Friday, 17 February 2017 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316
Tracie Matysik, UT
“Spinozism and Science: A Matter of Historical Debate”
For over one and a half centuries, Marxist and leftist thinkers have exhibited a complicated affinity for the thought of the seventeenth-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Drawn variously to his critique of religion, his strict adherence to absolute immanence, his challenge to conceptions of atomized individualism, his theorization of the fundamental democratic basis of the state — to name just a few points of interest — Spinoza’s politically radical disciples have returned to him again and again to conceptualize the theoretical and epistemological challenges they were confronting in their own time periods. One point of productive tension between Marxism and Spinozism has been the status of science and of natural-scientific materialism. In this presentation, Tracie Matysik will discuss one chapter in this long history, namely the place of Spinozism in the formation of Marxist “orthodoxy” in the years between roughly 1890 and 1905 in German Social Democracy and in the Second International more broadly. She will discuss how and why leading figures in those debates appropriated Spinozism for diverse purposes and tied Spinoza’s thought to a range of scientific discourses of the day.
Tracie Matysik is an associate professor in the UT History Department. She is the author of Reforming the Moral Subject: Ethics and Sexuality in Central Europe (2008) and co-editor of German Modernities from Wilhelm to Weimar: A Contest of Futures (2016). In addition she has published articles in the histories of secularism, subjectivity, psychoanalysis, globalization, and Spinozism. At present she is working on a book manuscript entitled When Spinoza Met Marx: Experiments in Democratic Activity, 1830-Present, which is an exploration of alternative ways thinkers have approached the idea of meaningful action in the material, sensual world.