Spinoza

Spinoza

Spinoza

Spinoza

Synopsis

Philosophy is one of the most intimidating and difficult of disciplines, as any of its students can attest. This book is an important entry in a distinctive new series from Routledge: "The Great Philosophers." Breaking down obstacles to understanding the ideas of history's greatest thinkers, these brief, accessible, and affordable volumes offer essential introductions to the great philosophers of the Western tradition from Plato to Wittgenstein. In just 64 pages, each author, a specialist on his subject, places the philosopher and his ideas into historical perspective. Each volume explains, in simple terms, the basic concepts, enriching the narrative through the effective use of biographical detail. And instead of attempting to explain the philosopher's entire intellectual history, which can be daunting, this series takes one central theme in each philosopher's work, using it to unfold the philosopher's thoughts.

Excerpt

Spinoza's greatness and originality are hidden behind a remote, impassive, and often impenetrable style. Few have understood his arguments in their entirety; fewer still have recognized their continuing moral significance. I have presented no more than an outline, and am acutely aware of the injustice done, not only to Spinoza, but also to the patient scholars who have wrestled with his meaning. My primary object has been to describe, in simple language, the contours of a complex system of thought. Even so, I have been unable to make Spinoza's theory of substance fully accessible, and Chapter 3 must therefore be read twice if it is to be understood.

I have benefited from many students and friends, and in particular from David Murray, whose erudition saved me from several errors of interpretation. I have also benefited from Joanna North, whose unpublished work suggested ways of translating Spinoza's most awkward conceptions into terms that are intelligible and interesting to the modern reader. I am grateful to her, not only for the chance to read and discuss her work, but also for her detailed criticisms of my own. She has no part in the failings of this book, but a considerable part in its virtues, if it has any.

London, September 1985 . . .

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