Spinoza Contra Phenomenology: French Rationalism from Cavailles to Deleuze

Overview

Spinoza Contra Phenomenology fundamentally recasts the history of postwar French thought, which is typically presumed by detractors and celebrants alike to have been driven by a critique of reason indebted above all to Nietzsche and Heidegger. Although the reception of German phenomenology gave rise to many of the most innovative developments in French philosophy, from existentialism to deconstruction, not everyone in France was pleased with this German import. The book recounts how a series of French ...

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Spinoza Contra Phenomenology: French Rationalism from Cavaillès to Deleuze

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Overview

Spinoza Contra Phenomenology fundamentally recasts the history of postwar French thought, which is typically presumed by detractors and celebrants alike to have been driven by a critique of reason indebted above all to Nietzsche and Heidegger. Although the reception of German phenomenology gave rise to many of the most innovative developments in French philosophy, from existentialism to deconstruction, not everyone in France was pleased with this German import. The book recounts how a series of French philosophers used Spinoza's rationalism to erect a bulwark against the nominally irrationalist tendencies of Husserl's and Heidegger's thought in France. From its beginnings in the interwar years in philosophy of science and the history of philosophy, this Spinozist rationalism would prove foundational for Louis Althusser's rethinking of Marxism and Gilles Deleuze's ambitious metaphysics. There has been a renewed enthusiasm for Spinozism in various quarters of late by those who would see it as a kind of neo-vitalism or philosophy of life and affect. Peden bucks the trend by tracking a decisive and neglected aspect of Spinoza's philosophy—his rationalism—in a body of thought too often presumed to have rejected reason. In the process, he demonstrates that the critical resources of Spinoza's rationalism have yet to be exhausted today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this signal contribution to the study of European thought, Knox Peden shows that the importation of German phenomenology to France in the twentieth century was only part of the story. In appealing to Benedict Spinoza's version of rationalism, neglected figures whom this book restores to their centrality made conceptual moves of lasting importance, setting a context for the careers of Louis Althusser and Gilles Deleuze, with which Peden's absorbing reinterpretation culminates. Thanks to his sure grasp of the theoretical materials and ability to address them in lucid writing, Spinoza Contra Phenomenology redraws the map, not simply for the sake of having a better one, but because debates across the contemporary humanities need its orientation."—Samuel Moyn, Columbia University

"The conventional understanding of twentieth-century French thought is just beginning to fracture, and we are now coming to appreciate the complexity and significance of intellectual trends that once-dominant schools—such as phenomenology and existentialism, structuralism and post-structuralism—have too long obscured. In this brilliant new study, Knox Peden breaks free of received wisdom to cast a new light on the movement of French philosophical rationalism that borrowed both its energies and its name from the metaphysical writings of a seventeenth-century heretical Jew. Spinozism, as reimagined in France by heterodox intellectuals such as Althusser and Deleuze, was something more than a philosophy: it was a veritable ethos. With verve and sophistication, Peden maps this inheritance and guides us through the formidable debates that have not yet reached their end."—Peter Eli Gordon, Harvard University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804791342
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/4/2014
  • Series: Cultural Memory in the Present Series
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 867,541
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Knox Peden is an Australian Research Council Fellow at the Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland.

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