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Becoming PoliticalSpinoza's Vital Republicanism and the Democratic Power of Judgment$
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Christopher Skeaff

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226555478

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226555508.001.0001

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Constitution of Judgment

Constitution of Judgment

(p.59) 3 Constitution of Judgment
Becoming Political

Christopher Skeaff

University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers how Spinoza’s thought illuminates the problem of sustaining the revolutionary power of a people to give themselves a political constitution. It elaborates the features of a Spinozist “constitution of judgment,” understood as both a constituent power at work in a people’s judgments and a fundamental law generated by these judgments. This republican idea of a constitution expresses, as a necessary truth, the way that humans achieve the perfection of their specific powers as citizens of a free people. However, this idea of a constitution of power, or perfect constitution, is not necessary in the sense that it determines what individuals will in fact do, for it exists only by virtue of judgments that actualize it in singular circumstances. The chapter demonstrates that, from Spinoza’s perspective, the right to participate in judging what belongs to an empowered people springs from natural law and targets human law, facilitating the adaptation of human legal orders to changing historical circumstances (evolution) as well as the innovation or internal transformation of such orders along more expansive, cosmopolitan dimensions (revolution).

Keywords:   constituent power, constitution, law, judgment, revolution, Spinoza

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