The Courtier and the Heretic Excerpt

Imagine a pair of friends returning separately from travels abroad, each describing a favorite city whose unpronounceable name they have forgotten. Your friends are wildly different in character, background, and aesthetic sensibilities; not surprisingly, they seem to have taken an interest in wildly different cities. As your friends are quite competitive, furthermore, they soon take to criticizing each other’s choices. Each celebrates the virtues of his city by contrasting them with the alleged failings of the other’s. As the discussion progresses, however, you begin to suspect that they are talking about the same city. In fact, you hear nothing in what they say that could confirm that they are not talking about the same city. Yet there is still no doubt that the city in question means something very different to each of your friends; that the two saw very different things in their travels. Now imagine that your friends are named Leibniz and Spinoza, and that the particular city they are discussing occupies the entire universe. The question then is: do they share the same philosophy? Or, in other words, is philosophy about what you see, or the way you see it?

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