Hope, Hate and Indignation: Spinoza and Political Emotion in the Trump Era

  • Ericka Tucker


In the Ethics, Spinoza argues that individual human emotions and imagination shape the social world. This world, he argues, can in turn be shaped by political institutions to be more or less hopeful, more or less rational, or more or less angry and indignant. In his political works, Spinoza offered suggestions for how to shape a political imaginary that is more guided by hope than by fear or anger. In this chapter, using the framework of Spinoza’s theory of emotions, I will investigate how Barack Obama’s promise of ‘hope’ was translated into Donald Trump’s rhetoric of hate. Such a transition, from hope to fear is one that would be unsurprising to Spinoza. Spinoza worried about the political and personal effectiveness of hope. He argued that hope can easily be turned into what he called ‘indignatio’ or indignation—an emotion that he believed eroded trust in political institutions. Spinoza warned about the danger of governance that relies upon the emotions of anger and hatred. I will set out how the Trump administration’s reliance on the motivational forces of hate and anger risk what Spinoza called indignation. Spinoza’s political works were written to show how to turn political indignation and anger into a chastened, and perhaps more rational, hope. Finally, I will propose that we may derive from Spinoza participatory, democratic institutions that can overcome this indignation.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ericka Tucker
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentMarquette UniversityMilwaukeeUSA

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