Feeling Justice: The Reorientation of Possessive Desire in Spinoza

International Studies in Philosophy 37 (2):113-130 (2005)
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In asserting that the desire to possess what we cannot exclusively and permanently have lies at the root of human misery, Spinoza's Ethics discloses a problem that requires a political response. Although the final part of the Ethics appears to be the least practical of Spinoza's writings, it nonetheless foregrounds the tangible problem of our desire for possession, our desire to have what gives us joy. Moreover, it proposes a remedial practice by means of which this problematic desire might generate satisfaction and strength rather than frustration and suffering. The "remedy for the affects" demands a reorientation of one's possessive desire corollary to the fundamentally affective and affirmative understanding of justice propounded in Spinoza's political writings. The cure for the possessive lovesickness portrayed in the Ethics, I aim to show, entails institutions of justice insofar as they operate upon our proprietary desires.
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