The best mostly recent books on Spinoza

Steven Nadler Author Of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die
By Steven Nadler

The Books I Picked & Why

Benedict de Spinoza: An Introduction

By Henry Allison

Benedict de Spinoza: An Introduction

Why this book?

My first book is an oldie but a goodie (and is due to come out soon in a third edition). Published in 1987, this is a highly readable and accessible introduction to Spinoza’s philosophy. It includes discussion of his views on God, the human being, the passions, the life of reason, and our ultimate happiness. It also covers his political thought and his views on religion. I recommend this book to anyone approaching Spinoza for the first time. Because the Ethics is such a difficult read, it is good to have a guide like this by your side.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Spinoza on Human Freedom: Reason, Autonomy and the Good Life

By Matthew J. Kisner

Spinoza on Human Freedom: Reason, Autonomy and the Good Life

Why this book?

Continuing on the theme of how to make Spinoza accessible to non-specialists, this is an excellent study of the many dimensions of Spinoza’s moral philosophy. For a long time, most of the literature on Spinoza was devoted to his metaphysics and epistemology, essentially Parts One and Two of the Ethics. Kisner’s was one of the first books devoted to the work’s moral dimensions in Parts Three, Four, and Five --  the ethics of the Ethics, so to speak. He covers all the right ground: freedom, happiness, responsibility, benevolence, and so on, and does so in an engaging and illuminating way.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Spinoza on Learning to Live Together

By Susan James

Spinoza on Learning to Live Together

Why this book?

James is one of our best Spinoza scholars, and she writes with a clarity and urgency not often found in history of philosophy literature. This is a broad study that covers a lot of ground in just over two hundred pages, with a particular emphasis on how Spinoza envisions political and social life. They are mostly previously published essays, but they all hang together under the theme of how we, as rational and passionate beings, can live together democratically, cooperatively, and in peace. An excellent contribution to envisioning Spinoza as an important moral and political thinker.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Spinoza on Reason, Passions, and the Supreme Good

By Andrea Sangiacomo

Spinoza on Reason, Passions, and the Supreme Good

Why this book?

This is another important contribution to our understanding of Spinoza as a moral philosopher. It is a denser read than the first three books, but fascinating nonetheless for those already with a little Spinoza under their belt. Rather than concentrating on just the latter parts of the Ethics, where most scholars interested in Spinoza’s moral philosophy focus and where we find the mature discussion of the “free person” who lives under the “guidance of reason”, Sangiacomo is especially concerned with the evolution of Spinoza’s moral thought from his earliest writings to his final, uncompleted work. He considers tensions within, and pressures upon, Spinoza’s understanding of the “Supreme Good” and how to achieve it, and the changes that that account consequently undergoes. Sangiacomo’s thesis is thus both historical and philosophical.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Potentia: Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics

By Sandra Leonie Field

Potentia: Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics

Why this book?

It is impossible to read Spinoza and not think often of Thomas Hobbes. Spinoza read Hobbes’s works and was clearly influenced by the English philosopher both in his account of human nature and, especially, in his political thinking. This is, as far as I know, the first book devoted explicitly to the two thinkers together. Field’s focus is on the political, and she does a beautiful job of analyzing and distinguishing different conceptions of ‘power’ (both in the individual and in the group), as well as illuminating similarities and contrasts between these two of the most important early modern thinkers on politics and the state.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists