University of Cambridge
Abstract. In this article I examine Spinoza’s conceptions of human and political freedom in his moral and political philosophy. I discuss his ideas against the backdrop of the distinction between positive and negative freedom. I argue that Spinoza’s conception of human freedom as the rational pursuit of self-interest translates into an idea of positive political freedom in his moral philosophy which, however, does not prevent him from consistently putting forward a theory of purely negative political freedom in his political works. Spinoza’s idea of positive political freedom involves a certain degree of independence from other people as guaranteed by the state. The maximisation of everyone’s independence from other people is the very core of political freedom for Spinoza in his political treatises. As a Machiavellian variant of the theory of freedom, Spinoza’s conception of political freedom is, however, constructed independently from his ethical doctrine: it is built on the assumption of the practically given heterogeneity of human aims.
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