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Spinoza and Spinozisms

Lecturer: Jon Rubin

Originally Taught: Winter School 2015

Spinoza is the most paradoxical of philosophers: the most beloved, the most reviled; last of the scholastics, first of the moderns; militant atheist, god intoxicated; rational idealist, passionate materialist; the most abstract – a thinker of god, substance, eternity and blessedness and the most concrete – the theorist of the passions, the body, the multitude and an admirer of Tacitus and Machiavelli. This course will remain true to these tensions whilst giving an overview of his three major works and their receptions: the Theologico-Politcal Treatise, the Ethics and the Political Treatise and also giving in depth readings of key components and passages from each of these works and contemporary reactions to them.

Course Schedule

  • It will begin by examining the savage anomaly of the 17th century Dutch Republic and the Marrano community within it in order to situate Spinoza's thought.
  • It will then continue through the Pantheismus Krisis when to be accused of Spinozism meant a devastating charge of atheism and materialism on to Hegel who can proclaim that you are: 'either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all' and then to Nietzsche's discovery of a precursor.
  • We will then read Spinoza's Theologico-Politcal Treatise as an (utterly unsuccessful) attempt to intervene in the fortunes of the Dutch Republic focusing on his most controversial claim : the equivalence of right and power.
  • Then we will read the book he refused to publish in his life time: the Ethics. I will give an outline of the rhetorical and methodological strategies of the book, the geometrical method and "the operation of the sive" and use these to examine two key propositions from each of the five books that make up the Ethics.
  • We will end with a look at the unfinished Political Treatise and its thinking of the multitude, that is "terrifying if unafraid".

Reading

  • Spinoza, Theologico-Politcal Treatise
  • Spinoza, Ethics
  • Spinoza, Political Treatise