Love and Possession: Towards a Political Economy of Ethics 5

North American Spinoza Society Monograph 14:1-19 (2009)
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Against the common understanding that the Ethics promotes a "radical anti-emotion program," I claim that Spinoza describes an immanent transformation of love from a form of madness to an expression of wisdom. Love as madness produces the affects that another tradition unites in the seven deadly sins, such as lust, gluttony, envy, greed, and pride. Spinoza, however, never condemns these affects as such. Within each affect one can find its "correct use" (E5p10schol), which enables us to love and to live otherwise. As we come to understand our beloveds as determinate expressions both of nature's power and of our own ability to persevere in being, we find conditions for our liberation within these most burdensome of passions. More specifically, as we diminish our tendency to imagine what we love in terms of its finitude and susceptibility to loss, we are determined to love and to know both others and ourselves by the joyful passions. Ultimately, Spinoza's portrait of love suggests ways of life that generate the satisfaction of our possessive desire with the collective and inclusive love of, certainly, the eternal and immutable thing, but also the eternal and immutable in things, in each other, and above all, in ourselves. In other words, Spinoza's economics of love and possession point up the desire to appropriate our own power in and of community, and in of nature.

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Hasana Sharp
McGill University


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