The Reasonable Republic? Statecraft, Affects, and the Highest Good in Spinoza's Late Tractatus Politicus

Taylor, Dan (2019). The Reasonable Republic? Statecraft, Affects, and the Highest Good in Spinoza's Late Tractatus Politicus. History of European Ideas, 45(5) pp. 645–660.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01916599.2019.1592382

Abstract

In his final, incomplete Tractatus Politicus (1677), Spinoza's account of human power and freedom shifts towards a new, teleological interest in the 'highest good' of the state in realising the freedom of its subjects. This development reflects, in part, the growing influence of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Dutch republicanism, and the Dutch post-Rampjaar context after 1672, with significant implications for his view of political power and freedom. It also reflects an expansion of his account of natural right to include independence of mind, a model of autonomy that in turn shapes the infamous sui juris exclusions of his unfinished account of democracy. This article focuses specifically on the Tractatus Politicus, a hitherto under-addressed work in Spinoza's corpus and one too often considered indistinct from his earlier Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670). It argues for a reconsideration of its importance to early modern political thought, particularly regarding the role of the state in realising the freedom and harmony of its subjects through reasonable laws.

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