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Horst Steinke



This argument goes further (or perhaps better said, in a different direc-

tion) than Maull: «Spinoza’s message […] is that experiments (because they

admit to different interpretations) decide no unique hypothesis and that a me-

chanical hypothesis […] may only be justified by rigid mathematical proof

from higher principles» (Id.,

Spinoza in the Century of Science

, cit., p. 6). By «rea-

son», Spinoza did not have in mind a form of mathematical physics. A side

glance at the (modern) history of Spinoza reception shows that this tendency

has not always been resisted. Maull acknowledged that «[i]t has become com-

monplace […] to mention a conceptual link between elements of Spinoza’s

physical theory and rather more recent scientific notions – comparison with

potential energy, with fields of force, and even geometrodynamics», (


, p.

12); see also A. Gabbey,

Spinoza’s natural science and methodology

, cit., p. 183,

endnote 6, calling such notions «bizarre meditations» and «surreal diachronic

assignations». The best known case-in-point, of course, may be Einstein, giv-

en his professed Spinozism, about whom P. Pesic noted: «At a critical mo-

ment he invoked Spinoza to justify his opposition to quantum theory in the

name of rigorous determinism» (Id.,

Einstein and Spinoza: Determinism and Identi-

cality Reconsidered

, in «Studia Spinozana», 12, 1996, pp. 195-202, p. 195; see also

D. Home - A. Robinson,

Einstein and Tagore: Man, Nature and Mysticism

, in

«Journal of Consciousness Studies», 2, 1995, 2, pp. 167-179). Perhaps it was

also due to his reception or arguably “overinterpretation” of Spinoza that

Einstein conceived other entities in physics in certain ways, such as space –

not as a structural component, but as the all-embracing entity whose geometry

underlies forces and matter – and maybe also his predilection for oxymoronic

“thought experiments” (


) could be traced back to an (idio-

syncratic) reception and interpretation of the isomorphism of God-Nature

and Mind that are central themes in


According to Wilson, «[…]

thought is coextensive with materiality according to Spinoza […]» (Id.,


za’s theory of knowledge

, cit., p. 115).

On the other hand, Peterman salutarily noted, with respect to Spinoza’s

discussion of extension, motion, and rest in


– labelled in Spinoza stud-

ies as “physical digression” or “physical interlude” – that seems to have given

rise to much of modern “philosophical-scientific” speculation: «Given that

Spinoza does not provide the definition of motion and extension, we might

wonder to what extent we should even treat the interlude as specifically



» (Id.,

Spinoza on Physical Science

, cit., p. 219; italics original).


Nadler gave the following example of commonalities rooted in Spino-

za’s epistemic system as well as ontology (kept separate here for expository

purposes): «[…] such essences [of natural phenomena] are the equivalent