After I defended my dissertation my supervisor, Yirmiyahu Yovel, suggested that I try to answer two further questions: (1) What did Spinoza understand by the third kind of knowledge in the Ethics? (2) What is the relation between the Ethics and Spinoza's earlier work, the Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione? At the time I did not realize that, in trying to answer these two questions, I would need to rethink and revise how I understood Spinoza's method and ultimately reject most of what I had written in my dissertation. My deepest thanks to Yirmiyahu Yovel for supervising my dissertation and then helping me to move well beyond it. The manuscript from which this book was built was originally called “A Worm in the Blood.” My editor properly pointed out that the title was somewhat nauseating and would probably condemn the book to be shelved in the biology section of bookstores. But please keep in mind that this was the original title and my guiding theme for finding some meaning in Spinoza's method.
Many people have helped me with writing this book, only a few of whom I can list. The community of Spinoza scholars is, fittingly, one of the kindest and most thoughtful in academe, and I have benefited greatly from it. Henry Allison, Michael Della Rocca, Shelly Kroll, Justin Steinberg, Amelie Rorty, and Andrew Pyle all read the manuscript in full and provided many helpful comments. Michael, in particular, read two drafts (!), forced me to clarify much murk in the manuscript (although there is much remaining), and gave me countless specific criticisms and corrections from which I benefited enormously. All aided me greatly in turning a draft into a book.
Tom Cook, Brett Doyle, Knud Haakonssen, Genevieve Lloyd, David Lyons, Regan Penaluna, Gideon Segal, Fred Tauber, and Wayne Waxman have all read sections of the manuscript and provided helpful comments. Roger Ariew, Ken Bronfenbrenner, Edwin Curley, Johannes Fritsche, Don Garrett, Ian Hunter, and Richard Tuck have helped me with specific ideas and I am very grateful to them. Pierre-François Moreau very kindly gave me a copy of his translation of Meyer. Many thanks to Piet Steenbakkers, Ron