Digitizing the Geometry of Spinoza’s Ethics

Torin Doppelt, a PhD candidate in philosophy at Queen’s University, has created Spinoza’s Ethics 2.0, a an interesting digital humanities project that “provides a representation of the structure of the geometrical demonstrations of Spinoza’s Ethics” (via Philosophy Matters). I asked him if he could say a little more about the project for Daily Nous readers. He writes:

I see the broader project as an open-ended investigation into the nuances of the geometrical method as Spinoza employs (or doesn’t employ) it, but also into the ways in which digitization and formalization can augment humanities research in general. Spinoza’s Ethics does, at least on the surface (with a few caveats), lend itself rather naturally to being digitized and represented in this sort of systematic way, but I think it’s possible to do similar things with non-geometrical works — perhaps not unlike the way that Spinoza himself thought it would be helpful to recast Descartes’ arguments in the geometrical style (see: Spinoza’s Principles of Cartesian Philosophy). I’ve also been thinking about other ways of presenting and visualizing the data, beyond charts and searchable text, e.g., in the form of dynamically generated animated tracings of dependencies of elements and other relations between them, but I haven’t had time to work out the various kinks in doing this yet.
Doppelt welcomes comments on the project, which you can post here or send to him directly.
Warwick University MA in Philosophy
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Greg Oakes
9 years ago

Way Cool! Thanks, Justin!

9 years ago

I also learned of this other graphical depiction of the logical dependencies in Spinoza’s ethics, put together by Alexander Pruss: http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2011/11/spinoza-graphs.html

9 years ago

Thanks to Daily Nous for sharing my little Spinoza project with the broader philosophical community.

I thought I should leave a comment here noting that I’ve substantially updated the website (both the design and the data have been completely overhauled and error-checked) since this was first posted, and have a number of further, hopefully useful, updates planned in the near future. I’ve been hoping to implement some form of interactive directed graphs, but this is made difficult just by the sheer volume of material in the Ethics. Hence the static nature of the graphs by Pruss above, and the original acyclic directed graph data from Tredwell. So, I’ve been attempting to create an updated “Web 2.0” version of something like these—but with my own data, which follows the Curley translation/notes cross-referenced with both the Latin (sourced from Project Gutenberg for now) and Dutch (which I derived from a scanned edition of the Nagelate Schriften, minus the marginal notes). This has proved fairly difficult to make both visually appealing and useful. But in any case, I’ll be adding other features to the site as well.

9 years ago

Correction: Above I mistakenly claim to have derived the Latin text from Project Gutenberg. The original source files I have are actually from here: http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/spinoza.html When I first set up the text in the database, several years ago, I recall comparing it to scans of the Gebhardt edition and as far as I know it should be reasonably accurate (though there may be typos throughout — that’s something I’ve been meaning to clean up).

Aaron Garrett
9 years ago

Great stuff Torin!

Robert Tredwell
Robert Tredwell
8 years ago

I’m delighted to see this beautiful and deep web site. As I mentioned when I first posted my data on Bombardi’s web site, I originally tried to do something of this sort many years ago without even the help of a spreadsheet. For a number of years, the results (on large sheets of cardboard) gathered dust behind my dresser. And then for several years the data seemed to share the same neglect on the web. And now, here it is–as I’d dreamed it might be…and better and clearer!

Now the next step is to illuminate the text on the basis of Spinoza’s geometric methodology. When I was a philosophy student, I was annoyed by the commentators on Ethica who insisted that the formal presentation was a blot on a perfectly good bit of Jewish philosophy, and that all that was worth knowing about the book could be gained by cutting the texts of Spinoza’s predecessors up into small pieces and reassembling them. I do not know how to build the commentary that will put the methodology in its proper perspective; but the task now seems to be in good hands.