Baruch Spinoza's Question

I’m running my work bookclub. We’re a small, tight-knit group and are going to read Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.”

The book’s epigraph is a quote from Spinoza:

I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, not to hate them, but to understand them. (Baruch Spinoza, 1676)

I think a question I’d like to ask the group (and myself) is: in a time like ours, is Spinoza’s “understand them” goal appropriate? If understanding is still a goal, what is our obligation to understand? How much understanding am I required to seek, of an ideology or morality that I find repugnant? And what should follow understanding? Does understanding necessarily bring sympathy? Acceptance? Toleration? Or something else?

Not sure how I’d answer this yet. But excited to talk about it.

Bryan Sebesta @bsebesta