OUTSIDE OF HUMAN NATURE
SPINOZA ON AFFECTIVE DIFFERENCE
In this paper I explore Spinoza’s view that people are differentiated by their affects. Spinoza seems to hold that differences of feeling reflect differences of essence, with the implication that people whose desires, emotions, and communicative abilities diverge significantly from those of their peers cannot share their essence and are excluded from human nature. This implication is troubling because the category of people who “disagree in nature” appears to cover children, addicts, the severely disabled, and those who are seriously ill. These individuals, on Spinoza’s account, cannot join the rational community, which is founded on intercommunication, agreement, and shared feeling. Starting with a single proposition from the Ethics, IIIP57, I consider Spinoza’s justification for this position and some of its implications. I argue that while Spinoza does believe that those who “disagree” profoundly with human nature are excluded from it, this exclusion is temporary and reversible, and carries no moral stigma. Those who are of strong character are rationally determined to educate and rehabilitate the excluded so they may join human nature and its ethical project.