Spinoza and the dictates of reason

Inquiry 51 (5):485 – 511 (2008)
Abstract
Spinoza presents the “dictates of reason” as the foundation of “the right way of living”. An influential reading of his position assimilates it to that of Hobbes. The dictates of reason are normative principles that prescribe necessary means to a necessary end: self-preservation. Against this reading I argue that, for Spinoza, the term “dictates of reason” does not refer to a set of prescriptive principles but simply the necessary consequences, or effects, of the mind's determination by adequate ideas. I draw on this conclusion in highlighting an abiding tension in Spinoza's notion of the preservation of one's being, which reinforces his divergence from Hobbes.
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