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Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 30, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 143 ratings
Book 11 of 25: Jewish Encounters Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This biography of 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) may seem out of place in the Jewish Encounters series, devoted to Jewish thinkers and themes, because Spinoza denied the importance of Jewish identity, and Amsterdam's Jewish community expelled him for heresy. But Goldstein, author of The Mind-Body Problem and Incompleteness and a professor of philosophy, reconstructs Spinoza's life and traces his metaphysics to his efforts to solve the dilemmas of Jewish identity. The philosopher grew up in a community of Jews who had fled the Spanish-Portuguese Inquisition. As Goldstein argues, Spinoza's "determination to think through his community's tragedy in the most universal terms possible compelled him to devise a unique life for himself, insisting on secularism when the concept of it had not yet been conceived." For Spinoza, "salvation" lay in achieving the radical objectivity of pure reason, which dissolves the contingent facts of one's personal history and religious and ethnic identity. Spinoza's effort to live as neither Jew nor Christian nor Muslim was unthinkable in the 17th century, but his arguments for political and religious tolerance were forerunners for the U.S. Constitution. In this admirable biography, Goldstein shows that Spinoza is paradoxically Jewish, "[f]or what can be more characteristic of a Jewish thinker than to use the Jewish experience as a conduit to universality?" (May)
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“Beautifully crafted. What seem like separate issues—Spinoza’s pioneering advocacy of complete freedom of thought in religious matters; the turmoil in the Jewish community; the fateful events in Amsterdam in the closing years of Spinoza’s life; the philosophical developments of the seventeenth century; Spinoza’s idea of a philosophical religion utterly purged of all anthropomorphism, even to the extent of denying that God is a ‘person’ in any sense—come together as if by themselves (the sure sign of a fine artist!) to answer my puzzle: how to understand Spinoza the human being, a man for whom reason itself was a kind of salvation.”
—Hilary Putnam, New York Observer

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • ASIN : B002T450PU
  • Publisher : Schocken; annotated edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 304 pages
  • Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
  • Dimensions : 5.3 x 1.1 x 7.6 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 143 ratings

Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
143 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on September 11, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on November 15, 2013
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Reviewed in the United States on March 15, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on June 1, 2016
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Top reviews from other countries

Prof. Joao Eduardo Gata
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book but somewhat flawed
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 6, 2020
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2 people found this helpful
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Ralph Blumenau
3.0 out of 5 stars How Jewish was Spinoza?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 26, 2017
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3 people found this helpful
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Prof Michael Grenfell
3.0 out of 5 stars ... was a very readable book and gave me a good lesson in Jewish history
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 27, 2018
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 21, 2017
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Lauren Slater
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read! Spinoza is a fascinating philosopher and
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 27, 2016
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