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Spinoza on Melancholy and Cheerfulness

Thomas, Christopher (2021) Spinoza on Melancholy and Cheerfulness. Dialogue. ISSN 0012-2173

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Abstract

Spinoza's philosophy is often celebrated for its strong anti-normative current. Spinoza argues, for instance, that good and bad do not indicate anything positive in things, and that affects are always particular to the situation in which they arise. And yet Spinoza argues that melancholy is “always evil,” and cheerfulness “always good,” thus problematizing a key metaphysical principle of his system. Turning to select sections in the Ethics and Theological-Political Treatise, this article offers a reading of these two problematic affects before connecting Spinoza to recent work on early modern melancholy that conceptualizes it as an ‘assemblage.’

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