At the heart of Spinoza's Heresy is a mystery: why was Baruch Spinoza so harshly excommunicated from the Amsterdam Jewish community at the age of twenty-four? In this philosophical sequel to his acclaimed, award-winning biography of the seventeenth-century thinker, Steven Nadler argues that Spinoza's main offence was a denial of the immortality of the soul. But this only deepens the mystery. For there is no specific Jewish dogma regarding immortality: there is nothing that a Jew is required to believe about the soul and the afterlife. It was, however, for various religious, historical and political reasons, simply the wrong issue to pick on in Amsterdam in the 1650s. After considering the nature of the ban, or cherem, as a disciplinary tool in the Sephardic community, and a number of possible explanations for Spinoza's ban, Nadler turns to the variety of traditions in Jewish religious thought on the postmortem fate of a person's soul. This is followed by an examination of Spinoza's own views on the eternity of the mind and the role that that the denial of personal immortality plays in his overall philosophical project. Nadler argues that Spinoza's beliefs were not only an outgrowth of his own metaphysical principles, but also a culmination of an intellectualist trend in Jewish rationalism.
Nadler has with great panache and clarity drawn together a sweeping command of Jewish intellectual history, a nuanced cultural understanding of the Sephardic Amsterdam of Spinoza's youth, and a tightly argued reading of Spinoza's philosophy. All serious readers will be stimulated by this volume, whether or not they are fully convinced by its argument. This is also an eminently teachable text: its readability, intellectual challenge and thematic intrigue will readily capture the minds of motivated students. For these same reasons, it deserves a wide readership. Journal of Jewish Studies Nadler's argument is cogently advanced, and constitutes an important corrective to insensitively ahistorical and unwarrantedly theological misreadings of Spinoza. Journal of Jewish Studies This stimulating book advances a succinct and challenging argument. Journal of Jewish Studies Anyone who takes an interest in Spinoza and tends to see the mind's eternity as personal, individual immortality will have pause for thought in reading this work, as it brings into the open a number of fairly central issues. British Journal for the History of Philosophy The research in this volume is impressive and is set within a moving, sympathetic evocation of the Judaic experience in Amsterdam of the seventeenth century. British Journal for the History of Philosophy In short, Nadlers book is an admirable piece of work. It relates Spinozas thought to a wide variety of contexts, each of which enrich our understanding of Spinoza. It is clearly written and highly readable, continuing the story begun in Nadlers earlier Spinoza: A Life. It will be mandatory reading for students of Spinoza, as well as for students of Jewish thought and history more generally. Martin Lin, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews Nadlers project is intriguing because it takes us right into the heart of the most difficult and interesting parts of Spinozas philosophy, as well as into the thick of the historical milieu in which the expulsion took place and which helped shape Spinozas intellectual development. ... Nadler does an excellent job of summarizing and synthesizing a vast body of literature into an accessible and plausible narrative. Martin Lin, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Number Of Pages: 242
Published: 1st February 2002
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 22.4 x 14.6 x 1.8
Weight (kg): 0.4