University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > From Kepler's optics to Spinoza's politics: Descartes' turn to the passions

From Kepler's optics to Spinoza's politics: Descartes' turn to the passions

Add to your list(s) Download to your calendar using vCal

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Agnes Bolinska.

In 1604 Kepler published his Optical Part of Astronomy, dramatically changing the role of optics and the fundamental concept of vision. Instead of a window through which visual rays informed reason about its surrounding objects, the eye became a screen on which light painted images of no inherent cognitive value. The naturalization of the senses required a corresponding naturalization of the mind, which Descartes attempted to offer with a theory of the passions. Kepler’s optics turned sensations into purely causal effects, but the passions, indicators of benefit and damage to the individual, could provide them with meaning. This was a reversal of the traditional epistemological responsibilities of reason and the passions, and for Spinoza this demanded a reversal of their ethical and political roles. ‘Desire is the very essence of man’ he stated, and concluded: ‘society can be established … not by reason … but by threats.’

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

Tell a friend about this talk:

This talk is included in these lists:

Note that ex-directory lists are not shown.

 

© 2006-2019 Talks.cam, University of Cambridge. Contact Us | Help and Documentation | Privacy and Publicity