Rebecca Newberger Goldstein – Spinoza’s Mind
This year’s Macnamara Memorial Lecture will be given this coming Friday by the philosopher and writer, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein.
Time and Place:
February 8, 2008 at 3:30 PM in Room S1/3 of the Stewart Biological Sciences Building. 1204 Docteur Penfield Avenue (enter via the main doors, just east of Drummond).
A deliberately ambiguous title that can mean at least three things, all of which will be discussed: (1) What was Spinoza’s view on the mind-body problem, (2) how did he think the mind itself worked–in particular, how did he see the relationship between cognition and emotion, and lastly, (3) what were the basic intuitions of Spinoza, the cast of his mind, that led him to embark on such an eccentrically ambitious project as attempting to deduce not only the nature of the world but a theory of ethics from first principles? The question underlying all of these is why should we care about the views of a seventeenth-century metaphysician? Why have scientists from Einstein to Damasio touted Spinoza as their deepest inspiration?
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein grew up in White Plains, New York, and graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College, receiving the Montague Prize for Excellence in Philosophy, and immediately went on to graduate work at Princeton University, receiving her Ph.D. in philosophy under the supervision of Thomas Nagel. While in graduate school she was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship and a Whiting Foundation Fellowship. Her question about how philosophy was relevant to everyday life led her to the writing of novels that explore philosophical issues . Her first, The Mind-Body Problem, was published by Random House and went on to become a critical and popular success. She has since written five more novels, which have garnered many prizes.
She has also written two non-fictional books on philosophy, “Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew who gave us Modernity”, and “Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel”, as well as a large number of short stories, essays and reviews.
Her teaching career has included periods at Trinity College in Hartford CT, Brandeis University, Columbia University, Rutgers University, and Barnard College.
In 1996 Goldstein became a MacArthur Fellow, receiving the prize which is popularly known as the “genius award.” From the MacArthur Foundation’s citation: “[her] novels and short stories dramatize the concerns of philosophy without sacrificing the demands of imaginative storytelling. … In her fiction her characters confront problems of faith: religious faith and faith in an ability to comprehend the mysteries of the physical world as complementary to moral and emotional states of being.”
In 2005 she was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2006 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Radcliffe Fellowship.