Spinoza’s Conatus: A Teleological Reading of Its Ethical Dimension

Published: Dec 28, 2021
conatus humanistic Spinoza essentialist teleology ethicality objectivistic
Neşe Aksoy
In this article I examine how the teleological reading of Spinoza’s conatus shapes the ethical trajectory of his philosophy. I first introduce the Spinozistic criticism of teleology and argue contra many critics that Spinoza has a mild approach to human teleology. On the basis of this idea, I develop the claim that conatus is a teleological element pertaining to human nature. From the teleological reading of conatus, I draw the conclusion that Spinozistic ethics is inclusive of objective, humanistic, and essentialist elements. In this sense, this paper emerges to be a challenge against the anti-teleological reading of conatus that is predominantly related to the subjectivistic, anti-humanistic, and non-essentialist interpretation of Spinoza’s ethics. It mainly situates Spinoza in a traditionally teleological context where the human conatus is seen as an act of pursuing objective and essential moral ends that is distinctive to human nature.
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