Sánchez de León Serrano, José María
Senior Fellow: January–May 2020
Research Project: Anti-Scepticism and Ordo Geometricus in Spinoza
This research project builds upon a previous one and continues to explore the relationship between Spinoza’s anti-scepticism and his methodology. Whereas the previous project investigated how knowledge of first principles is actually attained in Spinoza’s metaphysics, the present one focuses on the degree of evidence that Spinoza accords to the geometrical style of reasoning used in his Ethics. The adoption of the mos geometricus could be construed as Spinoza’s best strategy against the sceptical threat, due to the rigour of its proofs and the evidence of its principles. Yet this conclusion presupposes that the geometrical method is a rigid system. Scholars have shown that the use of the geometrical method in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was fairly flexible and dependent on context. When considered against this background, the reading of Spinoza’s Ethics as a closed system impervious to sceptical worries becomes questionable. Instead of being absolutely certain, a significant part of the principles and axioms in the Ethics seem to have merely conventional validity. In like manner, many of the demonstrations based upon them appear to be plausible rather than indisputable. Moreover, a close look at the deductive character of geometrical reasoning shows that it is not purely a priori, but that induction and generalizations from experience play a crucial role in it.
José María Sánchez de León Serrano earned his PhD in philosophy at the Universität Heidelberg. Before coming to Hamburg, he held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.