Spinoza and the Genesis of the Aesthetic
Keywords:Romanticism, Critical Theory, Aesthetics, Spinoza
This paper identifies an aesthetics implicit in Spinoza’s philosophy through the concept of a genesis of the aesthetic. A genesis of the aesthetic indicates that a philosophy of art is not yet fully formed in his work, but can emerge as a consequence or effect of his thought. This theory would evaluate the work of art primarily in its relationship to truth. Following the architectonics of Spinoza’s own thought, this paper constructs a progression – from the imagination, to reason, to intuition – toward a concept of aesthetic practices that aligns itself ever more closely with the freedom, perfection, and affirmation of infinite substance itself. The specific forms of aesthetic reception and production flowing from Spinoza’s ideal of wisdom unite two seemingly disparate paradigms: the aesthetic as essentially affirmative, as a joy in the individual power of every individuated thing, on the one hand; and the cultivation of a critical, ethically informed aesthetics of liberation, one capable of occupying different positions (obedience, autonomy, resistance) with respect to state or sovereign power, on the other hand.
Deleuze, Gilles. 1992. Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. Translated by Martin Joughin. New York: Zone Books.
Della Rocca, Michael. 2008. Spinoza. New York, NY: Routledge.
Gatens, Moira. 2015. “Spinoza on goodness and beauty and the prophet and the artist.” European Journal of Philosophy 23:1–16.
Gatens, Moira and Anthony Uhlmann. 2020. "Editors’ preface to special issue of Intellectual History Review on Spinoza and Art." Intellectual History Review 30 (3): 359-361.
Israel, Jonathan. 2016. Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
James, Susan. 2010. “Narrative as the Means to Freedom: Spinoza on the Uses of the Imagination.” In Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise: A Critical Guide, edited by Y. Y. Melamed and M. A. Rosenthal, 250–267. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
---- 2012. Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics: The Theological-Political Treatise. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Montag, Warren. 2020. "Spinoza's counter-aesthetics." Intellectual History Review 30 (3): 411-427.
Romagni, Domenica G. 2021. “Spinoza’s Aesthetics.” In A Companion to Spinoza, edited by Yitzhak Y. Melamed, 465–473. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley- Blackwell.
Sparrow, Tom. 2010. “Plasticity and Aesthetic Identity; or, Why We Need a Spinozist Aesthetics.” The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics, pp. 40–41.
---- 2011. “Plasticity and Aesthetic Identity; or, Why We Need a Spinozist Aesthetics.” The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics, pp. 53–74.
Spinoza, Benedictus de. 1985. The Collected Works of Spinoza, volume 1, edited and translated by Edwin Curley. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
---- 2016. The Collected Works of Spinoza, volume 2, edited and translated by Edwin Curley. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Tóth, Olivér István. 2017. “A Fresh Look at the Role of the Second kind of Knowledge in Spinoza’s Ethics.” Hungarian Philosophical Review 61:37– 56.
Vinciguerra, Lorenzo. 2021. “Following Traces in the Sand: Spinoza on Semiotics.” In A Companion to Spinoza, edited by Yitzhak Y. Melamed, 474–482. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. Note: up to volume 4 issue 1, an incorrect copyright line appears in the PDFs of the articles.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).