Violenta imperia nemo continuit diu: Spinoza and the Revolutionary Laws of Human Nature

Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 34 (1):133-148 (2013)
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In what follows, I will substantiate the argument that there are at least two senses in which Spinoza’s principles support revolutionary change. I will begin with a quick survey of his concerns with the problem of insurrection. I will proceed to show that if political programs can be called revolutionary, insofar as freedom is their motivation and justification, and insofar as freedom implies an expansion of the scope of the general interest to the whole political body, Spinoza ought to be called a revolutionary. Finally, I will contend that even if he does not praise mass insurrection, he finds its guarantee in the laws of human nature itself, which cannot tolerate tyranny. And, thus, it is in a revolutionary vein that Spinoza cites Seneca repeatedly: violenta imperianemo continuit diu (TTP 5 8, 16 9).

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Hasana Sharp
McGill University


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