A new Latin and French critical edition of Ethica has been published and is now available.
Spinoza, Œuvres IV: Ethica/Éthique. Texte établi par Fokke Akkerman et Piet Steenbakkers, traduction par Pierre-François Moreau, introduction et notes par Pierre-François Moreau et Piet Steenbakkers, avec annexes par Fabrice Audié, André Charrak et Pierre-François Moreau. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2020. ISBN 978-2-13-081149-7, 696 pages, €32.
The Latin text is based on Spinoza’s Opera posthuma of 1677, which has been collated systematically with the 1677 Dutch version in De nagelate schriften and with the Vatican manuscript (copied from Spinoza’s completed autograph between November 1674 and May 1675, but only discovered in 2010). It is accompanied by a scrupulous new translation. The introduction examines the textual history of the work from its genesis to recent editions and translations, and presents an account of the constitution of the Latin text and of the principles governing the French translation. Historical, lexical and conceptual clarifications are offered in the notes. Three appendices deal with the geometric examples, the excursion on the nature of bodies, and the structure of the theory of the affects. The book is completed by a glossary, a bibliography and an index of names.
The editor of Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy is pleased to announce that submissions are now being received for the third Sanders Prize in the History of Early Modern Philosophy. The Sanders Prize in the History of Early Modern Philosophy is a biennial essay competition open to scholars who are within fifteen (15) years of receiving a Ph.D. or students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program. Independent scholars may also be eligible, and should direct inquiries to Donald Rutherford, editor of Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy at email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The award for the prizewinning essay is $5,000. Winning essays will be published in Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy. This year’s deadline is October 1, 2020.
In an effort to encourage philosophical engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic, we invite submissions from graduate students for University of Pennsylvania’s virtual seminar in Early Modern Philosophy. The seminar will be conducted in English, and we encourage papers on any topic in 17th- and 18th-century European philosophy. The seminar will take place synchronously in Eastern Daylight Time.
Abstracts should be between 500-750 words. Please submit your abstract in .pdf format, prepared for anonymous review, to email@example.com. In the body of the email, please include your name, university affiliation, paper title, and the time zone you anticipate being in during August 2020. Papers should be suitable for a 25-minute presentation (between 3,000-3,500 words) and 20-minute Q&A. Our aim is to have comments presented following each presentation. So, we ask that if your abstract is accepted, the paper should be completed three weeks before the seminar so we can send it to the assigned commentator.
*Submission Deadline: May 22, 2020*
Decision Deadline: May 30, 2020
Paper Completion Deadline: July 15, 2020 Comment Completion Deadline: July 29, 2020 *Date of Seminar: August 5-6, 2020*
Omri Boehm (New School)
Yitzhak Melamed (Johns Hopkins)
John Roman (University of Pennsylvania)
Tyler Re (University of Pennsylvania)
Zachary Agoff (University of Pennsylvania) Karen Detlefsen (University of Pennsylvania)
This exciting new project from Purdue University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France includes English translations of some of Deleuze’s Spinoza seminars. Read on for more info!
The Deleuze Seminars
We are delighted to announce the virtual launch of a new archive site, The Deleuze Seminars (deleuze.cla.purdue.edu <http://deleuze.cla.purdue.edu/>), devoted to the work of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995). The site has several goals:
— To provide English translations and French transcriptions, many newly developed for the site, of the seminar lectures Deleuze gave at the University of Paris, Vincennes-St. Denis, between 1971 and 1987.
— To provide additional documents — course notes, lectures, video links, and interviews — that complement the formal course lectures.
— To provide a location for ongoing data rescue. Most of Deleuze’s seminars were recorded by his students, yet very few recordings from the 1970s have been archived, or even survived, and some gaps remain for the 1980 seminars. The Deleuze Seminars is hosting a data rescue effort to retrieve and save as many of these recordings as possible.
We welcome you to explore the resources available at the The Deleuze Seminars by visiting deleuze.cla.purdue.edu <http://deleuze.cla.purdue.edu/>. The site includes new English translations (and many new French transcriptions) and already several of Deleuze’s complete seminars on Foucault (1985-86) and Leibniz (1980, 1986-87), with several other seminars currently in development. For queries about the archive or to discuss possible rescue of extant data, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>.
The recent “no-platforming” of social historian Selina Todd and former Conservative MP Amber Rudd has reignited the debate about protecting free speech in universities. Both had their invited lectures cancelled at the last minute on the grounds of previous public statements with which the organisers disagreed.
Many people have interpreted these acts as hostile behaviour aimed at silencing certain views. But is this primarily about free speech?
The debate about no-platforming and “cancel culture” has largely revolved around free speech and the question of whether it is ever right to deny it. The suggestion is that those who cancel such events want to deny the freedom of speech of individuals who they take to be objectionable.
Most of us surely agree that freedom of speech should sometimes be secondary to considerations of the harm caused by certain forms of speech – so the question is about what kinds of harm offer a legitimate reason to deny someone a public platform. Since people perceive harm in many different ways, this question is particularly difficult to resolve.
But perhaps the organisers who cancelled these events were not motivated by the desire to deny freedom of speech at all. Todd and Rudd are prominent people in positions of authority – so cancelling their events, while causing a public splash, is unlikely to dent their freedom to speak on these or other issues at other times and in different forums.
But these acts have a significant effect on others, who may feel unable to speak on certain issues from fear of similar treatment. Perhaps the no-platformers cancelled Todd and Rudd, not because they wanted to deny them their freedom to speak, but because they didn’t want to listen to them. Perhaps they were motivated not by a rational consideration of potential harm, but by an emotion: the desire not to listen to something with which they disagree.
The 17th-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza has a name for this emotion: ambition. Nowadays we think of ambition as the desire to succeed in one’s career. But in the 17th century, ambition was recognised to be a far more pernicious – and far more political – emotion. As Spinoza wrote in his Ethics (1677), ambition is the desire that everyone should feel the way I do:
Each of us strives, so far as he can, that everyone should love what he loves, and hate what he hates… Each of us, by his nature, wants the others to live according to his temperament; when all alike want this, they are alike an obstacle to one another.
Spinoza sees the emotions, or “passions”, as naturally arising from our interactions with one another and the world. We strive to do things that make us feel joy – an increase in our power to exist and flourish – and we strive to avoid things that make us feel sad or cause a decrease in our power.
We naturally desire and love what we believe others desire and love. It is therefore natural that we want others to love what we do and think what we think. For if others admire and approve of our actions and feelings, then we will feel a greater pleasure – with a concomitant increase of power – in ourselves.
Ambition is not simply wanting to feel esteemed – it is wanting others to love and hate exactly what we love and hate. It is the desire to cause others to think and feel exactly as we do. It is the desire to “avert from ourselves” those who cannot be convinced to do so – for those dissenters diminish our sense of self-worth.
Disagreement a threat
Spinoza would have recognised the desire not to listen to dissenting views as a species of ambition. Disagreement is perceived not as a reasoned difference of views, but as a threat: something that causes sadness and a diminishing of one’s power – something to be avoided at all costs.
Somebody who feels differently threatens our sense of the worthiness of our own feelings, causing a type of sadness. Spinoza stresses that we strive to “destroy” whatever we imagine will lead to sadness. Thus ambition leads to a desire to change people’s views, often through hostile, exclusionary, destructive behaviours.
Not only that, but someone in the grip of ambition is likely to be immune to rational argument. Spinoza argues that passions are obstructive to good thinking: reason – on its own – has little power to shift a passion that has a strong hold on us.
Most of us have had negative experiences on social media with people who disagree with us on politically charged questions. Instead of engaging with our arguments, they point out that we are immoral or unfeeling for holding a different view. Really, what our opponents find intolerable is our failure to feel the same about the issue as they do.
Refusing to hear an argument and seeking to silence it is a mild form of no-platforming, motivated not by the desire to quash free speech, but by ambition. Our failure to share in the political feelings of others leads them to experience a loss of power, and they respond by attacking the cause of the loss. Ambition makes rational debate impossible, even when our freedom to speak remains perfectly intact.
Spinoza famously holds that we standardly believe whatever it is that is perceived or goes through our mind, unless we hold stronger beliefs to the contrary. So if you see a winged horse on your lawn, you will also believe that there is a winged horse on the lawn, unless you have strong beliefs excluding the existence of winged horses. Couched in the terminology of the 17th century, Spinoza holds that we cannot merely contemplate ideas, but that every idea involves at least an affirmation. Spinoza’s principle has been well acknowledged in the literature. However, it is rarely considered how this principle is coupled with what could be called the principle of exclusion: we believe something unless a certain thought is excluded by beliefs we already hold. But if we tend to embrace what coheres with previous beliefs, we don’t just believe anything. Rather we might say that our minds are governed by what could be called a constant confirmation bias, i.e. a tendency to confirm existing beliefs. This raises the question of what governs this bias. Why don’t we believe in winged horses? In other words, what is the foundation of including certain beliefs and excluding others?
The exclusion principle, I submit, cannot be understood so long as we merely look at individual minds. Rather, the exclusion principle should be seen as rooted in the assumption that things (and thus also minds) are of a contrary nature. Accordingly, I shall argue that Spinoza’s holds an interactive account of ideas in that their affirmative force is explained in virtue of contrariety. Only when considering opposing ideas (and minds) can we understand why ideas exclude one another in their contrary striving (conatus).
Analysing contrary interactions requires us to focus on the question of what it means for ideas to have a conatus. What does it mean to say that the ideas themselves strive to persevere, rather than the cognitive agents who have ideas? After assessing some individualist answers in the literature (section 1), I will show that it is not any single conatus but the interaction of ideas, set off by contrariety, that governs the striving and determines which beliefs are held. We shall see that the exclusion principle that founds our biases is not a merely logical notion but rooted in the contrary nature of things (section 2). Understanding interaction in terms of contrariety, however, will give rise to a number of objections, the discussion of which will shed some light on the common understanding of the conatus doctrine (section 3). Finally, I will try to situate the emerging account in with a view to current philosophical approaches and show how the exclusion principle lends itself to an understanding of ideas in terms of confirmation bias (section 4).
The Seventh Finnish-Hungarian Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy
CEU, Budapest Campus
18–19 May 2020
Submission deadline: March 2
In a joint effort by philosophers in Finland and Hungary, the Seminar was founded to promote international cooperation among scholars of seventeenth and eighteenth-century philosophy. The previous meeting was held in 2019 in Helsinki. This will be the seventh meeting in a continuing series of seminars; for more information, please see the website https://fhsemp.wordpress.com/
We invite prospective participants to send an anonymized abstract of about 500 words in .pdf format on any topic in early modern philosophy to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than the 2nd of March. Please, indicate your name, university affiliation, and the title of your paper in the body of your email message.
Completed papers should aim at a reading time of 40 minutes or less. Please note that FHSEMP cannot provide funding for travel or accommodation.