queries. Moreover, in giving the Ethica its shape, Spinoza evidently had in mind a certain audience, with rather well-defined tastes and expec- tations. Thus the geometrical mode of discourse, forbidding though it may seem to us now, was a signal for a seventeenth-century audience, a programme which proclaimed the unity of all sciences and the primacy of the mathematical method. The language in which he wrote, Latin, signified that the intended audience was academic. In the wording of the text, Spinoza sometimes uses expressions that do not fit very well into his own system, but that seem designed to communi- cate
Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis (in 2006 continued as Church History and Religious Culture) – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1997
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