Spinoza’s Dynamic Theory of Mind

This event has passed.

University Club, Room 212
@ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

This is a photograph of a statue of Baruch Spinoza in Amsterdam.
“Spinoza Amsterdam.” Serge Ottaviani. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amsterdam-spinoza.JPG

Justin Steinberg

Solmsen Fellow (2022-2023)

Professor of Philosophy, CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College


Baruch Spinoza’s philosophy has attracted broad and intense interest in recent decades from nearly all corners of the humanities and social sciences. But despite this deserved attention a central part of Spinoza’s philosophical project has not yet received its full due: his theory of cognition and motivation. In this talk, I examine the viability of his views of belief-formation and emotion, showing that they: (1) receive considerable empirical support and compare favorably with some of the best “live” options today; (2) explain a wide range of downstream psychological phenomena; (3) are credibly systematized into a theory of how the mind works. I conclude the talk by turning to some of the normative implications, exploring what this account reveals about the prospects of living in accordance with our own values and ideals.


Justin Steinberg is Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of Spinoza’s Political Psychology: The Taming of Fortune and Fear (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and co-author (with Valtteri Viljanen) of Spinoza (Polity Press, 2020). He is currently editing a collection of essays on humility (Oxford Philosophical Concepts) and co-editing (with Karolina Hübner) The Cambridge Spinoza Lexicon.

*Events currently open only to 2022-23 fellows due to space concerns; please contact IRH at info@irh.wisc.edu to be added to a cancellation list for in-person events.*