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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.
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on 3 September 2013
The Penguin edition is good, as Penguin editions generally are.

As for the text itself; yes, it is, as one reviewer has pointed out, rather hard going. It is, however, well worth persevering with the text, particularly if you are fond of arguing, debates, exploring logic etc.

Whatever you may think of Spinoza's conclusions, Ethics is certainly a better read than any modern nonsense which the general buying public praise as 'profound.'
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on 17 November 2015
Let me be clear, this is not an attack on Spinoza's Ethics but it is for whoever managed to get the Penguin Curley translation linked to this one, which is the incredibly dated Elwes translation, which is freely available all over the internet.
Would have been really helpful if somebody had pointed this out.
I mean it's only 70 pence, but still, annoying.
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on 3 November 2014
The standard English translation to date. But quite a slimmed down edition: not many footnotes.
See Curley's "Collected Works of Spinoza", which is more expensive, but the footnotes are very useful.
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on 11 December 2016
Ethics presents a monolithic metaphysical system, derived from axioms and definitions, possessing austere beauty and, it seems, great psychological insight. This is especially found in Spinoza's enumeration of the basic emotions and the elaborations of these, plus his solution to the problems they consistently cause to human beings.

Apart from that, Spinoza is enormously invested in an elaborate higher metaphysics, melding sublime notions of God, man, and nature. Upon that foundation, after a couple of hundred pages of seamless order, political philosophy is dealt with in only one page. (The result is frightening.)

At one point, by use use of his relentless geometrical method, Spinoza derives the conclusion that it is perfectly okay for humans to cause serious suffering to animals. This seems to be because we are, in some curious Spinozistic fashion, special. If this pure style of philosophical reasoning is grounded on the assumption that 'all other things are equal' (and it is my sense that this is the case), it is at least interesting. But perhaps all other things are never equal: there is no condition of ceteris paribus in the real world. After witnessing the perfect movement from high-flown abstract principles to the justification of extreme cruelty to animals, I hope so. Spinoza doesn't hold back, but something goes wrong.

At a higher level, the notions of body and thought being but two of the limitless modes of what he refers to as "God", as well as the only two accessible to our understanding, is engaging and evocative. As is well known, Einstein stated that the God he believed in was the Spinozist God. The Ethics was a major influence on enlightenment philosophy and is a classic statement of the non-existence of free will, and it's account of the relation between mind and body may be of abiding interest. Perhaps it is a book you should read if you really want to, and pass over without guilt if you don't. In any case I very much enjoyed it.
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on 27 May 2015
Another great book and yet again whilst it shows how religions react to the truth and condemn, we live in a very funny world.
Loved the book. The only problem is the way it is put across, very brain tiring.
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on 13 May 2010
Some gems of deductive thinking, and well worth the read as we travel through God, why we are here, the capabilities of the human mind etc. The first chapter is excellent but as it goes on you fell this is ground already covered and the points made are hidden among pages of not-very-interesting stuff. Still recommended for the serious or serial arguer.
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on 30 December 2014
Levely edition of this old favourite.
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on 19 February 2013
I needed as a help and reference to research and writing several papers. Penguin Classics is for sure an excellent collection.
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on 7 June 2015
All good thanks
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