Leges sive natura: Bacon, Spinoza, and a Forgotten Concept of Law

In Walter Ott & Lydia Patton (eds.), Laws of Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 62-79 (2018)
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The way of laws is as much a defining feature of the modern period as the way of ideas; but the way of laws is hardly without its forks. Both before and after Descartes, there are philosophers using the concept to carve out a very different position from his, one that is entirely disconnected from God or God’s will. I argue that Francis Bacon and Baruch Spinoza treat laws as dispositions that derive from a thing’s nature. This reading upends the currently orthodox treatment of Spinoza’s laws as infinite modes, and calls for a re-conception of his metaphysics of causation.

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Walter Ott
University of Virginia


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