Spinoza on Human Subjectivity and the Notion of God’s Intellect
Birkbeck, University of London, Dreyfus Room, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ
Spinoza’s Ethics is frequently interpreted, especially in recent scholarship, as maintaining that everything, including human subjects, is grounded in God or substance – that substance is the sole fundamental feature of reality. At the same time, the perspective of finite minds seems to play a non-trivial role in the constitution of reality. How can this (seeming) tension between these two positions be reconciled? In our paper, we argue for three claims: (1) both positions are necessary for Spinoza’s metaphysics, but neither is reducible to the other; (2) to account for both of them, given their mutual irreducibility, subjectivity itself must be comprehended as a function of finite beings; (3) the notion of infinite intellect plays a transcendental-philosophical role, and is not a metaphysical description of the nature of God. Through the elaboration of these three claims, we propose a new picture of Spinoza’s metaphysics, according to which human subjectivity is an integral, irreducible, and ineliminable – and thereby fundamental – feature of reality.
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