ABSTRACT

Spinoza’s ethical theory suggests that it is good to strive for self-determination (Kisner, 2011, pp. 87–111). 1 Self-determination, for Spinoza, amounts to improving one’s understanding of natural causation. When we understand the causes that move us to act, we gain in freedom and we become more self-determined, relatively speaking. 2 Being self-determined means understanding more about what is good for us to strive for and understanding the natural limitations of our capacity to act. It does not mean that we suddenly become capable of causing ourselves. This, for Spinoza, would be a contradiction in terms. Because we are defined by the fact that we are caused by antecedent causes (E1D5), becoming self-caused would mean that we become something other than what we are. To become something other than what we are is, on Spinoza’s account, as impossible as that something should come from nothing (E4p20s). Hence, it would make little sense to strive for something that is, for all intents and purposes, impossible to achieve.