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on 13 June 2007
A previous reviewer is right. This is indeed a difficult work. But as Spinoza himself says in the last sentence of his book: "everything that is beautiful is as difficult as it is rare". And this is without doubt a work of great beauty. But also a product of immense human wisdom, of a kind which remains iconoclastic to this day, and is capable of changing lives. Take this line for example: "we do not strain after anything, nor do we want, have an appetite for or desire anything, because we judge that it is good; but, on the contrary, we judge that something is good because we strain after it, because we want, or have an appetite for it, or desire it" (Part III, Propn 9, Scolia). In other words, the source of our ideas about moral value are in our bodies, not in the ideas of some immaterial soul - an insight which Nietzsche would capitalize on over 200 years later. This might seem quite abstract to those who are not used to reading philosophy, but the consequences are quite concrete and practical and inform our everyday actions and thoughts. This book will take some time and effort to read and absorb, but it could well change the way you think, feel, and act.
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on 18 March 2002
This book is a fine account of the original work by Spinoza but lacks some reference to the original like page numbers.For the genuine philosophy student a more expensive copy sholud be sought after.For anyone else that just wants to read spinozas ideas it does the job and should be sufficent to accompany your copy of goethes prometheus.
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on 13 January 2007
I don't know whether this book is intellectually consistent but I couldn't make head nor tail of it. If you are trained in philosophy, this is probably great for you. If you are a beginner, this book is not for you. It is VERY precise and systematic, reflecting Euclidean geometry. If you want to read about ethics, then Plato, Arisotle or Nietzsche are more comprehensible. This review is not a criticism, but rather a warning to steer cleer unless you know what you're getting yourself into.
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on 9 June 2009
This is a review of the Wordsworth edition.

One way that Wordsworth keep their classics cheap - around half the price of Penguin or OUP - is to publish things that are out of copyright. This is fine for works originally written in (modernish) English but not so good for translations. This edition of Spinoza's Ethics presents the fourth (1923) edition of W. H. White's translation but you only find the date buried in the Introduction by Garrett.

Spinoza is difficult to read by any standards and it doesn't help when, as in this case, the rendition is into an unnecessarily stilted style of English. Claimed originally to be the first useable translation of the Ethics into English, this one is showing its age rather badly and is best avoided IMO. Sadly this is characteristic of most of Wordsworth's editions of translated works. You almost get the feeling that they are trying to hide the age of the original because later translations from other publishers are significantly better.

On the other hand even an old translation shows the spirit of philosophical enquiry at its best. As a mathematician I warm to Spinoza's determined and extended axiomatic and deductive approach even if it is ultimately unsuccessful. Then there are the paradoxes: His theological standpoint shows the influence of Jewish thought yet bears echoes of Aquinas while advancing a pantheist point of view. Writing 200 years before Kierkegaard he nevertheless foreshadows several strands of thought later to be at the core of existentialism. Some of his precepts would be recognisable to Buddhists. Little of his metaphysics and epistemology holds water yet it makes surprising demands on modern analytical methods to disentangle them. Even today non-doctrinal religious people can find much spiritual comfort them in this enigmatic work.

As to the contents, Spinoza's Ethics is remarkable in that its concentrates almost entirely on the mental processes involved in contemplating good and evil. Starting from the notion of God as First Cause Spinoza first erects an edifice of inference on which his arguments are founded. Saying little of behaviour as such, he focusses, from a monist perspective, on the nature of mental acts as a basis for characterising ethical goodness. This is very different from the approach of later writers. Arguably the Ethics is best read as one of the landmarks of rationalist philosophy in contrast to that of Descartes, for it is difficult to fit into modern ethics except as part of its evolution. Such is the puzzle that is Spinoza.

This makes it all the more unfortunate that the translation is so flawed. If you want a low-cost edition, try the Penguin Classics offering.
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on 10 May 2016
Recognized as a challenging read, but persevering can bring rewarding moments. Best to read a limited amount at a time. This version is to be commended for the translation and the unmatched translator's introduction.
The book itself is well bound and durable and a real bargain at the price. Wordsworth Classics is a series that brings classics at a bargain price.
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on 8 January 2015
very happy. thank you.
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