Ethics of Joy: Spinoza on the Empowered Life, by Andrew Youpa. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020. Pp. 208

Mind 131 (523):995-1005 (2022)
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Abstract

The central argument of Youpa's book is that Spinoza's moral philosophy offers a distinctive variety of moral realism, grounded in a standard of human nature. In this review essay, I provide an overview of Youpa's remarkably lucid interpretation of Spinoza. However, I also critique Youpa's conception of the 'free man' as an objective standard of perfection which (a) applies equally to all humans, and (b) which has objective moral force in the sense that it ought to be approached. I sketch an alternative reading of Spinoza which denies a shared human essence, and which denies that an individual ought to become more perfect than they in fact are. I argue that Youpa's reading rests on the conflation of Spinoza's concepts of active power and adequate causation. I then suggest that Youpa's resultant excessive focus on a rational human essence as 'what we fundamentally are' leads him to downplay a more developmental and imaginative dimension to Spinoza's moral philosophy.

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Sandra Leonie Field
Monash University

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References found in this work

Spinoza.Don Garrett - 1991 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 51 (4):952-955.
Spinoza's Conatus Argument.Don Garrett - 2002 - In Olli Koistinen & J. I. Biro (eds.), Spinoza: Metaphysical Themes. Oxford University Press. pp. 127-58.

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