I have decided that the time has come to wind down the website of the Spinoza Research Network. The purpose of the site was to be a source of information and networking for those working on Spinoza, from all academic fields and none, from all over the world. It has certainly fulfilled its purpose: over the past 12 years, it has gathered nearly 500 subscribers, many of whom are non-academics. I regularly recieve emails asking me to share information and I have had many kind messages from those who appreciate the site.
However, it’s been difficult to keep up with developments, both in the Spinoza world and in technology. When I started the site back in 2008, there was little of this kind available. Blogs were in their infancy and Twitter didn’t exist. The site offered something unique, and the number of Spinoza events was just about manageable to keep it up-to-date.
Things have moved on considerably since then. There has – I’m delighted to say – been an explosion of new work on Spinoza, much of it interdisciplinary and public-oriented. And there are now far more ways of accessing this information quickly and reliably. Network members have played a huge role in these developments. But the SRN website is now out of date, both visually and in terms of how, what, and how often it communicates. To use a Spinozist idiom, its ratio of motion and rest has fallen out of line with that of the world around it.
I’ve therefore decided that the time has come to close the webiste. The site and its current posts will remain online, but I will no longer be posting new information.
The end of the website does not mean the end of the Spinoza Research Network. The Spinoza Research Network Facebook group, with over 4000 members, is an active and positive group exchanging and discussing Spinoza news and events. If you follow me on Twitter (@ProfBethLord) I’ll be happy to share any Spinoza news you send me.
Thank you for following and participating in the Network over the years. I look forward to continuing the conversation.
The book draws on the political writings of Hobbes and Spinoza to establish a conceptual framework for understanding the genesis, risks, and promise of popular power. Radical democrats–whether drawing on Hobbes’ “sleeping sovereign” or on Spinoza’s “multitude”–understand popular power as moments transcending ordinary institutional politics (e.g. popular plebsites or mass movements). However, a focus on the concept of power as potentia generates a new approach to popular power, according to which its true center lies in the slow, meticulous work of organizational design and maintenance. The book makes an original contribution at the intersection of early modern philosophy and democratic theory.
Early reviews are available: Yitzhak Y. Melamed (Johns Hopkins) describes the book as ’splendid, deep, and timely’.
The author has written a blog post to explain one of the book’s themes in plain language:
Spinoza on Prophecy a talk with Prof. Michael A. Rosenthal(University of Toronto)Date: Thursday, October 22, 2020 Time: 3-5pm EST Via Zoom The neo-Kantian philosopher Hermann Cohen famously claimed that “[t]he great scholar of the Bible [Spinoza] never attained an understanding of prophecy.” Spinoza, Cohen argued, reduces the transcendent event of revelation to an immanent and epistemically inferior kind of knowledge based on the imagination rather than on reason. Spinoza misunderstands the prophets as legislators of particular laws that only have limited temporal and utilitarian value. Consequently, Spinoza misses the moral content of prophecy, which ought to serve as a normative standard for all of humanity. Like those who expelled Spinoza from the synagogue in Amsterdam, Cohen urges us to see Spinoza as a danger to Judaism. In this talk, I shall argue that Cohen misinterprets Spinoza on each of these points. I want to reconsider Spinoza’s account of prophecy and defend its relevance to modern Jewish thought. I shall argue that the imagination is what makes prophecy effective; that the emphasis on the political dimension of prophecy is what makes it relevant to the modern condition of the Jews; and that the prophets do provide a model of moral discourse that claims universality and puts Jews and Judaism in a productive conversation with other religious traditions.
Michael A. Rosenthal holds the Grafstein Chair in Jewish Philosophy at the University of Toronto, with appointments in the Department of Philosophy and the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. He was formerly Professor of Philosophy and Jewish Studies at the University of Washington at Seattle. His current research focus is Spinoza’s political philosophy and theory of the imagination. He is also interested in the reception of Spinoza in subsequent Jewish philosophy, including the work of Moses Mendelssohn and Hermann Cohen. He was recently a Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, where he gave the Martin Buber Lecture in Intellectual History and Philosophy.
Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies | 763 Kaneff Tower, York University, 4700 Keele St, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3 Canada firstname.lastname@example.org
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.