Spinoza on the Fear of Solitude

Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy:137-162 (2022)
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Spinoza is widely understood to criticize the role that fear plays in political life. Yet, in the Political Treatise, he maintains that everyone desires civil order due to a basic and universal fear of solitude. This chapter argues that Spinoza represents the fear of solitude as both a civilizing passion and as an affect that needs to be amplified and encouraged. The turbulence of social and political life makes solitude attractive, but isolation undermines the conditions of human power. Although it may seem uncontroversial to understand isolation as something to avoid in political life, this chapter argues that Spinoza deflates the appeal of la vita solitaria even for philosophers and those seeking ethical perfection.

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Hasana Sharp
McGill University


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