Cover image for Spinoza : a life
Spinoza : a life
Nadler, Steven M., 1958-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiii, 407 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
B3997 .N33 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was one of the most important philosophers of all time; he was also arguably the most radical and controversial. This was the first complete biography of Spinoza in any language and is based on detailed archival research. More than simply recounting the story of Spinoza's life, the book takes the reader right into the heart of Jewish Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and, with Spinoza's exile from Judaism, right into the midst of the tumultuous political, social, intellectual and religious world of the young Dutch Republic. Though the book will be an invaluable resource for philosophers, historians, and scholars of Jewish thought, it has been written for any member of the general reading public with a serious interest in philosophy, Jewish history, seventeenth-century European history, and the culture of the Dutch Golden Age. Spinoza: A Life has recently been awarded the Koret Jewish Book Award.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Baruch Spinoza (1632^-77) is one of the most well known and well studied philosophers, though no accurate biography has yet been written about him. Born in Amsterdam into a small and close-knit community of expatriate Portuguese Jews, he was exiled from the community at the age of 21, for reasons that are speculative at best. In fact, little is known about his life, his education, his precocity, or his family before this event, which influenced his life and his philosophy in countless ways. Nadler effectively integrates historical background, factual statistics, and philosophical thought into his portrayal of Spinoza and his remarkable life. Without being too heady and not getting into the minor tenets of Spinoza's naturalistic philosophical argument, Nadler presents his thoughts and arguments in a clear, contextual format, carefully demonstrating the original viewpoints that made Spinoza unique and lasting. This is a wonderful look at seventeenth-century Dutch history, Jewish history, and the history of philosophy. Excellent for the reader with a layperson's interest in philosophy. --Michael Spinella

Library Journal Review

Nadler (philosophy, Univ. of Wisconsin at Madison) is active in the Center for Jewish Studies there, which is reflected in one of the major questions he attempts to answer in this biography: "What did it mean to be a philosopher and a Jew in the Dutch Golden Age?" He answers it convincingly in this thoroughly researched study. Scholars will find this work rigorous enough for them, but it was also written with the general reader in mind. Spinoza (1632-77) is a notoriously difficult thinker, yet Nadler has given us not only as detailed a picture of Spinoza's life as we are likely to see, based on the best recent scholarship, but also an analysis of Spinoza's ideas that the nonspecialist will find understandable and provocative. For academic and public collections in philosophy, Jewish studies, and 17th-century European history.¬ĎLeon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Mgt. Lib., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This is the first book-length biography in English of Baruch Spinoza, the great 17th-century rationalist philosopher. It offers a thorough treatment, beginning with an account of the movement of Spanish and Portuguese Jews to the Netherlands in search of religious liberty, and including a history of the family, starting with Spinoza's grandparents. Spinoza was despised by many, both in his time and later, primarily for his radical views about religion, but the man who emerges in this portrait had the highest character and enjoyed a large circle of loyal friends. Throughout his highly readable narrative, Nadler (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) describes the circumstances surrounding the composition of Spinoza's treatises, summarizes the main points of the writing, and includes quotations of relevant passages. By reading this book, one can learn a lot about the man and his times, but also something about his philosophical and political theories. Nadler is primarily a political scientist, and he does a good job of relating Spinoza's ideas to the political and cultural environment in which he lived. This book is clearly written and exhibits impressive scholarship. Includes 11 plates (maps and portraits). Highly recommended for the libraries of schools where philosophy or political science is studied. H. Pospesel; University of Miami

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
1 Settlementp. 1
2 Abraham and Michaelp. 27
3 Bento/Baruchp. 42
4 Talmud Torahp. 61
5 A Merchant of Amsterdamp. 80
6 Cheremp. 116
7 Benedictusp. 155
8 A Philosopher in Rijnsburgp. 182
9 "The Jew of Voorburg"p. 203
10 Homo Politicusp. 245
11 Calm and Turmoil in The Haguep. 288
12 "A free man thinks least of all of death"p. 320
A Note on Sourcesp. 353
Notesp. 355
Bibliographyp. 389
Indexp. 401