There is arguably no philosopher of the modern period whose work is more relevant for current scholarship than Baruch (Benedict) Spinoza. This course serves as an introduction to his thought, historical context, and legacy. We will begin by reading two of Spinoza's primary works and exploring their historical context, paying special attention his close collaboration with several Mennonite figures. Then we will explore the work of contemporary scholars who see themselves as heirs of Spinoza, from the philosophical and political writing of Gilles Deleuze and Antonio Negri to the movements of feminism, queer theory, affect theory, and deep ecology.

In the ancient and medieval world, the task of philosophy was concerned with the formation and transformation of the self in the hope that it might be consistent with a certain vision of the world—the world of reality rather than the illusory world of mere appearance. This course explores some of the different ways ancient and medieval philosophers understood the self and the visions of the real world in which it strives to participate.