events June 2018

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.


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.

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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:

Lektueretagung der Spinoza-Gesellschaft

Lektüretagung Spinoza Ethica II Programm 

Lektüretagung der Spinoza-Gesellschaft

22. – 24. Juni 2018

Leucorea Wittenberg

Spinoza: Ethik, Teil 2: Über die Natur und den Ursprung des Geistes.

 Mit einem Abendvortrag von J. Thomas Cook

Konzeption und Leitung: Thomas Kisser (München) und Robert Schnepf (Halle)

Die Tagung hat die Form einer gemeinsamen Lektüre des zweiten Teils der Ethica Spinozas im Sinne eines close-reading. Die 30-minütigen Referate sollen uns in die Diskussion des Textes einführen. Die Abhandlung über „die Natur und den Ursprung des Geistes“ (De Natura et Origine Mentis) zieht in 49 Lehrsätzen samt Scholien und Korollaren auf ca. 50 Seiten die Konsequenzen aus dem ersten Teil der Ethica, der von Gott (De Deo) handelt. Ihr Gegenstand ist dabei nicht nur die Erkenntnis des menschlichen Geistes sondern auch dessen – wie Spinoza gleich zu Beginn bemerkt –, was zu seiner höchsten Glückseligkeit, summa beatitudo, führen soll. Die Theorie der Erkenntnis wird also nicht nur um ihrer selbst willen betrachtet, sondern sie dient einem praktischen Interesse. So wird die Erkenntnistheorie in den Rahmen einer Ethik gestellt.



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: