Journal of Early Modern Studies

Volume 11, Issue 2, Fall 2022

Expression in Spinoza's Philosophy

Francesca di Poppa
Pages 117-143

Libertas Philosophandi as Freedom to Be Human
Government and Freedom in Spinoza’s Political Work

In this paper, I will argue that Spinoza’s notion of libertas philosophandi in Theological Political Treatise2 is best interpreted as freedom of expression, in the metaphysical sense of expression found in Ethics I. This reading helps understand the role of the Spinozan state in protecting such freedom. Ethics argues that human nature is embodied thought, and its freedom is found both in rational and irreducibly imaginary cognition: imagination is knowledge, and, as such, it is a fundamental aspect of human expression. The last two books of Ethics show that human freedom depends on certain material and intellectual conditions: this clarifies the role of the state as an active participant, rather than a mere watchman, of individual expression.