My dissertation studies Benedict Spinoza´s ethical theory as a response to human weakness and vulnerability. The key questions in my research concern the way in which Spinoza meant to deduce a comprehensive ethical doctrine from a rigorously scientific study of human nature and what kinds of problems and advantages such a project involves. There are three problems that I aim specifically to clarify in my research: what is the relation between Spinoza´s descriptive-realist theory of human nature and his normative ethics; how does Spinozistic cultivation of the ethical character look like in practice and what roles do human vulnerability, passions and desires play in the techniques of self-cultivation; and finally, how does ethics relate to politics in Spinoza´s thought.
I tackle these questions by situating Spinoza´s thinking into its early modern context. I will especially emphasise the influence of the so called cultura animi tradition to Spinoza´s thinking that draws both from ancient and humanists sources. By such contextualization, I clarify the key interpretative issue concerning Spinoza´s ethical theory, namely the use of ideals as part of the theory and the way in which such ideals are meant to guide ethical action in particular situations. My aim is, furthermore, to show the different roles that Spinoza´s epistemic, ethical and political ideals play in his overall vision of guiding humans to their greatest happiness. By this work, I wish to contribute to a better understanding of the relation between theory and practise in Spinoza´s thought, and of the place that his ethical vision occupies in the early modern philosophy.
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