Syllabus contents:Week 1: Introduction
Week 2: How to Read the TTP
Week 3: Prophecy
Week 4: Divine and Ceremonial Law
Week 5: Miracles
Week 6: The Interpretation of Scripture
Week 7: Faith, Theology, and Philosophy
Week 8: Foundations of the State
Week 9: The Hebrew State
Week 10: No Class (Thanksgiving)
Week 11: Freedom of Thought
Week 12: Paper Conference
| PHIL 522 Seminar in Modern Philosophy
SyllabusInstructor: Prof. Michael Rosenthal
Office: Savery 364
Faculty Webpage: http://www.phil.washington.edu/faculty/?id=rosentha
Phone: (206) 685-2655
Office Hours: Tuesdays 11am-12pm; Wednesdays 2-3pm; and by appointment.
Course Times and Location: Th (Savery 408)
Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise (TTP) provoked great
when it was published anonymously in 1670. It
sought to overturn accepted ideas about Scripture, the
philosophy to theology, and the foundations of the state.
More specifically, we find that: it challenged orthodox belief about the
authorship of the
claimed that theology was a product of human superstition whose
function was to make the masses obedient to the state; it argued,
taking Hobbes' doctrine to its logical conclusion, that natural right
identical with power; and it sought to show that liberty of opinion was
beneficial to the state. Underlying
these views, though unknown to most all its readers, was the radical
Spinoza was in the process of articulating in his Ethics,
which, partly due to the enormous hostility with which the
TTP was received, was to remain unpublished in his lifetime. But then, as now, the TTP stands as a
formidable work in its own right, as much in its interpretative and
strategies, which differed so profoundly from those of the Ethics,
as in its fundamental claims about religion and the
state. The purpose of this course is to
investigate the TTP in detail, analyzing its methods as well as its
conclusions. To that end, since it is
impossible to neatly separate the threads of theological,
political argument that wind their way through every chapter, we will
the work through its own stated themes, paying close attention to its
structure, its relation to the Ethics,
and to its historical and intellectual context. In
teaching this text, I want to explore not only how
Spinoza was involved
in and stimulated by perennial philosophical debates but also how he
engaged in a contemporary political struggle over the future of the
I envision the format of the course as follows. It will meet once a week as a seminar. Each session will last approximately 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Except for the first class, in which I will give an introductory lecture, the subsequent sessions will be a combination of lecture and discussion, focused on a brief student presentation. In each class, my own talk will aim to give some background information--for example, trying to show what debates Spinoza might have been involved in--and to underline the themes I hope the students will discuss. Each student presentation will be based on a short, written paper that will be due a few days before class and which all students will have been expected to read ahead of time. The central text of the course will of course be the TTP, but I will also insist that we read other contemporary texts that (either definitely or probably) influenced Spinoza, as well as important secondary sources produced by outstanding modern scholars. (Although much important work has been done by European scholars, I will assign only English-language texts in this course, with other texts, especially those in French, only recommended for those who have the language skills.)
Assignments and Grading Policy
A total of 400 points are possible in this class. The weekly essays and comment are worth 125 points and all the components of the final essay are worth 275 points. A grading scale will be distributed in class as a guideline. Final grades will be determined on the basis of this scale and adjustment in terms of overall class performance.
1. Weekly Essays. a) Each Thursday I will distribute an essay
topic, which will focus on a particular issue or argument in the text. Each student must write a short (around 3
page) essay on the topic, due by 12pm on
Tuesday, which should be submitted electronically via Catalyst
It” Dropbox for the course. You can enter
Catalyst tools with your UW NetID at the following link: https://catalysttools.washington.edu/
b) Each week one student will volunteer to present his or her paper for discussion in class on Thursday. The paper will be posted on the course Catalyst “Common View” site. You can enter Catalyst tools with your UW NetID at the following link: https://catalysttools.washington.edu/.
One student ("the discussant") each week will be assigned the task of critiquing the assigned paper. The discussant will be responsible for analyzing the content (i.e., the philosophical issues: interpretation, argument, objections, etc.) of the essay. The discussant will summarize his or her comments in writing (about one page in length) and at the end of class will give a copy to both the author of the essay and the professor. All other students are also expected to have read the chosen essay and be ready to discuss it in depth. You are also welcome to put your own comments on the Peer Review site. Completion of this task is worth a maximum of 15 points.
2. Final Essay. Each student will be required to write a twelve to fifteen page essay on a topic of his or her choice. This essay will not be written the night before it is due! The following is the schedule of assignments each student must meet to pass this requirement:
a) Topic Statement with Annotated Bibliography. Due Thursday, November 14th (Week 8). You must turn in a brief statement of the projected topic of the paper that states: i) the problem you propose to discuss; ii) your tentative thesis; and iii) a brief sketch of the argument you will make. In addition, I expect an annotated bibliography that cites at least three sources (books, articles, etc.) with a brief presentation of how the author in each case addresses your proposed topic (i.e., brief outline of the argument, interpretation, etc.). Completion of this assignment is worth a maximum of 25 points.
b) Outline. Due Thursday, November 21st (Week 9). You must turn in a complete outline of your paper. It is to include: i) a full presentation of your topic (including problem and thesis); ii) a detailed, point by point, presentation of your argument (including references to the specific primary and secondary texts that support your points); iii) possible objections to your argument; iv) your response to the objections; and v) conclusion. Completion of this assignment is worth a maximum of 25 points.
c) Preliminary Draft and Abstract. Due Monday, December 2nd (Week 10-11). This should be a complete draft of your essay. Please hand in two copies. At the same time, you must also turn in an abstract of your essay (one page or less in length). This should be a summary of your thesis, argument, and conclusion. Make enough copies of your abstract to distribute one to each of your fellow students and one to me. Completion of this assignment is worth a maximum of 100 points.
d) Comments. Due Thursday, December 5th (Week 11) You will be given the preliminary draft one of your fellow student's essays upon which you will expected to comment in depth. I expect comments on both the style and the content of the essay. These are to be both critical and constructive comments: How can the essay be improved? You are to write up your comments, which should be no more than two pages and no less than one page in length (double-spaced). Make two copies of your comments; at the end of the paper conference (see below) give one of them to me and the other to the author. Completion of this assignment is worth a maximum of 35 points.
e) Paper Conference. Tuesday, December 10th, . The conference will be devoted to a presentation and discussion of paper topics. Each author will give a five-minute, prepared presentation of his or her paper. This need not be a summary (each student will already have read the abstract) but might focus on one or two key points. The assigned commentator will then give a five minute response, in which he or she will address the points raised by the author's presentation or some other interesting aspect of the paper. There will then be time for questions and reactions from the other students. Participation in the paper conference is worth a maximum of 25 points.
f) Final Draft. Due Friday, December 13th, at . In
your final draft I expect you to revise your essay in light of all the
(both regarding style and content) you received. Of
course you are not restricted to these
comments alone. In the two weeks between
handing in the preliminary and final draft, you will hopefully be
yourself how to improve the final product. Grading
of the final draft will be based on both the
quality of the
completed work and also the extent to which you have improved the rough
draft. Completion of this assignment is
worth a maximum of 75 points.
For each day that you are late in completing any one of the requirements of the final essay, your grade will automatically be reduced by 10 points.
3. Participation. I expect all students to participate actively in class discussion. In determing your final grade, especially if it is on a borderline, I will consider the quality of your regular participation, and improvement over the semester. In other words, I reserve the right to adjust the final grade above or below what is indicated by your final point score on the basis of participation and effort.
Nota Bene: (1) Cheating in any form (including plagiarism, of course) will result in automatic referal to the Dean’s office. You are assumed to understand the university rules concerning inappropriate academic conduct. Please see the Student code and the following website for information: http://www.washington.edu/uaa/advising/help/academicintegrity.php. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the instructor.
(2) In order to pass this course students are required to: a) have enough total points (i.e., at least 212 points); and also b) receive passing grades in both major components of the course, i.e., at least 67 points in the weekly writing assignments (including comments), and at least 146 points total from the various components of the final essay. If you have enough total points to pass but do not receive pass both the weekly assignments and the final essay you will fail the course. Absolutely no exceptions will be made to this policy.
Disabled Student Services. If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me at the beginning of the course so we can discuss the accommodations you might need for the class.
The following books are required and are on sale at the University Bookstore:
The following book is recommended. It is on reserve in the library:
Reserve: Selected Secondary
The following books are suggested secondary sources and can be checked out at the Reserve Desk on the second floor of Odegaard Library (phone: 206-543-2991:
the Geometrical Method: A Reading of
Donagan, Alan. Spinoza. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. (B3998 .D66 1988)
Thomas. Leviathan. Ed. E.
James, Susan. Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. (B3985.Z7 J36 2012; also available as an electronic book).
Maimonides, Moses. The Guide of the Perplexed. Edited and Translated by Shlomo Pines. 2 volumes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (BM545.D33 .P5 1963)
Melamed, YitzhakY. and Rosenthal, Michael A. Spinoza's 'Theological-political Treatise': A Critical Guide. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010. (B3985.Z7 S65 2010)
Nadler, Steven. Spinoza: A Life. Cambridge University Press, 1999. (B3999.I4 N33 2001)
Nadler, Steven. A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011. (B3985.Z7 N34 2011)
Samuel. Spinoza and the
Irrelevance of Biblical Authority.
Ravven, Heidi M.
and Goodman, Lenn E. Jewish
Themes in Spinoza’s Philosophy.
Liberalism, and the Question of Jewish Identity.
and the Art of Writing.
Critique of Religion.
H.A.. The Philosophy of Spinoza.
Yovel, Y. Spinoza
and Other Heretics, vol. 1.
The point of my
lecture will be to outline Spinoza's own development, his place within
contemporary 17th century philosophy, and the relation of his work to
historical trends in philosophy and politics. I
will try to sketch his life, beginning with his youth in
the world of
the Dutch Marrano community in
Selected background reading: Garrett, ch. 1; Nadler (1999), chs 1-5; Nadler (2011), ch. 1; Yovel, chs. 1-3.Secondary Reading: E. Curley, “Notes on a Neglected Masterpiece (II): The Theological-Political Treatise as a Prolegomenon to the Ethics,” in Cover and Kulstad, Central Themes in Early Modern Philosophy, (Hackett, 1990); Steenbakkers, “The Text of Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise,” in Melamed and Rosenthal.
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Primary Reading: TTP, preface; Political Treatise, chapter 1; Letter 30.Related Primary Sources: Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, introduction to the first part.
Source: James, chapter 1.
Secondary Sources: Strauss,
"How to Study Spinoza's Theologico-Political
Treatise" (in Persecution and
the Art of Writing); Donagan, chapter 2; Smith, ch. 2; Nadler
2; Wolfson, volume 1, chapter 1 ("Behind the Geometrical Method");
Yovel, ch. 5.
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Primary Reading: TTP, chapters 1-2; Ethics, part 2.Related Primary Sources: Hobbes, Leviathan, chaps. 36, 41; Maimonides, The Guide, part II, chapters 32-48.
Source: James, chapter 2.
Secondary Sources: Nadler
(2011), ch. 4; Strauss, Spinoza's
Critique of Religion, chap. 6. Rosenthal,
“Why Spinoza Chose the Hebrews,” in Ravven and
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Primary Reading: TTP, chapters, 4-5; Ethics, appendix to part 1; Letters 42, 54, 56.Related Secondary Sources: Hobbes, Leviathan, chapters 14-15; Maimonides, The Guide, part III, chapters 8-24; Calvin, selection from the Institutes.
Source: James, chapter 3-4. Rutherford, “Spinoza’s Conception of the
Law: Metaphysics and Ethics,” in Melamed
Secondary Sources: Edwin
Curley, “The State of Nature
and its Law in Hobbes and Spinoza,” Philosophical Topics (19) 1
Here we will focus on what is perhaps the culmination of Spinoza's critique of revealed religion, his discussion of miracles. We will examine how Spinoza's views about knowledge and natural law work together to undermine some traditional religious views about miracles. At the same time, we will try to figure out what Spinoza thinks the scriptural descriptions of apparent miracles are really about. We will see that the discussion in chapter 6 caps Spinoza's criticism of religious doctrines about divine providence. It may also be interesting to compare Spinoza's critique of miracles to that of a later philosopher, David Hume.
Primary Readings: TTP, chapter 6.
Related Primary Sources: Hobbes, Leviathan, chap. 37; Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, chapter 10.
Required Secondary Sources: James, chapter 5; Rosenthal, “Miracles, Wonder, and the State,” in Melamed and Rosenthal, 231-249.
Secondary Sources: Curley, "Spinoza on Miracles" in Boscherini, Proceedings of the First Congress on Spinoza (Naples: 1985); Parkinson, G.H.R., "Spinoza on Miracles and Natural Law”; Melamed, “The Metaphysics of the Theological-Political Treatise,” in Melamed and Rosenthal; Nadler (2011), ch. 5.
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Primary Reading: TTP, chapters 7-13.Related Primary Sources: Hobbes, Leviathan, chapters 33-35; Maimonides, Guide, I,1. Lodewijk Meyer, Philosophy as the Interpreter of Holy Scripture.
Source: James, chapters 6-7.
Secondary Sources: Strauss,
Spinoza's Critique, chapter
10; Smith, ch. 3; Preus; Rosenthal,
“Persuasive Passions: Rhetoric and the
Interpretation of Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise,” Archiv
für Geschichte der Philosophie, volume 85, 2003; Curly, “Spinoza’s
with Albert Burgh,” in Melamed and Rosenthal; Nadler (2011), ch. 6.
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In chapter 14, Spinoza introduces what he believes to be the "key-stone of the present treatise"--namely, that faith and philosophy are fundamentally distinct. We will discuss what Spinoza thinks their respective roles are, and what the dangers are that arise when these roles are confused. In light of Spinoza's views on the interpretation of Scripture and the use of faith, we will see what he thinks the "great utility" of revelation ultimately is.
Primary Reading: TTP, chapters 14-15.Related Primary Sources: Hobbes, Leviathan, chapters 12,44; Maimonides, “Sanhedrin: Perek Helek” from Commentary on the Mishnah (in Maimonides Reader, ed. I. Twersky, Behrman House).
Required Secondary Source: James,
Secondary Sources: Nadler
(2011), ch. 7; Smith, ch. 4; Rosenthal,
“Spinoza’s Dogmas of Universal Faith and the Problem of Religion,” Philosophy
and Theology, volume 13 (1), 2001, 53-72.
Primary Reading: TTP, chapter 16; Political Treatise, chapters 1-2; Correspondence, letter 50 (on the difference between Hobbes and Spinoza); Ethics, Part 4, Proposition 37.Related Primary Sources: Hobbes, Leviathan, chapters 13-17, 27-29.
Sources: James, chapter 10; Della
Rocca, “Getting his Hands Dirty: Spinoza’s
Criticism of the Rebel,” in Melamed and Rosenthal; Garrett, “’Promising
Ideas’: Hobbes and Contract in Spinoza’s
Political Philosophy,” in Melamed and Rosenthal.
Secondary Sources: Curley,
“Kissinger, Spinoza, and Genghis
Khan,” in Garrett; Smith, ch. 5; Tuck, Natural Rights Theories,
6; Wernham, introduction to the Political Works; Nadle (2011),
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Primary Reading: TTP, chapters 3, 17-18.Related Primary Sources: Hobbes, Leviathan, chapter 40; Machiavelli, The Prince, and The Discourses, selected chapters; Descartes, Letter to Elisabeth (on Machiavelli).
Required Secondary Source: James, chapter 11. Also, James, “Narrative as the Means to Freedom: Spinoza on the Uses of the Imagination,” in Melamed and Rosenthal.
Secondary Sources: Rosenthal,
"Two Collective Action
Problems in Spinoza’s Social Contract Theory," History of
Quarterly, volume 15 (4), October 1998, 389-409.
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Primary Reading: TTP, chapters 19-20.Related Primary Sources: Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 42; Pierre Bayle, Compel Them to Enter; John Locke, A Letter on Toleration.
Sources: James, chapter 12;
Steinberg, “Spinoza’s Curious Defense of Toleration,” in Melamed and
Secondary Sources: Smith,
ch. 6; Rosenthal, “Spinoza’s
Republican Argument for Tolerance,” Journal of Political Philosophy,
volume 11 (3), September 2003, 320-337; Rosenthal, “Tolerance as a
Spinoza’s Ethics,” Journal of the History of Philosophy,
34 (4), October 2001, 535-557; Rosenthal, “Spinoza on Why the Sovereign
Command Men’s Tongues But Not Their Minds,” in Nomos volume
“Toleration and Its Limits,” ed. M.S. Williams and J. Waldron, NYU
54-77; Nadler (2011), ch. 9.
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Students will present brief
summaries of their research
papers with comments from fellow students.
December 13th, Noon. [Final Revised Paper Due]
Contact the instructor at: email@example.com