Spinoza and Education: Freedom, understanding and empowerment, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Spinoza and Education

Freedom, understanding and empowerment, 1st Edition

By Johan Dahlbeck


170 pages

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Spinoza and Education offers a comprehensive investigation into the educational implications of Spinoza’s moral theory. Taking Spinoza’s naturalism as its point of departure, it constructs a considered account of education, taking special care to investigate the educational implications of Spinoza’s psychological egoism. What emerges is a counterintuitive form of education grounded in the egoistic striving of the teacher to persevere and to flourish in existence while still catering to the ethical demands of the students and the greater community.

In providing an educational reading of Spinoza’s moral theory, this book sets up a critical dialogue between educational theory and recent studies which highlight the centrality of ethics in Spinoza’s overall philosophy. By placing his work in a contemporary educational context, chapters explore a counterintuitive conception of education as an ethical project, aimed at overcoming the desire to seek short-term satisfaction and troubling the influential concept of the student as consumer. This book also considers how education, from a Spinozistic point of view, may be approached in terms of a kind of cognitive therapy serving to further a more scientifically adequate understanding of the world and aimed at combating prejudices and superstition.

Spinoza and Education demonstrates that Spinoza’s moral theory can further an educational ideal, where notions of freedom and self-preservation provide the conceptual core of a coherent philosophy of education. As such, it will appeal to researchers, academics and postgraduate students in the fields of philosophy of education, theory of education, critical thinking, philosophy, ethics, and Spinoza studies.


‘Spinoza argued that the greatest help to one person seeking knowledge is another person with the same aim. Johan Dahlbeck presents an engaging, original account of how we help one another. Spinoza and Education is a well-informed, useful introduction to Spinoza and a thoughtful application of Spinoza’s views to pressing issues in the philosophy of education.’

Michael LeBuffe, Professor, University of Otago, New Zealand

‘This book contributes to the ongoing reconception of Spinoza as foremost a moral philosophy, while developing an important conversation about Spinoza’s philosophy of education. The book adeptly renders a famously obscure and abstract philosophical system into a comprehensible and practical theory that speaks productively to the real life concerns facing educators and students.’

Matthew J. Kisner, author of Spinoza on Human Freedom: Reason, Autonomy and the Good Life, University of South Carolina, USA

‘Spinoza excites the educational imagination. Johan Dahlbeck’s Spinoza and Education amplifies this excitement, engaging with the ‘substance’ of Spinoza’s ethics of self-preservation, and taking care to trace the implications of this ethics for teachers. As such Dahlbeck’s work reveals the Spinozan roots of many contemporary critiques of institutionalised education.’

Andrew Gibbons, Associate Professor, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why All Education Begins and Ends in Moral Education 1. Spinoza’s Ethical Project 2. To Be Educated Is to Exist More: Spinoza’s Gradualist Notion of Reality 3. Self-preservation as an Educational Ideal 4. Moderating the Passive Affects: Education, Imagination and Causation 5. Educational Implications of the Doctrine of the Imitation of Affects 6. Teaching as the Art of Offering the Right Amount of Resistance Conclusion: Outlining a Spinozistic Account of Education

About the Author

Johan Dahlbeck is Senior Lecturer in Child and Youth Studies at Malmö University.

About the Series

New Directions in the Philosophy of Education

This book series is devoted to the exploration of new directions in the philosophy of education. After the linguistic turn, the cultural turn, and the historical turn, where might we go? Does the future promise a digital turn with a greater return to connectionism, biology and biopolitics based on new understandings of system theory and knowledge ecologies? Does it foreshadow a genuinely alternative radical global turn based on a new openness and interconnectedness? Does it leave humanism behind or will it reengage with the question of the human in new and unprecedented ways? How should philosophy of education reflect new forces of globalization? How can it become less Anglo-centric and develop a greater sensitivity to other traditions, languages, and forms of thinking and writing, including those that are not routed in the canon of Western philosophy but in other traditions that share the ‘love of wisdom’ that characterizes the wide diversity within Western philosophy itself. Can this be done through a turn to intercultural philosophy? To indigenous forms of philosophy and philosophizing? Does it need a post-Wittgensteinian philosophy of education? A postpostmodern philosophy? Or should it perhaps leave the whole construction of 'post'-positions behind?

In addition to the question of the intellectual resources for the future of philosophy of education, what are the issues and concerns that philosophers of education should engage with? How should they position themselves? What is their specific contribution? What kind of intellectual and strategic alliances should they pursue? Should philosophy of education become more global, and if so, what would the shape of that be? Should it become more cosmopolitan or perhaps more decentred? Perhaps most importantly in the digital age, the time of the global knowledge economy that reprofiles education as privatized human capital and simultaneously in terms of an historic openness, is there a philosophy of education that grows out of education itself, out of the concerns for new forms of teaching, studying, learning and speaking that can provide comment on ethical and epistemological configurations of economics and politics of knowledge? Can and should this imply a reconnection with questions of democracy and justice?

This series comprises texts that explore, identify and articulate new directions in the philosophy of education. It aims to build bridges, both geographically and temporally: bridges across different traditions and practices and bridges towards a different future for philosophy of education.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Philosophy & Social Aspects