‘Spinoza, the Epicurean: Authority and Utility in Materialism’ by Dimitris Vardoulakis

Published by Edinburgh University Press in 2020.


Through a radical new reading of the Theological Political Treatise, Dimitris Vardoulakis argues that the major source of Spinoza’s materialism is the Epicurean tradition that re-emerges in modernity when manuscripts by Epicurus and Lucretius are rediscovered. This reconsideration of Spinoza’s political project, set within a historical context, lays the ground for an alternative genealogy of materialism. Central to this new reading of Spinoza are the theory of practical judgment (understood as the calculation of utility) and its implications for a theory of democracy that is resolutely positioned against authority.

Never have I seen the dialectical principle of the unity of opposites carried on to such extremities in the reading of Spinoza’s political and religious philosophy, with so much imagination, precision, and illuminating results. A once in a generation breakthrough, whose importance goes well beyond the history of past ideas, to opening roads for judgement in the present.

— Etienne Balibar

Dimitris Vardoulakis is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. He is the author of The Doppelgänger: Literature’s Philosophy (Fordham University Press, 2010), Sovereignty and its Other: Toward the Dejustification of Violence (Fordham UP, 2013), Freedom from the Free Will: On Kafka’s Laughter (SUNY, 2016) and Stasis Before the State: Nine Theses on Agonistic Democracy (Fordham University Press, 2018). He has also edited or co-edited numerous books, including Spinoza Now (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) and Spinoza’s Authority (2 volumes, Bloomsbury, 2018). He is the director of “Thinking Out Loud: The Sydney Lectures in Philosophy and Society” and is co-series editor of Incitements at Edinburgh University Press.

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