Spinoza: Moral Philosophy Like many European philosophers in the early modern period, Benedict de Spinoza developed a moral philosophy that fused the insights of ancient theories of virtue with a modern conception of humans, their place in nature, and their relationship to God. Unlike many other authors in this period, however, Spinoza was strongly … Continue reading Spinoza: Moral Philosophy →.
Spinoza's doctrine of the eternity of the mind is often understood as the claim that the mind has a part that is eternal. I appeal to two principles that Spinoza takes to govern parthood and causation to raise a new problem for this reading. Spinoza takes the composition of one thing from many to require causal interaction among the many. Yet he also holds that eternal things cannot causally interact, without mediation, with things in duration. So the human mind, since (...) it is the idea of a body existing in duration, cannot have an eternal part. In order to solve this problem, I propose an aspectual reading of Spinoza's doctrine of the eternity of the mind: the mind itself is eternal, under one of its aspects. (shrink)
Although Spinoza disagrees with Descartes's claim that animals are mindless, he holds that we may nevertheless treat them as we please because their natures are different from human nature. Margaret Wilson has questioned the validity of Spinoza's argument, since it is not clear why differences in nature should imply differences in ethical status. In this paper, I propose a new interpretation of Spinoza's argument that responds to Wilson's challenge. We have ethical commitments to other humans only because we share the (...) same nature, for this implies that in helping them become more perfect, we also make them more useful to us. However, since animals have different natures than we do, helping them perfect themselves may make them less useful to us. Reason dictates only what it can dictate unconditionally, so it does not guide us to pursue the good of lower animals. Though Spinoza's argument is valid, there is little reason to think it sound; I conclude with a brief criticism of Spinoza's doctrine of human nature, which plays a central role in the argument. (shrink)