Among the great early Modern thinkers, Hobbes famously emphasizes the role of fear in the state of nature in prompting the agreement to form the civil state—and fear of a return to the state of nature once in such a state. The reason we must be afraid in – and of – the the state of nature is the widespread ability of people to kill each other; while asleep, even the strongest can be killed by the weakest (Ryan, 1996; Foucault, 2003; Hull, 2009; on the general relation of reason and passion in Hobbes, see Coli, 2006).
The other great early Modern thinker whom we will treat is Spinoza.
However, there is a more positive reading of Spinozist political emotion than the Hobbesian emphasis on fear and security.
First, there is an “affective genesis” of sociability via the passions that passes through our powers of imagination and imitation (Balibar, 1998).
Second, a good political system can support us in pursuing the Spinozist doctrine of making passive affects into active affects. This transformation stems from adequate ideas, that is, understanding the causes of an affect. But the path to adequate ideas goes through common notions, the discovery of the agreement of things with each other, and here “there is no individual thing in the universe more useful to man than a man who lives by the guidance of reason” (Ethics, IVp35c1), for it is in their rational nature that men most agree (Balibar, 1998; Lloyd & Gatens, 1999; Sharp, 2011).
Balibar, E. (1998). Spinoza and Politics. London: Verso.
Coli, D. (2006). Hobbes’s Revolution. In Kahn, V., Saccamano, N., & Coli, D. (Eds.) Politics and the Passions, 1500-1850. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Curley, E. (1996). Kissinger, Spinoza, and Genghis Khan. In D. Garrett (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Foucault, M. (2003). "Society Must Be Defended". New York: Picador.
Hull, G. (2009). Hobbes and the Making of Modern Political Thought. New York: Continuum.
Lloyd, G., & Gatens, M. (1999). Collective Imaginings: Spinoza, Past and Present. New York: Routledge.
Ryan, A. (1996). Hobbes’s political philosophy. In T. Sorrell (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sharp, H. (2011). Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.