In recent years, the notion of relational autonomy has transformed the old debate about the freedom of the individual in society. For Spinoza, individual humans are embedded in natural, social and political circumstances from which they derive their power and freedom. I take this to mean that Spinoza’s is best described as a constitutive theory of relational autonomy. I will show how by defining freedom in terms of power, Spinoza understands individual freedom as irreducibly relational. I propose that Spinoza develops (...) his theory of power to understand how individual power or freedom is limited and enhanced by the power of those around one. For Spinoza, the power of an individual is a function of that individual’s emotions, imaginative conceptions of itself and the world and its appetites. In this paper (1) I will argue that Spinoza reformulates a concept of freedom in terms of power. (2) His mature theory of freedom as power proposes that individual power is determined through social interaction, and is thus best understood as a relational theory of freedom. (3) I will show that as a consequence of Spinoza’s theory, individual power and empowerment relies on those around the individual, and thus, to achieve individual liberation we must pursue collective empowerment. (shrink)
Far from his ‘rationalist’ image, Spinoza recognizes that we do not emerge from the ground as fully formed rational agents. We are born and develop in social worlds, where our affects, values and conceptions of the world are formed. For Spinoza, even the ‘free’ individual or sage is affected by the social and emotional worlds in which he argues they ought to live. Yet, Spinoza is ambivalent about the social emotions. These socially conditioned affects and values may be harmful to (...) the individual and to the community. Although they are harmful, these affects may exert a kind of physical force -- an affective force -- that binds individuals to them even when they recognize their harm. If these values and affects are what unify the community, then questioning them may be perilous. Spinoza’s social theory brings light to the question of the ‘dissenter’ in the form of the sage. If the sage seeks ‘reason’, and the norms of the community may be harmful or ‘against reason’, then the sage is in a precarious position. What happens when one can no longer follow the norm of one’s community? What happens when one is at odds with one's culture? What can one do if one recognizes that the norms of one’s community might be bad for one or for all? This question interested Spinoza philosophically and personally. Spinoza advocates reforming harmful and irrational community norms; however, he recognizes the difficulty and danger of reform both for the community and for the reformer. (shrink)
Can we ever have politics without the noble lie? Can we have a collective political identity that does not exclude or define ‘us’ as ‘not them’? In the Ethics, Spinoza argues that individual human emotions and imagination shape the social world. This world, he argues, can in turn be shaped by political institutions to be more or less hopeful, more or less rational, or more or less angry and indignant. In his political works, Spinoza offered suggestions for how to shape (...) a political imaginary and create collective identities that are more guided by hope than by fear or anger. In this talk, using the framework of Spinoza's theory of emotions, I will investigate how Barack Obama's promise of 'hope' was translated into Donald Trump's rhetoric of hate. Such a transition, from hope to fear is one that would be unsurprising to Spinoza. Spinoza worried about the political and personal effectiveness of hope. He argued that hope can easily be turned into what he called ‘indignatio’ or indignation – an emotion that he believed eroded trust in political institutions and was the limit of state power. Spinoza warned about the danger of governance that relies upon the emotions of anger and hatred. In the Ethics, Spinoza painstakingly reconstructs the way in which individual emotions, ideas and motivations are shaped within social worlds. He argued that emotions based on pain, including hatred and indignation, diminish the power of the individuals who experience them and the political collective in which those individuals reside. Anger, fear and indignation weaken the state. In the second section of the paper, I will set out how the Trump administration’s reliance on the motivational forces of hate and anger risk what Spinoza called indignation. Trump's reliance on exclusionary conceptions of American identity have fanned the flames of racial, ethnic and religious hatred to motivate his base have had widespread social and political effects. I will offer arguments and examples which bear out the Spinozan worries about the effects of anger and indignation on the political and the social. Spinoza’s political works were written not just to explain the worries about an angry and indignant multitude, but also to show how to turn political indignation and anger into a chastened, and perhaps more rational, hope. Finally, I will propose that we may derive from Spinoza participatory, democratic institutions and collective identities that can overcome this indignation. (shrink)
The problems of contemporary states are in large part “affective disorders”; they are failures of states to properly understand and coordinate the emotions of the individuals within and in some instances outside the state. By excluding, imprisoning, and marginalizing members of their societies, states create internal enemies who ultimately enervate their own power and the possibility of peace and freedom within the state. Spinoza’s political theory, based on the notion that the best forms of state are those that coordinate the (...) power and emotions of those within a state, offers us both a diagnosis of and a cure for these affective disorders. In this paper I will outline Spinoza’s notion of the power of the state as a function of the power and coordination of the emotions of its citizens, and show that when the state contracts an affective disorder, such as excessive crime, rebellion, terrorism, etc. the state has failed to properly empower, include and coordinate the passions of the multitude of its citizens and subjects. (shrink)
In the pre-history of the concept of recognition Spinoza’s social philosophy deserves a special place. Although we rarely think of Spinoza as a social philosopher, Spinoza understood well the ways in which individual subjectivity is shaped by the social forces. I will argue that Spinoza offers a mechanism to understand the way in which recognition works, in order to untangle the web of affect, desire and ideas, which support the recognitions and misrecognitions at the foundation of social life. Spinoza sets (...) out this mechanism in Book Three of the Ethics, but his extended example of the first Hebrew Kingdom in the Theological-Political Treatise, shows how he applied his theory of social recognition to the great problem of his times – the debate between faith and reason, and the need to unify a commonwealth. Social unity based on shared religion, for Spinoza, could be powerful, though not so powerful as democracy. Only through understanding Spinoza’s views of social subjectivization can we understand why. (shrink)
While to political theorists in the United States ‘community radio’ may seem a quaint holdover of the democratization movements of the 1960s, community radio has been an important tool in development contexts for decades. In this paper I investigate how community radio is conceptualized within and outside of the development frame, as a solution to development problems, as part of development projects communication strategy, and as a tool for increasing democratic political participation in development projects. I want to show that (...) community radio is an essential tool of democratization and democracy outside of the development frame. To do so, I will bring out the conceptual and structural dimensions of community radio through examples of existing community radios, both those which are independently created and those which have been created as development projects. These structural and conceptual elements provide community radio the potential to realize the goals of development practice while avoiding characteristic pitfalls. These ‘pitfalls’ of development are also pitfalls of democratization and democracy in existing democratic states, and include: depoliticization, limited participation, particularly of marginalized groups. (shrink)
We do not generally take the Hobbesian project to be one that encourages human flourishing. I will argue that it is; indeed, I will propose that Hobbes attempts the first modern project to provide for the possibility of the diversity of human flourishing in the civil state. To do so, I will draw on the recent work of Donald Rutherford, who takes Hobbes to be a eudaimonist in the Aristotelian tradition.
This paper examines recent feminist work on Spinoza and identifies the elements of Spinoza’s philosophy that have been seen as promising for feminist naturalism. I argue that the elements of Spinoza’s work that feminist theorists have found so promising are precisely those concepts he derives from Hobbes. I argue that the misunderstanding of Hobbes as architect of the egoist model of human nature has effaced his contribution to Spinoza’s more praised conception of the human individual. Despite misconceptions, I argue that (...) the model of human nature, the view on human emotions and the conception of individual power that Hobbes created and Spinoza developed is an uncommonly useful one for feminist political theory. Through reexamining Hobbes’ model of human nature and the emotions I will argue that Hobbes’ theory of the internal weighing of emotions provides an important mechanism for understanding how the individuals’ affects can be reformed. I will show how we can use this naturalistic model of the human individual to answer contemporary theoretical and practical questions of how to empower women and how to effectively identify, challenge and change social categories, norms and institutions which are disempowering. In particular, I will argue that feminist projects of empowerment need a way to measure empowerment and a way to understand how to understand the power of harmful norms and customs. Understanding the way certain norms and practices disempower women while forming their affects and self‐conceptions provides the first step to reform of these practices. Spinoza and Hobbes provide us with a further tool to reform, and that is their understanding of the role of emotions in human action and power, and the need to reform and reorganize the emotions of individuals in order to escape harmful patterns of behavior. (shrink)
In this paper, I show how the phenomenological and hermeneutic traditions and method converge on their treatment of the historical subject. Thinkers from both traditions claim that subjectivity is shaped by a historical worldview. Each tradition provides an account of how these worldviews are shaped, and thus how essentially historical subjective experience is molded. I argue that both traditions, although offering helpful ways of understanding the way history shapes subjectivity, go too far in their epistemic claims for the superiority of (...) subjective over positivist or academic history I propose that although the phenomenological/ hermeneutic approach to historical subjectivity is valuable for understanding both history and human nature, it cannot and ought not replace academic or what I will call ‘critical’ history. By showing the importance of historicity, and the force of historical consciousness on our actions, philosophers of history in these traditions expose the epistemic and perhaps even ethical requirement to engage in a rigorous critical history, one that recognizes the importance of historical consciousness. Such critical history is necessary to move beyond the subjective horizon of history as experienced to understand how events shaped this historical horizon. (shrink)
Spinoza’s ‘multitude’, while a key concept of his political philosophy, allows us to better understand Spinoza’s work both in its historical context and as a systematic unity. In this piece, I will propose that we understand Spinoza’s concept of the ‘multitude’ in the context of the development of his political thought, in particular his reading and interpretation of Thomas Hobbes, for whom ‘multitude’ was indeed a technical term. I will show that Spinoza develops his own notion of multitude as an (...) interpretive extension of Hobbes’s concept. Spinoza’s notion of ‘multitude’ is shaped by the new answers he gives to the Hobbesian questions about the human power, human emotion and the metaphysical-political questions of how individuals can become a whole, or a state. (shrink)
Abstract: Reflecting on the practice of being a Spinoza scholar and Spinozist in Trump's Pandemic America, I argue that we can find consolation in Spinoza's insistent norm -- to understand rather than to blame, to banish free will as explanans so we can fully understand the explanandum. Just as Boethius reflected on human misunderstanding of luck, so Spinoza teaches that we need, in moments of despair, to look not to superstition, but to the recognition of the causal forces that yield (...) our triumphs and failures, and to understand them. While we are unmoored in the chaos of Trump's America, in the joyful expression of popular emancipatory power in the Black Lives Matters mass demonstrations and marches through American cities and suburbs, and the nightly horror of demonstrators murdered by police, I reach back to another moment of chaos with liberatory and nightmarish potential -- the years just after the U.S. Civil War described in Leaves of Grass. We can find Spinozist moments in Whitman's poem and philosophical memoir -- a kind of American Spinozism. As he travels among the horrors and the new possibilities of American life, Whitman insists on seeing and feeling the world as it is -- terrible, wonderful, in all its fleshy imperfection, while finding hope in these same flawed particulars. In 2020, Trump's America, Spinoza and Spinozism are not just relevant, are not just consolations in the Boethian sense, but they are essential epistemic survival tools for a world quite obviously in motion. (shrink)
Can we ever justly critique the norms and practices of another culture? When activists or policy-makers decide that one culture’s traditional practice is harmful and needs to be eradicated, does it matter whether they are members of that culture? Given the history of imperialism, many argue that any critique of another culture’s practices must be internal. Others argue that we can appeal to a universal standard of human wellbeing to determine whether or not a particular practice is legitimate or whether (...) it should be eradicated. In this paper, I use the FGC eradication campaigns of the 1980s to show that the internal/external divide is complicated by the interconnectedness of these debates on the international level. As the line blurs between internal and external criticism and interventions, new questions emerge about the representativeness of global institutions. (shrink)
In my dissertation, I derive a set of systematic principles and a conception of the political subject from Spinoza’s metaphysics and political writings and then bring these tools to bear on contemporary questions in democratic theory. I argue that Spinoza’s conception of the political subject answers feminist critiques of the liberal subject, while retaining an understanding of the need for empowered citizens in strong democracies. Spinoza’s normative political theory shows how political communities become stronger through the empowerment and participation of (...) their citizens. I argue that Spinoza’s naturalistic method provides a promising path for both ethics and political theory. In the first chapter of my dissertation, I sketch the history of the development and critiques of the ‘liberal’ conception of human nature. I argue that rather than a substantial conception of human nature, the liberal subject is a skeptical compromise developed for a very specific purpose following the post-Reformation Wars of Religion in Europe in the 16th century. I then take on a variety of critiques of the notion of human nature in general and of the liberal conception of human nature in particular. I argue that political theory requires a positive conception of human beings. Spinoza’s conception of the human individual, created in order to replace what Spinoza thought were problematic aspects of the theories of individuals proposed by Hobbes and Descartes, does not suffer from the problems of the liberal subject and is a good candidate for a positive conception of human nature. In Chapter Two, I set out the main components of Spinoza’s naturalistic conception of the human individual. Spinoza understands human beings as primarily affective, or emotional creatures, whose feelings mediate their conceptions of the world. For Spinoza, each individual can be understood to have an index of power, which can increase or decrease depending on the degree to which individuals understand and are able to control the forces that affect them. In Chapter Three, I show that Spinoza’s theory of the political state is parallel to his theory of the individual. For Spinoza, just as individual humans have an index of power that can increase or decrease depending on how their emotions are organized, so too states have different degrees of power depending on how the emotions and power of the human beings within them are organized. The challenge for a Spinozan state is to understand how to create social and political institutions to organize the emotions of the ‘multitude’ of individuals in the state in the best way to yield the strongest state. For Spinoza, the strongest, or most absolute state, is a democracy, which is also the freest kind of state. I set out Spinoza’s theory of democracy and show how it builds upon his notion of individual and collective power. In Chapter Four, I take up the potential objections of Iris Marion Young to Spinoza’s conception of democratic agreement. I say these objections are ‘potential’ because, although Young critiques Rousseau’s conception of the general will, she does not directly object to Spinoza’s view of ‘agreement’ as a necessary element in democratic deliberation. However, many of Young’s writings touch on this worry, particularly in her critiques of Rousseau, civic republicanism and contemporary deliberative democracy theory. I argue that Spinoza’s notion of agreement employs a different conception of reason than that found in Rousseau, or in the tradition of deliberative democratic theory. Reason, for Spinoza, is a collective achievement rather than a precondition for deliberation. Spinoza argues that agreements reached through large-scale discussion in a democracy are likely to be more ‘reasonable’ than those reached by few or by one. Spinoza and Young share, I argue, a similar conception of the role of affect in deliberation, and both recognize the importance of affects and imagination in social and political life. In Chapter Five, I contrast a Spinozan theory of empowerment to Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach. Nussbaum’s approach and that of Spinoza are consonant in many of their major aspects; however, I argue that in practice, Spinoza’s theory is better able to account for the contextual nature of empowerment and of the necessity to reform harmful social, moral and cultural norms through affective mechanisms. In the conclusion, I consider the larger implications for a Spinozan naturalist approach to political philosophy, and for the role that theories of human nature and metaphysics can play in political theory. I argue that by avoiding metaphysics and by avoiding conceptions of human nature, those interested in projects of emancipation can have no criteria for determining whether or not individuals have become emancipated or whether their power has in fact increased. The model I derive from Spinoza’s conception of individual power and his view of the power of political states as a function of the power of the coordination of individuals provides a promising alternative to liberal theories of the subject and to extant feminist theories of the human individual, which ignore the psychological and metaphysical aspects of human individual and collective power. (shrink)
"Based on a true story: the early modern tale." In Idea and Ontology, Marc Hight argues that the story we have been told about early modern philosophy is false. What Hight calls the "early modern tale" tells us that beginning with Descartes and ending with Berkeley, metaphysics began its slide into the historical dustbin, replaced by epistemology as first philosophy. The categories of medieval metaphysics, substance and mode, so the story goes, could no longer serve the needs of the moderns, (...) specifically their questions about the nature of ideas. Ideas could not easily be categorized as either substances or modes, and because of this difficulty, metaphysical questions were abandoned in favor of epistemological questions about the nature of representation and certainty. Hight reexamines the early modern tradition to find the metaphysicians behind the epistemologists' masks supposed by the early modern tale.Once the metaphysical questions are revealed as central to early modern philosophy, Hight argues that Berkeley's immaterialism, rather than ridiculous, is the final and triumphant conclusion of the metaphysical speculations of the seventeenth and eighteenth. (shrink)
We do not generally take the Hobbesian project to be one that encourages human flourishing. I will argue that it is; indeed, I will propose that Hobbes attempts the first modern project to provide for the possibility of the diversity of human flourishing in the civil state.
We do not generally take the Hobbesian project to be one that encourages human flourishing. I will argue that it is; indeed, I will propose that Hobbes attempts the first modern project to provide for the possibility of the diversity of human flourishing in the civil state.
Engaging with Global Justice through InternshipsGlobal justice, on its face, seems like an impossible task. As individuals, even citizens of wealthy and powerful countries, the task of economic, social and political justice seems to outstrip our intellectual, practical and emotional abilities. Considering the scope of 'global' justice, it would appear that a massive coordinated effort would be necessary to overcome the problems of global injustice, yet it would seem such coordination may be impossible. The difficulties of seeking justice between nations (...) led John Rawls to suggest that we can only hope for a kind of humanitarian goodwill between states, which in his view was less than a robust requirement for international justice. Amartya Sen, in the Idea of Justice, recently argued that it is not justice that we seek, since seeking justice in a global sense is impossible. Given the capitulation of such philosophical luminaries, it is no wonder that philosophy students often find the problems of global justice and injustice to be intractable and indeed, overwhelming. However, when students engage with those whose everyday work involves chipping away at one or another specific problem of global justice, they learn not despair, but hope, and more importantly, they learn how issues of global justice are addressed in practical terms. Those who work on these local issues not only have an understanding of the connection between local, national and global aspects of these issues, they solve these problems, and can show students how everyday decisions on a local level affect issues of justice on a larger scale. Working with such individuals and organizations helps students understand the work of justice, and its local, national and global faces. In my course 'Global Justice', I use internships with social justice organizations to give students a look at the everyday, often difficult, but essentially manageable work that goes into solving issues of injustice at the local, national and global levels. I call this work 'engaged learning'. Engaged learning is a variety of experiential learning that seeks to integrate theory and practice through project-based internships that foster strong university-community partnerships. In my philosophy course 'Global Justice', each of my students is assigned a semester-long internship with a local organization working on issues of global justice. Through these internships, students work through larger theoretical questions while engaging in the everyday work of global justice practitioners. In what follows, I describe how I organized this class and what elements of the course work to both create good experiences for my students and community relationships that persist beyond the semester. (shrink)
In the Ethics, Spinoza argues that individual human emotions and imagination shape the social world. This world, he argues, can in turn be shaped by political institutions to be more or less hopeful, more or less rational, or more or less angry and indignant. In his political works, Spinoza offered suggestions for how to shape a political imaginary that is more guided by hope than by fear or anger. In this chapter, using the framework of Spinoza’s theory of emotions, I (...) will investigate how Barack Obama’s promise of ‘hope’ was translated into Donald Trump’s rhetoric of hate. Such a transition, from hope to fear is one that would be unsurprising to Spinoza. Spinoza worried about the political and personal effectiveness of hope. He argued that hope can easily be turned into what he called ‘indignatio’ or indignation—an emotion that he believed eroded trust in political institutions. Spinoza warned about the danger of governance that relies upon the emotions of anger and hatred. I will set out how the Trump administration’s reliance on the motivational forces of hate and anger risk what Spinoza called indignation. Spinoza’s political works were written to show how to turn political indignation and anger into a chastened, and perhaps more rational, hope. Finally, I will propose that we may derive from Spinoza participatory, democratic institutions that can overcome this indignation. (shrink)
Can we ever justly critique the norms and practices of another culture? When activists or policy-makers decide that one culture’s traditional practice is harmful and needs to be eradicated, does it matter whether they are members of that culture? Given the history of imperialism, many argue that any critique of another culture’s practices must be internal. Others argue that we can appeal to a universal standard of human well-being to determine whether or not a particular practice is legitimate or whether (...) it should be eradicated. In this paper, I use the FGC eradication campaigns of the 1980s to show that the internal/external divide is complicated by the inter-connectedness of these debates on the international level. As the line blurs between internal and external criticism and interventions, new questions emerge about the representativeness of global institutions. (shrink)
Tucker, E. 'Spinoza's Multitude", in A. Santos Campos Spinoza: Key Concepts, Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2015Spinoza's 'multitude', while a key concept of his political philosophy, allows us to better understand Spinoza's work both in its historical context and as a systematic unity. In this piece, I will propose that we understand Spinoza's concept of the 'multitude' in the context of the development of his political thought, in particular his reading and interpretation of Thomas Hobbes, for whom 'multitude' was indeed a technical (...) term. I will show that Spinoza develops his own notion of multitude as an interpretive extension of Hobbes's concept. Spinoza's notion of 'multitude' is shaped by the new answers he gives to the Hobbesian questions about the human power, human emotion and the metaphysical-political questions of how individuals can become a whole, or a state. 2015. Tucker, E. 'The Multitude", in A. Santos Campos Spinoza: Key Concepts, Exeter: Imprint Academic. (shrink)
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