Imitation, Representation, and Humanity in Spinoza's Ethics

Journal of the History of Philosophy 51 (3):383-407 (2013)
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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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