At 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.
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.