Philosophy Baruch Spinoza
by
Yitzhak Y. Melamed
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0180

Introduction

Benedictus de Spinoza (b. 1632–d. 1677) was one of the greatest metaphysicians of all time, and the boldest and most controversial philosopher of modernity. Born and educated in the Jewish community of Amsterdam, Spinoza broke from traditional religion and developed a highly original and sophisticated philosophical system that relentlessly challenged commonsensical and popular anthropomorphic and anthropocentric thinking. Spinoza’s boldness and ingenuity have been particularly well received since the early 1980s, when he has become a major source of inspiration for philosophers both in France and North America.

General Overviews

There are many valuable general presentations of Spinoza’s philosophy. The volumes listed in this section concentrate on Spinoza’s major work, the Ethics, though they address other texts as well. Pollock 1966 (first published in 1880), Curley 1988, and Nadler 2006 are the most recommended introductions to Spinoza. Guéroult 1968–1974 is the single most influential work of Spinoza scholarship. Wolfson 1934 and Deleuze 1992 are important works, though each has its own shortcomings. Bennett 1984, Della Rocca 2008, and Melamed 2013 represent different generations of Anglo-American scholarship.

  • Bennett, Jonathan. A Study of Spinoza’s Ethics. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1984.

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    A classic study of the Ethics, guided by a healthy “no non-sense” attitude toward Spinoza, the great philosopher, coupled with a somewhat less impressive impatience (and occasionally inattentiveness) to Spinoza’s text and terminology.

  • Curley, Edwin. Behind the Geometrical Method: A Reading of Spinoza’s Ethics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

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    An opinionated, clear, and accessible introduction to Spinoza’s philosophy.

  • Deleuze, Gilles. Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. Translated by Martin Joughin. New York: Zone, 1992.

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    An influential exposition of Spinoza’s philosophy. Regrettably, its occasional insights are not properly examined and developed. Unreliable translation of the original 1968 French book (Spinoza et le problème de l’expression, Paris: Éditions de Minuit).

  • Della Rocca, Michael. Spinoza. Routledge Philosophers. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    An excellent philosophical exposition of Spinoza’s philosophy. He presents the principle of sufficient reason as the key for understanding the entire system.

  • Gueroult, Martial. Spinoza. 2 vols. Collection Analyse et Raisons 12, 18. Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1968–1974.

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    An outstanding and monumental study of the first two parts of Spinoza’s Ethics.

  • Melamed, Yitzhak Y. Spinoza’s Metaphysics: Substance and Thought. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195394054.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    A study of the foundations of Spinoza’s philosophy.

  • Nadler, Steven. Spinoza’s Ethics: An Introduction. Cambridge Introductions to Key Philosophical Texts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    A clear and helpful introduction to Spinoza’s major work.

  • Pollock, Frederick. Spinoza: His Life and Philosophy. 2d ed. New York: American Scholar Publications, 1966.

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    A comprehensive study of Spinoza’s philosophy. Old (first published in 1880, London: C. Kegan Paul), but still relevant; clear and systematic. Reprinted as recently as 2005.

  • Wolfson, Harry Austryn. The Philosophy of Spinoza: Unfolding the Latent Processes of His Reasoning. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934.

    E-mail Citation »

    An important study of Spinoza’s philosophy that stresses its medieval background. Very erudite, though its philosophical analysis is occasionally superficial. Reprinted as recently as 1983.

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