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.

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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

Beth Lord on 7 June 2018

Beth_croppedAt our meeting on Thursday 7th June, 3pm – 5pm, we are pleased to have Beth Lord, who will speak on

Spinoza and the art of reasoning

Room 629, Birkbeck College Main Building Malet St,  London WC1E 7HX

 

Abstract:

For Spinoza, the fiction writer, the artist, and the prophet are skilled at imagining and engaging others in imaginative visions, but the architect is skilled at rational thinking. The architect has less in common with artists than she does with exemplars of reasoning such as the “free man” of Ethics Part IV. Like the free man, the architect deals in adequate ideas: she deduces properties and relations from the essences of geometrical figures, and understands what follows from those properties and relations. She knows how a structure will relate to its human inhabitants, and what physical and social relations it enables. In this sense, the architect’s purpose and “art” is to develop possibilities for human flourishing from geometrical understanding.

 
This is also the task of the Ethics: Spinoza works from definitions and axioms, in the style of Euclid, to develop propositions that reveal our ethical potentialities. At times, he takes specific geometrical concepts to be foundational for metaphysical, ethical, and political claims. Spinoza appears to believe that designing buildings, relationships, and polities for human flourishing begins in geometry. Yet the nature of the transition from geometry to flourishing is not very clear, and the grounding for such a transition is not well understood. In this paper I will argue that for Spinoza, being highly rational involves practising the “art” of deducing positive human outcomes from geometrical understanding. I will argue that this is indeed an art that involves interpretation, judgment, and design, which can be performed better or worse. This suggests that both the architect and the philosopher are artists of reasoning and designers of structures that augment human relations, and that the best religious and political leaders can be artists in this sense too.

The following meeting will take place on Monday 11 June, when Michael Della Rocca will speak on a topic to be circulated at a later date. 

Beth Lord on 7 June 2018

Alexander Douglas on Thursday 22nd March

s200_alexander.douglasFor our next meeting, we are pleased to have Dr Alexander Douglas (University of St. Andrews):

Spinoza and the British Idealists: Acosmism, Determination, and Negation

Thursday 22nd March 2018, 3pm to 5pm

Room 402, Birkbeck College Main Building, Malet St,  London WC1E 7HX

Abstract
I examine the acosmist reading of Spinoza, first proposed by German philosophers and then developed in detail by British Idealist philosophers. According to this reading, Spinoza is implicitly committed to the view that nothing truly exists besides God. The cogency of this reading, as is well-known, depends on what Spinoza means in saying that “determination is negation”. While most scholars have focussed on the meaning of “determination”, I propose an interpretation of “negation” that would Spinoza to avoid the conclusions pushed upon him by the British Idealists. I then speculate on why the British Idealists might have rejected this interpretation.

All welcome and no registration is required.

UPDATE: An earlier draft of the paper is available here.

Alexander Douglas on Thursday 22nd March