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In the Beginning Is Philosophy

On Desire and the Good


Brayton Polka

Philosophy, when understood to embody the values that are fundamental to modernity, is biblical in origin, both historically and ontologically. Central to this idea is the question famously posed by Tertullian: What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem? The answer – as based on a comprehensive and systematic discussion of the key texts and ideas of Spinoza, Vico, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche – is that we can overcome the conventional opposition between reason and faith, between philosophy and theology, and between the secular and the religious only if we learn to see that, as Spinoza shows us, both philosophy (reason) and theology (faith) are based on caritas: love – on the divine command to do unto others what you want others to do unto you. Provided throughout is a commentary on how fundamentally different philosophy is in the Greek and in the biblical traditions (in Athens and in Jerusalem). Whereas Socrates argues that (human) desire and the (divine) good are contradictory opposites, Spinoza shows that it is human desire that truly constitutes the divine good of all.
This book would be indispensable to courses (both undergraduate and graduate) in philosophy, religious studies, and the history of ideas – in interdisciplinary courses in the humanities, generally – that focus on the values that are central, both historically and ontologically, to modernity.
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Chapter 1

1. In keeping with the “bare bones” argument of my book, I shall not discuss in detail the relationship of my book either to my own prior studies or to the studies of other scholars. But readers will find in References those studies of my own, together with the studies of others, that are particularly relevant to my present book. Let me also note here that I observe the following citation protocol in my book. (1) I do not provide specific source information for general references to thinkers whose positions and perspectives I make my own. (2) However, when I cite the texts of individual authors, information on the editions of the works that I use are to be found in References. (3) When I cite, within a single paragraph of my study, consecutive passages from the same page of the work that I am discussing, the reference is given at the end of the last passage cited. (4) Emphasis in quotations is in the original unless otherwise indicated. Finally, I use “man” (and related words) in the non-gendered sense of homo (and not in the gendered sense of vir), consistent with the usage of the authors whose works I cite.

Chapter 2

1. It is important to be aware of the role that pseudonymous authorship plays in Kierkegaard. There is surely no author more acutely aware than he that the truth of ← 237 | 238 → communication involves no less...

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