This chapter previews the book’s main theme: Spinoza’s conception of judgment and its democratic implications. Current news media and scholarship take a dim view of popular judgment, presuming it to be a threat or at best an auxiliary to good government. In Spinoza’s thought, the chapter suggests, one finds a more radically democratic vision of judgment as the defining activity of a people’s power and vehicle of their self-organization. The chapter introduces “vital republicanism” as the organizing idea for the interpretation offered in the book. Given that Spinoza has no express theory or ready-made account of the democratic power of judgment, the book uses the paradigm of vital republicanism to analyze the conditions and components of that power and synthesize them into a whole.
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