Books that Changed Humanity is an initiative of the Humanities Research Centre, based at the Australian National University. The HRC invites experts to introduce and lead discussion of major texts from a variety of cultural traditions, all of which have informed the way we understand ourselves both individually and collectively as human beings.
Join us as Associate Professor Dimitris Vardoulakis (Western Sydney University) introduces and discusses Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza's Theological Political Treatise.
The impact of Spinoza’s Theological Political Treatise (1670) is usually seen as helping construct an alternative modernity or Enlightenment that lacks transcendence. Such a materialist philosophy is usually described in epistemic terms. For instance, it is said to insist on the importance of desire alongside the operation of reason.
I would like to argue that, in addition, and more significantly, there is an ethico-political side to the rejection of transcended that we find in Spinoza, best exemplified in this Theological Political Treatise. This consists in the revival of the focus on utility as understood in the epicurean tradition, particularly as it relates to the concept of authority.
This radical ethico-political program laid out in the Theological Political Treatise is still—or, even more—relevant today, a time in which neo-liberalism has thoroughly appropriated for itself instrumental thinking.
All members of the public are welcome to come, listen, and share their thoughts over a friendly glass of wine.
Dimitris Vardoulakis was the inaugural chair of Philosophy at Western Sydney University. He is the author of The Doppelgänger: Literature’s Philosophy (2010), Sovereignty and its Other: Toward the Dejustification of Violence (2013), Freedom from the Free Will: On Kafka’s Laughter (2016), and Stasis Before the State: Nine Theses on Agonistic Democracy (2018). He has also edited or co-edited numerous books, including Spinoza Now(2011) and Spinoza’s Authority (2018). He is the director of “Thinking Out Loud: The Sydney Lectures in Philosophy and Society,” and the co-editor of the book series “Incitements” (Edinburgh University Press).