Branded a heretic by the Amsterdam Jewish community and a prophet by postmodern Marxists, Spinoza is not your ordinary political thinker. Reading Spinoza is like putting your mind under a microscope. Who knew we could use geometrical reasoning to explain the trials and tribulations of the human mind? Much of his treatment of the affects has since been confirmed by recent imaging work in neuroscience. Many of his ideas about freedom and democracy are being put to use in the current anti-globalization movement. Spinoza may have written in the early modern era but his ideas continue to incite and inspire.
This class will look closely at Spinoza's Ethics and the Theological-Political Treatise. We will also use secondary sources (by Gilles Deleuze, Antonio Damasio, and Annie Dillard) to help us make sense of these dense and wondrous works. Prerequisite: Background in political theory or philosophy