While the goal of Spinoza's Ethics has strong affinities with the Aristotelian goal of eudaimonia, structurally the text itself is modeled on Euclid's Elements. Does Spinoza think that the precision and certainty of mathematics can be extended to moral philosophy? To answer this question, I discuss the relation between the geometrical method of the Ethics and its content and goal. Arguing that the deductive structure of the Ethics mirrors the causal necessity by which all of nature follows from God, I conclude that Spinoza applies the geometrical method to ethics because nothing, including human life and well-being, is exempt from this causal necessity. Furthermore, I discuss the role the geometrical method plays in an aspect of the argument of the Ethics which can best be described as dialectical, in the Aristotelian sense of the word: Spinoza hoped to persuade the members of his circle of theologically radical yet devout friends, and others intellectually similar to them, of the truth of his philosophy by beginning with Cartesian principles they would accept. Finally, I argue that certain nongeometrical portions of the Ethics are directed at the emotions of these readers.
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Laura Byrne; The Geometrical Method in Spinoza's Ethics. Poetics Today 1 September 2007; 28 (3): 443–474. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2007-004
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