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What Use Is An Imaginary Social Contract?

Professor Susan James will introduce us to Spinoza's account of the social contract.

To celebrate the rationalist philosopher Baruch de Spinoza’s birthday (it will be his 377th), Spinoza scholar and philosopher Professor Susan James will introduce us to his account of the social contract. It was a popular idea in the seventeenth century and remained so long afterwards, but Spinoza’s account of it is rather striking and unusual.

His conception of a social contract as a fictional, legitimating device that people use in various ways to envisage themselves as obliged to obey the law sounds strikingly modern in a way that jibes well with the general rediscovery of Spinoza’s philosophy of recent decades.It therefore raises questions about the interpretation of philosophical writings that are historically (or culturally) distant from us, as well as contemporary debates about the nature of social order.

Don’t worry if you’ve never read any Spinoza or you don’t know your contractarianism from your elbow; you’ll be most welcome to come along and join a discussion that’s likely to take in contemporary concerns as well as more some fascinating intellectual history.


Prof Susan James | talks | www


Date and Time:

24 November 2009 at 8:00 pm


3 hours



The Wheatsheaf
25 Rathbone Place

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Organised by:

Big Ideas
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Additional Information:

For more information, visit www.bigi.org.uk

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