Multitude. The reversal of Spinoza, in the spirit of Machiavelli

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The central thesis of Het perspectief van de multitude (2011) is taken up again, now focusing on one concrete concept and theme - the ‘multitude’: why this concept, what is its importance, how it relates to ‘people’ - and on one text - the first five chapters of the Tractatus politicus TP of Spinoza. In a close reading, Spinoza's reasoning is critically discussed and the thesis is defended that he makes a philosophical systematization of Machiavelli’s work, brings about a revolutionary turnaround with regard to current (political and ethical) thinking and the TP can be read as an ‘Esprit de Machiavel’. In chapter 1 the principles are laid down (as in the Ethics), in chapter 2 the Ethics is summarized, in chapter 3 the Tractatus Theologico-politicus TTP. The hypothesis that between the TTP (1670) and TP (1677) in Spinoza’s thought the following three elements are made explicit, radicalized and systematized is substantiated: 1) the presence of Machiavelli, or the idea of God is nature, and the corresponding idea that there is no norm, sin or right in nature, and consequently that we humans have to make and invent the rules ourselves, but that we have to subscribe to nature (i.e. in an open, free attitude towards the laws of nature and other natural things or each other) [what is and what is not feasible in our morality?; 2) the importance of language and of translation (seen as unmasking and criticism, or philosophy (as distinguishing from theology) in which the precision of words, logical sequences, concepts and directions are essential - Spinoza carries out a ‘reversal’ that is only possible on the basis of the neutralizing shift of the meaning or translation of certain concepts (and, as Hobbes says, it is not the nature thing that changes as a result of this, but the words, our fictions) [the makeable and/or made]; 3) Hobbes’ explicit ‘left-wing’ reading, which expresses itself in connection with the multitude issue, the idea that natural law also continues to apply in the civil state and the necessity of freedom of (thought and) speech.
Translated title of the contributionMultitude. The reversal of Spinoza, in the spirit of Machiavelli
Original languageDutch
Title of host publicationDe maakbare moraal
Subtitle of host publicationVisies op ethiek en humanisme
EditorsYoni Van den Eeede, Karl Verstrynge
Place of PublicationBrussels
Number of pages38
ISBN (Print)9789057188763
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • political ethics
  • humanism
  • multitude
  • freethinking
  • Spinoza
  • Machiavelli
  • freedom of thought and speech


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