The First Draft of Spinoza's Ethics

In Spinoza in 21st-Century French and American Philosophy. Bloomsbury (forthcoming)
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Abstract
The two manuscripts of the Korte Verhanedling that were discovered in the mid-nineteenth century contain two appendices. These appendices are even more enigmatic than the KV itself, and it is the first appendix that is the subject of this study. Unfortunately, there are very few studies of this text, and its precise nature seems to be still in question after more than a century and a half of scholarship. It is commonly assumed that the appendices were written after the body of the KV and I am not going to challenge this assumption. The first appendix is written in a geometric manner, and it contains seven axioms and four propositions. Strikingly, it does not include any definitions. This is in sharp contrast with Spinoza's Ethics and his 1663 book on Descartes' Principles of Philosophy, which are similarly written in a geometric manner but include both definitions and axioms. One could perhaps suspect that the text we currently have is merely a fragment from a more extensive work which included definitions. In my paper, I will show that this is not the case, and that the first appendix belongs to a genuine work of Spinoza that never contained definitions. I would further argue that the first appendix is most probably the earliest draft we currently have of Spinoza's magnum opus, the Ethics, but we have a long way to go before we reach that conclusion.
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Archival date: 2018-02-07
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