Spinoza and Proportion conference: last chance to register

The Equalities of Wellbeing conference on Spinoza and Proportion is coming up next week (5-6 May) at the University of Aberdeen. The final programme, with all information, is available here:

Spinoza and Proportion programme FINAL

Registration is open until 5 May at this link: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/spinoza-and-proportion-conference-tickets-15501670915?aff=eac2

Contact: Beth Lord s.b.lord@abdn.ac.uk

Spinoza and Proportion Conference: Registration and Programme now available

Spinoza and Proportion Conference

5-6 May 2015, University of Aberdeen

This conference will explore themes of proportion, ratio, equality, and harmony in Spinoza’s philosophy. On Day 2 there is a special emphasis on Spinoza in relation to architecture and housing (papers by Frichot, Rawes, Kodalak, and White).

A provisional programme is now available below, and for download here: Spinoza and Proportion programme

All are welcome to attend. Attendance is free, but advance registration is required.

Eventbrite - Spinoza and Proportion Conference


Aberdeen can be reached by air (Aberdeen airport) or train. Information about travelling to Aberdeen (Old Aberdeen campus) and campus maps can be found here.

If you require overnight accommodation, you are strongly advised to book early, as demand for hotel rooms in Aberdeen is unusually high. Affordable hotels near the university include the Premier Inn Aberdeen City Centre (20 mins walk) and Hotel Ibis Aberdeen Centre (30 mins walk). There are several B&Bs on King Street, all within walking distance of the campus.

Please contact Beth Lord <s.b.lord@abdn.ac.uk> if you have any questions.


Tuesday 5 May

9:30                         Welcome and introduction

9:35-10:45             Simon Duffy (Yale-NUS College, Singapore), “Proportion as a barometer of the affective life in Spinoza”

10:45-11:55           Valtteri Viljanen (University of Turku), “Spinoza’s ontology geometrically illustrated: a reading of Ethics 2P8S”

12:00-1:00             Lunch: the Hub (Not provided)

1:00-2:10               Anthony Uhlmann (University of Western Sydney), “‘The eyes of the mind': ratio and art in Spinoza and Swift”

2:10-3:20               Timothy Yenter (University of Mississippi), “Harmony in Spinoza and his critics”

3:20-3:40               Coffee Break

3:40-4:50               Beth Lord (University of Aberdeen), “Spinoza’s ratios and relational autonomy”

4:50-5:00               Walk to Skype facility

5:00-6:10               Heidi Ravven (Hamilton College) (by Skype), “Ratio and activity: Spinoza’s biologizing of the mind in an Aristotelian key”

7:30                         Conference Dinner: The Stage Door Restaurant, North Silver Street, Aberdeen (Provided for all speakers free of charge. Others may attend by booking in advance, choosing the appropriate option through the Eventbrite link above, at a cost of £40 per person, payable to the restaurant on the night.)


Wednesday 6 May

9:30-10:40          Mike LeBuffe (University of Otago ) (by Skype), “The place of body in Spinoza’s metaphysics”

10:40-10:50        Walk to NK3

10:50-12:00        Helene Frichot (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm), “Slownesses and Speeds, Latitudes and Longitudes: In the Vicinity of Beatitude”

12:00-1:00          Lunch: the Hub (Not provided)

1:00-2:10            Gokhan Kodalak (Cornell University), “Spinoza, affective architecture, and proportionate power”

2:10-3:20            Peg Rawes (Bartlett UCL), Dissimiliarity: Spinoza’s geometric ratios and housing crises

3:20-3:40            Coffee Break

3:40-4:50            Stefan White (Manchester Metropolitan University), “The greater part: how intuition makes a better world”

5:00                      Finish

Summary of discussions at Housing and Wellbeing Seminar (Part 2)

Ten months after the first seminar on housing for the project, at a time when the national crisis in inequality and housing provision has deepened even further, and the day before a march on housing took place in London, this event brought together colleagues from the Bartlett School of Architecture and Faculty of the Built Environment UCL, the University of Liverpool and ETH Zurich, to consider how wellbeing and design interrelate in: contemporary design teaching contexts; architectural and urban histories of post-war housing, and housing commissions undertaken by small practices.

Across the presentations, the design of flexible or adaptable housing was the most recurrent view about the contribution that design can make to improving housing standards, housing stock provision and quality, and in light of the historical contexts that form today’s situation. However, there were different opinions of how current practices, and historical evidence defines these aims, and how they be implemented to improve current and future housing needs in UK society:

Peter Bishop underscored how the (currently absent) political will to improve the quality and provision of housing has been highly successful when it supports high quality housing design guides and standards (e.g. historically, the Parker-Morris space standards and, more recently, the impact of the Design for London Housing Guide for the Government’s housing consultation). Secondly, this political will has resulted in very successful housing when carried by local authority housing, architect, planning and design teams (e.g. the 1960-80s, London council boroughs, the GLA, Camden Council or Greenwich). Current guidance also emphasises high standards in the ‘performance’ of housing as part of a commitment to environmental wellbeing: by linking wellbeing with environmental design defined by carbon-reduction criteria, cities and their housing can be more strongly established and ensured. Simon Pepper’s ‘three ages of post-war housing’ reinforced the historical evidence of previous political commitment to quality in housing design, highlighting how 1950s-60s progressive Conservative and Labour Governments committed to housing as a political priority, which disappeared in the 1980s, and now wholly absent from the global economic asset-driven context of today’s housing market (e.g. where international property investors purchase flats, especially in London, that will remain unoccupied; or the resale of ‘right to buy’ flats which previously housed a family to be occupied by single young professionals). Stephen Gage also highlighted how the mid-Victorian terrace still provides an extremely resilient housing model for affordable adaptive design principles through which mixed social, economic and environmental standards achieved across different client groups and demographic needs.

For Jan Kattein, Patrick Weber and Sabine Storp, the wellbeing of the client/home-owner or tenant can be improved in collaborative and adaptive approaches to the local public space, and design ownership of a ‘home’. For these architects, design which isn’t determined by the larger professional scaled interest of building standards (and which Jan Kattein felt can stymie the capabilities of the smaller architect to work with their clients, or the ability of progressive developers and Housing Associations to best maximise their provision). Their presentations emphasised the importance of responsive and reflexive design approaches in which the architect collaborates with the household/home provider (Kattein) or recognises non-standard (e.g. non-European) models of adaptation (Storp Weber) so that housing design performance extends the importance of wellbeing from internal space/density ratio to enliven/reclaim external spaces of the neighbourhood as parts of the ‘home’. Patrick and Sabine also showed how a principle of low-cost adaptation has now revived the social housing failure of Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation housing project in Le Briey, northern France.

These nuances of scale of design highlighted how, whilst there may well be a tendency to identify two opposing approaches – that is, the ‘generic’ regulatory approach versus the ‘specific’ singular design approach – also visible are flexible/open-ended design approaches by architects and their respective professional and client communities which do not solely promote one approach at the exclusion of the other. Nici Zimmerman’s graphic modelling of the social, economic, political, environmental and cultural forces that drive the contemporary housing and wellbeing landscape, provided an interesting analytical assessment of how these relations are multi-faceted and complex both on the micro and macro scales. Her ‘long-view’ approach to ‘integrated decision-making’ for improving effective environmental design of housing and the health of UK cities and their inhabitants helped to capture, clarify and visualise the complex formation of wellbeing in built environment discussions.

Finally, in his closing remarks to the day, Adrian Forty observed that the conversations could be defined in three ways: first, that while today’s current political outlook is clearly poor for housing, the presentations show us that architects working with housing are mindful of these situations, but also choose to work beyond them; that is, architects have always, and still do, respond to their political and social contexts by exploring how design can change the built and social realities of their clients and society.  Second, there was concern about whether regulated design standards are beneficial, and third, architects are, perhaps one of the few, or only groups able to make sure that wellbeing is an ethical standard in housing

Adrian’s points highlight that there’s merit not to assume a binary position of either exclusively supporting an approach to regulated housing design or non-regulated criteria; rather a mix of approaches at different scales may provide greater flexibility and effectiveness to tackling the issue. Also, wellbeing is an ethical principle in housing design: for example, also following Adrian’s responses, housing is a social asset in which wellbeing is an inherited or genetic principle of value that does not produce its entire or measurable contribution to society in the immediate present. Instead, its ethical contribution may emerge or be realised over a historical period of time.

Podcasts of the day to follow.

Spinoza and Proportion Conference – Speakers announced

Spinoza and Proportion

A conference of the AHRC Equalities of Wellbeing project

5-6 May 2015, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

This conference will explore different aspects of proportion in Spinoza’s philosophy. We are delighted to announce our list of speakers. Please follow the blog by email to receive updates.

Spinoza and Proportion provisional programme now available.


Simon Duffy (Yale-NUS College, Singapore): “Proportion as a barometer of the affective life in Spinoza”

Helene Frichot (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm): “Slownesses and Speeds, Latitudes and Longitudes: In the Vicinity of Beatitude”

Gokhan Kodalak (Cornell University): “Spinoza, affective architecture, and proportionate power”

Mike LeBuffe (University of Otago): “The place of body in Spinoza’s metaphysics” (by Skype)

Beth Lord (University of Aberdeen): “Spinoza’s ratios and relational autonomy”

Heidi Ravven (Hamilton College): “Ratio and activity: Spinoza’s biologizing of the mind in an Aristotelian key” (by Skype)

Peg Rawes (University College London): “Dissimiliarity: Spinoza’s geometric ratios and housing crises”

Anthony Uhlmann (University of Western Sydney): “‘The eyes of the mind': ratio and art in Spinoza and Swift”

Valtteri Viljanen (University of Turku): “Spinoza’s ontology geometrically illustrated: a reading of Ethics 2P8S”

Stefan White (Manchester Metropolitan University): “The greater part: how intuition makes a better world”

Timothy Yenter (University of Mississippi): “Harmony in Spinoza and his critics”

Eventbrite - Spinoza and Proportion Conference

Organization: Beth Lord s.b.lord@abdn.ac.uk

British Academy events on Wellbeing

An interesting series of British Academy events (at various venues) on Wellbeing. The fourth event, taking a relational perspective on poverty, looks particularly interesting in light of Ranciere’s work on “counting” and “the part that has no part”.

Text from the British Academy email newsletter follows.

Events take place both at the British Academy 10-11 Carlton House Terrace and at partner venues around the UK. Many are free to attend.

What is Well-being?
Wednesday 14 January, 6-7.30pm
Venue: The Lowry, Salford
What should the term ‘well-being’ encompass, what contributes to it, and why is it important? How does this differ across social, historical and cultural contexts? What is relevant to our well-being beyond basic material needs or wants? Health? Community? Capabilities? Risks? Fulfilment? Happiness?
Chair: Felicity Goodey CBE, Lifelong President of The Lowry Centre Trust
Paul Dolan, Professor of Behavioural Science, Department of Social Policy, LSE
Gregor Henderson, National Lead for Wellbeing and Mental Health with Public Health England
Richard Bentall FBA, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool
Bernadette Conlon, Chief Executive, Start in Salford

Social and Economic Change and Well-being
Wednesday 4 February, 6-7.30pm
Venue: National Museum Wales, Cardiff
How should different concepts of well-being affect our understanding of social and economic change? How can well-being be measured? And what impact might these measurement processes have? How does social and economic change influence well-being?
Nicola Heywood Thomas, BBC Radio Wales
Martine Durand, Director of Statistics OECD
Anthony Heath FBA, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Oxford
Gareth Williams, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Cardiff Institute of Society, Health and Well-Being
Gareth Puttock, Director, ACE Cardiff

Enriching our lives – why the Humanities and Social Sciences matter now
Tuesday 3 February, 6-7.30pm,
Venue: The New Theatre, LSE, London
Panel Discussion
What is the true nature of ‘prosperity’ in today’s world? How does a world-leading centre of research and teaching excellence such as the LSE drive it forward? As part of the British Academy’s Prospering Wisely project, we will explore how humanitites and social science research fuels our modern knowledge-based economy, helps sustain our healthy democracy and contributes to human and cultural well-being. As a nation are we investing sufficiently in these drivers of future success and human progress?
Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities
Lord (Nicholas) Stern of Brentford, President of the British Academy and IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government, LSE
Professor Julia Black, Director of Research, LSE

‘To count for nothing': Poverty beyond the statistics
Thursday 5 February, 6-7.15pm

Venue: The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace
The British Academy Lecture
Professor the Baroness Ruth Lister of Burtersett CBE, FBA, FAcSS, House of Lords and Loughborough University
Beyond the statistics that tend to dominate much public debate, a focus on the experience of poverty reveals its relational as well as material nature. The lecture will explore this understanding of poverty with reference to the impact of the discourses that shame ‘the poor’ as ‘the other’ who ‘counts for nothing’.

Housing and Wellbeing Seminar (Part 2)

Housing and Wellbeing Seminar (Part 2) 10-5, Friday 30 January Bartlett School of Architecture UCL 140 Hampstead Road

​Panel discussions from UCL staff & other colleagues on: approaches to social housing design and its histories current planning guidance and practices new housing association commissions physical and environmental health relations retrofit and the ‘Green Deal’

Speakers include: Peter Bishop (Bartlett UCL/Allies & Morrison) Jan Kattein (Bartlett UCL & Jan Kattein Architects) Sofie Pelsmakers (The Energy Institute, UCL) Simon Pepper (University of Liverpool) Jane Rendell (Bartlett UCL) Patrick Weber and Sabine Storp (Bartlett UCL/ Storp Weber Architecture) Nici Zimmerman (Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, UCL)

Booking information to follow in January 2015