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On religious and cultural objects: Articulate and inarticulate bodies in Spinoza's philosophy of nature

Thomas, Christopher (2020) On religious and cultural objects: Articulate and inarticulate bodies in Spinoza's philosophy of nature. European Journal of Philosophy. ISSN 0966-8373

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Abstract

Spinoza's philosophy is often overlooked when it comes to thinking about matters concerning art and culture. While recent work has done much to address this, his philosophy remains ambiguously related to the theorisation of things such as temples, poems, and paintings. This article argues that it is by turning to Spinoza's theorisation of the sacred in the Theological‐Political Treatise, that we can best derive his philosophical position on culture and its objects. I argue that Spinoza locates the sanctity of a religious object–what he calls its “articulateness”–in its particular use‐relation with a people. In a similar manner, Spinoza locates the “meaning” and articulateness of words in the use that people make of them, thereby secularising the sanctification process for cultural objects. I argue that this relation of “use” between cultural‐religious objects and human beings and their societies is the way in which we can best discern Spinoza's philosophical position regarding art and culture, as well as further develop his potential contribution to cultural and art theory.

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