Michael A. Rosenthal
Grafstein Professor of Jewish Philosophy, University of Toronto (Canada)
Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:August-September 2009; July 2014, October 2017; May-July 2022
Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:»The Shadow of Reason: Spinoza on the Imagination«
I shall argue that we can explain the structure of the imagination in Spinoza’s mature work, the Ethics, if we pay close attention to his use and critique of the late scholastic notion of a »being of reason« [ens rationis] in his early works. Although Spinoza rejects the metaphysics of the medieval doctrine of the analogy of being [analogia entis], he adopts it for a very different purpose, namely, to explain the nature and function of the imagination. Some recent scholars have argued that Spinoza ultimately drops the notion of analogy from his mature system. In contrast, I argue that Spinoza transforms the notion of analogy in his theory of the imagination. I show how we can use the notion of analogy to explain how imaginative signs are formed and how they are employed in understanding the world. I will show how the analogical structure of the imagination explains the extent to which they are partly true and how the imagination might aid reason in discovering adequate ideas. Because the imagination is at the core of his account of language, this interpretation also attempts to explain how language functions—sometimes to lead us astray, sometimes to help us reason correctly—in his critical explanations of religion, politics, and even philosophy itself. I shall show that this account of the imagination helps us explain key concepts in Spinoza’s system, including agency, ideas of human nature, religious beliefs, political ideals, and even the intellectual love of God. (Michael A. Rosenthal)
Research partner:Michael Rosenthal follows the invitation of Thomas M. Schmidt, Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. His stay is supported by the Frankfurt Institute for Research in Philosophy of Religion (IRF) and the Department of Catholic Theology of Goethe University.
Scholarly profile of Michael A. Rosenthal Michael A. Rosenthal is currently the Grafstein Professor of Jewish Philosophy at the University of Toronto. He was formerly Professor of Philosophy and the Samuel and Althea Stroum Chair in Jewish Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. He teaches and publishes in the areas of early modern philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, and Jewish philosophy. He is also interested in modern German philosophy and culture and held an adjunct appointment in the Department of Germanics while at the UW. He served as Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Washington from 2011 to 2016 and was acting Director of the Anne Tannenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto in 2021. His current research focuses on the philosophy of Baruch de Spinoza.
Please find more information about Michael Rosenthal here.
Main areas of research:Early modern philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, Jewish philosophy, philosophy of Benedict Spinoza
- »Prophetic Style and Ethical Experience in Hermann Cohen and Spinoza«, in: Jewish Studies Quarterly, Issue 25 (2018), pp. 1–18.
- »What Is Real About ›Ideal Constitutions‹? Spinoza on Political Explanation«, in: Spinoza’s ›Political Treatise‹: A Critical Guide, eds. by Yitzhak Melamed and Hasana Sharp, Cambridge University Press 2018, pp. 12–28.
- »Spinoza's Political Philosophy«, in: The Oxford Handbook of Spinoza, ed. by Michael Della Rocca, New York: Oxford University Press 2017, pp. 408–433.
- »Spinoza on Circumcision and Ceremonies«, in: Modern Judaism, Volume 36, Issue 1 (2016), pp. 42-66.
- »Politics and Ethics in Spinoza: The Problem of Normativity«, in: Essays on Spinoza’s Ethical Theory, ed. with Matt Kisner and Andrew Youpa, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2014, pp. 85-101.
- »Art and Politics of the Desert: German Exiles in California and the Biblical Bilderverbot«, in: New German Critique, Issue 118, Volume 40, Number 1 (Winter 2013), pp. 43-64.
- »Spinoza«, in: Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Religion, revised second edition, ed. by Chad Meister and Paul Copan, London: Routledge 2013, pp. 150-160.
- (ed. with Richard T. Gray, Nicholas Halmi, Gary J. Handwerk and Klaus Vieweg, Inventions of the Imagination: Romanticism and Beyond, Seattle: University of Washington Press 2011.
- (ed. with Yitzhak Y. Melamed), Spinoza’s ›Theological-Political Treatise‹: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2010.