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A Life

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  • Date Published: June 2001
  • availability: Unavailable - out of print December 2018
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521002936

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Unavailable - out of print December 2018
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About the Authors
  • Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) was one of the most important philosophers of all time; he was also arguably the most radical and controversial. This was the first complete biography of Spinoza in any language and is based on detailed archival research. More than simply recounting the story of Spinoza's life, the book takes the reader right into the heart of Jewish Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and, with Spinoza's exile from Judaism, right into the midst of the tumultuous political, social, intellectual and religious world of the young Dutch Republic. Though the book will be an invaluable resource for philosophers, historians, and scholars of Jewish thought, it has been written for any member of the general reading public with a serious interest in philosophy, Jewish history, seventeenth-century European history, and the culture of the Dutch Golden Age. Spinoza: A Life has recently been awarded the Koret Jewish Book Award.

    • Was the first biography of Spinoza in any language
    • The Jewish angle is critical - Spinoza could be described as the first great modern Jewish thinker, and this book has the potential to appeal to a broad non-academic readership interested in Jewish thinkers
    • The Dutch Golden Age angle is critical. This book has a lot to say about the social and cultural life of seventeenth-century Amsterdam.
    • Koret Award
    Read more


    • Winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award 2000

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Few philosophers have elicited so much controversy as Spinoza. His life has been obscured by legends on account of the polemics surrounding his philosophical tenets and the relative paucity of established facts. Steven Nadler's elegant new biography is an important step forward; it carefully assesses all the information available, takes into account the most recent scholarly work, and integrates the biographical material, Spinoza's philosophy and the historical background into a fascinating story.' Piet Steenbakkers, University of Utrecht

    'Nadler's biography is superb, the best I know … He puts the extraordinary man with surprisingly naturalistic ideas against the historical background and in discussion with contemporaries as well as with the reader.' Wim Klever, University of Rotterdam

    'A rich and illuminating biography of one of philosophy's most intriguing thinkers. Nadler deftly weaves together the details of Spinoza's life and thought, tracing his passage from the Sephardic community of his youth to the works of his maturity. The result is an exceptional book - eminently readable and based on the best recent scholarship.' Donald Rutherford, Emory University

    'Nadler paints the historical milieu in vivid colours, while ferreting out the tiniest details of a philosopher's day.' The Guardian

    'Whether we wish to learn about the Sephardic community in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century, or discover the background to Spinoza's thought, this is the book to read.' Expository Times

    '… splendidly researched … eminently readable and accessible even to those who have never read anything of philosophy, this book offers both an excellent summation of Spinoza's ideas and an equally fine description of life in the Jewish and Christian communities of seventeenth-century Amsterdam and other parts of the Netherlands in a Golden Age that was also a period of political religious, and social strife.' The Jerusalem Post

    '… the picture Nadler paints of the intellectual life of seventeenth-century Amsterdam (and in particular of its Jewish community) is vivid, and his outlines of Spinoza's works are helpful and clear.' Practical Philosophy

    'Periodically one embarks upon the reading of a book for a particular reason only to discover that the treasures awaiting discovery in the book far exceed expectations. Such is the reading to Steven Nadler's biography of Burach Spinoza. … perceptive insights into the life of Spinoza. … a remarkable foray into the middle-seventeenth-century life of Amsterdam … as the reader peruses its pages, he is almost able to feel the pressures that Spinoza felt and to see the life of the Dutch countryside and even to inhale its scents. For someone looking for a vivid picture of post-Reformation Europe as well as a fabulous biography of a lonely thinker whose influence is now increasing in our own era, I commend without reservation Steven Nadler's Spinoza: A Life.' Paige Patterson, Faith and Mission

    'This is the first full-length biography of Spinoza to appear in English, and as such it must be welcomed. It contains admirably lucid analyses of Spinoza's writings and thought, so one could hardly wish for a better introduction.' Heythrop Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2001
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521002936
    • length: 430 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 28 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: Unavailable - out of print December 2018
  • Table of Contents

    1. Settlement
    2. Abraham and Michael
    3. Bento/Baruch
    4. Talmud Torah
    5. A merchant of Amsterdam
    6. Cherem
    7. Benedictus
    8. A philosopher in Rijnsberg
    9. 'The Jew of Voorburg'
    10. Homo Politicus
    11. Calm and turmoil in the Hague
    12. 'A free man thinks least of all of death'
    A note on sources
    End notes

  • Author

    Steven Nadler, University of Wisconsin, Madison


    • Winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award 2000

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