Spinoza’s Ethics 2.0

NB: this project was posted in a previous year and is being re-posted to adapt to the new website format.

Torin Doppelt is a PhD student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, working on issues surrounding the geometrical method. He has constructed a series of tables – Spinoza’s Ethics 2.0 – which presents a visual representation of the geometrical structure of Spinoza’s Ethics. Torin says: “I hope to use the tables to both generate new puzzles about Spinoza’s use of the geometrical method (they have already done so, in fact), and perhaps even resolve old puzzles. At the very least I hope they can be used to help scholars (especially myself) avoid missing important details of Spinoza’s notoriously opaque text.”

There are colour-coded tables for each part of the Ethics, in which each column represents a proposition or other demonstrated element, and each row represents the elements that can be used in the proofs. There are three main ways the tables can be used: the explicit uses of an element can be determined by tracing across to cells which contain letters representing the type of use (e.g., in a main demonstration, or in a corollary, scholium, etc.), and then tracing upwards (or downwards) to determine the location. Alternatively, the explicit elements used in a given demonstration can be determined simply by noting all the filled-in cells in a column. The tables can also illuminate the way in which elements of the Ethics depend on other elements, in a way that is not apparent from the text: by tracing backwards from the elements used in a given demonstration to their columns, it is easy to determine on which further elements the first demonstration depends. There are also other ways to derive information, including tabulating usage statistics, and producing graphs of data from different sections. In this way, much information contained in the Ethics that had not been easy to see before is now accessible at a glance.

The tables are available here: ethics.spinozism.org

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