In this pathbreaking work, Christopher Skeaff argues that a profoundly democratic conception of judgment is at the heart of Spinoza’s thought. Bridging Continental and Anglo-American scholarship, critical theory, and Spinoza studies, Becoming Political offers a historically sensitive, meticulous, and creative interpretation of Spinoza’s texts that reveals judgment as the communal element by which people generate power to resist domination and reconfigure the terms of their political association. If, for Spinoza, judging is the activity which makes a people powerful, it is because it enables them to contest the project of ruling and demonstrate the political possibility of being equally free to articulate the terms of their association. This proposition differs from a predominant contemporary line of argument that treats the people’s judgment as a vehicle of sovereignty—a means of defining and refining the common will. By recuperating in Spinoza’s thought a “vital republicanism,” Skeaff illuminates a line of political thinking that decouples democracy from the majoritarian aspiration to rule and aligns it instead with the project of becoming free and equal judges of common affairs. As such, this decoupling raises questions that ordinarily go unasked: what calls for political judgment, and who is to judge? In Spinoza’s vital republicanism, the political potential of life and law finds an affirmative relationship that signals the way toward a new constitutionalism and jurisprudence of the common.
Prizing ideas above all else, radical thinker Baruch Spinoza left little behind in the way of personal facts and furnishings. But what of the tug of necessity, the urgings of the flesh, to which this genius philosopher (and grinder of lenses) might have been no more immune than the next man-or the next character, as Baruch Spinoza becomes in this intriguing novel by the remarkable young Macedonian author Goce Smilevski.
Smilevski's novel brings the thinker Spinoza and his inner life into conversation with the outer, all-too-real facts of his life and his day--from his connection to the Jewish community of Amsterdam, his excommunication in 1656, and the emergence of his philosophical system to his troubling feelings for his fourteen-year-old Latin teacher Clara Maria van den Enden and later his disciple Johannes Casearius. From this conversation there emerges a compelling and complex portrait of the life of an idea--and of a man who tries to live that idea.
Gregor Moder’s Hegel and Spinoza: Substance and Negativity is a lively entry into current debates concerning Hegel, Spinoza, and their relation. Hegel and Spinoza are two of the most influential philosophers of the modern era, and the traditions of thought they inaugurated have been in continuous dialogue and conflict ever since Hegel first criticized Spinoza. Notably, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German Idealists aimed to overcome the determinism of Spinoza’s system by securing a place for the freedom of the subject within it, and twentieth-century French materialists such as Althusser and Deleuze rallied behind Spinoza as the ultimate champion of anti-Hegelian materialism. This conflict, or mutual rejection, lives on today in recent discussions about materialism. Contemporary thinkers either make a Hegelian case for the productiveness of concepts of the negative, nothingness, and death, or in a way that is inspired by Spinoza they abolish the concepts of the subject and negation and argue for pure affirmation and the vitalistic production of differences.
Hegel and Spinoza traces the historical roots of these alternatives and shows how contemporary discussions between Heideggerians and Althusserians, Lacanians and Deleuzians are a variation of the disagreement between Hegel and Spinoza. Throughout, Moder persuasively demonstrates that the best way to read Hegel and Spinoza is not in opposition or contrast but together: as Hegel and Spinoza.
Hegel or Spinoza
Pierre Macherey University of Minnesota Press, 2011 Library of Congress B2948.M1513 2011 | Dewey Decimal 193
Hegel or Spinoza is the first English-language translation of the modern classic Hegel ou Spinoza. Published in French in 1979, it has been widely influential, particularly in the work of the philosophers Alain Badiou, Antonio Negri, and Gilles Deleuze.
Hegel or Spinoza is a surgically precise interrogation of the points of misreading of Spinoza by Hegel. Pierre Macherey explains the necessity of Hegel’s misreading in the kernel of thought that is “indigestible” for Hegel, which makes the Spinozist system move in a way that Hegel cannot grasp. In doing so, Macherey exposes the limited and situated truth of Hegel’s perspective—which reveals more about Hegel himself than about his object of analysis. Against Hegel’s characterization of Spinoza’s work as immobile, Macherey offers a lively alternative that upsets the accepted historical progression of philosophical knowledge. He finds in Spinoza an immanent philosophy that is not subordinated to the guarantee of an a priori truth.
Not simply authorizing a particular reading—a “good” Spinoza against a “bad” Hegel—Hegel or Spinoza initiates an encounter that produces a new understanding, a common truth that emerges in the interval that separates the two.
Moses Mendelssohn University of Illinois Press, 2012 Library of Congress BM610.M46 2012 | Dewey Decimal 193
Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) was the central figure in the emancipation of European Jewry. His intellect, judgment, and tact won the admiration and friendship of contemporaries as illustrious as Johann Gottfried Herder, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, and Immanuel Kant. His enormously influential Jerusalem (1783) made the case for religious tolerance, a cause he worked for all his life.
Last Works includes, for the first time complete and in a single volume, the English translation of Morning Hours: Lectures on the Existence of God (1785) and To the Friends of Lessing (1786). Bruce Rosenstock has also provided an historical introduction and an extensive philosophical commentary to both texts.
At the center of Mendelssohn's last works is his friendship with Lessing. Mendelssohn hoped to show that he, a Torah-observant Jew, and Lessing, Germany's leading dramatist, had forged a life-long friendship that held out the promise of a tolerant and enlightened culture in which religious strife would be a thing of the past.
Lessing's death in 1781 was a severe blow to Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn wrote his last two works to commemorate Lessing and to carry on the work to which they had dedicated much of their lives. Morning Hours treats a range of major philosophical topics: the nature of truth, the foundations of human knowledge, the basis of our moral and aesthetic powers of judgment, the reality of the external world, and the grounds for a rational faith in a providential deity. It is also a key text for Mendelssohn's readings of Spinoza. In To the Friends of Lessing, Mendelssohn attempts to unmask the individual whom he believes to be the real enemy of the enlightened state: the Schwärmer, the religious fanatic who rejects reason in favor of belief in suprarational revelation.
Until the last century, it was generally agreed that Maimonides was a great defender of Judaism, and Spinoza—as an Enlightenment advocate for secularization—among its key opponents. However, a new scholarly consensus has recently emerged that the teachings of the two philosophers were in fact much closer than was previously thought. In his perceptive new book, Joshua Parens sets out to challenge the now predominant view of Maimonides as a protomodern forerunner to Spinoza—and to show that a chief reason to read Maimonides is in fact to gain distance from our progressively secularized worldview.
Turning the focus from Spinoza’s oft-analyzed Theologico-Political Treatise, this book has at its heart a nuanced analysis of his theory of human nature in the Ethics. Viewing this work in contrast to Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed, it makes clear that Spinoza can no longer be thought of as the founder of modern Jewish identity, nor should Maimonides be thought of as having paved the way for a modern secular worldview. Maimonides and Spinoza dramatically revises our understanding of both philosophers.
“I can work best now while peeling potatoes. . . . It is for me what lens-grinding was for Spinoza.”—L. Wittgenstein
More than 250 years separate the publication of Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Both are considered monumental philosophical treatises, produced during markedly different times in human history, and notoriously challenging to interpret. In Peeling Potatoes or Grinding Lenses, Aristides Baltas contends that these works bear a striking similarity based on the idea of “radical immanence.” Each purports to understand the world, thought, and language from the inside and in a way leading to the dissolution of all philosophy. In that guise, both offer a powerful argument against fundamentalism of all sorts and kinds.
To Spinoza, God is just Nature. God is not above or separate from the world, humanity, or mere objects for, as Nature, He inheres in everything. To Wittgenstein, logic is not above or separate from language, thought, and the world. The hardness of the logical “must” inheres in states of affairs, facts, thoughts, and linguistic acts. Outside there are no truths or sense—only nonsense.
Through close readings of the texts based on lessons drawn from radical paradigm change in science, Baltas finds in both works a single-minded purpose, implacable reasoning, and an austerity of style that are rare in the history of philosophy. He analyzes the structure and content of each treatise, the authors’ intentions, the limitations and possibilities afforded by scientific discovery in their respective eras, their radical opposition to prevailing philosophical views, and draws out the particulars, as well as the implications, of the arresting match between the two.
The essays collected in Persecution and the Art of Writing all deal with one problem—the relation between philosophy and politics. Here, Strauss sets forth the thesis that many philosophers, especially political philosophers, have reacted to the threat of persecution by disguising their most controversial and heterodox ideas.
Secularism is usually thought to contain the project of self-deification, in which humans attack God’s authority in order to take his place, freed from all constraints. Julie E. Cooper overturns this conception through an incisive analysis of the early modern justifications for secular politics. While she agrees that secularism is a means of empowerment, she argues that we have misunderstood the sources of secular empowerment and the kinds of strength to which it aspires.
Contemporary understandings of secularism, Cooper contends, have been shaped by a limited understanding of it as a shift from vulnerability to power. But the works of the foundational thinkers of secularism tell a different story. Analyzing the writings of Hobbes, Spinoza, and Rousseau at the moment of secularity’s inception, she shows that all three understood that acknowledging one’s limitations was a condition of successful self-rule. And while all three invited humans to collectively build and sustain a political world, their invitations did not amount to self-deification. Cooper establishes that secular politics as originally conceived does not require a choice between power and vulnerability. Rather, it challenges us—today as then—to reconcile them both as essential components of our humanity.
Spinoza’s Ethics, and its project of proving ethical truths through the geometric method, have attracted and challenged readers for more than three hundred years. In Spinoza and the Cunning of Imagination, Eugene Garver uses the imagination as a guiding thread to this work. Other readers have looked at the imagination to account for Spinoza’s understanding of politics and religion, but this is the first inquiry to see it as central to the Ethics as a whole—imagination as a quality to be cultivated, and not simply overcome.
Spinoza initially presents imagination as an inadequate and confused way of thinking, always inferior to ideas that adequately represent things as they are. It would seem to follow that one ought to purge the mind of imaginative ideas and replace them with rational ideas as soon as possible, but as Garver shows, the Ethics don’t allow for this ultimate ethical act until one has cultivated a powerful imagination. This is, for Garver, “the cunning of imagination.” The simple plot of progress becomes, because of the imagination, a complex journey full of reversals and discoveries. For Garver, the “cunning” of the imagination resides in our ability to use imagination to rise above it.
There have been many Spinozas over the centuries: atheist, romantic pantheist, great thinker of the multitude, advocate of the liberated individual, and rigorous rationalist. The common thread connecting all of these clashing perspectives is Spinoza’s naturalism, the idea that humanity is part of nature, not above it.
In this sophisticated new interpretation of Spinoza’s iconoclastic philosophy, Hasana Sharp draws on his uncompromising naturalism to rethink human agency, ethics, and political practice. Sharp uses Spinoza to outline a practical wisdom of “renaturalization,” showing how ideas, actions, and institutions are never merely products of human intention or design, but outcomes of the complex relationships among natural forces beyond our control. This lack of a metaphysical or moral division between humanity and the rest of nature, Sharp contends, can provide the basis for an ethical and political practice free from the tendency to view ourselves as either gods or beasts.
Sharp’s groundbreaking argument critically engages with important contemporary thinkers—including deep ecologists, feminists, and race and critical theorists—making Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization vital for a wide range of scholars.
Dimitris Vardoulakis University of Minnesota Press, 2010 Library of Congress B3998.S745 2011 | Dewey Decimal 199.492
What does it mean to think about, and with, Spinoza today? This collection, the first broadly interdisciplinary volume dealing with Spinozan thought, asserts the importance of Spinoza’s philosophy of immanence for contemporary cultural and philosophical debates.
Engaging with Spinoza’s insistence on the centrality of the passions as the site of the creative and productive forces shaping society, this collection critiques the impulse to transcendence and regimes of mastery, exposing universal values as illusory. Spinoza Now pursues Spinoza’s challenge to abandon the temptation to think through the prism of death in order to arrive at a truly liberatory notion of freedom. In this bold endeavor, the essays gathered here extend the Spinozan project beyond the disciplinary boundaries of philosophy to encompass all forms of life-affirming activity, including the arts and literature. The essays, taken together, suggest that “Spinoza now” is not so much a statement about a “truth” that Spinoza’s writings can reveal to us in our present situation. It is, rather, the injunction to adhere to the attitude that affirms both necessity and impossibility.
Contributors: Alain Badou, École Normale Supérieure; Mieke Bal, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis; Cesare Casarino, U of Minnesota; Justin Clemens, U of Melbourne; Simon Duffy, U of Sydney; Sebastian Egenhofer, U of Basel; Alexander García Düttmann, Goldsmiths, U of London; Arthur Jacobson, Yeshiva U; A. Kiarina Kordela, Macalester College; Michael Mack, U of Nottingham; Warren Montag, Occidental College; Antonio Negri; Christopher Norris, U of Cardiff, Wales; Anthony Uhlmann, U of Western Sydney.
Arguably, no historical thinker has had as varied and fractious a reception within modern Judaism as Baruch (Benedict) Spinoza (1632–77), the seventeenth-century philosopher, pioneering biblical critic, and Jewish heretic from Amsterdam. Revered in many circles as the patron saint of secular Jewishness, he has also been branded as the worst traitor to the Jewish people in modern times. Jewish philosophy has cast Spinoza as marking a turning point between the old and the new, as a radicalizer of the medieval tradition and table setter for the modern. He has served as a perennial landmark and point of reference in the construction of modern Jewish identity. This volume brings together excerpts from central works in the Jewish response to Spinoza. True to the diversity of Spinoza’s Jewish reception, it features a mix of genres, from philosophical criticism to historical fiction, from tributes to diary entries, providing the reader with a sense of the overall historical development of Spinoza’s posthumous legacy.
Leo Strauss articulates the conflict between reason and revelation as he explores Spinoza's scientific, comparative, and textual treatment of the Bible. Strauss compares Spinoza's Theologico-political Treatise and the Epistles, showing their relation to critical controversy on religion from Epicurus and Lucretius through Uriel da Costa and Isaac Peyrere to Thomas Hobbes.
Strauss's autobiographical Preface, traces his dilemmas as a young liberal intellectual in Germany during the Weimar Republic, as a scholar in exile, and as a leader of American philosophical thought.
"[For] those interested in Strauss the political philosopher, and also those who doubt whether we have achieved the 'final solution' in respect to either the character of political science or the problem of the relation of religion to the state." —Journal of Politics
"A substantial contribution to the thinking of all those interested in the ageless problems of faith, revelation, and reason." —Kirkus Reviews
Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago. His contributions to political science include The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, The City and the Man, What is Political Philosophy?, and Liberalism Ancient and Modern.
Spinoza’s Modernity is a major, original work of intellectual history that reassesses the philosophical project of Baruch Spinoza, uncovers his influence on later thinkers, and demonstrates how that crucial influence on Moses Mendelssohn, G. E. Lessing, and Heinrich Heine shaped the development of modern critical thought. Excommunicated by his Jewish community, Spinoza was a controversial figure in his lifetime and for centuries afterward. Willi Goetschel shows how Spinoza’s philosophy was a direct challenge to the theological and metaphysical assumptions of modern European thought. He locates the driving force of this challenge in Spinoza’s Jewishness, which is deeply inscribed in his philosophy and defines the radical nature of his modernity.