Skip to main content

Belief as an essentially human attitude

Tuesday, October 12, 2021, 3:40 pm – 5:20 pm

This colloquium talk is planned as an in-person event. Registration by email is only required for non-CEU members. Please check the COVID safety rules here to enter the building.

In case you would like to watch the event via Zoom, please request the details by email.


On a frequent understanding going back to German idealism, Spinoza’s Ethics constitutes a system that cannot believed (Fichte) and is a text could not have been written (Kojève) by a finite subject. And yet is written by a finite subject and was presumably believed by that subject. It is against this background, that in my paper I discuss the opposite hypothesis: viz. that only finite subjects can think certain claims in a manner that deserve to be qualified as beliefs or judgement.

Taking a few observations from a previous paper considering the notion of “having ideas” as my point of departure, I now examine what belief consists in according to Spinoza and how any actual having of belief depends on there being a finite subject who either affirms or denies a certain idea.

My proposal is that looking into the idea of belief allows to make sense of why it is mainly humans that are granted in the Ethics with having belief – in opposition to there being ideas in God. I shall also discuss both why this matters for the overall understanding of the Ethics, and how this shapes the anthropological framework for his political philosophy.