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Home Spinoza on Conatus, Inertia, and the Impossibility of Self-Destruction

Spinoza on Conatus, Inertia, and the Impossibility of Self-Destruction

Filip BUYSE*

Abstract: Spinoza (1632-1677) writes in the fourth proposition of the third part of his masterpiece, the Ethics (1677), the bold statement that self-destruction is impossible. This view seems to be very hard to understand given the fact that in our western world we have recently been confronted with an increasing number of suicides, all of which are - per definition – ―actions of killing oneself deliberately‖.

Firstly, this article aims at showing, based on the last chapter of the first part of the Cogitata metaphysica (1661), that Spinoza might have applied the mechanical analogy of a body in motion in his views on life. This interpretation allows to resolve the paradox of suicide in Spinoza. Secondly, this paper gives a new interpretation of one of the three categories of suicide (the ―Seneca category‖), which the Dutch philosopher distinguishes in E4p20s, making a link with his definition 39 of timor.

Keywords: suicide, Spinoza, conatus, inertia, timor, Cogitata metaphysica, Ethics, Seneca.

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