Events in UK

Contemporary and Historical Perspectives on Spinoza and Culture

Manchester Metropolitan University, Geoffrey Manton building, room 230

3 August 2018

9.30– Arrive: Coffee and Tea

9.45– Christopher Thomas (Manchester Metropolitan University): Welcome and Introduction

10.00 – Gilah Kletenik (New York University): ‘Interpreting Scripture like Nature or How to Read without a Telos

11.00 – Brynnar Swynson (Butler University): ‘Elective Affectivities: Modern Subjects and the Colonial “I”’

12.00 ­­– Susan James (Birkbeck, University of London): ‘Feelings and Fictions’

13.00 ­– Lunch (GM 230 supplied for speakers)

14.00 – Christopher Norris (Cardiff University): Reading

14.30 – Moira Gatens (University of Sydney): ‘The Veracious Imagination: the fictions of Spinoza and George Eliot’

15.30 – Break

15.45 – Beth Lord (University of Aberdeen): ‘Spinoza and the Art of Reasoning’

16.45 – Martin Benson (Stony Brook University): ‘Knowledge Without Revelation: Reading Spinoza’s epistemological transitions through Beckett’s Endgame’

17.45 – End of Conference

19.00 – Conference Dinner (HOME, Manchester)

For more information please see

This conference has been generously supported by The British Society for the History of Philosophy and MIND.

Dr. Christopher Thomas

Lecturer in Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University



Michael Della Rocca at the London Spinoza Circle on 11.06.18

At our meeting on Monday 11th June, 3pm – 5pm, we are pleased to have Michael Della Rocca (Yale University) who will speak on

“Perseverence, Power, and Eternity: Purely Positive Essence in Spinoza”

3pm to 5pm,  Room 101, Birkbeck College, 30 Russell Square, WC1B 5DT


The alignment of affirmation, essence, and the absence of negation is evident very early on in Spinoza’s Ethics, in the definition of God.   In this paper, I seek to show how the purely positive character of essence is a feature not only of God’s essence but also, in some way, of the essences of things in general. I will also argue that appreciating the roles that the conception of essence as purely positive plays in Spinoza’s conatus doctrine offers us a new way into and a new way of defending a reading of Spinoza according to which modes – things that are dependent on God – do not really exist.  By endorsing in this new way such an extreme interpretation, I aim to provide new insight into the third kind of knowledge and the eternity of the mind, for Spinoza.

Our next meeting will be on Thursday 7th June when Beth Lord (University of Aberdeen) will speak on Spinoza and the art of reasoning. Details here.

CFP: BSHP Annual Conference 2019




24 – 26 April 2019, King’s College London

Strand Campus, London



 Proposals for individual papers and for papers organized in themed symposia are invited on any period and aspect of the history of philosophy. In line with the BSHP’s commitment to broadening the canon, proposals on currently under-represented philosophical traditions, periods and authors are especially welcome. All proposals must be anonymized for blind peer-review.

Individual papers: please send an abstract of MAX 500 words (in word format) for a paper suitable for a 30 minute slot (20 mins for the paper, 10 mins for Q&A) to

Symposia: please send a proposal of MAX 500 words (in word format) for a symposium of 3-4 papers (each paper suitable for a 30 minutes slot) with abstracts of MAX 300 words for each paper to Please also submit, in a separate document, the email address and institution of each participant, and the name and email of the symposium organizer who will serve as contact person.

Deadline: Monday 10 September 2018.

Please note: all conference participants, including accepted speakers, must be BSHP members. For information on the BSHP and how to join please visit

As signatories of the BPA/SWIP Good Practice Scheme, the BSHP will take steps to ensure gender balance among speakers and participants. As for all BSHP events, some funding is available for childcare. If you require childcare in order to attend the conference please contact

Up to 10 bursaries of £100 will be available for speakers who are graduate students/unwaged members.

Conference Organizer:

Maria Rosa Antognazza, Chair, BSHP
Professor of Philosophy, KCL

Conference Assistant and contact for queries:

Katherine O’Reilly


Upcoming at the London Spinoza Circle

At our meeting on Thursday 7th June, 3pm – 5pm, we are pleased to have Beth Lord (University of Aberdeen), who will speak on

Spinoza and the art of reasoning

Room 629, Birkbeck College Main Building, Malet St,  London WC1E 7HX. (Entrance from Torrington Square).




For Spinoza, the fiction writer, the artist, and the prophet are skilled at imagining and engaging others in imaginative visions, but the architect is skilled at rational thinking. The architect has less in common with artists than she does with exemplars of reasoning such as the “free man” of Ethics Part IV. Like the free man, the architect deals in adequate ideas: she deduces properties and relations from the essences of geometrical figures, and understands what follows from those properties and relations. She knows how a structure will relate to its human inhabitants, and what physical and social relations it enables. In this sense, the architect’s purpose and “art” is to develop possibilities for human flourishing from geometrical understanding.

This is also the task of the Ethics: Spinoza works from definitions and axioms, in the style of Euclid, to develop propositions that reveal our ethical potentialities. At times, he takes specific geometrical concepts to be foundational for metaphysical, ethical, and political claims. Spinoza appears to believe that designing buildings, relationships, and polities for human flourishing begins in geometry. Yet the nature of the transition from geometry to flourishing is not very clear, and the grounding for such a transition is not well understood. In this paper I will argue that for Spinoza, being highly rational involves practising the “art” of deducing positive human outcomes from geometrical understanding. I will argue that this is indeed an art that involves interpretation, judgment, and design, which can be performed better or worse. This suggests that both the architect and the philosopher are artists of reasoning and designers of structures that augment human relations, and that the best religious and political leaders can be artists in this sense too.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


The following meeting will take place on Monday 11 June, 3pm – 5pm  (Room 101, 30 Russell Square)  Michael Della Rocca will speak on a topic to be circulated at a later date.


All are welcome and no registration is required.


London Spinoza Circle website:

Psycho-Physical Causations seminar

We are pleased to announce Psycho-Physical Causations, a seminar with HENRI ATLAN, on occasion of the publication of his new book on Spinoza and Contemporary Biology (Odile Jacob, 2018).

Prof. Atlan will offer a reading of Spinoza’s Ethics, Part III, Proposition 2:

“The body cannot determine the mind to thinking, and the mind cannot determine the body to motion, to rest, or to anything else (if there is anything else).”

The seminar will include the response of Dr. Michael Mack (Durham University) and a Q&A.

Wednesday 16th May, 4pm to 6pm, University of Durham, UK (venue TBA)

Suggested reading: Henri Atlan, The Sparks of Randomness, Vol. II Chapter 6 (“A Spinozist Perspective on Evolution and The Theory of Action”)

Henri Atlan is an emeritus professor of biophysics, as well as the founder and director of the Research Centre in Human Biology at the Hadassah Hospital, in Jerusalem. He is also directeur d’études in philosophy of biology at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, in Paris. He is the author of seminal works such as Entre le cristal et la fumée (Editions du Seuil, 1979), Les Étincelles de hazard (Editions du Seuil, 1999; The Sparks of Randomness, Stanford University Press, 2011-2013), and Le Vivant post-génomique (Odile Jacob, 2011).

Michael Mack is the author of Spinoza and the Specters of Modernity: The Hidden Enlightenment of Diversity from Spinoza to Freud (New York: Continuum, 2010).

For more information, please contact Dr. Mauro Senatore (Durham University),

This seminar is organised thanks to the support received from the British Academy and the Centre for Cultural Ecology at Durham University.


CFA: Spinoza and British Idealism

Call for Abstracts:

 Spinoza & British Idealism

 8 & 9 June 2018, University of St Andrews

 This conference aims to bring together leading historians of philosophy who have simultaneously begun to reappraise a neglected area of philosophical scholarship. In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the philosophy of Spinoza was taken very seriously by academic philosophers based in England and Scotland. Spinoza was seen as offering crucial insights on the relation between the natural sciences, religion, philosophy, and ordinary common experience. However, the tradition in which many of these philosophers worked, known as ‘British Idealism’, fell out of fashion when the new analytical approach defined itself in opposition to it. As a result, the importance of Spinoza was downgraded. Today, it is increasingly recognised that contemporary philosophers have much to learn from this once discarded school of philosophy. Spinoza’s reputation as a central figure has also been rehabilitated. It is high time to revisit what the British Idealists had to say about Spinoza, and many leading Spinoza scholars have recognised this. What better place to hold this conference than a university that was once a great hub of British Idealism?

 Please send 200-word abstracts to Alexander Douglas,, by the 10th of May.

 For more info, please visit:


Alexander Douglas at London Spinoza Circle

For the next meeting of the London Spinoza Circle, we are pleased to have Dr Alexander Douglas (University of St. Andrews) who will speak on:

Spinoza and the British Idealists: Acosmism, Determination, and Negation

Thursday 22nd March, 3pm to 5pm

Room 402, Birkbeck College Main Building, Malet St,  London WC1E 7HX. (Entrance from Torrington Square).

I examine the acosmist reading of Spinoza, first proposed by German philosophers and then developed in detail by British Idealist philosophers. According to this reading, Spinoza is implicitly committed to the view that nothing truly exists besides God. The cogency of this reading, as is well-known, depends on what Spinoza means in saying that “determination is negation”. While most schoålars have focussed on the meaning of “determination”, I propose an interpretation of “negation” that would Spinoza to avoid the conclusions pushed upon him by the British Idealists. I then speculate on why the British Idealists might have rejected this interpretation.

All welcome and no registration is required.

London Spinoza Circle website:

CFP: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives on Spinoza and Culture

Manchester Metropolitan University

3 August 2018

Recent scholarship on Spinoza has produced a wealth of excellent material covering all aspects of Spinoza’s philosophy. Important studies, for instance, have further developed Spinoza’s physics (Peterman), metaphysics (Viljanen), epistemology (Lenz), politics (Lordon), and theory of language (Laerke). Likewise, various recent works have brought Spinoza’s thought into dialogue with certain key topics of our time such as equality (Lord), ecology (Sharp), and ideology (Read). And yet given this burgeoning of Spinoza studies across many different keys, there has been little work carried out on Spinoza’s relation to culture and cultural theory. This conference aims to contribute to this underdeveloped aspect of Spinoza studies by providing a space of discussion for the various potential and actual relations between Spinoza and Spinozism, and culture and cultural theory.

The organisers seek to take the Spinoza-culture relation in the broadest possible sense, inviting contributions from traditional historians of philosophy, as well as more interdisciplinary scholars working at the juncture of Spinoza’s philosophy and the humanities, arts, and social sciences. As well as this the organisers seek contributions that address Spinozism (understood as the influence of Spinoza’s philosophy on contemporary philosophical positions) and its relation to recent or historical cultural theory (such a study, for instance, might develop the influence of Spinoza’s philosophy in Gilles Deleuze’s treatment of Francis Bacon, or the role that Spinoza’s philosophy plays in ‘new materialist’ treatments of literature and the arts).

The working language of the conference will be English but global and comparative perspectives are warmly encouraged.

Contributions are welcomed to address, but are not limited to:

  • Spinoza’s biblical hermeneutics
  • Spinoza and biblical narrative
  • Uses of Spinoza’s philosophy/Spinozism for culture/cultural theory
  • Uses of Spinoza’s philosophy/Spinozism in culture/cultural theory
  • Spinozistic readings of literature, theatre, art, and any related aspect of contemporary or historical culture
  • Spinoza’s use of the classical poets
  • Spinoza’s uses/philosophy-of fiction (political/literary/biblical)
  • Spinoza and language
  • Spinoza and writing
  • Spinoza and aesthetics
  • The cultural-historical context of Spinoza’s philosophy


Please submit abstracts (max. 500 words), along with a brief author bio, to by 1st May 2018. Enquiries can also be sent to the same address.

For more information please see

Dr. Christopher Thomas, Lecturer in Philosophy

Department of History, Politics and Philosophy
Manchester Metropolitan University
Geoffrey Manton Building
M15 6LL


Spinoza Circle, London

At the next meeting of the Spinoza Circle, we are very pleased to have Dr. Daniel Whistler (Royal Holloway, University of London) who will speak on

How to Speak of Eternity? Rhetoric in Ethics V

Thursday 1st March, 3.30 – 5.00pm

Room 101, Birkbeck College, 30 Russell Square, WC1B 5DT


My aim in this paper is to investigate the stylistic idiosyncrasies of Part V of Spinoza’s Ethics by focusing on the experience of the reader encountering this text: what is missed in most accounts of this passage, I argue, is the rhetorical effect of Spinoza’s language on a reader approaching the end of the book. The reader experiences hermeneutic anxiety upon encountering a God who loves, rejoices and glories in a relatively traditional manner after the iconoclastic dismantling of the traditional attributes of God in Parts I to IV. I suggest that such anxiety is intentionally provoked, for it emerges out of a reflective attitude towards the text and its choice of language, and such reflection on language is a means of ‘rhetorical therapy’ that makes the communication of adequate ideas possible.

The paper examines, first, the peculiar rhetorical devices at play in Part V, and, secondly, whether there are good philosophical reasons for such peculiarity. I then use such an analysis to think further about Spinoza’s attitude to language in general, concluding that thinking through the implications of the linguistic signs as affect allows one to posit the existence of a rhetorical therapy in Spinoza’s thinking.

All are welcome and no registration is required.

Scottish Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy IX


University of Aberdeen 24-25 May 2018

The Sir Duncan Rice Library, Seminar Room 224.

Key note speakers:

Felicity Green (University of Edinburgh)

Martin Lenz (University of Groningen)



Thursday 24 May

9.00-9.15 Coffee and Welcome

9.15-10.00 Brenda Basilico (University of Lille III), “Music, Mathematics, and Skepticism in Mersenne’s Writings”

10.00-10.45 Margaret Matthews (Emory University, Atlanta), “The Place of Skepticism in Montaigne’s Essays.” 

10.45-11.00 Break

11.00-12.00 Key Note Speaker: Felicity Green (University of Edinburgh), “Freedom and Responsibility in Locke’s Account of Belief.”

12.00-13.30 Lunch

13.30-14.15 Raphael Krut-Landau (University of Pennsylvania), “From History to Anagogy: Scriptural Modes of Reading in Spinoza’s Ethics.”

14.15-15.00 Anna Ortin Nadal (University of Edinburgh), “Descartes on a semantic model for sensory perception”

15.00-15.15 Break

15.15-16.00 James A. Harris (University of St Andrews), “Hume on political obligation: between Locke and Filmer.”

16.00-17.45 Jacob Hinze (University of St. Andrews), “Indeterminacies in Locke’s Concept of the State of Nature.” (SSEMP Essay Prize Winner, funded by the BSHP)

Friday 25 May

9.00-9.15 Coffee

9.15-10.00 David Bartha (Central European University), “Two Routes to Idealism: Collier and Berkeley.”

10.00-10.45 Umrao Sethi (Lehman College, CUNY), “Mind-Dependence in Berkeley and the Problem of Perception.”

10.45-11.00 Break

11.00-12.00 Key Note Speaker: Martin Lenz (University of Groningen), “What does it mean to share a view? Hume on the Transmission of Mental States. “

12.00-13.30 Lunch

13.30-14.15 Dino Jakusic (University of Warwick), “Christian Wolff and the Invention of Ontology.”

14.15-15.00 Gaston Robert (King’s College London), “God, Aggregation, and the Collective Unity of All Substances: General Pre-Established Harmony Revisited.”

15.00-15.15 Break

15.15-16.00 Keith Green (East Tennessee State University), “Hatred, Moral Motivation, and ‘Normativity’ in Spinoza and Hume”

16.00-16.45 Gabriel Watts (Oriel College, Oxford), “The Curious Place of Curiosity in Hume’s Theory of the Passions.”


Attendance is free, but registration is mandatory. Please sign up on Eventbrite: Scottish Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy IX:


Contact: Mogens Lærke:

Organisation: Beth Lord (Aberdeen); Mogens Lærke (IHRIM, CNRS, ENS de Lyon)

Funding: Scottish Philosophical Association (SPA) / British Society for the History of Philosophy (BSHP) / University of Aberdeen / IHRIM (CNRS, UMR 5317), ENS de Lyon.