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Spinoza on law and sovereignty

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There’s a moment in the history of early modern philosophy when the idea that humans are subject to the commands of God is challenged and rejected. Can we locate it? Perhaps the earliest philosopher who wholeheartedly gives up this orthodox view is Benedict Spinoza. In this paper I examine Spinoza’s wide-ranging argument for his claim that all laws, in the sense of commands, are made and imposed by human beings rather than by the deity. I show how he defends this conclusion by embedding it in his wider metaphysics and politics. I go on to examine some consequences of this move, concentrating on the instabilities it produces in Spinoza’s distinction between reason and imagination.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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