Spinoza in French Philosophy Today

By Vinciguerra, Lorenzo | Philosophy Today, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Spinoza in French Philosophy Today


Vinciguerra, Lorenzo, Philosophy Today


Es gibt Kein andere Philosophie, als die Philosophie des Spinoza.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Every philosopher has two philosophies: his own and Spinoza's.

Henri Bergson

In the last few decades, French philosophers have been particularly interested in Spinoza's thought, to the point that it is possible to speak today of the emergence of a "French Spinozism," and even of a "French Spinozist school" that has accompanied the philosophical and political debates of the last thirty years.1 This "school," which is in no way official and does not pretend to be such, nevertheless has its founding fathers, its institutions, and an increasing output of publications. In large part thanks to this school, Spinoza is finally finding his place among the different rationalist systems of early modern philosophy (Descartes, Malebranche, Hobbes, Leibniz), and as his is a singular place, we have not yet finished evaluating his importance.

Long relegated to the margins of university philosophy programs and banned from official thought, the history of French Spinozism was at first that of an imposed silence, then that of an unclassifiable system of thought. The history of the reception of Spinoza's works bears witness to this. Pierre Bayle thought of a Spinozism before Spinoza, whose traits he found in Greek pagan thought and in the Orient; Hegel made Spinoza "the Oriental" into the very condition for philosophy; Bergson believed in the existence of a Spinozism without Spinoza as the eternal possibility of thought; Deleuze thought most often with Spinoza; and Negri finally brought together Spinoza's untimeliness with that of other "bad-boy" thinkers like Marx, Machiavelli, and Nietzsche. All of these authors considered Spinozism as a contemporary form of thought, seeing in it less a philosophy of the past than a thought that never quite managed to go away.

If we were to parody Bergson's way putting it, we could say that Spinoza gave rise to at least two histories of philosophy - one in which he belongs to the past and is ranked among the Cartesians with his attention turned toward the ancient theologies, one in which he is a member of the avant-garde, rebellious and subversive, polemicizing against the instituted order, resolutely turned towards a thought yet to be constructed. What is undeniable is that by making us better understand Spinoza in his own time, the French Spinozism of the last few years has also contributed to inserting him into our own time. It is almost as if his thought, taking on the image of an essentially posthumous work, has lost nothing of its a-topical and anachronistic dimension, which makes it be constantly out of step with his own time, so that it can finally deliver its message less to an already existing era than to the possibilities of a future yet to be defined.2

Now, after the announced deaths of God and man, after the proclaimed end of the grand foundational narratives of what we now habitually call modernity, after the end of metaphysics, of history, of art, of the book, a few philosophers (Lyotard and Derrida in France, Danto and Searle in the United States, Vattimo in Italy) has tried to piggy-back on Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger in order to be able to think the meaning of these closures in the era of globalization and of the global village. Consequently, there is nothing astonishing about Spinozism's radical anti-finalism finding a voice in the margins of post-structuralism, post-modernism, post-Freudianism, or postMarxism, all of which characterize themselves (sometimes in prophetic tones) as modes of the thought of the end and of the after-the-end. In one sense, then, there is nothing new under Spinoza's sun: contemporary French Spinozism only confirms and extends a history made of cyclical rebirths and eternal returns, which have announced and animated some of the great seasons of modern thought.3

The forceful return of Spinozism in France in the last fifty years nonetheless has its specific characteristics and its own reasons. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Spinoza in French Philosophy Today
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.