Spinoza beyond Philosophy

Spinoza beyond Philosophy

Spinoza beyond Philosophy

Spinoza beyond Philosophy

Synopsis

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 contemporary architecture, ecological activism, and the concept of human nature can be rethought through Spinoza's theory of affectivity. These 10 new essays reveal Spinoza's connection to literature, politics, the environment and beyond.

Excerpt

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 strategies for living well, something that few philosophers since the Greeks have attempted to provide. Further, Spinoza wants us to understand ourselves as beings immersed in a world of things that affect each other constantly. While human nature is unavoidably the central concern of humanity, and thus of philosophy, it is shown not to be the central feature or purpose of the universe. His is anon-anthropocentric anthropology, or a ‘non-humanist humanism’.

This complex aim – to understand that and how humanity is ‘part of nature’ – has made Spinoza one of Western philosophy's most popular figures, and one who is studied and known outside of the philosophy classroom. The difficulty of Spinoza's thought – its extreme ‘philosophicality’ – is no barrier to its being used and enjoyed by those who do not consider themselves students, teachers or writers of philosophy. People enjoy Spinoza because they feel that living a good life and taking a holistic perspective on oneself and the world should be philosophy's focus. That is, philosophy should ground not only anthropology, but also politics, ecology, history, and other systems that organise human thought and endeavour. Spinoza's texts make it clear that thinking philosophically leads to clearer thinking about these systems.

This book is, in part, motivated by the conviction that philosophy . . .

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