Social contract and change : a discussion of Spinoza's contract theory
Chapter 1 contains an outline of the main positions held by scholars in the
debate about Spinoza's social contract theory. I spell out those which are
commonly regarded as the main "anomalies" of Spinoza's contractarianism,
and those which are regarded as the contractarian aspects of his theory.
Ch 2: I present, and argue against Matheron's evolutionary theory, a noncontractarian
reading of Spinoza's political works. Matheron claims that the
fragile and problematic contract theory that Spinoza holds in the Tractatus
Theologico-Politicus is deeply revised and substantially abandoned in Spinoza's
last work, the Tractatus Politicus. He also shows that we can deduce the details
of Spinoza's political position from his metaphysical determinism. I try to show
the limitations of Matheron's reading of Spinoza's TP, especially in regard of
the notions of individual advantage and social/political conflict.
Ch 3: I give an exposition of the "conceptual model of natural law theory",
which Bobbio offers in highlighting the similarities of different contract
theorists. I discuss Bobbio's contractarian reading of Spinoza's work, with
special regard to the issue of the natural law theory.
Ch 4: I offer my own reading of Spinoza's text, by exploring how the
fundamental notions of Spinoza's theory interplay in the construction of an
accomplished social contract theory.
Ch 5: I show how Spinoza accommodates the notions of social contract and
political change, in this way solving some traditional problems of the contract
Ch 6: I briefly discuss the relation between the Tractatus Politicus and Spinoza's
Ch 7: I contrast Spinoza's social contract theory to that of Hobbes. Spinoza's
criticism seems directed against some precise aspects of Hobbes's theory rather
than against the contract theory in general. I also discuss certain implications
of Spinoza's contractarian approach.