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Spinoza: Ethics

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About this Course

About the Course

In this course, Professor Susan James (Birkbeck, University of London) discusses Spinoza's Ethics, widely considered to be his magnum opus. In the first module, we think about Spinoza's ontological framework, including his remarkable claim that there is only one substance, God, which has two attributes (thought and extension) and infinite modes. After that, we turn to Spinoza's 'parallelism doctrine', which states that 'the order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things'. In the third module, we think about Spinoza's understanding of human beings, focusing in particular on the fundamental desire to increase one's own power. In the fourth module, we consider the problems that human beings run into when attempting to increase their own power, before moving on in the fifth module to consider how humans can overcome these difficulties.

About the Lecturer

Susan James received her BA, MA and PhD degrees in Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. She taught for two years at the University of Connecticut before returning to Cambridge, where she held a Research Fellowship at Girton College, and then a Lectureship in the Faculty of Philosophy. She moved to Birkbeck in 2000 and has held research positions in Israel, Germany, Australia and America. In 2013-14, she is a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Center for Human Values, Princeton University.