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Spinoza's 'Ethics': An Introduction (Cambridge Introductions to Key Philosophical Texts) 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521836203
ISBN-10: 0521836204
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Editorial Reviews


"Steevn Nadler's new book...is an excellent guide to Spinzoa's magnum opus and a substanial contribution to Spinoza scholarship. This is precisely the kind of book that Spinoza scholarship in English has needed for a very long time...It is a pleasure to read (or rather, study) Nadler's book, and it is a pleasure to respond to its challenges. This engaging introduction to Spinoza's Ethics is highly sophisticated, lucide, and comprehensive. It makes significant contributions to Spinoza scholarship, and I have little doubt that it will be a great asset to bot hbeginning students and advanced scholars." - Yitzhak Y. Melamed, University of Chicago

Book Description

In this 2006 book, Nadler explains the doctrines and arguments of the Ethics and examines the philosophical background to Spinoza's thought and the dialogues in which Spinoza was engaged. He shows why Spinoza's endlessly fascinating ideas may have been so troubling to his contemporaries, as well as why they are still highly relevant today.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Introductions to Key Philosophical Texts
  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (July 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521836204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521836203
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,903,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Thomas Llewellyn on August 13, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rarely have I seen a philosophical commentary that exhibits such clarity, intelligence, and good judgment. This book is a superb introduction for students and at the same time there is sufficient quality analysis to benefit advanced readers. Spinoza's Ethics is an extremely difficult text, and Professor Nadler's explication is an outstanding contribution to the Spinoza literature. An added bonus is that the sparkling lucidity and subtle elegance of the prose does indeed make for pleasurable reading.

I see no point in repeating what Nadler says about Spinoza. There are no obvious weak sections in the book, and the analyses of several themes are of very high quality. The discussion of Spinoza's atheism (so-called atheism?) is the best I have read in my (admittedly limited) foray into Spinoza scholarship. I was also very impressed with the chapters on Spinoza's theory of knowledge (Ch. 6) and virtue (Ch. 8). This is definitely first-rate philosophical commentary.

I do believe that this book is the best introduction to Spinoza. My study recommendations are as follows: (l) When reading the Ethics for the first time, read Nadler's book along side it. (2) On a second reading of the Ethics (and it should be read at least twice), read with it Bennett's rigorous work, A Study of Spinoza's Ethics. Upon completion of this demanding task one should have a working knowledge of one of the most difficult and important philosophers in the Western tradition.
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Format: Paperback
Spinoza's "Ethics" completely deserves its reputation as a difficult and almost impenetrable philosophic classic. Even a brief foray into its pages reveals a surreal and almost alien structure that molds mathematical proofs and philosophy into a forbidding and seemingly chaotic narrative. A closer inspection suggests that something profoundly interesting lurks in the definitions, axioms and propositions, but the manner of presentation may raise doubts as to whether further study will ever pay off. Not only that, Part One's title, "On God," might cause some to think, erroneously, that Spinoza's undisputed masterpiece comprises a turgid theological analysis akin to Augustine's "City of God" or Leibniz's "Theodicy." Sadly, nothing in the dizzying Escherian form of the "Ethics" implies its numerous elegant ideas that still resonate poignantly more than three hundred years following its publication. As such, anyone new to Spinoza should first seek secondary commentary and analysis before plunging into the labyrinthine abyss of the "Ethics." Via this route, the effort, though still not easy, will pay off.

Introductions to Spinoza vary greatly. Extremely short works such as Scruton's concise "Spinoza: A Very Short Introduction" or "Spinoza in 90 minutes" help to build a foundation but they may also leave lingering questions that only a larger work can answer. An excellent example of one such larger work is Steven Nadler's "Spinoza's Ethics: An Introduction." This book provides enough detail and background to help prepare the brave for an actual excursion into the primary text itself. It covers all aspects of the "Ethics" rigorously while remaining accessible to all but the absolute beginner.
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Format: Hardcover
Spinoza is fascinating and his arguments powerfully persuasive and astonishingly relevant today. But he is tough, and at first glance, maybe crazy. Nadler is a Spinoza specialist who wrote a wonderful intellectual biography published by Cambridge. He does a great job here of introducing and clarifying the ideas and showing the precise historical antecedents in Descartes, etc. Really fine work and especially when compared to other introductions in this series (for instance, the Descartes' Meditations and Aristotle's Ethics intros are TERRIBLE). I've been studying Spinoza for years but this book still taught me a few things.

Related readings: Jonathan Israel's "Radical Enlightenment." A huge history book but really really good and it shows how Spinoza was everywhere. The author also put out a recent translation of Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise available also by Cambridge U. Press, and which is a great companion to the ethics (maybe even a better place to start with Spinoza than the tricky ethics).

If you want to go from Nadler's fine intro to the next step, read H. A. (Harry Austryn) Wolfson's canonical, authoritative, unparalleled historical study "The Philosophy of Spinoza." It's not in print but copies abound. There are two volumes (the unified edition is not worth it, it will crumble to pieces). Springing for hard-back is worth it, as you'll read the book many times. It is a fantastic resource on Spinoza. If you read French then Martial Geurault is the standard. For contemporary continental takes on Spinoza, see "The New Spinoza." Etienne Balibar's "Spinoza and Politics" is great too. Many people like Deleuze's reading of Spinoza - he has two books, a big one and a little one.
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