Of all of the zoom events, conferences, and presentations that I have attended (zoomed?) this year the one dedicated to Spinoza after Marx was the most engaging, the one most capable of breaking through the zoom screen that makes everything feel further away even as it is so close, inches away even. This is in part because of the participants, but it was also due to the work of the organizers who, in an interesting variation on organizing around a common theme, presented a common set of theses that were discussed and debated over the course of the three days. Of course as great as this was as an online event it is hard not to think about how those conversations would have continued over dinner, at bars, and coffee shops. The event did create a collective act of thought, of thinking in common, but as Spinoza and Marx both know there is no thinking together, thinking in common, without acting and feeling in common.
This idea of bodies affecting minds, or, put simply "materialism" turned out to be one of the debated points of the conference. Materialism was not named directly in the circulated set of theses, although there were a few that touched on it, remarking on Marx and Spinoza's commitment to immanence and the primacy of practice to consciousness. (With respect to later that is partly what I talked about in my keynote, my paper has subsequently been published at Crisis and Critique, along with other stuff by Jaquet, Macherey, Morifino, Montag, Sharp, etc.) The question of materialism was raised by Gil Morejon. I believe that video of his presentation is available for patreon supporters of What's Left of Philosophy? (and you should be one) or you can listen to the recent episode on Spinoza.
I am not going to respond to his remarks directly here, but will get to one of the most important questions he raises at the end of the post. Instead I would like to begin with Pascal Sévérac's answer to the question in a short book titled Qu'y a-t-il de matérialiste chez Spinoza? Sévérac is the author of one of the most influential books on Spinoza in recent years, Le Devenir Actif Chez Spinoza, as well as the author and editor of other books dedicated to Spinoza. However this recent book is part of HDiffusion's Permanent University series, a series dedicated to popular education aimed a political action and social transformation. That Spinoza appears in such a series along with Lenin and a book on French Revolution (to name a few of the only titles that have appeared so far) shows to what extent the radical Spinoza has taken hold in at least certain sectors of French intellectual life.