October 15, 2020
Before presenting his own account of value in the Ethics , Spinoza spends much of E I Appendix and E IV Preface attempting to refute a series of axiological ‘prejudices’ that he takes to have taken root in the minds of his readership. In doing so, Spinoza adopts what might be termed a ‘genealogical’ argumentative strategy. That is, he tries to establish the falsity of imagined readership’s prejudices about good and bad, perfection and imperfection, by first showing that the ideas from which they have arisen are themselves false. Many elements of this genealogy, however, remain unclear. First, both the nature of the metaethical prejudices Spinoza believes we have been labouring under, and the metaphysical prejudices that he takes to have given rise to them, continue to attract widespread disagreement. Although much less commented on, it is also not entirely obvious why Spinoza takes the one to have engendered the other. In this article, I attempt to clarify Spinoza’s reasoning in both of these respects, ultimately concluding that Spinoza offers us two accounts of how this process has occurred, the first beginning from an anthropocentric doctrine of divine providence, the second from more secular, perhaps more purely Aristotelian metaphysical tradition.