The Force of Ideas in Spinoza

Political Theory 35 (6):732-755 (2007)
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Abstract

This paper offers an interpretation of Spinoza's theory of ideas as a theory of power. The consideration of ideas in terms of force and vitality figures ideology critique as a struggle within the power of thought to give life support to some ideas, while starving others. Because ideas, considered absolutely on Spinoza's terms, are indifferent to human flourishing, they survive, thrive, or atrophy on the basis of their relationship to ambient ideas. Thus, the effort to think and live well requires attention to the collective dimensions of thinking life, where "collective" refers to a transpersonal accumulation of ideal power that includes human as well as nonhuman beings. Because it is a matter of force and power rather than truth and falsity, the project of thinking otherwise entails an effort to displace and to reorganize ideas that is best undertaken by coordinating and galvanizing many thinking powers.

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Hasana Sharp
McGill University

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