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Man’s Utility to Man: Reason and Its Place in Nature

Man’s Utility to Man: Reason and Its Place in Nature

Chapter:
(p.85) 3 Man’s Utility to Man: Reason and Its Place in Nature
Source:
Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization
Author(s):
Hasana Sharp
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226750750.003.0004

This chapter takes on the task of placing some sense into Spinoza’s appeals to “human nature,” his unequivocal valorization of human association and friendship, and his understanding of reason as the foundation of ethical practice. This chapter interprets Spinoza’s appeals to a universal “human nature” as merely rhetorical. Strictly speaking, there is no human essence; there are only singular essences of similar beings that are called “human.” Although it is not an uncontroversial interpretation, several Spinoza scholars deny that he maintains any doctrine of universal essences. It is argued here that reason expresses the power or virtue of situated minds. This has the result that rational ideas, even if grounded in universal properties of bodies called “common notions,” are not necessarily shared by those who reason.

Keywords:   human nature, human association, reason, ethical practice, universal essences, common notions

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