Spinoza on Reason

Oxford University Press
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In his work on metaphysics, Spinoza associates reasons with causes or explanations. He contends that there is a reason for whatever exists and whatever does not exist. In his account of the human mind, Spinoza makes reason a peculiarly powerful kind of idea and the only source of our knowledge of objects in experience. In his moral theory, Spinoza introduces dictates of reason, which are action-guiding prescriptions. In politics, Spinoza suggests that reason, with religion, motivates cooperation in society. Reason shapes Spinoza's philosophy, and central debates about Spinoza-including his place in the history of philosophy and in the European Enlightenment-turn upon our understanding of these claims. Spinoza on Reason starts with striking claims in each of these areas, which Michael LeBuffe draws from Spinoza's two great works, the Ethics and the Theological Political Treatise. The book takes each characterization of reason on its own terms, explaining the claims and their historical context. While acknowledging the striking variety of reason's roles, LeBuffe emphasizes the extent to which these different doctrines build upon one another. The result is a rich understanding of the meaning and function of each claim and, in the book's conclusion, an overview of the contribution of reason to the systematic coherence of Spinoza's philosophy.
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About the author

Michael LeBuffe is Professor and Baier Chair in Early Modern Philosophy at the University of Otago. He is the author of From Bondage to Freedom: Spinoza on Human Excellence (OUP 2010).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Sep 6, 2017
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780190845827
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / Metaphysics
Philosophy / Mind & Body
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Spinoza rejects fundamental tenets of received morality, including the notions of Providence and free will. Yet he retains rich theories of good and evil, virtue, perfection, and freedom. Building interconnected readings of Spinoza's accounts of imagination, error, and desire, Michael LeBuffe defends a comprehensive interpretation of Spinoza's enlightened vision of human excellence. Spinoza holds that what is fundamental to human morality is the fact that we find things to be good or evil, not what we take those designations to mean. When we come to understand the conditions under which we act-that is, when we come to understand the sorts of beings that we are and the ways in which we interact with things in the world-then we can recast traditional moral notions in ways that help us to attain more of what we find to be valuable. For Spinoza, we find value in greater activity. Two hazards impede the search for value. First, we need to know and acquire the means to be good. In this respect, Spinoza's theory is a great deal like Hobbes's: we strive to be active, and in order to do so we need food, security, health, and other necessary components of a decent life. There is another hazard, however, that is more subtle. On Spinoza's theory of the passions, we can misjudge our own natures and fail to understand the sorts of beings that we really are. So we can misjudge what is good and might even seek ends that are evil. Spinoza's account of human nature is thus much deeper and darker than Hobbes's: we are not well known to ourselves, and the self-knowledge that is the foundation of virtue and freedom is elusive and fragile.
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Spinoza rejects fundamental tenets of received morality, including the notions of Providence and free will. Yet he retains rich theories of good and evil, virtue, perfection, and freedom. Building interconnected readings of Spinoza's accounts of imagination, error, and desire, Michael LeBuffe defends a comprehensive interpretation of Spinoza's enlightened vision of human excellence. Spinoza holds that what is fundamental to human morality is the fact that we find things to be good or evil, not what we take those designations to mean. When we come to understand the conditions under which we act-that is, when we come to understand the sorts of beings that we are and the ways in which we interact with things in the world-then we can recast traditional moral notions in ways that help us to attain more of what we find to be valuable. For Spinoza, we find value in greater activity. Two hazards impede the search for value. First, we need to know and acquire the means to be good. In this respect, Spinoza's theory is a great deal like Hobbes's: we strive to be active, and in order to do so we need food, security, health, and other necessary components of a decent life. There is another hazard, however, that is more subtle. On Spinoza's theory of the passions, we can misjudge our own natures and fail to understand the sorts of beings that we really are. So we can misjudge what is good and might even seek ends that are evil. Spinoza's account of human nature is thus much deeper and darker than Hobbes's: we are not well known to ourselves, and the self-knowledge that is the foundation of virtue and freedom is elusive and fragile.
Spinoza rejects fundamental tenets of received morality, including the notions of Providence and free will. Yet he retains rich theories of good and evil, virtue, perfection, and freedom. Building interconnected readings of Spinoza's accounts of imagination, error, and desire, Michael LeBuffe defends a comprehensive interpretation of Spinoza's enlightened vision of human excellence. Spinoza holds that what is fundamental to human morality is the fact that we find things to be good or evil, not what we take those designations to mean. When we come to understand the conditions under which we act-that is, when we come to understand the sorts of beings that we are and the ways in which we interact with things in the world-then we can recast traditional moral notions in ways that help us to attain more of what we find to be valuable. For Spinoza, we find value in greater activity. Two hazards impede the search for value. First, we need to know and acquire the means to be good. In this respect, Spinoza's theory is a great deal like Hobbes's: we strive to be active, and in order to do so we need food, security, health, and other necessary components of a decent life. There is another hazard, however, that is more subtle. On Spinoza's theory of the passions, we can misjudge our own natures and fail to understand the sorts of beings that we really are. So we can misjudge what is good and might even seek ends that are evil. Spinoza's account of human nature is thus much deeper and darker than Hobbes's: we are not well known to ourselves, and the self-knowledge that is the foundation of virtue and freedom is elusive and fragile.
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