Spinoza and the Apology of the Common Life

It is not difficult to find in Spinoza phrases in which critical thinkers who look at least the experience of the common life:

“And, to tell the truth, the reality is that of the common society of men, arise a lot more advantages than harm. Laugh, because, as much as they want of human things the satirical, detéstenlas theologians, and praise the melancholy, as soon as they can, the life uneducated and rough, and despise men and admire the brutes. Experience, however, that with the mutual help men can obtain much more easily the things that they need and that only by joining forces can they avoid the dangers which everywhere beset’ (Escolio to Proposition 35, Part four, Ethics).

A similar criticism of those who in your analysis is devoted to condemn the human nature that truly exists happens at the beginning of the Political treaties. Spinoza, then, appears as a defender of the potentiality of virtue in that sense, of life in common. The proposition with which it concludes the 4th part of the Ethics: ‘The man who is guided by reason is more free in the State where he lives according to the common decree, that in solitude, where he obeys himself’ (Prop 73) shows it even more clearly. Because with it the common life is not something that is only positive because human beings can not be fully rational, a safeguard because of our weaknesses, but to achieve the full freedom.

At the same time, Spinoza suggests that only under the guidance of reason men agree among themselves, so that among the majority of the people well does not happen: “In regard that men are subject to passions, cannot be said to agree in nature” (Prop 32 of the 4th part). And let’s not forget the last words of the Ethics: “But everything sublime is as difficult as rare”. The life in common, then, is at the same time full of problems and dangers in such a way that the free man to the extent that you can disclaim the benefits of the ignorant (Prop 70 of the 4th part)

How do you combine both things? And let us remember that the solution cannot be to raise a way only to the ‘wise men’ because that is precisely what Spinoza denies: it should not be, precisely, through the denial of the human nature that we must find a solution.

In this entry we will discuss what that says regarding the political solution to this problem -as it should be designed and best made the State-, but we’ll address that in a more general way (i.and how he thought of the life in common)

We can think of the solution in the following way: The virtue of the life in common, that which becomes useful and good for human beings, is something that we know -and act – all, but what we do know-and act – so confused and defective. Further, our belief spontaneous about this particular do nothing more than make us stay in the confusion. And to be confusing, then we can not develop them and live them to the fullest. But it is something that we already have and already know. And although the task of eliminating the confusion is difficult, the advance in it -and therefore, generate a common life beneficial to human beings in general, yes it is possible. The theory of Spinoza is not only meant in terms of what some can achieve, but also what it is that everyone can access.

In these discussions there is an important issue that shows us the distance from our common sense with Spinoza. How can this happen that we are less free when we do what comes to us in wins? Which in turn is associated to another issue: How Spinoza deduces definitions utility of the good (the good is what we know with certainty that it is useful for us, as it says in the 1a definition of the 4th part), and the idea that virtue and power are one and the same (by virtue and power I understand the same thing, 8a definition of the 4th part), the idea that generosity is one of the perfections and good things? Generosity is understood as “the desire by which each one strives, under the only opinion of the reason, to help other men and join them to themselves for friendship” (Escolio, Prop 59, part 3).

This is something that, in any case, it does not happen only in Spinoza. David Hume in his Research on the Principles of Morality are also part of definitions of the good as utility, and end up also stating that the primary virtues are those of coexistence. How, then, of the utility and of the force emerges an ethics of conviabilidad? (do you say because there ends up being Bentham or Nietzsche?)

In Spinoza this can be understood if we observe that understands by freedom and restraint: “For the man who is subject to affects is not belong to himself, but to the fortune, of whose power depends on such luck that very often, even seeing what is best, is forced to choose the worst” (Prologue, 4a part). If we are free then we act in both is in us that is generated by the action -does not require an external cause; but when we do ‘what we were coming in to win’ and this is partially caused by something external (that generates his desire) then we are not free. And the way in which we acquire the power to act and cease to be subject to the passions through reason.

Here will not be out of place to recall that for Spinoza the affections are not passions. There is for Spinoza an affection inherently positive, which lead us to increase our power of action: The affection of joy is good (Prop 41, 4a part), cheerfulness is always good (Prop 42, 4a part). To the extent that the affections increase the capacity of action are a part of life that is rational and virtuous.

Is the fact that to be free is to subject the passions by the reason which leads us directly to the conviabilidad. Who is guided by reason reonoce the same interests and assets than the other and so it happens that “the good they want for themselves, everyone who pursues virtue of what you’ll want to also for all men, and the more so the more knowledge you have of God [Nature]” (Prop 37, 4th part). Or, as proposed in the escolio of the previous proposition: “That is not an accident, but the very nature of the reason it is appropriate that the supreme good of man is common to all”.

Then, if we want to increase our power, and to persevere in our being, we require to rid ourselves of the passions that dominate us and not allow us to live in harmony with others. Because the concord and seek the good of others, is to turn our well.

An ethics of conviviality, of joy and of friendship. Here is Spinoza.

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