These epigraphs present us with part of the problem that is to be discussed in this essay. For Spinoza (1632–1677) there is no metaphysical freedom, except for God/Substance/Nature. The behavior of individual things, or modes, is completely a function of causes that bring about the behavior. This might suggest that there can be no autonomy in any meaningful sense either, thus aborting at the outset any talk of autonomy in Spinoza. To add to this problem, “autonomy” is somewhat anachronistic when applied to Spinoza. The philosophical theory surrounding the concept of autonomy seems to have developed later, perhaps mostly from Kant (1724–1804), which is not to say that it did not have parallels earlier. Kantian metaphysics is certainly different from Spinozistic metaphysics in allowing for freedom, if nothing else. But even if we ignore the metaphysics, the structure of a Kantian ethics is different from a Spinozistic one in its focus on duty and imperatives. One finds little of that in Spinoza. Consequently, on both metaphysical and historical grounds, it seems somewhat problematic to speak of Kantian autonomy in Spinoza.
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