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A Life

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  • Date Published: April 2001
  • availability: Unavailable - out of print April 2019
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521002936

Out of Print

Unavailable - out of print April 2019
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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Was the first biography of Spinoza in any language
    • The Jewish angle is critical - Spinoza could be described as the first great modern Jewish thinker, and this book has the potential to appeal to a broad non-academic readership interested in Jewish thinkers
    • The Dutch Golden Age angle is critical. This book has a lot to say about the social and cultural life of seventeenth-century Amsterdam.
    • Koret Award
    Read more


    • Winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award 2000

    Reviews & endorsements

    "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....Highly recommended for the libraries of schools where philosophy or political science is studied." Choice

    "Scholars will find this work rigorous enough for them, but it was also written with the general reader in mind. Spinoza (1832-77) 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." Leon H. Brody, Library Journal

    "With eloquent sobriety and restraint, this biography of the Dutch-Jewish thinker whom Bertrand Russell called 'the most lovable of the philosophers' communicates much of its subject's rarefied spirit....Spinoza, so often sainted or demonized, at last receives a fine, measured biography." Kirkus Reviews

    "Nadler's biography is superb, the best I know....He puts the extraordinary man with surprisingly naturalistic ideas against the historical background and in discussion with contemporaries as well as with the reader." Wim Klever, Emeritus Professor, University of Rotterdam

    "A rich and illuminating biography of one of philosophy's most intriguing thinkers. Nadler deftly weaves together the details of Spinoza's life and thought, tracing his passage from the Sephardic community of his youth to the works of his maturity. The result is an exceptional book eminently readable and based on the best recent scholarship." Donald Rutherford, Emory University

    "Nadler's Spinoza: A Life is a magnificent accomplishment which will serve as the 'standard' biography for the foreseeable future. In it Spinoza is set in a richly-detailed context which makes all of his works more intelligible than ever." Patrick Riley, The Boston Book Review

    "Steven Nadler...offers a moving, sympathetic narrative of his subject's life, learned but concise analyses of the religious and political controversies of his time and a clear exposition of the major aspects of his thought. Mr. Nadler effectively challenges the sentimental myth that Spinoza was a meek and mild, out-of-touch, other-worldly recluse." William F. Gavin, Washington Times

    "Steven Nadler...has now admirably filled the gap with his meticulous, measured and highly readable Spinoza: A Life." Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times Book Review

    "[Nadler] has performed a great service in sifting through mounds of historical data about a well-known philosopher, whose insights are still cause for considerable debate." David R. Rosenfield, M.D., Jewish Herald Voice

    "...Nadler focuses on Spinoza the man. he provides us with a thorough, engaging and contextualized study of a life that has been much alluded to and much mythologized, but which has hitherto eluded such systematic scholarly examination." The Jewish Quarterly

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2001
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521002936
    • length: 430 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 28 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: Unavailable - out of print April 2019
  • Table of Contents

    1. Settlement
    2. Abraham and Michael
    3. Bento/Baruch
    4. Talmud Torah
    5. A merchant of Amsterdam
    6. Cherem
    7. Benedictus
    8. A philosopher in Rijnsberg
    9. 'The Jew of Voorburg'
    10. Homo Politicus
    11. Calm and turmoil in the Hague
    12. 'A free man thinks least of all of death'
    A note on sources
    End notes

  • Author

    Steven Nadler, University of Wisconsin, Madison


    • Winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award 2000

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