An Abominable Heresy?

Jeffrey K. McDonough (Harvard University)

Date & Time:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM


JRC 126
University of St. Thomas
2115 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105

This lecture will offer an interpretation of Baruch Spinoza’s notorious, but little understood, account of personal immortality. I’ll argue that Spinoza means to allow that there is a sense in which humans enjoy personal immortality, a sense in which you and I and everyone we know will exist forever. Indeed, Spinoza even means to accommodate the traditional conviction that our virtues are eternally rewarded and our vices eternally punished. Nonetheless, I’ll also argue that Spinoza also means to insist that there is an important sense in which no human being enjoys personal immortality, that there is a sense in which you and I and everyone we know will perish someday.  And this, for Spinoza, is true regardless of our virtues or vices. Saint and sinner, rabbi and heretic, believer and atheist must all die some day never to return again. The key to making sense of Spinoza’s seemingly inconsistent commitments concerning personal immortality, I’ll suggest, lies in a better appreciation of his historically rooted, but nonetheless idiosyncratic, understanding of different “dimensions” being. Seeing how, for Spinoza, a person’s durational, intensive and eternal “dimensions” of being may overlap and part ways reveals a surprisingly practical, interesting, and even promising view of personal immortality.  

All programs offered by the University of St. Thomas shall be readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. For details, call (651) 962-6315.