Spinoza Beyond Philosophy

Spinoza Beyond Philosophy

Edited by Beth Lord
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Spinoza Beyond Philosophy
    Book Description:

    These 12 engaging and original essays argue that Spinoza is the interdisciplinary thinker for our timesThis book brings Spinoza outside the realm of academic philosophy, and presents him as a thinker who is relevant to contemporary problems and questions across a variety of disciplines.Discover how Spinoza's theory of bodies transforms our understanding of music, and how it grounds 'collective subjectivity' in contemporary politics. Learn how Spinoza's idea of freedom was instrumental to the Haitian revolution of 1791, and how it inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge's prose and George Eliot's novels. Find out how early modern physics, contemporary architecture, and ecological activism can be rethought through Spinoza's theory of affectivity.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4481-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Baruch Spinoza is often assumed to be a philosopher’s philosopher – one whose system is so metaphysically complex and so distant from everyday life that it is read by very few, and understood by even fewer. Those who read Spinoza know this not to be true. Obscure though Spinoza’s ideas may be, there is no doubt that he was deeply committed to elucidating our everyday experience. Spinoza’s metaphysics and epistemology make way for a kind of anthropology: a philosophy of human nature and a theory of how human beings relate to one another. Spinoza gives us tools for understanding ourselves and...

  6. 1. ‘Subjectivity Without the Subject’: Thinking Beyond the Subject with / through Spinoza
    (pp. 11-27)

    The problematisation and reconfiguration of the concept of the subject has long been a central preoccupation of philosophy. It also continues to orient discussions beyond philosophy, from neuroscience, ethics and philosophy, to aesthetics, architecture and science. Indeed, in recent years, a number of contemporary writers have returned to Spinoza in order to pursue such reconfigurations. They have done so primarily because Spinoza’s political and philosophical writings offer many interesting reflections upon the affective composition of ‘subjects’ – although I admit to using this term rather cautiously since here I begin to question its precise theoretical utility and conceptual shape. What might...

  7. 2. Spinoza’s Non-Humanist Humanism
    (pp. 28-47)

    This chapter continues the investigation into Spinoza’s contribution to fields outside philosophy, developing and extending the preceding discussion about the relevance of Spinoza’s work vis-à-vis a novel understanding of the imagination.

    Further developing Spinoza’s rationalist perspective on the imagination, I have recently delineated a new approach towards the ethical significance and social impact of literature and the arts (Mack 2011). This chapter shows how Spinoza’s thought is helpful in formulating a nascent approach to the study of literature and the arts / humanities in general. I attempt to place emphasis on the active rather than merely receptive aspect of the...

  8. 3. The Ethical Relation of Bodies: Thinking with Spinoza Towards an Affective Ecology
    (pp. 48-65)

    In the recent documentary Examined Life, directed by Astra Taylor, Slavoj Žižek repeats an argument he has been making for some years now: ecology has become the new opium of the people. In the film this argument is made quite vividly as he stands in the midst of a landfill clothed in a bright orange safety vest. The story he tells goes like this: ideologies arise as responses to real problems and real crises, but do so in a way that mystifies both the problem and its subjects by obscuring their reality. This act of obscuring happens by treating that...

  9. 4. Spinoza’s Architectural Passages and Geometric Comportments
    (pp. 66-86)

    Following the preceding examinations of subjectivity and environmental relations in Spinoza’s writing, this chapter considers how his work provides an inventive approach for discussing important relational qualities in architectural drawings and spaces of inhabitation. In addition, I suggest that his intense study of the emotions underscores the capacity of geometry not just to embody the historically familiar forms of rational and technical reasoning with which it is normally associated, but how it has a more radical capacity for embodying temporal and sense-based modes of expression. As we have already seen in this collection, the Ethics is deeply concerned with the...

  10. 5. The Secret History of Musical Spinozism
    (pp. 87-107)

    At the beginning of his Spinoza and Politics Etienne Balibar offers a strange wager, demonstrating how some unspecified interlocutors might respond to his project. Spinoza and politics, he says, what a glaring paradox (Balibar 1998: xxi)! A chapter on Spinoza and music might begin with similarly generative scepticism. If music belongs to the order of aesthetics or perception, Spinoza is a philosopher who seems uninterested in beauty, and whose epistemology aims to overcome the inadequate knowledge that sense perception yields. If music belongs to the order of the passions and affects, Spinoza is a philosopher who, like Descartes and Hobbes,...

  11. Interlude: Lance Brewer, Christina Rawls, Shelley Campbell
    (pp. 109-116)

    I find Spinoza’s famous thesis, that all life is one substance with infinite attributes and modifications, helpful for thinking about photography. Photographs are the attribution and modification of one material – light.

    My main interests in photography are the complexities it brings forth between objects and subjects. I do not see the photograph as a simple and locatable object, nor do I see the photograph as a point mirrored off another point: a representation. For me the photograph is a type of connection: a vector between an object, chemistry, a substrate and a perceiver that is irreducible to any point along...

  12. 6. Thinking the Future: Spinoza’s Political Ontology Today
    (pp. 117-134)

    One of the most tempting political questions that one could ask with respect to Spinoza’s significance beyond philosophy is to what extent the Spinozan concept of Nature overlaps with the global horizon of contemporary history. This chapter proposes only a possible ground on which such a question could be asked. I want to argue that, in order to provide the answer, one has to elaborate a non-anthropocentric analysis of the collective political agency that can be derived from Spinoza’s writings. The political meaning of his philosophy can be derived from his political texts (Theologico-Political Treatise and Political Treatise), as much...

  13. 7. Spinoza’s Empty Law: The Possibility of Political Theology
    (pp. 135-148)

    The evolution of how power is both understood and exercised can be explained in two ways or two distinct narratives.¹ According to the first one, power articulates itself by seeking justification through its relation to the law. I will refer to this as the juridical conception of power.² According to the second one, the exercise of power cannot be justified with recourse to the law. I will refer to this as agonistic power because it expresses itself through its antagonism towards juridical power.³ Clearly, the juridical model has been the dominant one in the Western tradition: that is, in any...

  14. 8. Which Radical Enlightenment? Spinoza, Jacobinism and Black Jacobinism
    (pp. 149-167)

    Spinoza’s philosophy, Jonathan Israel has argued, was the determinant force in what he has compellingly described as the transnational ‘Radical Enlightenment’ of the eighteenth century. Israel’s argument, for all its encompassing scope, remains firmly limited to the geographic and cultural confines of Western Europe. In fact, Spinoza’s political philosophy, enriched, developed and extended by political philosophers such as Rousseau, the late Diderot and Robespierre, influenced not only the French Revolution and its struggle for popular sovereignty and universal natural rights, but also the Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804. In this peripheral colony, at the tail end of the Enlightenment, Spinoza’s...

  15. 9. George Eliot, Spinoza and the Ethics of Literature
    (pp. 168-187)

    ‘The mind does not err from the fact that it imagines’ (E IIP17S). As Moira Gatens has recently emphasised, this phrase is ‘uniquely . . . underscored’ in George Eliot’s handwritten manuscript translation of Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics (Gatens 2009: 79). Spinoza’s emphasis on the cognitive role of imagination was of major interest to Eliot, whose first work of fiction was accepted for publication in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in the same year, 1856, that her endeavour to publish an English translation of Spinoza’s Ethics was derailed. Both as a fiction writer and as a self-styled advocate of ‘the free and diligent...

  16. 10. Coleridge’s Ecumenical Spinoza
    (pp. 188-207)

    In contrast to most of the essays in this collection, mine will neither analyse Spinozan texts nor employ Spinozan concepts nor affirm a continuing Spinozan legacy. While thoroughly grounded in texts, it will have very little directly to say about Spinoza, although in that respect, at least, it has something in common with the Enlightenment reception of Spinoza. Its modest aim is to narrate, with running commentary, a chapter in Spinoza’s Rezeptionsgeschichte, one whose historical interest consists in both what it contains and what it does not contain.

    Let me begin with this latter. One of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s most...

  17. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 208-211)
  18. Index
    (pp. 212-216)