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Skidmore College
Jacob Perlow Series

Friendship as Freedom in Spinoza

A lecture by Hasana Sharp, Associate Professor of Philosophy, McGill University, with an introduction by William Lewis, Professor of Philosophy, Skidmore College

Wednesday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Palamountain Hall • The event is free and open to the public.

Hasana Sharp headshotIt may be obvious that humans could not hope to be free without social support. A newborn could not live a day without a caregiver; no one could provide for herself without a social division of labor that satisfies our basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter; and we could not think well without the collective production of language and knowledge. What may be less obvious is that the power to produce social relations, or the capacity to make friends, is one of the greatest skills that human beings exercise. Spinoza names this virtue "generosity"—the rationally guided desire to join others to oneself in friendship—and it describes one of the two basic dispositions of the free person. In stark contrast to a portrait of freedom as solitary and heroic, Spinoza's account of freedom is necessarily social. The more we are able to transform relationships of antagonism and hostility into relationships of alliance and friendship, the freer we are.

Hasana Sharp is an associate professor of philosophy at McGill University. She is author of Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization, which examines the consequences for political theory of Spinoza's denial of human exceptionalism. She has also written on Descartes, feminism and (most recently) climate change. She is completing a book on social liberation in Spinoza that concentrates on his understudied Political Treatise. She is also researching a book on climate change and social justice, guided by insights from Spinoza.

This presentation is part of the Jacob Perlow Event Series and is co-sponsored by the Departments of Philosophy and Religious Studies and the Office of the Dean of Special Programs.


About the Jacob Perlow Series: A generous grant from the estate of Jacob Perlow - an immigrant to the United States in the 1920s, a successful business man deeply interested in religion and philosophy, and a man who was committed to furthering Jewish education - supports annual lectures and presentations to the College and Capital District community on issues broadly related to Jews and Judaism.