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Spinoza and the Stoics: Power, Politics and the Passions (Bloomsbury Studies in Philosophy) Reprint Edition
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Well, OK. I'm not exactly suggesting the hero of this book is a wine-woman-and-song hedonist. But I couldn't help but enjoy the vitality of the Spinozist philosopher portrayed in this book. It is infinitely more attractive than, say, the ascetic stereotype of the Spinozist depicted in I.B. Singer's "The Spinoza of Market Street."
"Spinoza and the Stoics" may sound like a narrow topic for a book, but it covers quite a range of topics. Politics, ethics, theology, and psychology are all discussed at some length. For me, the single greatest portion of this work is its ending, in which DeBrabander demonstrates that Spinoza should no more be thought of as a utilitarian than as a Stoic. I am slated to teach a Spinoza workshop next month and very much look forward to sharing with the group verbatim this book's beautiful and insightful conclusion.
The book does discuss many interesting and thought provoking points, but it nevertheless disappointing because it could have been a much better book than it actually is.
As another reviewer has said here, the picture of Stoicism here has some detail, but is off target as the broader significance of Stoicism is not recognized, and hence, the picture of Spinoza is necessarily unbalanced. So the volume is readable if not particularly perceptive or original. There are so many wonderful and creative works on Spinoza (even the modest biography of Gullan Whur has merit), that I suggest non-academic readers look elsewhere.
However, I do have reduce the rating by one star for the author's recent article in the New York Times trying to lasso Spinoza's profound ideas to support the current President. It's highly doubtful that Obama's criticism of the private sector is sustained by Spinoza's concept of the 'deus sive natur'. I'm grateful, however, that the author didn't impute godlike qualities to contemporary politicians (of any stripe).