Edwin Curley on 2nd May 2019

At our meeting on Thursday 2nd May, 3.00 – 5.00pm we are very pleased to have Prof. curleyEdwin Curley (University of Michigan) who will speak on:

Making Sense of Spinoza’s Metaphysics

Birkbeck, University of London, Dreyfus Room, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ

Abstract

In this talk I shall revisit number of central themes in Spinoza’s metaphysics including the principle of charity, the difficulties associated with predicative interpretations of the mode-substance relation, the reason for adopting an interpretation that emphasises the laws of nature, and the roots of Spinoza’s theory of laws in Cartesian philosophy of science. My presentation will draw on two recent papers, ‘Spinoza’s Metaphysics Revisited’ and ‘Laws of Nature in Spinoza’.

 

A presentation of the paper ‘Spinoza’s Metaphysics Revisited’ is available here.

 

All welcome and no registration is required.

 

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Edwin Curley on 2nd May 2019

Michael A. Rosenthal on 21st March 2019

michael_rosenthal_new_headshot_3-15At our meeting on Thursday 21st March, 3:00 – 5:00pm, we are very pleased to have

Prof. Michael A. Rosenthal (University of Washington) who will speak on:

“Life as a Marionette:  The Role of the Imagination in Spinoza’s Ethics, Part V”

Birkbeck, University of London, Dreyfus Room, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ

Abstract:

The goal of Part V of the Ethics is to show that humans possess the power to be free.  It must be a conception in which freedom is thoroughly compatible with necessity.  It is difficult for us as finite beings to understand this idea and to act in accordance with it.  Spinoza thinks that the main obstacle is the false idea of the free will, i.e., the power to act independently of any system of determinate causes.  Spinoza does not think that we can overcome this prejudice, rooted in our ignorance, so easily. One of the most interesting features of his system is that at key points of his arguments Spinoza has recourse to the very images and passions that he finds problematic in order to produce effects that ultimately make us more reasonable.  It may seem that when we arrive at Part V of the Ethics, the very last part in which he shows us that human freedom is tied to the power of the intellect, we should be able to dispense with these inadequate ideas and proceed solely according to reason.  In this paper, however, I want to argue that perhaps the most important idea—the definition of freedom as acting according to the necessity of our own nature within a determined system—is so difficult to grasp that Spinoza still has to have recourse to the imagination to make sense of it.  In the first propositions of Part V, Spinoza uses reason to sketch an imaginative picture of the self as a kind of marionette. It is not yet what it would be to live according to reason, but what it would be like to live—or as if we are living—according to reason.  Even though, strictly speaking, this image is false, it nonetheless useful.  This thought-image serves as a kind of aid to the individual to become free.

All welcome and no registration is required.

Michael A. Rosenthal on 21st March 2019

Moira Gatens on 7th February 2019

At our meeting on Thursday 7th February, 3:00 – 5:00pm, we are very pleased to have resourceProf. Moira Gatens (University of Sydney) who will present her paper:

“Spinoza’s free citizen meets Wollstonecraft‘s feminist republican”

Birkbeck, University of London, Dreyfus Room, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ

Abstract

I offer an account of Spinoza’s free man as exemplifying the affective as well as rational capacities needed for autonomous self-realization, relationally conceived. But his account contains a sad flaw, namely, Spinoza’s inability to recognize women as co-entitled to political freedom and equality. I relate this limitation to his failure to realize the full potential of his relational ontology and the true scope of a virtue that he values highly: fortitudo (or strength of mind). Fortitudo has a double aspect: it embodies the virtue of self-care (animositas) and the correlative virtue of care for others (generositas). I then turn to Mary Wollstonecraft’s understanding of the co-constitution of self and other and the role such understanding plays in her conception of the attainment of genuine autonomy. For her, the exercise of virtue depends upon freedom in both one’s personal and one’s political life. Her vision of an inclusive commonwealth – one that recognises the need for all to develop fortitudo – stands as a corrective to Spinoza’s error. We cannot achieve a virtuous republic if the relationship between the sexes lacks virtue. When combined, Spinoza’s and Wollstonecraft’s republican views tell a rich story about individuals, affect, autonomy, and the institutional practices that constrain or enable the flourishing of important republican virtues.

All welcome and no registration required.

Moira Gatens on 7th February 2019

Clare Carlisle on 6th December 2018

clare pic 3At our meeting on Thursday 6th December, 3:00 – 5:00pm, we are pleased to have Dr. Clare Carlisle (King’s College London) who will speak on

George Eliot’s Spinoza

Gordon Room (G34), Ground Floor, South Block, Senate House, London WC1E 7HU

Abstract

In 1856, Marian Evans — the writer who would shortly become known as George Eliot — completed the first English translation of Spinoza’s Ethics.  This paper will explore the circumstances of George Eliot’s translation, discussing the reception of Spinoza’s philosophy in 19th-century England and identifying key areas of affinity between Spinozism and George Eliot’s own thinking.  It will also suggest how George Eliot’s close engagement with the Ethics influenced her fiction writing, giving particular attention to her emphasis on human interdependence, and her views on the formation of characters and relationships.

All welcome and no registration is required.

Clare Carlisle on 6th December 2018

Mogens Lærke on 1st November 2018

At our meetiIMG_6714ng on Thursday 1st November, 3:00-5:00pm, we are pleased to have Mogens Lærke (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) who will speak on

The Apostolic Style: Spinoza on Fraternal Advice and the Freedom to Philosophize

Bloomsbury Room (G.35), Ground Floor, South Block, Senate House, London WC1E 7HU

(Please note change of location)

Abstract

In this paper, I discuss a chapter of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus that is rarely commented on, namely Chapter XI. It is particular for the TTP in that it is exclusively dedicated to the interpretation of the New Testament, more specifically, the Apostles’ Letters. I will show how, in the first part of that chapter, Spinoza argues that the epistolary style of the apostles, and the discursive room it establishes, can serve as a paradigm for the exercise of the “liberty to philosophize” that he shall proceed to defend in Tractatus, chap. XX.

All welcome and no registration is required.

 

Mogens Lærke on 1st November 2018

Meetings for the Autumn Term

We are planning to hold two meetings this term and are currently organising the schedule for the remainder of the academic year.

 

Thursday 1st November 2018, 3 – 5pm,

New Location: Bloomsbury Room, Ground Floor, South Block, Senate House, London WC1E 7HU

Mogens Lærke (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

The Apostolic Style. Spinoza on fraternal advice and the freedom to philosophize.

 

 

Thursday 6th December 2018, 3 – 5pm,  Room number to be confirmed.

Clare Carlisle (King’s College London)

George Eliot’s Spinoza.

 

No registration is required and meetings are open to all.

Meetings for the Autumn Term

Michael Della Rocca on 11 June 2018

michael-della-rocca-wijsbegeerte

At our meeting on Monday 11th June, 3pm – 5pm, we are pleased to have Michael Della Rocca who will speak on

“Perseverence, Power, and Eternity: Purely Positive Essence in Spinoza”

3pm to 5pm,  Room 101, Birkbeck College, 30 Russell Square, WC1B 5DT

Abstract

The alignment of affirmation, essence, and the absence of negation is evident very early on in Spinoza’s Ethics, in the definition of God.   In this paper, I seek to show how the purely positive character of essence is a feature not only of God’s essence but also, in some way, of the essences of things in general. I will also argue that appreciating the roles that the conception of essence as purely positive plays in Spinoza’s conatus doctrine offers us a new way into and a new way of defending a reading of Spinoza according to which modes – things that are dependent on God – do not really exist.  By endorsing in this new way such an extreme interpretation, I aim to provide new insight into the third kind of knowledge and the eternity of the mind, for Spinoza.

Our next meeting will be on Thursday 7th June when Beth Lord (University of Aberdeen) will speak on Spinoza and the art of reasoning. Details here.

Michael Della Rocca on 11 June 2018