Imitation, Representation, and Humanity in Spinoza's Ethics

Journal of the History of Philosophy 51 (3):383-407 (2013)
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Abstract
In IVP50S, Spinoza claims that “one who is moved to aid others neither by reason nor by pity is rightly called inhuman. For (by IIIP27) he seems to be unlike a man” (IVP50S). At first blush, the claim seems implausible, as it relies on the dubious assumption that beings will necessarily imitate the affects of conspecifics. In the first two sections of this paper, I explain why Spinoza accepts this thesis and show how this claim can be made compatible with his account of representation. In the third and final section I offer an auxiliary defense of the thesis, showing that, according to Spinoza, to be human is to sociable, and sociability depends on the imitation of the affects.
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