Collective Imaginings: Spinoza, Past and Present

Collective Imaginings: Spinoza, Past and Present

Collective Imaginings: Spinoza, Past and Present

Collective Imaginings: Spinoza, Past and Present

Synopsis

Why would the work of the 17th century philosopher Benedict de Spinoza concern us today? How can Spinoza shed any light on contemporary thought?In this intriguing book, Moira Gatens and Genevieve Lloyd show us that in spite of or rather because of Spinoza's apparent strangeness, his philosophy can be a rich resource for cultural self-understanding in the present. Collective Imaginings draws on recent re-assessments of the philosophy of Spinoza to develop new ways of conceptualising issues of freedom and difference. This ground-breaking study will be invaluable reading to anyone wishing to gain a fresh perspective on Spinoza's thought.

Excerpt

Why read Spinoza now? of what value today are the beliefs of a seventeenth-century philosopher who presented his ethical views in geometrical form, and combined his reflections on political practices and institutions with consideration of omens, prophecies and miracles? Underlying this book is the conviction that despite - indeed, because of - its apparent strangeness, the philosophy of Spinoza can be a rich resource for cultural self-understanding in the present. His philosophy is in some respects continuous with dominant assumptions of contemporary Western thought, in others strikingly and illuminatingly discontinuous with them. His philosophy is, in many ways, at odds with what became the philosophical mainstream which has helped form our own thought patterns. This dissonance can serve as the point of departure for articulating alternative ways of conceiving of minds and bodies, of individuals and collectives, and of human power, freedom and responsibility.

Spinoza’s philosophy of political life, presented especially in the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and the Tractatus Politicus, is wholly grounded in his immanent metaphysics of Nature. and his Ethics is just as much a study of the metaphysics of bodies, their causal powers and vulnerability, as it is a treatise on human virtue and happiness. Politics, ethics, epistemology, metaphysics and philosophy of mind are interwoven in his works, and their interconnections raise possibilities of alternative and richer ways of conceptualising contemporary political and social issues. For Spinoza, minds and bodies are united not in causal interactions but in the relations of ideas to their objects. the theory transforms old Aristotelian doctrines of souls as the forms of living bodies, while also pointing the way to new and still undeveloped possibilities.

Spinoza’s novel ways of thinking of individual bodies and minds, of their affinities and antagonisms, their harmonies and conflicts, can yield

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