Spinoza’s Commonwealth and the Anthropomorphic Illusion

Philosophy Today 61 (4):833-846 (2017)
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Abstract
Balibar presents Spinoza as a profound critic of “the anthropomorphic illusion.” Spinoza famously derides the tendency of humans to project their own imagined traits and tendencies onto the rest of nature. The anthropomorphic illusion yields a gross overestimation our own agency. I argue in this essay that the flip side of this illusion is our refusal to extend certain properties we reserve exclusively to ourselves. The result is that we disregard the power of social and political institutions because they do not resemble us. The anthropomorphic illusion therefore causes us both to overestimate our power as singular individuals and to underestimate the power of social and political institutions. If we understand ourselves and institutions as “transindividuals” rather than on the illusory model of substantial individuality, it is unproblematic to attribute individuality to collective powers, like the commonwealth.
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ISBN(s)
0031-8256
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SHASCA-16
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Archival date: 2021-03-22
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