Sánchez de León Serrano, José María
Senior Fellow: November 2017–October 2018
Research Project: Crescas and Spinoza on Scepticism and the Metaphysics of Infinity
This project intends to examine the largely unexplored connection between scepticism and the notion of infinity by focusing on the philosophies of Hasdai Crescas (c. 1340–1410/11) and Baruch Spinoza (1632– 1677). The points of contact between these two thinkers on the question of infinity, as well as on a number of related issues (such as determinism, God’s attributes, etc.), have been long acknowledged by commentators. But no less significant than their affinities are their diverging positions on philosophical knowledge, which in the case of Crescas appears to be moderately sceptical and in the case of Spinoza decidedly anti-sceptical. This divergence has its roots in the very same notion that connects their respective philosophical approaches: infinity. As this project will show, the admittance of the notion of infinity in the philosophical discourse is, to a large extent, responsible for the spread of scepticism in the early stages of modern thought, insofar as this notion subverts the cosmological order that prevailed for almost two millennia. Crescas, who is one of the first advocates of actual infinity, is also one of the first examples of the kind of scepticism induced by the idea of infinity. By the same token, an adequate response to this kind of scepticism required the elaboration of a new conceptual framework in which the notion of infinity could be accommodated. Spinoza’s account of infinity counts among the most accomplished attempts to provide this conceptual framework.
José María Sánchez de León Serrano earned his PhD in philosophy at the Universität Heidelberg. Before coming to Hamburg, he held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.