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“Sovereign Decisions: The Will and the Law in the Ethics and the TTP”

16. Oktober 2017 um 15:30 - 18:00

Veranstaltungskategorie Vortrag |Foto: kasto/


Institut für Philosophie


In chapter IV of the TTP, Spinoza distinguishes between two kinds of law, one that “depends … on a necessity of nature,” the other “on a human decision” (4.1; III/57). In this paper I shall consider the relation of these two kinds of law to each other and to the ground of sovereign authority, which is the divine will in the first case, and the human will in the second. I agree with recent analyses of this topic—for instance (Verbeek 2003) and (Rutherford 2010)—that Spinoza does ultimately base laws of the second on laws of the first. However, I shall argue that both underestimate the extent to which the imagination can play a positive role in the ethical and political project. While Rutherford, for instance, acknowledges the need for laws based on human decision, he does not fully discuss the place of the imagination in their function. Instead, he focuses on the narrow class of rational dictates that are important in achieving the highest good. If we look at the early work and later parts of the Ethics, it does indeed seem that Spinoza is most concerned with how a rational person can overcome his bondage to the imagination and the passions. Yet, in the TTP, Spinoza discovered the necessity of understanding those very mechanisms and what they can achieve. I shall show that he uses a concept that his explicit in his early works—a “being of reason” [entia rationis]—to make sense of the human will, the sovereign will, and the product of those acts, ethical prescriptions and law. The specific imaginative mechanism that is at the heart of the will and its law is analogy, and this explains both how we go wrong in our decisions but also how we might go right.

Prof. Dr. Michael Rosenthal
(Washington University Seattle)

Prof. Ursula Renz (ursula.renz [at]


16. Oktober 2017
15:30 - 18:00
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