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Spinoza Now$
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Dimitris Vardoulakis

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816672806

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816672806.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MINNESOTA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.minnesota.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MNSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Spinoza’s Ass

Spinoza’s Ass

Chapter:
(p.65) 4 Spinoza’s Ass
Source:
Spinoza Now
Author(s):

Justin Clemens

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816672806.003.0004

This chapter presents a genealogy of the Buridan’s ass paradox (Ethics II)—the donkey that cannot decide between two equidistant bales of hay. Because these bales are identical in all respects, the poor creature is unable to make a decision and starves to death. Spinoza’s invocation of the ass emerges at a crucial point in his argument and directs us toward an entire sheaf of questions. It argues that the paradox has two ostensible targets: Descartes’s separation of understanding and will and Hobbes’s exclusion from the covenant with the sovereign of all those who cannot decide. As such, Buridan’s ass depicts the tight connections between Spinoza’s ontology, politics, and epistemology. From this viewpoint, Buridan’s ass demonstrates Spinoza’s materialism.

Keywords:   Buridan, paradox, Spinoza, Descartes, Hobbes, materialism

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