Author: spinozaresearchnetwork

Spinoza and ‘no platforming’ – from The Conversation

Spinoza and ‘no platforming’: Enlightenment thinker would have seen it as motivated by ambition rather than fear

Baruch Spinoza, one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy.
Unknown artist via Wikimedia Commons

Beth Lord, University of Aberdeen and Alexander Douglas, University of St Andrews

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.




Read more:
Two arguments to help decide whether to ‘cancel’ someone and their work


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.

Ambitious mind

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.

Handwritten manuscript of ‘Ethica’ by Baruch de Spinoza.
Biblioteca Vaticana

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.The Conversation

Beth Lord, Professor of Philosophy, University of Aberdeen and Alexander Douglas, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of St Andrews

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

CFA: 7th Finnish-Hungarian Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy

Call for Abstracts

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 fhsemp2020@gmail.com 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.

For further information, please contact Mike Griffin at fhsemp2020@gmail.com

Organizing and program committee:

Mike Griffin (CEU), Vili Lähteenmäki (Helsinki), Judit Szalai (ELTE), and Valtteri Viljanen (Turku)

 

 

Alexandre Matheron

Alexandre Matheron died on January 7, 2020.

His two great books, Individu et communauté chez Spinoza (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1969) and Le Christ et le salut des ignorants chez Spinoza (Paris: Éditions Aubier-Montaigne, 1971), plus his many articles, recently gathered in Études sur Spinoza et les philosophies à l’âge classique (Lyon: ENS Éditions, 2011), earned him a reputation as a master of seventeenth-century studies in France and internationally. He was, after Martial Gueroult, one of the best representatives of the structural method in the history of philosophy. His seminars gathered both French and foreign undergraduate and graduate students desiring to learn this method. Through his teaching at the École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay/Saint-Cloud he formed, directly and indirectly, a great number of Spinozists. He always encouraged young researchers and was always ready to listen to suggestions different from his own.

In 1977, he was among the founders of the Association des Amis de Spinoza of which he became the chair after the death of Jean-Toussaint Desanti. These last years, illness kept him away from active participation, but he always continued to support, through his reading and comments, the forthcoming new edition of the complete works of Spinoza.

  • Pierre-François Moreau, via Mogens Laerke

CFP: Scottish Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy XI

7-8 May 2020, French Institute/Institut Français, Edinburgh.

 

Keynote speakers:

Alix Cohen (University of Edinburgh)

Philip​pe Hamou (University of Paris X-Nanterre)

 

SSEMP XI is the eleventh edition of a yearly international workshop that brings together established scholars, young researchers and advanced graduate students working in the field of Early Modern Philosophy. SSEMP welcomes papers on any topic in early modern philosophy (broadly defined to mean pre-Kantian philosophy ranging from late Renaissance philosophy to the early Enlightenment). We encourage proposals which consider early modern philosophy in relation to related disciplines, such as theology, the history of literature, intellectual history and the history of science. Since the 2020 edition of the SSEMP takes place at the Institut Français at St. Giles, this year we welcome in particular contributions concerned with relations between Scottish and French philosophy. The SSEMP makes an effort to ensure a reasonable gender balance.

Submissions for the regular program should include a 300-word abstract + contact information gathered in A SINGLE PDF-FILE named: “your-surname.your-brief-title.abstract.pdf” (e.g. “smith.spinoza-and-essences.abstract.pdf’). Do not blind submissions. Graduate students submitting to the regular program should include contact information for one referee (typically the supervisor.) NB: BLINDED OR INCORRECTLY NAMED SUBMISSIONS WILL NOT BE REGISTERED. Deadline for submission of abstracts is 15 January 2020. They should be sent by email to Mogens Lærke on mogenslaerke@hotmail.com. Due to very high numbers of submissions we cannot undertake to provide individual answers to all of them. Applicants who have not been contacted by 15 February should consider their submission declined.

The SSEMP awards a Graduate Student Essay Prize which this year, as in previous years, is funded by The British Society for the History of Philosophy (BSHP). The prize includes an invitation to present the essay at the SSEMP and a bursary of £300 toward travel and accommodation. The bursary cannot be used for any other purpose. Submissions to the essay competition should include: (1) Name, affiliation, name and email of supervisor, and personal contact information; (2) the complete essay (max. 6000 words, including notes). Everything, including contact information should be gathered in a single pdf-file entitled as follows: “your-surname.your-brief-title.essay.pdf” (e.g “jones.hume-on-habit.essay.pdf”). Do not blind submissions. NB: BLINDED OR INCORRECTLY NAMED SUBMISSIONS WILL NOT BE REGISTERED. Deadline for submissions is 15 January 2020. They should be sent by email to Mogens Lærke on mogenslaerke@hotmail.com. Those who wish to submit a proposal both as a complete text for the essay competition and as a short abstract for the regular program are free to do so.

Please note that the SSEMP cannot provide funding for travel or accommodation for speakers. We do, however, hope to be able to offer sandwich lunches and a conference dinner. Participants should expect two full conference days on 7-8 May.

 

Organisers:

Jonathan Cottrell (University of Edinburgh): j.cottrell@ed.ac.uk

Mogens Lærke (Maison Française d’Oxford): mogenslaerke@hotmail.com

 

Sponsors:

Institut Français, Edinburgh

Philosophy Department, Edinburgh University

Maison Française d’Oxford (MFO)

Scottish Philosophical Association (SPA)

British Society for the History of Philosophy (BSHP)

 

Symposium: Spinoza and the arts: passionate reason

A 2-day international symposium, 4-5 October 2019
At West Den Haag art gallery, the Hague, the Netherlands

Featuring papers and discussion from Moira Gatens, Beth Lord, Katja Diefenbach, Mogens Laerke, Andrea Sangiacomo, and Torkild Thanem, moderated by Baruch Gottlieb.

Full information and registration available here

PDF with programme, paper abstracts, and further information here: Spinoza-Symposium-2019-final

CFP: Journal special issue on “Spinoza today”

The editorial committee of the Italian philosophical Journal INCIRCOLO – RIVISTA DI FILOSOFIA E CULTURE (http://www.incircolorivistafilosofica.it) kindly invites authors to submit their papers to the upcoming issue 8/2019, which will be dedicated to:

“SPINOZA TODAY”

*SUBMISSION DEADLINE: NOVEMBER 15TH, 2019*

Our times seem to owe much to Spinoza’s thought. Several traces of such debt can be found in the contemporary philosophical debate, where words, concepts and objects typical of Spinoza’s philosophy are constantly reused and further examined. The well-known sentence by Bergson, according to which every philosopher has in truth two systems, her own and that of Spinoza, may shed an interesting light on the current philosophical debate indeed. This is why we propose to reflect on “Spinoza today”.

If it is possible to depict Spinoza’s thought as a sphinx sitting at the entrance of the main road that led to modernity, its critical reprise on the threshold of a new modernity which has to face profound and disquieting technological, environmental, social and political issues requires to be deeply analysed.

Authors interested in presenting a contribution to this issue may discuss, among others, the following questions:

–   may a critical reprise of the Spinozian approach help contemporary philosophy to overcome the general disorientation deriving from nihilistic positions, relativistic views and the feeble suggestions of so-called post-modernism?

–   How the several versions of immanentism recently elaborated can be fruitfully confronted with the classical position of Spinozism?

–   Is there, in the current philosophical scenario, a particular approach that may be considered the rightful heir of Spinozism? Is contemporary materialism a suitable candidate for this title or does it fail to meet the necessary requirements, so that it needs to be adequately integrated, perhaps with elements that belong to this same philosophical tradition?

–   May contemporary political philosophy benefit from an approach that strives to balance the respect of individual freedom and the necessary constraints of political institutions, as Spinoza suggested?

–   From the perspective of philosophy of history, may Spinoza’s rational understanding of historical events as rings of a chain held together by necessary joints represent a valuable and still insightful position?

*SUBMISSION DEADLINE: NOVEMBER 15, 2019*

Contributions should not exceed the maximum length of 9000 WORDS (references, notes, 250-words abstract and 4-5 keywords included) and should be written in ENGLISH or ITALIAN. All submissions will undergo blind peer-review.

Please send your paper by e-mail to redazioneincircolo@gmail.com.

 

Fabio Fossa, Ph.D.

Dipartimento di Filosofia e Scienze dell’Educazione Università di Torino

Dipartimento di Informatica

Università di Pisa

Washington Spinoza Society

The 19th season of the Washington Spinoza Society will officially begin on Monday, September 9th at 6:30 p.m at the BCC Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD, Conference Room Norfolk (C).

The presenter will be Professor Yitzhak Melamed (Johns Hopkins University), speaking on “Spinoza’s ‘Atheism.’”  In this paper, Professor Melamed will attempt to show that the only sense in which Spinoza can be genuinely considered an atheist is one that is not particularly informative.

All welcome.

6th Finnish-Hungarian Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy

6th Finnish-Hungarian Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy https://fhsemp.wordpress.com<https://fhsemp.wordpress.com/>

6–7 June 2019

University of Helsinki

Main building, hall 8

 

Thursday June 6

9:15:Opening

9:30:Jack Stetter (Paris 8) Spinoza on Stupidity: The Power of False Ideas and Persistent Ignorance

11:00:Ericka Tucker (Marquette University) Hobbes and Spinoza on Conatus

13:30:Jessica Tizzard (University of Connecticut) Why does Kant Think We Must Believe in the Immortal Soul?

15:00:Jen Nguyen (Harvard) Leibniz on Distance

16:15:Zachary Agoff (San Francisco State University) A Metaphysical Method for Moral Development: Descartes and Elisabeth on Morally Relevant Knowledge

 

Friday June 7

9:30:Kevin R. Busch (Davidson College) Hume on the Origin and Limits of Thought

11:00:Timo Kaitaro (University of Helsinki) Hume and the Artificial Structures of the Human Mind

13:30:Nicholas Vallone (University of Wisconsin-Madison) Locke’s Theory of Memory

15:00:Matthew Leisinger (Cambridge) Cudworth on Freewill

16:30:Invited speaker Alison Simmons (Harvard) New Narratives in Early Modern Philosophy: The Road Ahead

 

 

Attendance is free and everyone is warmly welcome. Please write us so we can take your participation into consideration with practicalities: fhsemp2019@gmail.com<mailto:fhsemp2019@gmail.com>

The venue is the main building of University of Helsinki, lecture hall 8 on the third floor (Fabianinkatu 33, 00100 Helsinki).Professor Simmons’s talk will take place at Tiedekulma(Think Corner at Yliopistonkatu 4) right next to the main building.

 

Vili Lähteenmäki

Academy of Finland Research Fellow

University of Helsinki

https://helsinki.academia.edu/ViliLahteenmaki