Marta Libertà De Bastiani

While in the TIE Spinoza begins to look for an eternal source of joy, writing the Ethics he realizes that, besides being eternal, the object of our desire should also be common, namely it has to be something that everybody would desire and, at the same time, can possess. According to Spinoza, it is due the emotional variability among humans that the conflicts which tear societies apart are never-ending. In fact, what good and evil are is defined by our desire: what is useful to us, we call ‘good’. But given that our desires differ, as do our natures, it is hard to find a common source of joy. Nonetheless, Spinoza thinks he finds it in the knowledge and love of God. Provided that we are reasonable (that is, we are not overwhelmed by our passions) we understand that our desire is only fulfilled by this knowledge and not by all those material goods that are “vana et futilia”. However, as I will argue in this paper, when it comes to describing what common good means to a society, and what policies it should entail, Spinoza struggles to give a coherent answer. The reasons for this ambiguity, I shall argue, lay at the core of the theory of desire as the striving to persevere in our being.

A Social Perspective on Desire
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