Existential dialogue 14: a friendly exchange about harmony


Baruch: Gottfried, I found a way to get fish like you get seeds!

Gottfried: don’t tell me it’s with your singing!

Baruch: you are making fun of me, I can see that, but no, not by singing, by speaking.

Gottfried: by speaking? But to whom?

Baruch: to Socrates of course! You know he often asks me questions; last time, he said he’d bring me some fish to thank me for the advice I give him.

Gottfried: I agree that your words are often wise. It’s probably your way of sharing and touching the harmony of the world.

Baruch: oh, I’m not making a theory of it. I just tell him how I feel.

Gottfried: yes, you don’t believe in an organizing being whose secrets we could unlock. So I wonder how you can explain the existence of harmony if there is no transcendence. In any case, well done for the fish, you are all set for winter!

Baruch: dear Gottfried, you assumer there’s some supra reason over the world when it is much simpler to think that reason is the world itself, of which we are attributes. This is what allows us to understand it by participation. Because if not, how could we conceive of something beyond us?

Gottfried: by intuition, dear Baruch. You can guess that the sound of the wave is made up of the sound of each droplet of water that makes it up, and that it therefore took a great organizer to tune it all up.

Baruch: for me, I’m the droplet and I know where I stand in the whole world. You think you are an external auditor. I participate, you analyze.

Gottfried: that you clearly express our differences does not prove you are right. The knowledge that we have is finite but it can be enlarged by the exercise of reason. Now your mysticism prevents you from questioning, don’t you think?

Baruch: I just need to know how to be happy because that’s what matters to me and what inspires me to live. Why would I want more? Having said that, although you have strange ideas, chatting with you is a source of joy and that is what I want to cultivate rather than the search for causes and effects that do not matter to my well-being.

Gottfried: and speaking of well-being, Socrates will cater to yours all winter.

Baruch: ho, I don’t see myself staying put here in front of a frozen lake, even if the fish comes to me by itself. I’m going South soon.

Gottfried: in your vacation heronry? How lucky you are! I will miss you.

Baruch: I’ll come back, Gottfried, and we’ll resume our conversations. In the meantime, your life is also good here in winter with everything you peck at the manor.

Gottfried: peck! You’re the one laughing now! I am not a hen. And don’t you think that when humans forget to fill the manger, I would rather be in a milder climate to find food more easily?

Baruch: it’s true, I hadn’t thought of that! Why don’t you come with me?

Gottfried: I can’t, I’m not equipped to fly so far and so long. In addition to our differences of opinion, we each have our physical limitations. Singing for you, flying for me. But tell me, do you have a girlfriend over there?

Baruch: no, you know I live alone since the accident.

Gottfried: you may meet a female heron as wild and erudite as you are …

Baruch: I don’t think so, it’s a pretty remote place.

Gottfried: who knows, Baruch, who knows? In any case, I wish you a good trip and a good stay. Don’t forget to stay in touch.

Want to think a little more? See Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die, where Steven Nadler explains in clear terms how Spinoza envisioned the good life and the pursuit of happiness.

Want to help improve these dialogues? Write your comments and questions below.

Want to know more about the tastes of Baruch and Gottfried? Their favorite books are in the domain library.

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