Hegel famously wrote, “thought must begin by placing itself at the standpoint of Spinozism”. This class offers a close reading of the Ethics. We will examine carefully Spinoza’s guiding assumptions, rhetoric and arguments—for example the geometrical method, substance monism, necessitarianism, the denial of teleology, the theory of freedom and adequate ideas and the third kind of knowledge. And we will continuously relate this metaphysics to Spinoza’s position on ethics, state authority and revolution. Special attention will be given to Spinoza’s attempt to provide a radically secular framework of thinking—relating ethics and politics to rationalist metaphysics rather than religion. Hopefully by the end of the semester we will have an idea why “thought must begin” at the “standpoint of Spinozism”—and perhaps also why eventually it must abandon this standpoint.