Spinoza Stories: Pantheists, Spinozists, Jews, and the Formation of German Idealism

Activity Date: 
Sunday, Nov 6, 2016 to Tuesday, Nov 8, 2016

The international workshop “Spinoza Stories: Pantheists, Spinozists, Jews, and the Formation of German Idealism”, organized by the Martin Buber Society in cooperation with the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem, focused on the significance of the Pantheism Controversy and its cultural ramifications. The Pantheism Controversy was composed of a series of discussions and polemics that took place in Germany towards the end of the 18th century, and whose common denominator was the relationship between philosophy and religion. These discussions generated wildly varying pictures of the thinker whose works sparked the dispute: Baruch Spinoza. These varied pictures – pantheist, atheist, kabbalist, philosophical hero, and dead dog of philosophy – allowed the actors involved in the dispute to define and configure their own viewpoints.

The conference took these images of Spinoza as its point of departure and, by disentangling and exploring them, it opened a neglected point of access to the controversy and its crucial significance. The conference was divided into four sessions. The first one was entitled “Controversy” and centered on the actors of the polemic and their specific role. The second one – “Concepts” – examined the set of notions and philosophical issues involved in the controversy. The third one – “Idealism and Enemies” – analyzed the relationship between the controversy and the emergence of German Idealism. Finally, the session “Post-Idealism and Ties with the Present” explored the aftermath of the controversy up to the present. Professors Yitzhak I. Melamed (Johns Hopkins University) and Warren Zev Harvey (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) delivered the keynote addresses. In addition to a full schedule of presentations, the conference also included a reading session at the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem