I have written and delivered numerous talks at the Washington Spinoza Society since the organization began meeting in the fall of 2001, as well as talks or workshops involving Spinoza at numerous other venues over the years.
Book Daniel Spiro to talk to your organization about Spinoza
Book Daniel Spiro to talk to your organization about Spinoza
"Humility -- A Religious and Philosophical Exploration of the Term" analyzes the concept of humility from the lens of both organized religions and philosophers. The philosophers explored in this essay include Aristotle, Spinoza, Hume and Nietzsche. The essay concludes with my own views on the topic.
"Spinoza and Zionism" analyzes Spinoza's statements concerning ethics and politics generally, and the Jewish people in particular, in an attempt to shed light on contemporary debates regarding Zionism. This essay considers the hypothetical question of what Spinoza's views might be about Zionism and Palestinian Nationalism if he were alive today.
“Profiles in Panentheism” compares the philosophy of Spinoza to that of the contemporary neo-Hasid, Arthur Green. Green is one of my favorite contemporary rabbis and one of the leaders of the neo-Hasidism movement. Yet in showing some of the inconsistencies in this luminary’s theological works, this essay strives to demonstrate the difficulties that Green and other practicing rabbis encounter when they write theologically.
The “Introductory Lecture before the April 1, 2012 Spinozium” was written to provide an overview of Spinoza's philosophy to those who were attending the Spinozium at Theater J, Washington, D.C.’s Jewish theater. The Spinozium involved a full day of discussion and debate concerning the decision of the Amsterdam Sephardic Jewish community in 1656 to excommunicate Spinoza from that community. I voted with the 78 percent who said, heck yes, revoke the excommunication!
“Spinoza and Unitarian-Universalism” combines two of my interests, and I see them as related. After years of teaching workshops to UUs about Spinoza, I've found that those UUs who are exposed to Spinoza's philosophy are greatly drawn to him as a precursor of their own movement.
“Spinoza and Late 18th/Early 19th Century Germany” is a transcript of the first talk ever delivered at the Washington Spinoza Society. I was thrilled that the Goethe Institute was willing to sponsor our Society and wanted to pay them back by explaining the special relationship between Spinoza and the German intelligentsia of the late 18th and early 19th century.
“The Roots of Spinoza’s Metaphysics and Philosophy of God” explores the aspect of Spinoza's philosophy that has fascinated me the most.
"The Complexity of the World, the Simplicity of God: a Spinozist Perspective" was delivered in November of 2018. It focuses on the following paradox in Spinoza's thought: How can a world characterized by supreme complexity spring from a cause (God) that is supremely simple? Stated differently, how can God be equated to Nature, which is supremely complex, and to Substance, which is supremely simple? This paper will get you thinking about both God and politics, and was inspired by a prayer delivered by my daughter Hannah to open a pro forma session of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Spinoza and Altruism" explores Spinoza's perspectives on egoism and altruism. It also explains how his form of ethical panentheism provides a framework from which contemporary thinkers can make room for other-directed, virtue-based conduct without neglecting the fundamentally self-interested nature of all human activity.
Photograph of Spinoza statue by Roel Wijnants, www.flickr.com/photos/roel1943/3016691330
"Spinoza on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" explores some of the foundational principles of Spinoza's political philosophy. The extent to which Spinoza emphasizes the importance of fraternity may be especially disturbing to contemporary Americans, who live in such a polarized society.
“Remember to Live! The Philosophy of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe” is a tribute to Goethe and an attempt to explain his own debt to the man he called “Saint” Spinoza. I continue to maintain that if Goethe was alive today and living in Washington, he’d be a member of our society.
“Thomas Jefferson – American Muse” explains why I am such a huge fan of Jefferson. Readers of The Creed Room may note that I spoke about him often in my first novel.
“Spinoza and Nietzsche – The Meeting” was a play I wrote especially for the Washington Spinoza Society involving a meeting between Spinoza and Nietzsche. My friend Jay Bratt played the role of Spinoza. I played the role of Nietzsche. The two philosophers obviously had profound differences in style, but the similarities in substance were hardly lost on Nietzsche.
“A Missed Opportunity” was another play I wrote for the Society. The “missed opportunity” in the title involves the extent to which modern Jewish theologians have neglected Spinoza’s philosophy, rather than latching on to Spinoza as an inspiring role model for Jews. I called attention to Martin Buber in particular as a theologian who praised Spinoza as a genius philosopher, but missed an opportunity to praise him more as a Jewish philosopher.
“Santayana and His Hero” was delivered in September 2009. The “hero” is, of course, Spinoza, but the major focus of this essay isn't the “hero” but Santayana himself. An edited version of this talk was published in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, 22.2 (2014) 213-230, ISSN 1522-7340 (print), 2052-8388 (on line),
"Spinoza on Love and Hate" was delivered in December 2015. It presents Spinoza's views of the essence and properties of love and hate, demonstrating how Spinozism compels us to take hatred seriously while at the same time suggesting that we have the power to overcome it with love. Then, it analyzes the importance in Spinoza’s philosophy of our ability to love God, as well as Spinoza’s seemingly contradictory thoughts about God’s love for us. If anyone seriously questions whether Spinoza truly believed in God, reading this presentation is a must.
“Spinoza and Contemporary Judaism” grapples with the question of whether Spinoza, who made many critical statements about Judaism and was excommunicated from his own Jewish community in Amsterdam, should nevertheless be embraced as part of the pantheon of modern-Jewish heroes. This essay analyzes Spinoza’s teachings and reflects on what he in particular has to offer contemporary Jews.
"The Problem of Evil in Light of the Hague, Lisbon, Auschwitz, Manhattan and Capitol Hill" delves into the following questions: What is the best way to understand the word "evil"? Does it really exist? And how, if at all, can we reconcile the apparent existence of evil with the belief in a "God" worthy of that name? To answer these questions, this essay embarks on a whirlwind tour through some of the seminal events of world history, including the teachings of some of history's great philosophers, until finally leading us to the contemporary situation on Capitol Hill. Whether or not you agree with what's being said, you won't be bored.
"Spinoza on Immortality and the Eternity of the Human Mind" was delivered on May 18, 2020 during the Covid 19 pandemic. Spinoza teaches us to focus on life, rather than death, but in this short essay, we put that teaching aside and focus on what Spinoza had to say about death.