Imagination, Prophecy, and Morality: The Relevance and Limits of Spinoza's Theory of Political Myth

Télos 2014 (169):64-83 (2014)

Johnny Brennan
Fordham University
Myth presents us with two major problems: definition and usage. In this paper I focus on the latter problem and argue in defense of Spinoza’s theory of political myth as opposed to the dichotomy of “myth as progress” and “myth as regression.” Spinoza’s theory is preferable because it allows for a full-bodied understanding of myth, its legitimate uses and its dangers for slipping into superstition. Because myth plays on the imagination, the basest form of knowledge available to all people and only source of error in knowledge, we must be careful not to take myth as truth. To do so is to regress into superstition. When used legitimately, myth is a powerful tool that can unite a people toward progress and change, and can be a useful force in the uncertain political times we have been facing.
Keywords Myth  Political Philosophy  Spinoza  Free Speech  Imagination  Prophesy
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DOI 10.3817/1214169064
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