New: Spinoza And The Radical Enlightenment
The course provides an opportunity to explore the
work of one of the great philosophers in depth.
Baruch Spinozas Ethics remains a classic of
philosophical writing, encompassing penetrating
discussions of key issues in metaphysics, a
remarkable approach to the status of God and
Nature and a genuine attempt to relate these
questions to our ethical concerns of freedom,
joy and sadness in our day to day lives. We will
also examine Spinozas political writings and put
these into the context of what Jonathan Israel has
described as the radical Enlightenment
Who is this course for
This course is at Upper Intermediate level and so would not be suitable for people who are new to studying philosophy. It would be an ideal continuation course for students who have previously studied on our Intermediate level or Introductory courses and who now want a course that will look at the work of a particular philosopher in some depth. It may also be suitable for people who have had some previous grounding in Philosophy and who now want to study in more depth.
Although you should have some previous experience of studying philosophy it is not expected that you need to have a great deal of familiarity with Spinoza, early modern European philosophy or the Enlightenment, as this is what the course will aim to provide.
What does this course cover
The course provides an opportunity to explore the work of one of the great philosophers in depth.
Baruch Spinoza's Ethics remains a classic of philosophical writing, encompassing penetrating
discussions of key issues in metaphysics, a remarkable approach to the status of God and
Nature and a genuine attempt to relate these questions to our ethical concerns of freedom,
joy and sadness in our day to day lives. We will also examine Spinoza's political writings and put
these into the context of what Jonathan Israel has described as the 'radical Enlightenment'.
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza (1632-77). Born in Amsterdam at the heart of the Dutch Golden Age, Jewish by birth but excommunicated from his community for his unorthodox views, Spinoza's life and thought were defined by a cautious search for human freedom. Working as a lens-grinder by day, in his spare time Spinoza developed a remarkable philosophy attuned to the demands of everyday life, rooted in our emotions, desires, our need for community, and our place in the natural world.
In this course we will cover the philosophical and political ideas of this extraordinary figure. We will focus primarily on the Ethics (1677), particularly Spinoza's ideas about immanence, God or Nature, human freedom, emotions and desire. We'll turn Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise (1670), a groundbreaking work which challenged the divine basis for miracles, prophecy and the Bible, and gave some of the first modern arguments for democracy and religious toleration. We explore his arguments for people power in his final Political Treatise, and then assess Spinoza's influence on the later Enlightenment, and his relationship to other thinkers of his era like Descartes, Hobbes, Leibniz and Locke. Is Spinoza the unsung pioneer of our modern ideas about democracy and religious toleration, or a more complex and contradictory man of his time?
By the end of the course you will be able to:
- Explain core concepts in Spinoza's philosophy, including immanence, monism, freedom, conatus, the affects, toleration and democracy
- Recognise Spinoza's 17th century context of the Dutch Republic and the influence of the New Science in Descartes
- Relate Spinoza's radical ideas to the later 18th century Enlightenment and explain their significance
What will it be like
The course is an interactive mixture of tutor exposition, class discussion and group/pair work. Videos and clips will be used to supplement some of these class based activities. There are opportunities for further discussion and reading outside of the class via the course's Moodle website.
We will assess your expectations of the course in the first sessions. Thereafter, you will be able to monitor your progress on the course through participation in class discussion, questions and answers and in-class exercises. At the end of the course, you will be able to measure your progress against the stated outcomes for the course.
What else do you need to buy or do
Please bring a notebook, pen, and an open mind. Reading materials for the course will be provided online via the Mary Ward Centre's Moodle website and as photocopies. We will cover Spinoza's Ethics and political writings over the course - the Ethics in depth, of which second hand copies are available cheaply online. Each class will have a small amount of set reading expected outside class, no more than 30 mins per week.
What this course could lead to
Other Intermediate or Advanced level Philosophy courses at the Mary Ward Centre or other similar establishments. Other courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences with a strong emphasis on theory and the study of the mind and human behaviour (e.g., Psychology, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, History).
I've been to many Centres to study in London and the Mary Ward Centre is one of the nicest I've studied in.MWC student
This course has concessions available for people who meet certain criteria
Got a Question about this Course?
Contact The Departmental Administrator.
Why come to Mary Ward Centre?
Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference. We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening or weekend to suit your timetable.
Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’