[SydPhil] REMINDER: SHAPE talk this week: Beth Lord Fri 22nd Aug 10.30am USYD

David Macarthur david.macarthur at sydney.edu.au
Fri Aug 22 00:39:01 AEST 2014

This week’s SHAPE seminar will be presented by Beth Lord (Aberdeen).

Title: "Spinoza's Ratios and Relational Autonomy"

Ratio is an important term in Spinoza’s Ethics: it refers to reason, to relation, and to mathematical ratio. I will argue here that all three senses of ratio are significant for the concept of equality that emerges from the Ethics and that goes on to inform Spinoza’s political thought. Spinoza’s references to equality in the Ethics are initially made in the context of geometry (e.g. the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles). Over the course of the text, we see Spinoza extend his use of the term to interacting bodies (equal angles of motion), to the relation between mind and body (the mind’s striving is equal to the body’s striving), to interpersonal relations (people are saddened by their equals’ virtue), and finally to political and inter-species relations (all things are equal in their power to exist). I will make the case that these different uses of “equality” can be traced back to Spinoza’s first, geometric sense. What is important about this geometric sense of equality is that it incorporates difference: every ratio implies a relation between differing elements. This, I will argue, is crucial to understanding Spinoza’s appeal to equality in his political texts, for human individuals, communities, and nature as a whole can also be understood as ratios in that way. When it is seen to be rooted in geometry rather than a liberal democratic ideal, Spinoza’s concept of equality becomes interesting for self-determination. This concept fits the view that the self is determined through relational autonomy, and raises questions about what kind of equality is best for individuals. Must a concept of equality ground moral and political recognition? Might income equality, as a goal to be pursued through taxation and charity, be more important for self-determination? I will suggest some Spinozistic answers to these questions.

Time: Fri Aug 22, 10.30am

Place: Muniment Room, S401 – under the central clock tower, level 1, Main Quad, USyd.


Dr. David Macarthur | Senior Lecturer & UG Coordinator
Philosophy Department, SOPHI | FASS
NSW, 2006 | Australia
Ph: +61 2 9351 3193

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