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Mar 21, 2016

Our Next Visiting Speaker April 8 - Dr. Timothy Yenter

Dr. Timothy Yenter, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Mississippi, will be giving a talk in our department on April 8. His talk, titled “Harmony in Spinoza and his Critics,” will occur from 1:30-3:30 in McCain Hall, Room 175. His abstract is as follows:

"In the Appendix to Book I of the Ethics, Spinoza ridicules harmony (harmonia) as a subjective pleasantness that reveals nothing about reality. This is key to his response to NeoPlatonists and alchemists, on the one side, who posit deep sympathies in the universe, and, on the other side, to those monotheists who argue from the order of the universe to the existence of a freely creating God. The apparent proportion and order of the universe do not reveal truths about its actual constitution in either way. However, Spinoza also posits harmony (concordia) as a foundation for his ethics (e.g., E 4.35s2, E 4.40, E, Political Treatise 6.4). Although there is a prima facie conflict between Spinoza’s radically differing attitudes toward these two notions of harmony, I argue they are not in conflict. Even though the prima facie conflict dissolves, I motivate new challenges to Spinoza’s discussion of harmony. A thorough (but not exhaustive) look at competitor notions of harmony in the seventeenth and eighteenth century reveals more than a dozen distinct concepts associated with the term harmony. Previously unexplored connections between Spinoza and Francis Hutcheson, Anne Conway, and Jonathan Edwards, who each defend the real existence and usefulness of harmony, motivate new challenges to Spinoza’s discussion of harmony. Spinoza’s unwavering commitment to unity is the key to understanding his positive employment of harmony in his metaphysical, epistemological, religious, and ethical views, but this commitment is insufficient to motivate a satisfying response to the challenges of Hutcheson, Conway, and Edwards."

We hope to see you there!

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