Spinoza on the Concept of the Human Life Form

Towards a Non-Essentialist and Ontologically Liberal Account

What does it mean for humans to exist? What characterizes, in other words, the specifically human way of existing or living? To what extent is the specifically human life form determined by natural laws, and what is the influence of history, politics, and culture?

In our project, we address these questions by examining Spinoza’s works in terms of the place held and the role played by the concept of the human life form. Through this analysis, Spinoza’s approach can become a model for understanding the human life form more generally. His system not only combines several different perspectives on human behaviour with great refinement, but also strictly avoids any form of anthropomorphic essentialism. This, we think, lays a solid ground for a liberal outlook on how human subjects may form their life in view of those inner and outer restrictions that nature imposes on them. Moreover, developing a Spinozistic conception of the idea of the human life form may also contribute fruitfully to the discussion of certain pressing questions in Spinoza scholarship (e.g. the role of temporality in the constitution of finite modes, the relation between Spinoza and the Aristotelian tradition, the problem of the coherence between Spinoza’s metaphysics and his views on freedom).

The project is located at the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Klagenfurt. It is funded by the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) and affiliated with the HRSM project The Exercise of Judgment.