Southern Journal of Philosophy 41 (3):477-490 (2003)
AbstractIn Part 4 of his "Ethics," Spinoza puts forward and defends what might appear to be the controversial Hobbesean thesis that the desire to prolong one’s life is the basis of virtue (i.e., E4p22). Indeed there is a tradition of commentators offering an egoistic, Hobbesean interpretation of Spinoza’s ethical theory. In this paper, however, I argue that we should not understand Spinozistic self-preservation in the commonsense, empiricist sense of prolonging our lives. Instead I argue that, for Spinoza, self-preservation is a matter of perfection-preservation and perfection-enhancement, which does not essentially involve extending the duration of an individual’s existence.
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