Living Under the Guidance of Reason: Arne Naess's Interpretation of Spinoza

Inquiry 54 (1):2-17 (2011)
Abstract
There is no doubt that Spinoza values what he calls living under the guidance of reason, and that he somehow equates such a life with happiness. What is less clear is exactly how he conceives of such a life, and thus how he conceives of human happiness. According to Arne Naess's interpretation of Spinoza, the virtuous and free person will prefer the life of action, and happiness is best realised through living an active life “in the world”. Other scholars, however, have interpreted Spinoza as suggesting that the maximally free person will prefer a life of contemplation “outside the world”. In this paper, I address Naess's relationship with this aspect of Spinoza's practical philosophy, and propose my own interpretation of Spinoza where happiness, or living under the guidance of reason, consists in a combination of activity and contemplation.
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