Spinoza on Reason, Passions, and the Supreme Good

ISBN : 9780198847908

Andrea Sangiacomo
272 Pages
153 x 153 mm
Pub date
Dec 2019
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Spinoza's thought is at the centre of an ever growing interest. Spinoza's moral philosophy, in particular, points to a radical way of understanding how human beings can become free and enjoy supreme happiness. And yet, there is still much disagreement about how exactly Spinoza's recipe is supposed to work. For long time, Spinoza has been presented as an arch rationalist who would identify in the purely intellectual cultivation of reason the key for ethical progress. Andrea Sangiacomo offers a new understanding of Spinoza's project, by showing how he himself struggled during his career to develop a moral philosophy that could speak to human beings as they actually are (imperfect, passionate, often not very rational). Spinoza's views significantly evolved over time. In his early writings, Spinoza's account of ethical progress towards the Supreme Good relies mostly on the idea that the mind can build on its innate knowledge to resist the power of the passions. Although appropriate social conditions may support the individual's pursuit of the Supreme Good, achieving it does not depend essentially on social factors. In Spinoza's later writings, however, the emphasis shifts towards the mind's need to rely on appropriate forms of social cooperation. Reason becomes the mental expression of the way the human body interacts with external causes on the basis of some degree of agreement in nature with them. The greater the agreement, the greater the power of reason to adequately understand universal features as well as more specific traits of the external causes. In the case of human beings, certain kinds of social cooperation are crucial for the development of reason. This view has crucial ramifications for Spinoza's account of how individuals can progress towards the Supreme Good and how a political science based on Spinoza's principles can contribute to this goal.


General Introduction
1 The Paths Towards the Supreme Good in the Treatise on the Emendation
2 Passions and Reason in the Short Treatise
3 A Passionate Path Towards the Supreme Good in the Theological-Political Treatise
4 Common Notions in the Ethics
5 Passions and Reason in the Ethics
6 Passionate Agreement: Spinoza's Political Science
General Conclusion

About the author: 

Andrea Sangiacomo is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Groningen. He has worked extensively on early modern philosophy and science, and devoted a significant part of his research to Spinoza. He co-edited Being with Others: Spinoza and Relational Autonomy (Edinburgh 2019, with Aurelia Armstrong and Keith Green).

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