God, or Nature?
Descartes built a whole new world on the basis of his mathematical science of nature, explaining the hidden reality which lies behind the misleading appearances of our lives. He then explained the place of God and of human beings in that new world, and how they were related. Spinoza, some twenty years later, was convinced that Descartes was right about the reality of the world around us, but completely wrong about God and people. He therefore set about trying to create a system in which not only the natural world, but also human thought, and even God himself, are explicable by the same mathematical science that Descartes brought to bear on the material world. The result is startling, puzzling, strange; it seems as if he is muddling up natural science, human feelings and religion all in a single mysterious mishmash. The big question is: is that because he was confused, or because we are?