In Spinoza and the Philosophy of Love, Michael Strawser provides a new reading of Spinoza as a philosopher of love, and one who centers his thought on an ethically qualified conception of noble love. Strawser examines the threefold conception of love found in Spinoza’s Ethics and argues that what is most important for Spinoza’s philosophy is a unified conception of love centered on nobility (amor sive generositas). This active conception of love can conquer hatred and bring people together. Situating Spinoza’s philosophy of love within both Jewish and Western philosophical traditions, Strawser investigates questions in the philosophy of love together with Spinoza and thinkers such as Saadia Gaon, Maimonides, Leone Ebreo, Tullia d’Aragona, and René Descartes. He shows how Spinoza deepens our understanding of amorous perfectionism and how this reading of Spinoza’s philosophy of love serves as both a corrective to problematic readings, such as those found in Isaac Bashevis Singer and Emmanuel Levinas, and a counter to speciesism. With careful examination of Spinoza’s writings, Strawser demonstrates that the goal of his philosophy is best understood as the love of other people who are to be helped and united with in friendship. Ultimately, Spinoza’s philosophy of love calls for collective nobility.
Michael Strawser is chair of the department of philosophy and professor of philosophy at the University of Central Florida.
Introduction: Amor sive Generositas
Chapter 1: From Jewish Love Lessons to Amorous Perfectionism
Chapter 2: Between the Courtesan and the Lens-grinder
Chapter 3: Descartes’s Illogic of Love
Chapter 4: The Specter of Speciesism
Chapter 5: Levinas and the Spinoza Question
Conclusion: Towards Collective Nobility
About the Author
"Strawser offers an engaging reading of Spinoza as a systematic philosopher who makes love the heart of his system. His approach addresses difficult questions raised by Spinoza’s ethical views and shows the unity of Spinoza’s Ethics and his political works."
Spinoza and the Philosophy of Love is a smart, well-written, and, in some spots, intentionally quite funny work of Spinoza scholarship. It is not just one of the first attempts at working out a complete study of Spinoza’s views of love, but, clearly, it is a work of love by a scholar with a deep respect and admiration for Spinozism, and it is a work which tries tirelessly to pull out of Spinoza’s corpus the most inspiring philosophical system which can be found in it.