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Spinoza's Book of LifeFreedom and Redemption in the Ethics$
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Steven Smith

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780300100198

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300100198.001.0001

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Thinking about Desire

Thinking about Desire

(p.94) 4 Thinking about Desire
Spinoza's Book of Life

Steven B. Smith

Yale University Press

This chapter describes how Spinoza took mathematics, and especially geometry, as providing the model for all reasoning, as proposed by the Ethics—a work of scientific psychology akin to Descartes's Meditations and the opening chapters of Hobbes's Leviathan. Mathematics provides a kind of universal language that cuts across the study of nature and the so-called human sciences, like politics, history, and morality. In one of his most decisive utterances on this approach, Spinoza tries to justify his use of the geometrical method in the study of the passions. The task of the moralist, he seems to say, is not to indulge in judgments of praise and blame, but to understand the virtues, like all other things, as the result of anterior causes. He adopts what appears to be a purely scientific, value-free treatment of the passions. Since nothing happens or can happen contrary to nature, it follows that our judgments of good and bad, better and worse, are always expressions of our knowledge of “the laws and rules of nature.”

Keywords:   mathematics, geometry, Descartes, Hobbes, geometrical method, the passions

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