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c) Spinozist radicalisation

If we see in Hobbes the infancy of axiological subjectivism, we can perhaps push the metaphor so far as to see in Spinoza the coming to maturity of this doctrine, if we consider that a radicalisation is a maturation; for it appears that Spinoza radicalises, and brings to completion, the Hobbesian intuitions.

There is a radicalisation, in fact, in this very famous proposition of the Ethics: In no case do we strive for, wish for, long for, or desire anything, because we deem it to be good, but on the other hand we deem a thing to be good, because we strive for it, wish for it, long for it, or desire it 1.

Hobbes already had this idea: Whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite or desire, that is it which he for his part calls good; and the object of his hate and aversion, evil 2.
However, we also found in Hobbes the idea that a man's desire for something is aroused by the pleasure it can give him. For Hobbes, it is not desire but pleasure that is primary. And pleasure is linked to the nature of the object: there are objects that are in themselves pleasurable, and others that are in themselves unpleasant, because they promote or hinder our vital movement. Our desires and aversions are therefore linked, despite everything, to a certain degree of objectivity.

With Spinoza, on the other hand, desire comes first, and that leads us to project qualities - 'good', 'bad', 'pleasant', 'unpleasant' - onto the object: I desire something, so I will find it pleasant. It is hard to see what role the object really plays, other than as a neutral receptacle for my projections. To understand the opposition between the two authors, compare Spinoza's quote above with the Hobbesian idea: Every man for his own part, calls that pulchritude, turpitude, which pleases, and is delightful to himself, good; and that evil which displeases him 3.

Here again, if we attempt an axiological translation of this moral thesis, since Spinoza was certainly formulating an axiological intention through moral concepts, we can surmise that he is saying that it is not the value of a thing that arouses our desire for it, but that it is desire that engenders value.

Spinoza's classical subjectivism is no more creative than Hobbes'; in other words, the human being wrongly projects qualities onto the world that it does not actually have; he does not create them. Thus good and evil do not exist in Nature 4. Any moral judgement is therefore devoid of meaning: To moralize is to misunderstand 5.

A. Comte-Sponville notes the difference in Spinoza's treatment of truth, on the one hand, and morality (or value), on the other: There is no morality, from God's point of view, but neither is there humanity without morality. There is a gap here, necessarily, between theory and practice. A true idea, insofar as it is true, is the same in me and in God; but a value is not (Ethics, I, appendix): all truth is absolute, all value is relative (II, 11, corollary and 32-34) 6.

It is this radicalisation, which seems to give axiological subjectivism its full meaning, in which it stands in starkest opposition to objectivism, that we believe we identify in Spinoza. This is why we can see the Spinozist moment as that of the maturity of classical subjectivism.

1. Ethics, III, 9, note
2. Leviathan, I, VI
3. Hobbes, Human Nature, chap. VII
4. Short Treatise, I, 10 and II, 4
5. Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical philosophy
6. Dictionnaire d'éthique et de philosophie morale, « Spinoza » article