Imagining Fortitudo
by Professor Susan James (Birbeck College, University of London)
Presented by the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and the Philosophy Discipline in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University of Queensland

For Spinoza, one of the manifestations of philosophical understanding is the virtue of fortitudo, a commitment to living as one’s understanding dictates. This virtue in turn encompasses two others; animositas or the ‘desire by which each one strives, solely from the dictate of reason, to preserve his being’, and generositas, ‘the desire by which each one strives, solely from the dictate of reason, to aid other men and join them to him in friendship’. In the first part of this paper I consider how understanding and fortitudo are related. I argue that Spinoza regards the process of cultivating fortitudo as distinct from the process of acquiring understanding. As finite beings who are striving to empower ourselves, 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 does Spinoza tell us about this latter process?  He shows us, I suggest, that cultivating fortitudois 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.

Susan James is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College London and Visiting Professor at the Humanities Institute, Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on some of the intersections between early modern philosophy, feminist philosophy and contemporary political philosophy. Among her books are Passion and Action: The Emotions in Early Modern Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 1997); Margaret Cavendish: Political Writings (Cambridge University Press, 2003); and Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion and Politics: The Theologico-Political Treatise (Oxford University Press, 2012).

4.00pm Thursday 17 August 2017
Seminar Room, Level 4, Forgan Smith Tower (Bld #1)
St Lucia Campus, The University of Queensland

All welcome.


Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower, University of Queensland, St Lucia