In the Tractatus Politicus (TP) Spinoza remarks that peace does not amount to the absence of war but rather is ‘a virtue that arises from strength of mind’. In the context of drawing a contrast between those who willingly obey law for rationally endorsed reasons as opposed to those who comply with law through fear and are led ‘like sheep and slaves’ (TP, 5.4), Spinoza alludes to Tacitus’s well known phrase:  ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant (they make a desert and call it peace).

For Spinoza, a peaceful commonwealth is one where there is a harmony or concord of minds.  On his view a virtuous commonwealth, just like a person, is not simply free of vice but actively possesses and exercises virtue. Power, virtue, and peace are all conceptions that are understood to be active affirmations and not just the opposite of passivity, vice, or war. Explicating this view, which contrasts with the better-known Hobbesian view, will be the task of my presentation.


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