Complete Works

By Benedict de Spinoza; Michael Morgan et al. | Go to book overview

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE

In these translations, I have adhered to the Gebhardt Heidelberg text of 1926 except as noted. Leaving the task of annotation and exposition in the hands of more competent scholars, I shall confine myself in this Preface to a personal odyssey, a sort of voyage around Spinoza.

At Oxford I do not remember that I read anything by Spinoza and very little about him. But that little interested me strangely. So I attended the lectures given by H. H. Joachim, without much understanding. These lectures were delivered in the late afternoon, and as the sun streamed through New College windows onto the gray head of that venerable and beloved figure, it was for me an aesthetic experience rather than an intellectual enlightenment.

But the seed was sown. Many years later, being entrusted with the task of lecturing to university extension adult classes, I chose Spinoza's Ethics, using the edition translated by Boyle. That edition was prefaced by an inspiring introduction by Santayana. But there were a number of passages in the translation that puzzled me, and when I sought out the original Latin in a library, I found that they were mistranslations. Writing to the publisher, I pointed out four such passages and provided my own translations. In due course I received a courteous reply, confirming my criticisms and promising to incorporate my corrections in the next reprint. A check for £5 was enclosed (it should be remembered that £5 was worth far more in the 1950s than it is now). The next edition appeared with my corrections.

Now I had tasted—just a sip—of the heady wine of authorship. Ambition grew; could I not improve on the Boyle translation? My offer to do so was courteously refused by the publisher as commercially unviable.

In 1972, at the age of 60, I resigned my post as headmaster of a grammar school. Gifted with the abundant leisure of retirement, I turned my mind to a translation of Spinoza's Ethics. This I duly offered to some respected publishers in the United Kingdom. They declined, invariably with courteous regrets, but one of them, fortunately, advised me to try Hackett Publishing Company in the United States.

So began my long and happy connection with Hackett. My translation of the Ethics came out in 1982. Encouraged by a few laudatory reviews, I turned my attention to the Theological-Political Treatise, a work for which I have a fervent admiration. Thereafter, gently cajoled by Lee Rice, to whom I remain vastly indebted, I continued with the rest of Spinoza's works with the exception of the Hebrew Grammar and the Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being, which was originally written in Dutch. The results are here before you.

-vii-

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Complete Works
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Translator's Preface vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chronology xvii
  • Editorial Notes xxi
  • Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect 1
  • Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being 31
  • Contents - Of the Following Two Books, Namely: 35
  • First Part - On God 37
  • Principles of Cartesian Philosophy and Metaphysical Thoughts 108
  • Contents 110
  • Preface 116
  • The Principles of Philosophy - Demonstrated in the Geometric Manner 121
  • The Principles of Philosophy - Demonstrated in the Geometric Manner 174
  • Ethics 213
  • Contents 216
  • Theological-Political Treatise 383
  • Contents 385
  • The Theological-Political Tractate 387
  • Spinoza's Supplementary Notes to the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus 573
  • Hebrew Grammar 584
  • Contents 586
  • Notice to the Reader 587
  • Political Treatise 676
  • Contents 679
  • Political Treatise 680
  • The Letters 755
  • Contents 757
  • The Letters 760
  • Index 961
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