Idle Material in Spinoza's Ethics


In many current interpretations of Spinoza's system, the second axiom of the first part, 1ax2, has become an important, and sometimes pivotal, element. Yet the axiom, among many others, is not explicitly employed in the text. In this paper, following Margaret Wilson, I argue that elements which lack explicit use require an account of implicit use in order to explain or justify them, employing 1ax2 as a paradigm case. I contend that the issue of what to make of the unused material in the Ethics generally, and 1ax2 particularly, is understudied, but key to the interpretation of Spinoza's system.

Chicago, USA