Spinoza and Politics (Radical Thinkers) – Etienne Balibar
This book was great. I read it as a 3rd year philosophy student at UCLA and I took 2 classes on Spinoza. In one class we studied The Ethics, and in the other we read the Tractatus Politicus. Balibar’s book was mostly about the Tractatus Politicus and his theological essay as well. Balibar’s ability to capture Spinoza’s themes without resorting to the use of technical language was extremely helpful. Because Balibar explained Spinoza at an intuitive level, it made for a light yet informative read.
According to Balibar the fundamental theorem of Spinoza’s metaphysical politics is that reason and imagination interact in a certain way to create a stable society. It turns out that state itself determines if and how this interaction will proceed. Because 1) the state determines how the interaction between imagination and reason proceeds 2) this interaction determines the stability of the state thus 3) the preservation of the state’s existence is in the state’s own hands.
A Brief Inquiry is Rawl’s undergraduate thesis. In it you can see that he was formulating his more mature political philosophy in this theological work. His focus on community in explaining sin and faith is an interesting take on the traditional definitions of sin and faith which involve rebellion or obedience to God. Although this interpretation of the meaning of sin and faith might not be the traditional one, it is orthodox nonetheless. It is interesting to see what kind of philosopher Rawls was becoming even at a young age.