Spinoza, Religion and Recognition

In Maijastina Kahlos, Heikki J. Koskinen & Ritva Palmén (eds.), Reflections on Recognition: Contemporary and Historical Studies. New York, NY, USA: Routledge. pp. 219-231 (2019)
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In the pre-history of the concept of recognition Spinoza’s social philosophy deserves a special place. Although we rarely think of Spinoza as a social philosopher, Spinoza understood well the ways in which individual subjectivity is shaped by the social forces. I will argue that Spinoza offers a mechanism to understand the way in which recognition works, in order to untangle the web of affect, desire and ideas, which support the recognitions and misrecognitions at the foundation of social life. Spinoza sets out this mechanism in Book Three of the Ethics, but his extended example of the first Hebrew Kingdom in the Theological-Political Treatise, shows how he applied his theory of social recognition to the great problem of his times – the debate between faith and reason, and the need to unify a commonwealth. Social unity based on shared religion, for Spinoza, could be powerful, though not so powerful as democracy. Only through understanding Spinoza’s views of social subjectivization can we understand why.
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