By Michael Mack
An unique and broad-ranging reassessment of Spinoza’s highbrow legacy.>
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Bloodshed results from the self’s touting of superiority. The self who revels in his own supremacy, derives joy from the inferiority of the other: For whenever anyone imagines his own actions, he is affected with joy (by P 53), and with greater joy, the more his actions express perfection, and the more distinctly he imagines them, that is (by II40S1) the more he can distinguish them from others, and consider them as singular things. 44 True perfection, by contrast, does not separate between the self and the other.
Both Kant and Hobbes attempt to distill a moral kernel out of the Christian heritage. This moral essence should thus form the basis of their respective political philosophies. Both emphasize conscience over and against action. Spinoza’s ethology, in contrast, focuses on actions and their outcome rather than on the inward sphere of conviction. 11 Why does Spinoza abstain from secular radicalism? He values those aspects in different forms of religion that give rise to actions which are supportive of what he understands by ethics.
A notable exception is Jerome B. Schneewind who has drawn attention to the fact that Spinoza’s philosophy restored the split, perpetrated by voluntarist natural lawyers, between politics (prefigured by Duns Scotus’ view of God’s unlimited and arbitrary power) and ethics. ”9 In contrast to Descartes, Spinoza maintained that virtue was not superimposed on nature by reason, God or political power. Rather the virtuous coincides with the joyful fulfillment of each individual’s different natural potential.