The Politics of Being Part of Nature

Australasian Philosophical Review 4 (3):225-235 (2020)
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ABSTRACT Genevieve Lloyd argues that when we follow Spinoza in understanding reason as a part of nature, we gain new insights into the human condition. Specifically, we gain a new political insight: we should respond to cultural difference with a pluralist ethos. This is because there is no pure universal reason; human minds find their reason shaped differently by their various embodied social contexts. Furthermore, we can use the resources of the imagination to bring this ethos about. In my response, I offer a friendly challenge to Lloyd’s characterisation of the lessons of Spinoza’s philosophy. I argue that Lloyd’s Spinoza remains excessively unpolitical, even in the moment that he is brought to bear on contemporary politics. An unpluralistic attitude may well be rationally inferior, but is it really explained by insufficient or inappropriate imagination? To the contrary, a properly Spinozist account of reason must include an account of the concrete determinants of reason’s imperfect realisation in the world. In Spinoza’s own oeuvre, this is carried out through an ever-increasing—and ever more sociological—interest in the political structures within which individual reason flourishes or withers.
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