Putting Our Knowledge to Work: Spinoza on Fortitude

Monday, November 20
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637

For Spinoza, one of the manifestations of philosophical understanding is the virtue of fortitudo, a commitment to living as one’s understanding dictates. In this lecture, Susan James (Heinz Kohut Visiting Professor in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, Visiting Fellow with the Neubauer Collegium, Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck College London) will suggest that Spinoza regards the process of cultivating fortitudo as distinct from the process of acquiring understanding. We humans not only have to try to improve our grasp of what we and the world are like; we also have to learn how to live in the light of our knowledge. What can Spinoza teach us about this latter process? He shows us, James suggests, that cultivating fortitudo is both an imaginative and a political undertaking, and sketches some of the practices through which it can be developed. In doing so, however, he opens up a topic of contemporary as well as historical significance, about which there is much more to be said.