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3 ‘The World by Chance’: On Lucretius and Spinoza

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Chapter Summary

When Althusser presents the subterranean current of the materialism of the encounter, he does so, in this text as in other analogous texts ('The Only Materialist Tradition'), in an autobiographical context. Naturally when the relationship of Spinoza with Atomism is evoked, the famous correspondence with Hugo Boxel cannot be avoided, in which Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius are cited as positive philosophical auctoritates, the only case in all of Spinoza's work, if the two long passages of the Political Treatise on Machiavelli are excluded. Without wanting to overestimate the analogy, there is the same connection between the ignorance of the nature of things, finalism as an anthropo-theo-centric prejudice, and inversion in the finalist explanation of causes and effects. The summons to Atomism, then, seems to be in Spinoza an appeal to the scientific study of the laws of nature against every form of religious superstition.

Keywords: aleatory materialism; anthropo-theo-centric prejudice; Atomism; Hugo Boxel; laws of nature; Lucretius; philosophical auctoritates; religious superstition; Spinoza; subterranean current

10.1163/9789004270558_005
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