upcoming events

CfA: UPenn virtual seminar in early modern philosophy

*Call for Abstracts*

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 upennearlymodernconference@gmail.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*


Keynote Speakers:

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)


Contact: upennearlymodernconference@gmail.com

Martin Lenz at the London Spinoza Circle, 6 Feb 2020

On Thursday 6th February 2020, 3 – 5pm the London Spinoza Circle will host Martin Lenz  (University of Groningen) who will speak on:

Biased Beliefs: Spinoza on the Interaction of Ideas

: Birkbeck, University of London, Dreyfus Room, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ

All welcome and no registration is required.


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).

Schedule of events 2019-20 at the London Spinoza Circle


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)



Valtteri Viljanen at the London Spinoza Circle on Thursday 23rd January 2020

valtteri2013At the next meeting of the London Spinoza Circle on Thursday 23rd January 2020, 3 – 5pm, Valtteri Viljanen (University of Turku) will speak on

Spinoza on Scepticism, Truth, and Method

Location: Birkbeck, University of London, Dreyfus Room, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ



In this talk, I offer a new interpretation of Spinoza’s method of distinguishing the true ideas from the false, which shows that his answer to the sceptic is not a failure. This method, as presented in the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, combines analysis and synthesis as follows: if we can say of the object of an idea (a) which simple things underlie it, (b) how it can be constructed out of simple elements, and (c) what properties it has after it has been produced, doubt concerning the object simply makes no sense. I also discuss the distinction between the intrinsic and the extrinsic denomination of an idea and suggest a way in which the methodology of the Treatise connects to the ontology of the Ethics.

All welcome and no registration is required

London Spinoza Circle: Spring and Summer Terms 2020

The London Spinoza Circle have organised four meetings for the coming spring and summer terms. All meetings will take place from 3pm to 5pm.


Spring Term

Thursday 23rd January      

Valtteri Viljanen (University of Turku)


Thursday 6th February

Martin Lenz (University of Groningen)


Thursday 19th March   – CANCELLED  

This meeting will be rearranged for later in the year.

Pina Totaro (Università di Roma Sapienza)

The three meetings above will take place in the Dreyfus Room, Birkbeck, University of London, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ.


Summer Term

Thursday 25th June       

Kristin Primus (UC Berkeley)

Room location to be confirmed


The titles of the presentations will be announced closer to the date.


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.



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

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



Institut Français, Edinburgh

Philosophy Department, Edinburgh University

Maison Française d’Oxford (MFO)

Scottish Philosophical Association (SPA)

British Society for the History of Philosophy (BSHP)


London Spinoza Circle Graduate Workshop on 21st November 2019

The London Spinoza Circle Graduate Workshop takes place on Thursday 21st November 2019 from 9:45am to 5:00pm at Birkbeck College, University of London, Dreyfus Room, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ.


9.45 – 10.00:      Welcome

10.00 – 10.30:    Weak Individuals: A Spinozist Perspective – Emanuele Costa, (Birkbeck College and Johns Hopkins University):

10.30 – 11.00   Discussion


11.00 – 11.30:     The Second Kind of Knowledge and the Activity of the Ethics – Andrea Ray (University of Chicago)

11.30 – 12.00     Discussion


12.00 – 12.30      ‘The Whole Earth is Full of His Glory’: Amor Dei Intellectualis

as Gloria in Ethics V – John Heyderman – (Birkbeck College)

12.30 – 1.00       Discussion


1.00 – 2.00          LUNCH BREAK


2.00 – 2.30           Hegel and Spinoza on Freedom – Jason Yonover (Johns Hopkins University)

2.30 – 3.00           Discussion


3.00 – 3.30           On Laws, Human Nature and Beings of Reason in Spinoza – Kasper Kristensen, Uppsala University

3.30 – 4.00           Discussion


4.00 – 4.30           Identity, Agreement and ‘Othering’: Spinoza’s Politics of Recognition –  Steph Marston (Birkbeck College)

4.30 – 5.00       Discussion


The full programme including abstracts can be found on the London Spinoza Circle site here.

All are welcome and no registration is required.

Barnaby Hutchins and Ursula Renz at the London Spinoza Circle on 10th October 2019


At our meeting on Thursday 10th October 2019, 3.00 – 5.00pm, we are very pleased to have Barnaby Hutchins (Ghent University) and Ursula Renz, (University of Klagenfurt) who will speak on

Spinoza on Human Subjectivity and the Notion of God’s Intellect
Birkbeck, University of London, Dreyfus Room, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ



Spinoza’s Ethics is frequently interpreted, especially in recent scholarship, as maintaining that everything, including human subjects, is grounded in God or substance – that substance is the sole fundamental feature of reality. At the same time, the perspective of finite minds seems to play a non-trivial role in the constitution of reality. How can this (seeming) tension between these two positions be reconciled? In our paper, we argue for three claims: (1) both positions are necessary for Spinoza’s metaphysics, but neither is reducible to the other; (2) to account for both of them, given their mutual irreducibility, subjectivity itself must be comprehended as a function of finite beings; (3) the notion of infinite intellect plays a transcendental-philosophical role, and is not a metaphysical description of the nature of God. Through the elaboration of these three claims, we propose a new picture of Spinoza’s metaphysics, according to which human subjectivity is an integral, irreducible, and ineliminable – and thereby fundamental – feature of reality.

All welcome and no registration required.

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