The Works of Spinoza

One of the towering philosophers of the 17th century, and described by Bertrand Russell as “the noblest and most lovable of all the great philosophers”; Spinoza’s work investigates some of the deepest questions of philosophy; he made significant contributions to understanding the human mind, the emotions, moral philosophy and politics. This introduction to Spinoza’s ideas will cover all of his major works; the central text however will be the Ethics. We will also discuss his relationship to the Jewish Sephardic community in Amsterdam where he lived, which is pertinent to his political philosophy. The course will conclude with an assessment of Spinoza’s ideas for the now.


DELIVERY MODE

  • This class will be delivered online via the online platform Zoom.
  • This course requires students to have an email, a reliable internet connection, a microphone/speakers and access to a tablet, smartphone or computer.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Introduction to Concepts: Given that Spinoza was excommunicated for not believing in a transcendental God or an afterlife, we have to work out what he means by the word ‘God’. The other central concept to be worked out at this point is his idea of ‘intelligibility’.
  • Biography: Spinoza (1632-77) was born into the Jewish Sephardic community in Amsterdam, his relationship to this community and Jewish philosophy is complex and underpins many of his views on ethics and politics.
  • Philosophy of Mind: His philosophy of human mental states is rich and well ahead of its time; it influenced many later thinkers. A primary question is how does the mind represent the world.
  • Between Mind and Body: Spinoza is an antidote to Descartes dualism. For Spinoza the mind is the ‘idea’ of the body, we will examine this complex issue.
  • Psychology: Striving and Self preservation. ‘Conatus’ is a linchpin term for Spinoza it entails our striving in the world and our power of acting effectively to achieve our self preservation and flourishing.
  • Emotions: Positive and Negative. Spinoza has much to say about our emotional states; he considers desire, joy, love, sadness and hate. Joy for him is the transition of the mind to a greater power.
  • Ethics: Spinoza has been described in many different ways: as a pragmatist, hedonist, egoist, determinist, religious moralist; some of these positions a paradoxical. We will examine his Ethics and work out his theory, which does indeed encompass some unusual crossovers.
  • Ethics and Freedom: Spinoza correlates the notion of freedom with the idea of ‘goodness’ this means that his political philosophy and his ethics are dependent on each other.
  • Politics and the State: Spinoza’s politics were very controversial for his time, but I will argue that they still are and that we have much to learn from his ideas.
  • Spinoza Now: What does Spinoza still have to say to our time on ethics, religion, politics and psychology.


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Discuss the main events of Spinoza’s life and times.
  2. Understand the important concepts in his philosophy.
  3. Relate his theory to personal ethical decisions.
  4. Understand your own emotions in more depth.
  5. Relate his theory to contemporary issues in ethics and politics.
$270 Limited / $243

<p>One of the towering philosophers of the 17th century, and described by Bertrand Russell as “the noblest and most lovable of all the great philosophers”; Spinoza’s work investigates some of the

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21 Apr

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