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The moral fallibility of Spinoza’s exemplars: exploring the educational value of imperfect models of human behavior

Journal article
Authors Johan Dahlbeck
Moa De Lucia Dahlbeck
Published in Ethics and Education
ISSN 1744-9642
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Law
Language en
Keywords ingenium, moral education, moral exemplarism, political theory, Spinoza
Subject categories Philosophy, Ethics and Religion, Educational Sciences, Law


While Spinoza stipulates an ideal moral person in the propositions on the ‘free man’ in Ethics IV, this account does not seem to be intended to function as a pedagogical tool of political relevance. Hence, it does not seem to correspond to the purpose of moral exemplarism. If we look for that kind of practical guidance, Spinoza’s political works seem more relevant. Interestingly, when we approach Spinoza’s political theory with moral exemplarism in mind, we find that instead of constructing his exemplar on the idea of a supremely moral person, he emphasizes the concept of ingenium to chisel out an imperfect model of human behavior. We argue that the purpose of this is to avoid a utopian and inefficient political theory and to work out a moral practice that is capable of assisting people and communities in ethical self-transformation.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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