Complete Works

Complete Works

Complete Works

Complete Works

Synopsis

The only single edition of the Spinoza corpus available in English, this volume features Samuel Shirley's pre-eminent translations of Ethics; Theological-Political Treatise; Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect; Metaphysical Thoughts; The Letters; Principles of Cartesian Philosophy; and Political Treatise. Also includes The Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being, and Hebrew Grammar. Michael Morgan provides a general Introduction that places Spinoza in Western philosophy and culture, and sketches the philosophical, scientific, and religious moral and political dimensions of Spinoza's thought. Brief introductions to each work give succinct historical and philosophical overviews. A bibliography and index are also included.

Excerpt

Reading the works of Spinoza, one can be overwhelmed by a sense of abstract rigor and detachment. They may seem to some readers the product of an almost mechanical mental life. This appearance notwithstanding, I am inclined to ascribe to Spinoza a romantic set of virtues. He is among thinkers extraordinarily creative and novel; his thinking is marked by a marvelous intensity and focus; and yet his deepest commitments are to the most embracing unity and sense of comprehensiveness that one can find in the tradition of Western philosophy. In short, Spinoza's writings and his thought are marked by a kind of heroism that is rare and beautiful—even breathtaking.

We are tempted to think that the notion of perspective or points of view, so crucial to the world of art, was not of importance to philosophy until Kant and German Idealism made it so. Kant, it is said, taught us what metaphysics could and could not accomplish by confining its investigations to the viewpoint of human experience and then went on to distinguish between the detached point of view of the scientific enquirer and the engaged point of view of the moral agent. From those beginnings, German Idealism and its twentieth-century legacy made the notion of perspective or point of view central to philosophical accounts of human existence and human experience, from Fichte, Schelling, and Kant to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, to Husserl, Heidegger, and beyond. And with this legacy came a series of struggles, between the natural and the human sciences, between existentialism and scientific philosophy, between relativism and objectivism, and more.

But perspective was at the center of Spinoza's system. His thinking shows a passion for unity and totality, coupled with a scrupulous fidelity to the integrity of the individual particular. There is no parochialism in Spinoza. His commitment to the progress of scientific enquiry into the natural world belied any such limitation in behalf of his cognitive goals. In every way, in every dimension of our lives, Spinoza saw the common; he saw unity and wholeness. At the same time his allegiance to the universality of the ethical life and its virtues did not annul the personal perspective of human experience. For him life was always a struggle against our finite limitations of perspective and particularity. Life was not life without such limitations, but neither could life be what it could be if we were satisfied with them. The world was of necessity filled with particular objects, but they existed within a single order. We are among those objects, and our goal is to do what we can, in knowledge and conduct, to live with our particularity and yet transcend it. Spinoza was fully aware of the necessity and the complexity of human perspective; he knew what it . . .

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