Top positive review
51 people found this helpful
on 17 December 2007
It seems almost impertinent of me to review Spinoza's masterpiece. I would give it ten stars if I could.
In this age of theological chop-logic and political spin, Spinoza's Euclidean method of arguing for God-or-Nature as the self-causing, single, infinite substance conceived under infinite attributes (or aspects) of which we humans have knowledge only of two (thought and matter), soars far above the heads of most contemporary academics and bewilders first year philosophy students, who are routinely advised to leave Spinoza well alone and settle down with Descartes instead. What a great deal they miss!
The book is in five parts: 1. Of God; 2. Of the Nature and Origin of the Mind; 3. Of the Origin and Nature of the Affects; 4.Of Human Bondage, or the Power of the Affects; 5. Of the Power of the Intellect, or On Human Freedom.
It is not easy reading, but studying it with an open mind will pay huge dividends.
Spinoza takes us step by logical step, from basic axioms via propositions, demonstrations and explanations, to a world view which inspired Einstein to formulate his theories of relativity, which started the romanticist movement, and which provided the foundations for modern existentialism.
Spinoza was excommunicated by the Catholic Church, booted out by the Quakers and expelled from the synagogue; he was cursed, reviled, and anathematized. Matthew Arnold begins his essay 'Spinoza and the Bible' with the full force of the rabbinic vehemence, "By the sentence of the angels, by the decree of the saints, we anathematize, cut off, curse, and execrate Baruch Spinoza...cursed be he by day, and cursed by night...the Lord pardon him never, the wrath and fury of the Lord burn upon this man.... The Lord blot out his name under heaven.... There shall no man speak to him, no man write to him, no man show him any kindness, no man stay under the same roof with him."
This cheap penguin edition is nicely produced with an attractive cover, though it's a pity the proof reader didn't spot that Spinoza's name is spelt `Spinza' on the copyright page.
Stuart Hampshire's introduction is very helpful, and Edwin Curley's translation is superb.