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Scholars On Spinoza Now: Politics, Religion and Democracy

Pensum over at However Fallible alerted me to this nice overview article in Eurozine on some of the importances of Spinoza to contemporary questions in society.

Spinoza scholars Gábor Boros, Herman De Dijn, Moira Gatens, Syliane Malinowski-Charles, Warren Montag, Teodor Münz, Steven B. Smith participate in answering a series of question sets directed mostly at religious and political issues:

1. To what extent is Spinoza’s interpretation of scriptures and revealed religion relevant today?

2. Could Spinoza be called a reductive naturalist?

3. What do you think about the attention Spinoza’s theory of emotions is receiving today from psychologists and cognitive scientists?

4. What do you take to be the advantages and disadvantages of Spinoza’s separation of political and religious authorities?

5. Do you think that Spinoza’s denial of free choice makes morality impossible?

6. What do you make of Spinoza’s favourable comments on democratic regimes? What do you think Spinoza thought of the multitude? Why do you think so many Marxist philosophers have found inspiration in Spinoza?

7. What do you make of Spinoza’s claim that the right of individuals is limited only by the extent of their power to be, to think and to act? In particular, how do you reconcile his equating power and right with his conception of political sovereignty?

The article form is uneven due to its format, but there is a certainly an advatage to having a spectrum of answers side by side. I’ll confess that I am not directly familiar with a few of the philosophers commenting, but Moira Gatens is one of my favorite authors on Spinoza. She doesn’t come off as vividly here as she does elsewhere, but her textual answers are substantive. And Montag is always wonderful.

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8 responses to “Scholars On Spinoza Now: Politics, Religion and Democracy

  1. Barrett Pashak December 2, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    You might be interested to know that at a recent colloquium entitled, ““The Jewish Jesus,” held at Johns Hopkins University, Yitzhak Melamed presented a session entitled, “‘Christ According to the Spirit':
    Spinoza, Jesus and the Infinite Intellect”

    • kvond December 2, 2009 at 1:18 pm

      Very cool. I shall have to look into it. It brings to mind Laruelle’s criticism of Deleuze’s use of Spinoza, as a kind of “Spinoza as Christ”, in “Response to Deleuze”.

  2. Barrett Pashak December 2, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Constantin Brunner makes much of the close connection between Spinoza and Christ. His book, Our Christ, received the following notice:

    An extraordinary book, one must say, a new, singular testimony to the fascinating power that flows from the figure of Jesus. That “Christ is a genius” is what the author demonstrates with the evidence presented in this book. Here a philosopher of atheism composes a beautiful hymn to Christ; here a Spinozist makes available the entirety of his shrewd speculation in order to prove the paramount grandeur of the phenomenon of Christ. The book provides much food for thought, and can in no wise be rejected as a literary curiosity. For in this singular reinterpretation of classic Judaism and classic Christology, the problem of the typology of religion steps to the fore, which is the very question that is supposed to be illuminated in the present investigation: the actual dividing line between Judaism and Christianity. In the background, yet another question poses itself: What logical affinity connects the pure monotheism of Judaism with “Spinozist” atheism?

  3. Barrett Pashak December 2, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Brunner comments extensively on Nietzsche in the context of the nature of genius and Kairos.

    • kvond December 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm

      This is instructive. When I wrote on Nietzsche and Kairos I did not make the full connection between Lessing/Kairos/Spinoza that is involved via the Pantheism Controversy. Now, looking back, it would seem that Nietzsche actually had something of Spinoza in mind in his Lessing reference.

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