New book on Spinoza and Levinas

Richard Cohen, Out of Control: Confrontations between Spinoza and Levinas (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2016); 370pp.

After the end of superstitious religion, what is the meaning of the world? Baruch Spinoza s answer is truth, Emmanuel Levinas s is goodness: science versus ethics. In “Out of Control,” Richard A. Cohen brings this debate to life, providing a nuanced exposition of Spinoza and Levinas and the confrontations between them in ethics, politics, science, and religion.

Spinoza is the control, the inexorable defensive logic of administrative rationality, where freedom is equated to necessity a seventeenth-century glimpse of Orwellian doublespeak and Big Brother. Levinas is the way out: transcendence not of God, being, and logic but of the other person experienced as moral obligation. To alleviate the suffering of others nothing is more important! Spinoza wagers everything on mathematical truth, discarding the rest as ignorance and illusion; for Levinas, nothing surpasses the priorities of morality and justice, to create a world in which humans can be human and not numbers or consumers, drudges or robots.

Situating these two thinkers in today s context, “Out of Control” responds to the fear of dehumanization in a world flattened by the alliance of positivism and plutocracy. It offers a nonideological ethical alternative, a way out and up, in the nobility of one human being helping another, and the solidarity that moves from morality to justice.”

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New book: Affectivity and Philosophy after Spinoza and Nietzsche

Affectivity and Philosophy After Spinoza and Nietzsche, by Stuart Pethick, investigates a much neglected philosophical connection between two of the most controversial figures in the history of philosophy, Benedict Spinoza and Friedrich Nietzsche. It is claimed that these thinkers break with the classical image of philosophy as looking beyond affectivity for a knowledge of the world that can allow us to attain surety of judgement, virtue and happiness, and instead insist that the task of philosophy is not to judge what is right or wrong, but understand how it is that we come to make such judgements. As Spinoza famously remarks, we do not desire something because it is good; we rather call something good because we desire it. Philosophy for Spinoza and Nietzsche thus traces the affective genesis of our desires to help us compose our relations in the world in the most joyful manner possible.  The crucial orientating role of affective experience thus joins these two disparate thinkers in a single and rare task: to make knowledge the most powerful affect.

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New book engaging with Spinoza’s Hebrew Grammar

A new book has been published (in French) that engages substantially with Spinoza’s Compendium of Hebrew Grammar. A short English description follows. Further information from

Hebrew – From Sacred to Mother Tongue

by Keren Mock

Prefaces by Julia Kristeva and Pierre-Marc de Biasi

How is a new mother tongue formed? What are the materials and the circumstances that permit the appearance of a “new” mother tongue? According to what process does an ancient language appear and “modernize” in order to be adopted and practiced by its speakers? An everyday language whose basis is spiritual, cultural and religious, Hebrew allows one to assess the genesis of a contemporary mother tongue. Proceeding with an archeological search which leads us from the present to the most ancient strata, the author dialogs with two of the greatest Israeli writers, Aharon Appelfeld and Sami Michael, enters into the lexicographic “factory” of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, and returns to the philosophical foundations of secular Hebrew by means of a new reading of Baruch Spinoza’s Compendium of Hebrew Grammar.

“Rarely has a work been produced with such skill and originality over such vast fields, and, by means of an interdisciplinary approach, responded to political and ethical challenges which are as current as they are essential.” Julia Kristeva

“From psychoanalysis to semiotics, from intertextuality to the history of ideas, from genetic criticism to philosophy texts, this text prompts us to a happy and generous effective transdisciplinarity as to a veritable intellectual feast.” Pierre-Marc de Biasi