As a Spinoza enthusiast, I've heard way too many glib efforts over the years to link Spinoza to the Stoics. Thankfully, we finally have a book -- and a very well written one at that -- that analyzes how Spinoza borrows from the Stoics and how his philosophy departs from theirs. DeBrabander's Spinoza comes across as altogether different from the model Stoic philosopher. Rather than burying the emotions beneath that Leviathan known as the Stoic capacity for "self control," Spinoza is shown to be a philosopher who respects the power of passions. In fact, DeBrabander's Spinoza embraces the passions as the "path to salvation."
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.