The Reemergence of Spinoza’s Conatus in the Political Sphere

Southwest Philosophical Studies 33 (2011)
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Spinoza’s metaphysical concept of striving (conatus) entails that all particular things without exception partake in the similar goal of self-preservation. From this position, he derives psychological principles for humans that account for social behavior in terms of one’s effort to preserve one’s community. His position stands in opposition to common sense descriptions of ‘unselfish’ behaviors such as altruism and Michael Della Rocca’s formulation of “other directed striving.” Spinoza accounts for humans acting in the interest of others via community, without compromising his metaphysics or rigorous commitment to naturalism. His explanations outline a means to act socially that minimizes the threat violent emotions pose to political harmony.

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Evan Roane
Houston Community College System


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