Generosity as Freedom in Spinoza's Ethics


Authors
Hasana Sharp
McGill University
Abstract
Generosity is not best understood as an alliance of forces, necessary for mortal beings with limited time and skills. Sociability as generosity exceeds the realm of need and follows directly from our strength of character [fortitudo] because it expresses a positive power to overcome anti-social passions, such as hatred, envy, and the desire for revenge. Spinoza asserts that generous souls resist and overwhelm hostile forces and debilitating affects with wisdom, foresight, and love. The sociability yielded by generosity, then, is not just a form of cooperation we need to survive and produce leisure for study and contemplation. Generosity is not a mere means but a positive expression of freedom, because it is the activity through which a strong soul (and body) transforms enemies into friends. It is not an expression of lack, but of an acquired power that infuses one’s social milieu with empowering love and joy, creating agreements in nature and power where they did not previously exist. Attention to generosity reveals not only that there are social virtues proper to Spinoza’s understanding of freedom but that freedom itself is, by necessity, social.
Keywords Spinoza  Generosity  Freedom
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