Although I find it enjoyable and thought-provoking to watch Spinoza attempting to keep all his trains of thought non-colliding and on logical rails, I am not always satisfied with the destinations arrived at. However, one of my favorites tickets-to-ride offered by Spinoza is when he takes us on a philosophical rail-tour of the relativity of the human senses.
Spinoza writes to Oldenburg in 1662 (SPINOZA: The Letters by Shirley et al) that it is only due to limited human perception that we group things into categories of “visible” or “invisible,” “hot” or “cold,” and et cetera. Even some observations which seem fairly objective are revealed by Spinoza’s iron-precise turn of thought to be merely relative.
For example, we find in our experience that some things are solid, others are gases, and still others are fluids. The difference between a solid and liquid seems fairly obvious to any observer, and not really something up for argument in all but the extreme, borderline cases.
However, when we perceive something as being “fluid,” Spinoza explains that we are perceiving a group of “moving bodies whose minuteness and intervening spaces escape detection by human senses,” and thus they appear to us to flow as one system– say a “river” or a “rivulet.” On the other hand, when we see an entity which appears to us as a “solid,” what we are basically looking at is something possessing a movement which is “too gradual to be observed.”
Even large bodies that we perceive as isolated solids (even whole solar systems) could be seen by some other creature as particles flowing in a much larger fluid of which we humans are unaware.
This leads me to ponder the following what if: what if we humans moved and thought really, really fast… then would a river appear to us as one long solid grouping– like an exposed vein of ore? Or maybe a like the Milky Way appears to us now.
And if we moved really, really slowly– perhaps we would look at a tree and see it as a stream of nature moving up through its roots and back out into nature through a variety of paths.
And to think… some people have to trip on LSD to experience these kind of revelations…
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