My research focuses on accounts of human nature in the 17th and 18th centuries, along two general tracks.
First, I’m particularly interested in the place the passions (what we would call emotions) hold in these accounts as the loci of connection between individual human beings and the world around them. I’ve written a fair amount on how Descartes’s account of the passions impacts his account of the human being as a union of mind and body. I’m also particularly interested in how Spinoza and Malebranche respond to Descartes’s account and in Hume’s account of the passions in relation to his epistemology and moral philosophy. Currently, I am focused on the concept of pleasure in these philosophical views, and in particular how pleasure figures in accounts of human understanding (rather than action). I also have interests in 18th century empiricism, both the English and French traditions (in particular Condillac), and equally in the intersection of philosophy and medicine in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Second, I’m invested in the efforts to rehabilitate the work of women thinkers of the early modern period — some of whom you may have heard of, others of whom you may have not. I am the PI on a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant to establish New Narratives in the History of Philosophy that include many of these women. The grant period runs from 2015-2018, and we will be building research networks by supporting a series of workshops and conferences, the development of a new anthology of early modern philosophy (Broadview, forthcoming), and hopefully, creating a new digital collection, among other activities. Click on the link to find out what we are up to.
My translation of the whole of the correspondence between Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and Descartes is available from the University of Chicago Press, Other Voice in Early Modern Europe Series.
The volume I co-edited with Martin Pickave — Emotion and Cognitive Life in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy — was published by Oxford University Press in 2012.
I’ve edited the Oxford Philosophical Concepts series volume Pleasure: History, which will be out in June or July 2018. I cannot help but say that I am really pleased by the collection of essays in the volume. I learned a lot about the concept of pleasure editing the volume, and especially about how we ended up in the latter half of the 20th century reducing pleasure to motivation or desire. It was not the story I expected to emerge.
Contact: lshapiro at sfu dot ca (changing the ‘at’ and the ‘dot’ as appropriate)
You can find a current CV here: shapirocv201803(pdf)
Here is a [now somewhat dated] version of a summary of my research program : Shapiro Research Statement 2014 (pdf)
The image on the header of this blog comes from a photo of one of the manuscript letters from Elisabeth to Descartes. The manuscript is not in Elisabeth’s hand, but rather is a copy, thought to be from the early 18th century. You can read more about the mysteries of the provenance of the manuscript, and the story of how it was found, disappeared and retrieved, in the introduction to the volume of the correspondence.