I am in Krakow this week presenting a paper on the Concept of Equality in Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise (an earlier version of this paper is available here). This is part of a seminar series on Radical and Conservative Thinkers in the Enlightenment at the Institute of Philosophy, Jagiellonian University.
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We met today with Alex Ely (mae architects) and Phil Hamilton (Peter Barber Architects), two architects and designers who will join the project’s advisory group. We had a very interesting and helpful discussion about the project and the relevance of Spinoza’s concept of proportion to current debates about housing design aimed at equality and wellbeing.
It was particularly interesting for me to learn about the tensions between the need for standardization in housing design (e.g. minimum space requirements for living) and the creativity to respond to individual and community desires (which might be, e.g., for smaller than minimum spaces). It’s interesting to consider whether Spinoza suggests that that tension is overcome through collective rational decision making: on his view, the best model of living is not arrived at through the imposition of standards or ratios, but by those ratios emerging from collective rational thought. Our discussion also drew out one element of what we find compelling about Spinoza’s concept of proportion: it is a way of conceiving equality that allows for difference and diversity. There is more to think about on these themes and their connection to housing.
We got some valuable guidance on setting up our advisory group, and we look forward to talking to Alex and Phil further as the project progresses.