online tools

The Spinoza Web

This is quite an amazing resource for all things Spinoza!


On 27 November 2016 a website on the Dutch philosopher Benedictus de Spinoza (1632-1677) was launched by a research team based out of Utrecht University’s Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. ‘The Spinoza Web’ is an open-access website that seeks to make Spinoza’s life, thought, and networks accessible to a wide range of users from interested novices to advanced scholars.

The beta release notably features a ‘Timeline Experience’, which tells the story of Spinoza using rich graphic and other supporting material. The ‘Database Search’ is a gateway to an enormous repository for the study of Spinoza. The goal is eventually to assemble all first-hand documentation pertaining to the philosopher for the use of the worldwide scholarly community.

The team collaborated with a commercial partner (Rotterdam-based advertising agency Nijgh) to produce an attractive website that meets scholarly standards. With the current design, it hopes to work towards a model for websites on historical figures.

The website has been constructed as part of the larger ‘Spinoza’s Web’ project, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The team consists of Prof. Piet Steenbakkers as principal investigator, with Jeroen van de Ven and Albert Gootjes as postdoctoral researchers.


Spinoza’s Ethics 2.0

NB: this project was posted in a previous year and is being re-posted to adapt to the new website format.

Torin Doppelt is a PhD student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, working on issues surrounding the geometrical method. He has constructed a series of tables – Spinoza’s Ethics 2.0 – which presents a visual representation of the geometrical structure of Spinoza’s Ethics. Torin says: “I hope to use the tables to both generate new puzzles about Spinoza’s use of the geometrical method (they have already done so, in fact), and perhaps even resolve old puzzles. At the very least I hope they can be used to help scholars (especially myself) avoid missing important details of Spinoza’s notoriously opaque text.”

There are colour-coded tables for each part of the Ethics, in which each column represents a proposition or other demonstrated element, and each row represents the elements that can be used in the proofs. There are three main ways the tables can be used: the explicit uses of an element can be determined by tracing across to cells which contain letters representing the type of use (e.g., in a main demonstration, or in a corollary, scholium, etc.), and then tracing upwards (or downwards) to determine the location. Alternatively, the explicit elements used in a given demonstration can be determined simply by noting all the filled-in cells in a column. The tables can also illuminate the way in which elements of the Ethics depend on other elements, in a way that is not apparent from the text: by tracing backwards from the elements used in a given demonstration to their columns, it is easy to determine on which further elements the first demonstration depends. There are also other ways to derive information, including tabulating usage statistics, and producing graphs of data from different sections. In this way, much information contained in the Ethics that had not been easy to see before is now accessible at a glance.

The tables are available here:

Spinoza’s Web

NB: This project was posted in a previous year and is being re-posted to adapt to the new website format.

March 2014-May 2017 in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University

Funded by the Netherlands Foundation for Scientific Research

The significance of Spinoza (1632–1677) for the history of philosophy does not stand in need of documentation. He constructed his philosophy as a comprehensive, all-embracing system, weaving an intricate theoretical web of his own. While he did so, networks sprang up in which his ideas were hotly debated. Spinoza was part and parcel of the intellectual landscape of the Dutch Golden Age, in which philosophy played a much more vital role than is commonly appreciated. This project is based on the thesis that in the reception and interpretation of Spinoza’s thought his works, reputed character and biography are inextricably linked. It wants to develop scholarly tools for the study of his life, works and influence, and to clarify his philosophical impact by bringing out the context in which he flourished. The lines of research will result in four products:

• The Spinoza Web, an online data repository of all sources relating Spinoza’s life, works, letters, correspondents and networks;
• A Bibliography of Spinoza’s Works from 1663 to 1796, an exhaustive description of all early editions and translations;
• Van Velthuysen and His Circle, a monograph on a pivotal intellectual and his network;
• Weaving the Web: The Development of Spinoza’s System, an integrated presentation of the stages of Spinoza’s thought, in connection with the historical context.

Spinoza’s thought has always exercised an attraction well beyond the groves of academe. The project will meet the highest standard of scholarship, but it is designed to be of service to a much larger audience, too.

Supervisor: Prof. Piet Steenbakkers, Senior lecturer of the History of Modern Philosophy in the Philosophy Department of Utrecht University, Holder of the Chair of Spinoza Studies in the Faculty of Philosophy of Erasmus University Rotterdam

Postdoc 1: Dr Jeroen M.M. van de Ven.

A Statistical Study of Spinoza’s Ethics

NB: this project was posted on the SRN website last year and is being re-posted to adapt to the new website format.

From Herb Roseman: Spinoza’s Euclidian logic can be represented by a mathematical object called a digraph (directed graph) which can be used to visualize and explore the Ethics.  Although others have published studies of the Ethics as a digraph on the Internet, I believe the approach can be pushed further by applying recently developed statistical tools for studying social networks and exploiting the latest graphical software. I am in the initial stages of this study, and would like to demonstrate some initial results to elicit feedback and suggestions.

Three of the files on the website are diagrams of the digraphs of Parts I, II and III of the Ethics. The color scheme distinguishes between definitions, axioms, propsitions, etc. A glance at these diagrams gives one an immediate impression of the complexity of Spinoza’s project. Statistical analysis of the digraph representing Spinoza’s Ethics may raise questions that enable us to better interpret this important and elusive text.

Some of the initial results of this project can be found on my website: