10th of April: Kasper Kristensen (Uppsala University)

Spinoza on the Foundations of the State and the Legitimacy of Political Power

Time: 14:15–15:45
Lecture room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40) NOTE THE CHANGE OF VENUE!

The early modern period witnessed heated debates concerning the origins and legitimacy of political power – in fact, these two questions were and continue to be inherently linked to one another. One of the key issues in these debates concerns the conception of human nature, and accordingly, the way in which the nature of political power is conceptualized is either supported by or directly drawn from a given conception of human nature. For instance, the influential Aristotelian-Thomist tradition views human nature as sociable and similarly society is based on cooperation and agreement. But this picture was fundamentally challenged by diverse intellectual and religious movements which emphasized the inherent egoism, sinfulness and conflict in human nature, such as Machiavellianism, Protestantism of Luther and Calvin, Montaignean skepticism and Hobbesianism. In this presentation, I will trace Spinoza´s theory of political power as it emerges from these debates. Furthermore, today Spinoza is often presented as a forerunner of some contemporary model of democracy, like liberal, social or republican democracy. Against such appropriation, I will rather focus on the idiosyncratic features is Spinoza’s theory and especially on the complex account of democracy that at the same time makes democracy the most powerful and desirable and the most fragile and almost impossible form of government.

Kasper Kristensen is a doctoral student in Philosophy and part of the Engaging Vulnerability research program at Uppsala University.