International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 62, Issue 2, June 2022

Evan Dutmer
Pages 211-224

Imagination and the Genealogy of Morals in the Appendix to Spinoza’s Ethics 1

The so-called “analytical” appendix to the first part of Spinoza’s Ethics has at times puzzled scholars. It notably breaks with the geometrical method adopted in most of the text, and includes an impassioned argument against teleology, popular morality, and, ultimately, the faculty of imagination. In this essay I seek to resolve this interpretive difficulty by side-by-side comparison with philosophical resources from one of Spinoza’s main influences. In particular, I argue that analysis of the appendix to the first part of his Ethics is benefitted by comparison with certain Maimonidean arguments regarding the “imagination”—themselves part of a long tradition of debate on the powers of the imaginative faculty in ancient and medieval philosophy—contained in The Guide of the Perplexed. I introduce and trace this connection across both texts. This helps us to better appreciate both the appendix and its place within the Ethics and Spinoza’s sustained, complicated relationship with Medieval Judaism’s greatest thinker.