Participants: Akeel Bilgrami (moderator), Jonathan Israel, Steven Nadler, Joel Whitebook, Catherine Wilson
As a result of recent scholarship, it is becoming more and more apparent that there was more than one Enlightenment, and that it was Spinoza and those intellectually and politically influenced by him who were measurably more responsible than Locke, Voltaire, or Kant for the challenge in the modern period to the orthodoxies of the pre-Enlightenment era. Spinoza's philosophy was vital in the struggle to achieve free expression against intolerance and religious authority, and to undermine the idea that social hierarchies were ordained for human life on earth. This roundtable will explore what it is about Spinoza's philosophy that helped to produce these changes. Panelists will examine the extent to which the ideals of the "Radical Enlightenment," which Spinoza's ideas inspired, have lapsed in the more constricting liberal orthodoxies of our own time, and how the tradition of the Radical Enlightenment might still speak to our social and political concerns and needs.
Akeel Bilgrami is the Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy and the Director of The Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University. He is also a member of Columbia's Committee on Global Thought. He joined Columbia University in 1985 after spending two years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His publications include the books Belief and Meaning and Self-Knowledge and Resentment. Politics and The Moral Psychology of Identity and What is a Muslim? will appear in 2008. He has published over 60 articles in Philosophy of Mind as well as in Political and Moral Psychology. Some of his articles on these latter subjects speak to issues of current politics in their relation to broader social and cultural issues.
Jonathan Israel has been Professor of Modern History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, since January 2001. Before that he taught for thirty years in British universities, mostly at University College London. Although he has worked on Spanish, Spanish American, Jewish and Dutch history, in recent years his research and writing have mainly revolved around issues relating to the Enlightenment, especially the Radical Enlightenment, that is, the movement of thought that first gave rise to our modern conceptions of equality, democracy, individual liberty, freedom of expression and the press, and separation of church and state. His books include European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism, 1550-1750; The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall, 1477-1806; Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750; and Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man, 1670-1752.
Steven Nadler is William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy and Max and Frieda Weinstein/Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is also chair of the Department of Philosophy. His books include Spinoza: A Life (winner of the 2000 Koret Jewish Book Award), Spinoza's Heresy, Rembrandt's Jews (named a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction), Spinoza's Ethics: An Introduction, and The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, Good, and Evil.
Joel Whitebook is a philosopher and practicing psychoanalyst. He is on the faculty of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research and, beginning in fall of 2010, he will be Director of the Psychoanalytic Studies Program in Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He is writing an intellectual biography of Freud for Cambridge University Press and his book, Der gefesselte Odysseus: Studien zur Kritischen Theorie und Psychoanalyse is coming out with Campus Verlag this month.
Catherine Wilson is currently Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and a Visiting Professor at Princeton University. She has recently been appointed to a Chair in Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She specializes in the history and philosophy of 17th and 18th century science and its relationship to metaphysics and moral philosophy, and has written extensively on Descartes, Leibniz, and Kant. Her most recent book is Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity.