Senior Fellow: June–August 2020–– DEFERRED
Research Project: Spinozan Pedagogy
Spinoza’s account of how human beings can become philosophical is both theoretical and practical. Spinoza’s texts—the questions they pose, the arguments they present, and the ways of thinking and feeling that they cultivate—offer exercises in becoming philosophical. While Spinoza is famously dismissive of Cartesian scepticism, chiefly because he rejects the Christian model of free will and the epistemology of an atomistic incorporeal subject, he treats doubt and scepticism as inevitable and potentially useful. This is especially true in the transition from imagination to reason. Imagination, whose passivity and complexity explain confusion and doubt, is the origin of all human knowing and an experience we repeat. Although Spinoza is often read as promising an end to doubt in the achievement of truth and certainty, as if we could become rational or even intuitive once and for all, the Ethics demonstrates that human knowers are “infinitely surpassed by the power of external causes” (E4p3). Thus becoming and remaining, to whatever degree, rational and/or intuitive are ongoing projects, with advances and regresses, successes and failures. Spinozan pedagogy involves the cultivation of a cognitive–affective critical sensibility.
Julie R. Klein is an associate professor of philosophy at Villanova University.