T'other week I read Rebecca Goldstein's Betraying Spinoza (Schocken; part of the excellent Jewish Encounters series co-published with Nextbook) which was an absolute joy -- if you have any interest at all in Spinoza, get yourself a copy. Today, I did a wee review of the book over at The Book Depository:
Rebecca Goldstein's quite wonderful Betraying Spinoza is an absolute delight. So, why does the author think she might be betraying the great philosopher? Well, as Wikipedia tells us: "Benedictus de Spinoza or Baruch de Spinoza (lived November 24, 1632 – February 21, 1677) was a Dutch philosopher of Jewish origin, considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy and, by virtue of his magnum opus the posthumous Ethics, one of the definitive ethicists." As a great rationalist Spinoza eschewed the biographical and the personal, but Goldstein thinks that that very silence in his work can be traced to his belonging to the embattled Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam (whose history Goldstein admirably and fluently traces). After first describing her own (Jewish) upbringing, and how she -- an analytic philosopher by training -- became entranced by Spinoza, Goldstein goes on to recount the fascinating history of the Jews who called themselves La Nacion, Spinoza's excommunication from them, and the studies he undertook to come to his positions on a post-Descartian philosophy. You will not read a better introduction to this still vital thinker; Goldstein's book is a triumph.