The Metaphysics of Natural Right in Spinoza

Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy 10 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (TTP), Spinoza argues that an individual’s natural right extends as far as their power. Subsequently, in the Tractatus Politicus (TP), he offers a revised argument for the same conclusion. Here I offer an account of the reasons for the revision. In both arguments, an individual’s natural right derives from God’s natural right. However, the TTP argument hinges on the claim that each individual is part of the whole of nature (totius naturae), and for this reason inherits part of the natural right of that whole. Using several analogous cases from the Ethics, I show that this form of argument from division is not compatible with Spinoza’s considered metaphysical views. The revised argument, by contrast, avoids the pitfalls of his earlier efforts. It also better reveals the deep roots by which the monistic metaphysics of the Ethics feeds into Spinoza’s conception of natural right.

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John R. T. Grey
Michigan State University

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