College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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Spinoza, Descartes, Hobbes, imagination, freedom


Taking seriously Spinoza's claims that truth is the standard of both itself and the false and that imaginative thought is in itself true, this dissertation is an inquiry into the truth of imaginative freedom, that is, an explanation of its causes and, more importantly, its effects on life. The Spinozan imagination is a power by which the human being can be disempowered and so I seek to explain what the imagination can do. Starting from the Spinozan image, the thought and affect born of the arrant encounters of the individual in the infinite relation of nature's immanent selfproduction, I identify the logic of the imagination, or the mechanisms by which it orders and connects images, in the Cartesian and Hobbesian configurations of freedom. Defending each thinker against the charges of inconsistency or incoherence, I treat Descartes and Hobbes's images of freedom as models of the operations of imagination, especially the damaged lives these images engender. In explaining that Cartesian selfdetermination is produced by the presenting and hypostatic mechanisms of imagination and guaranteed by the anthropotheological mirror of divine and human freedom effected by the appropriative mechanism, we are forced to see that Cartesian freedom is not, as Spinoza puts it “of use for life,” but disempowers through absolute blame, an image of freedom that limits freedom to the will and separates power from efficacy. In explaining that Hobbesian freedom from impediment is produced by the exclusionary mechanism of the imagination, we are forced to countenance the lupine sociality born of Hobbes’s refusal of the incommon between individuals.Because, as Spinoza puts it, imaginative freedom is the greatest affect of all (E5p5), the critique of imaginative freedom serves to create the affective conditions for overcoming freedom "without others" and realizing the collective empowerment necessary for true freedom.