Our Graduate Workshop will take place on Thursday 21st November, 9.45am – 5.00pm at Birkbeck, University of London, Dreyfus Room, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ.
All are welcome and no registration is required.
9.45 – 10.00: Welcome
10.00 – 10.30: Weak Individuals: A Spinozist Perspective – Emanuele Costa, (Birkbeck College and Johns Hopkins University):
10.30 – 11.00 Discussion
11.00 – 11.30: The Second Kind of Knowledge and the Activity of the Ethics – Andrea Ray (University of Chicago)
11.30 – 12.00 Discussion
12.00 – 12.30 ‘The Whole Earth is Full of His Glory’: Amor Dei Intellectualis
as Gloria in Ethics V – John Heyderman – (Birkbeck College)
12.30 – 1.00 Discussion
1.00 – 2.00 LUNCH BREAK
2.00 – 2.30 Hegel and Spinoza on Freedom – Jason Yonover (Johns Hopkins University)
2.30 – 3.00 Discussion
3.00 – 3.30 On Laws, Human Nature and Beings of Reason in Spinoza – Kasper Kristensen, Uppsala University
3.30 – 4.00 Discussion
4.00 – 4.30 Identity, Agreement and ‘Othering’: Spinoza’s Politics of Recognition – Steph Marston (Birkbeck College)
4.30 – 5.00 Discussion
Emanuele Costa – Weak Individuals
In this paper, I analyse the image of individuals developed in Spinoza’s Letter 32. Through a close reading of this text, I argue – against some of his usual indications – that the individuality of the whole is a reflection of the integration and harmony between the parts, as well as a result of the “nature” of the whole that demands adaptation from the parts. Harmonizing this image with some key texts from the Ethics, I demonstrate that relationality is a fundamental component of what constitutes an individual for Spinoza, and that the relationship between an individual and its environment is crucial for its individuation.
Andrea Ray – The Second Kind of Knowledge and the Activity of the Ethics
In part II of the Ethics, Spinoza identifies reason with the second kind of knowledge, or knowledge from the common notions and adequate ideas. This paper will examine the geometric presentation of the Ethics in light of this concept of reason and its further elaboration in later parts of the Ethics in order to argue that the form of the Ethics is crucial to the work’s aim as a whole and that this aim cannot be achieved (by the Ethics‘ own lights) through another manner of presentation.
John Heyderman – ‘The Whole Earth is Full of His Glory’: Amor Dei Intellectualis as Gloria in Ethics V
The place in Spinoza’s system of the intellectual love of God presents an interesting question: given his claim that this intellectual love is eternal (E VP33), what is its ontological status? Melamed has argued that intellectual love refers to a mediate infinite mode of thought. However it is not obvious how this elusive category applies to a concept encompassing the mind’s love of God, God’s love of man and God’s love of Himself (E VP36C). Yet Spinoza does provide a metaphorical clue when in a cryptic remark, he writes ‘And this love, or blessedness, is called glory in the Sacred Scriptures¾not without reason.’ (E VP36S). Spinoza relates this to his definitions of acquiescentia and gloria. However the definition of gloria in particular, as ‘joy accompanied by the idea of some action which we imagine that others praise’ (E IIIDef.Aff.XXX) seems a strange fit for Spinoza’s passionless God.
This paper explores how light might be shed by earlier Jewish philosophical discussions of the biblical Hebrew word kavod, translated in the Vulgate as gloria. Medieval Jewish philosophers developed a variety of ways of interpreting the term that can be roughly divided into two approaches: those that view it as a created entity distinct from the Godhead and those that see it as an aspect of God made perceptible to human beings. For example, Saadia Gaon described it as referring to a form created of light while Maimonides interprets kavod in Isaiah 6:3 as describing God’s perfection indicated by the earth, which bears witness to it. I conclude that Spinoza subtly draws on this tradition, using the vocabulary of a ‘social imaginary’, a region of imaginative discourse where the social and the purely rational meet. In employing richly suggestive terms such as gloria, he evokes an intermediary or relational aspect of the Divine that dissolves the boundary between God and man.
Jason Yonover – Hegel and Spinoza on Freedom
Neither Hegel nor Spinoza thinks that we should boast of freedom of choice (Willkür, libera voluntas), and yet freedom (Freiheit, libertas) is central to their thought in each case. In this paper I largely set aside why they dismiss a particular notion of freedom, and focus on their more positive accounts of what it is to be free. I show that there are major parallels in their metaphysical understandings of what freedom really is. For Spinoza, individual freedom is “existing from the necessity of one’s nature”; similarly, for Hegel, it’s “being with oneself in another.” In each case, we see an attempt to unify something internal (one’s nature, oneself) with something external (other causes, another) such that the internal, which is otherwise somehow truncated, can be properly, fully expressed, despite or even with the help of the external. I conclude by hinting at some consequences in Hegel’s and Spinoza’s politics of these closely related notions of freedom.
Kasper Kristensen – On Laws, Human Nature and Beings of Reason in Spinoza
Spinoza´s project of improving human condition is premised on an adequate understanding of human nature. The latter takes as its model the method of geometry where essences of bodies can be defined with precision and their properties deduced from the definitions. This method seems not to be perfectly suitable for describing human nature, as Spinoza never succeeds in giving a real definition of a human being. Nevertheless, Spinoza does not hesitate to use human nature and its laws as key concepts both in the descriptive and prescriptive parts of his thinking.
Commentators point out that Spinoza distinguishes concepts that aim to capture the laws pertaining to human nature, and concepts relating to the passage to greater human perfection. While the concepts in the first category are deduced from the order of nature itself and therefore express necessary laws of nature, the latter concepts are mind-dependent human constructions that Spinoza calls beings of reason. I ask whether this distinction can be maintained. Spinoza often talks about crucial concepts that are meant to capture necessary laws in a manner that links them to the production of beings of reason. In these cases he uses the Latin quatenus, as if inviting the reader to conceive a given thing from a certain limited point of view. Should we think of the conatus and other abstract principles as belonging to the category of beings of reason, rather than that of necessary laws? And if we do so, must we give up the idea that Spinoza´s normative philosophy rests on an adequate conception of human nature?
Steph Marston – Identity, Agreement and ‘Othering’: Spinoza’s Politics of Recognition
An influential strand of interpretation of Spinoza’s political writings suggests that his notion of freedom is one of ‘relational autonomy’ (e.g. Armstrong, 2009; Kisner, 2011), in which individuals realise and extend their freedom just insofar as they enjoy the right kind of (auspicious) relation to others. Relatedly, Sharp (2011) characterises Spinoza’s politics as actualising recognition among individuals. Building on these readings, Aurelia Armstrong has recently proposed that Spinoza should be understood as holding that the process of cultivating agreement in socio-political contexts is integral to human beings’ increasing their understanding and perfecting their reason (Armstrong, 2017). This interesting line of investigation opens up further interpretive questions: in particular, how does cultivated agreement relate to metaphysical or ontological agreement in nature; and can such cultivated, ‘artificial’ agreement, deliver genuinely enhanced freedom?
Drawing on literature which foregrounds the place of exemplars in Spinoza’s work (Gatens, 2009; Rosenthal, 1997), I show that Spinoza’s treatment of cultural imaginaries reveals them as essentially contrary. On the one hand, they enact elements of genuine agreement in nature. On the other, in enacting and delineating agreement which is only partial, they also generate disagreement, Realising the advantages of likeness, through cultivating some specific identity or agreement in nature entails a process of ‘othering’ towards those who are not recognised as ‘like’. I show that this converse aspect of the liberating strategy of reifying agreement permeates Spinoza’s political writings, from the discussions of law and sovereignty in the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus to the structural prescriptions of the Tractatus Politicus. I conclude by arguing that the contrary nature of cultivated agreement is central to Spinoza’s understanding of the state, and significantly differentiates his work from the mainstream of early modern political thought.