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Sunday, August 20, 2006

 

Spinoza

This looks like a great new Biography of Spinoza -
Irwin

A breathtaking biography of the renegade Jewish philosopher who gave us the modern world.

On July 27, 1656, Amsterdam's Jewish community declared Baruch Spinoza excommunicated, and, at the age of twenty-three, he became the most famous heretic in Judaism. His "abominable heresies"? He denied the immortality of the soul and challenged the accepted belief that the Torah was literally given by God. His work remains as resonant and provocative today as it was when it first appeared.In Betraying Spinoza, Rebecca Goldstein sets out to rediscover the flesh-and-blood man often buried beneath the veneer of rigorous rationality and to provide a comprehensive cultural and religious context for the formation of his ideas. Here is a Spinoza both hauntingly emblematic and deeply human, both heretic and hero—a surprisingly contemporary figure ripe for our own uncertain age. InterviewExcerptReader's GuideBuy this book:AmazonBarnes and NobleBook Sense Group sales
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
REBECCA NEWBERGER GOLDSTEIN is the author of Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel and of five novels and a book of short stories. She is a professor of philosophy and a Fellow at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute. She lives in Cambridge and Truro, Massachusetts.

REVIEWS & PRESS



"Elegant...splendid... Goldstein (whose book belongs to a series of short volumes on Jewish thought) wants to reclaim Spinoza's famously dismissive attitude toward notions like ethnic identity as a paradoxically Jewish position."
—Laura Miller, SalonIn Betraying Spinoza, "Rebecca Goldstein aims to show how much his heritage nonetheless pervades his later thought. To do this, she offers both a precis of Spinoza's life and work and a history of her fascination with both."
—Michael Dirda, The Washington PostRebecca Goldstein has written "both a popular biography that explains Spinoza's thought with considerable seriousness and a philosophic biography that is a remarkably good read. That her account becomes partly autobiographical is ultimately a strength of the book, since her experience with Spinoza stands in for that of many of her readers."
—Fred Baumann, The New York Sun"If, like me, you have ever felt daunted by Spinoza's thought, Rebecca Goldstein's captivating new book provides the key. By engaging with not only Spinoza's Jewish origins but her own Jewish upbringing, Goldstein brilliantly—and movingly—illuminates this self-effacing champion of rationalism and secularism. Excommunicated for heresy by the Jewish community of Amsterdam, Spinoza was thereby excommunicated from his own (and Europe's past) and freed to leap forward to a future of unbounded individual inquiry. Enlightening in every sense.
—Niall Ferguson, author of Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire and Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at HarvardWe are all children of Spinoza. But even now we are in danger of betraying him. Rebecca Goldstein reminds us of what is urgently at stake in a clear-eyed appreciation of this prophet of tolerance, democratic value, and authentic faith. This book is as timely as it is beautifully crafted.
—James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword and House of WarThis is a splendid book. Goldstein provides a richly illuminating history of the Amsterdam Jewish community in which Spinoza was born and raised, and by which his distinctive outlook on human life was formed; she develops perspicuous accounts of some of Spinoza's most central metaphysical and ethical doctrines; and she sketches insightful portraits of his intellectual and personal identities. In all of her approaches to Spinoza—historical, philosophical, and personal—her work is both satisfying as scholarship and a pleasure to read.
—Harry Frankfurt, bestselling author of On Bullshit and professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton University"Rebecca Goldstein has written a brilliant, engaging and personal reflection on Spinoza's thinking, life, and historical context. I read this intellectual page-turner in one sitting. I recommend it to anyone curious to know how Spinoza was doubly betrayed, first by those who failed to acknowledge his monumental contribution to modernity and then by those who are now intent on dismantling it".
—Antonio Damasio, author of Looking for Spinoza and Descartes' Error"With a novelist's imagination and a philosopher's clarity, Rebecca Goldstein gives us a richly personal and accessible account of Spinoza's life and thought. This is a rare and paradoxical feat, since Spinoza urged us to look beyond our passions and particularity, to see the world from the standpoint of eternity. Goldstein illuminates Spinoza by "betraying" him—by showing how Spinoza's universalist philosophy arose from his predicament as a renegade Jewish thinker, excommunicated by the Jewish community in seventeenth century Amsterdam."
—Michael J. Sandel, author of Public Philosophy and professor of government at Harvard University
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