Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Kosmos in a Single Sentence

Once upon a time, one of my philosophy professors asked the class if we could think of one sentence that did a good job of summarizing the essence of any great philosopher's philosophy. The one that came to my mind immediately was Spinoza's, "The better we understand particular things, the better we understand God." I was too shy to say this in class. But I ended up writing a paper that purported to show how the essence of Spinoza's metaphysics, ethics, theology, and politics could all be inferred from this one little quote. I say my paper "purported to show" this, because, in retrospect, I'm sure it was comically crude and didn't come even close to accomplishing its lofty task.

Yet, I think tremendous wisdom is nevertheless distilled in that pithy quote. So when I recently encountered, by way of Bill Harryman's blog, a blog article that asked its readers to post a single sentence that captures the essential knowledge or wisdom they have gained from their field of expertise or interest, I thought of Spinoza's quote and a couple of others and fused them into one compound sentence: "All is One and One is All; the better we understand particular things, the better we understand God; and in this life, we cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love."

Actually, I posted the first two parts of this sentence in the comments section of Bill's and the other blog and have subsequently added the third part, courtesy of Mother Teresa, here to distill my essential metaphysics, ethics, theology, and politics. That is, I believe that we would do well to understand, not only with our intellects but also with our hearts, that "God" is the unified totality of existence in which every particular part of It exists and functions only in relation to the Whole, that the person who understands this deeply is overflowing with love for the divine Oneness and Its ostensive parts and conducts his or her life accordingly, and that the best political system is one that benevolently and effectively fosters this understanding, feeling, and conduct.


BB said...

Cool subject! I believe I could describe the Kosmos in a single word:

"WANT" :-)

Finding Fair Hope said...

You and your readers might be interested in Dan Spiro's blog Empathic Rationalist. Dan, a Spinoza specialist as well as a D.C. lawyer, has written a beautiful little novel called The Creed Room which deals indirectly with the subject.

Nagarjuna said...

It's good to hear from you again, FFH, and thanks for the heads-up on Dan Spiro's blog. I've bookmarked it and begun reading it, and, you're right, I AM interested in what he has to say.