- Paperback: 280 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st US - 1st Printing edition (February 7, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691000670
- ISBN-13: 978-0691000671
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Spinoza Reader: The Ethics and Other Works 1st US - 1st Printing Edition
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
This anthology of the work of Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) presents the text of Spinoza's masterwork, the 'Ethics, ' in what is now the standard translation by Edwin Curley.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book was one of the most challenging that I have ever read.
First, for those who are wondering what is in it and what might be left out, 'A Spinoza Reader' contains the entirety of 'The Ethics', which constitutes most of this book, and so it has only a limited number of Spinoza's other writings. Those few are carefully selected from his primary published work known as the Theological-Political Treatise ('The Ethics' was unpublished in Spinoza's lifetime), along with some unpublished fragments that preceded and foreshadowed `The Ethics', and several letters to his friends which discuss his ideas a little less formally. These letters are helpful in spelling out both what Spinoza means by many of his more abstract fundamental concepts, and how clearly he (I dare say wrongly) supposed his logic and meaning were explicitly self-evident.
`The Spinoza Reader' also contains a very helpful 25 page introduction by the translator ('The Ethics' was originally written in Latin with some Dutch), which covers key biographical facts and other background material, so that one need not know much at all about Spinoza to get a good cursory appreciation for his ideas just from the book alone.
Written in some secrecy in the 17th Century, and not only unpublished in Spinoza's lifetime but also banned by Orthodox Jews and Catholics for many years after, 'The Ethics' (along with the writings of Descartes, Pascal, John Lock, and a few others) is part of the landmark in human thought with respect to questioning of traditional intellectual authority (particularly religious authority in this case) by the application of logic and reason, which is now known now as modernism; as opposed not only to traditional authoritarianism in the distant past, but also to postmodernism, which seems to question everything, including logic, reason, and even reality itself.
The writing in this 300-page book is very tedious (It took me as long to read as it did to read 'War and Peace', which is more than four times longer and not exactly light reading either), primarily because 'The Ethics' is stylistically modeled on Euclid's writings on the logical foundations of Geometry -- but still, for those few folks who have taken classes in the foundations of logic or have studied and enjoyed pure math or college level philosophy and thus who will not be put to sleep by such a brutally non-intuitive approach to knowledge-building -- for those few of us, reading 'The Ethics' is a great way to contemplate the meaning of life and the idea of God as conceived by an original, highly influencial, and intellectually courageous iconoclast from the dawn of the so-called Age of Reason. And for me, knowing that this book was banned for so long (and that Spinoza was excommunicated by the Holland Jewish community for similar ideas) pushed me to keep reading so that I could get to the core of his thesis.
Put very simply, this thesis seems to be: God is hypothetically knowable to all of us, but is not accurately represented in any biblical anthropomorphisms. Instead this God *is* the universe itself, and at the same time *is* all ideas in the universe, along with any other unknown infinite substances.
And more practically: our purpose is to know this God, and in order to get closer to Him (one might even say `closer to It', since to Spinoza, God is not a person in any way), we must (for reasons which he deduces literally with mathematical logic and precision from his definition of God) strive not to sink to negative relations with our fellow man or succumb to passions (lust, anger, envy, etc.) formed in ignorance of the infinite chain of cause-and-effect which leads to any given passion; and above all, we must accept that absolutely everything in nature is a manifestation of this God. Einstein's God.
Spinoza argues that primitive religious ideas and poetic language mask the beatitude of a God almost, but not quite coterminous with nature, who is far too great to be made in man's image. He is based on necessary principles, such as the sort intuited by Einstein in the thought experiments that led 100 years ago to the relativity of space and time and the convertibility of mass and energy-to nuclear weapons and the Nobel Peace Prize. We are part of nature. Although I take issue with Spinoza's (and Descartes', whom he was following) claim that nature never acts "for the sake of some end" (p. 198)-because the second law of thermodynamics clearly leads systems to end-states of equilibrium-it is fascinating to see how this deep prejudice-a tonic against superstitious humanity's earlier over-reliance on the concept of divine will-comes into nature. And I agree that final causes play no role in a truly infinitely existing being, as Spinoza posits of God (p. 198): "That eternal and infinite being we call God, or Nature, acts from the same necessity from which he exists. For we have shown...that the necessity of nature from which he acts is the same as that from which he exists. The reason, thereofore, or cause, why God, or nature, acts, and the reason why he exists, are one and the same. As he exists for the sake of no end, he also acts for the sake of no end. Rather, as he has no principle or end of existing, so he also has none of acting. What is called a final cause is nothing but a human appetite insofar as it is considered as a principle, or primary cause, of some thing." God-manifesting to our limited senses as Nature-is not to be taken personally. He is too great for that. One of the great documents in the west, key to understanding the progress of both religion and science.