The most recommended books on Baruch Spinoza

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8 authors created a book list connected to Baruch Spinoza, and here are their favorite Baruch Spinoza books.
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Book cover of Spinoza on Human Freedom: Reason, Autonomy and the Good Life

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

From my list on Spinoza.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.

Steven's book list on Spinoza

Steven Nadler Why did Steven love 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.

By Matthew J. Kisner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spinoza on Human Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spinoza was one of the most influential figures of the Enlightenment, but his often obscure metaphysics makes it difficult to understand the ultimate message of his philosophy. Although he regarded freedom as the fundamental goal of his ethics and politics, his theory of freedom has not received sustained, comprehensive treatment. Spinoza holds that we attain freedom by governing ourselves according to practical principles, which express many of our deepest moral commitments. Matthew J. Kisner focuses on this theory and presents an alternative picture of the ethical project driving Spinoza's philosophical system. His study of the neglected practical philosophy provides an…


Book cover of The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1

Gloria Mark Author Of Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity

From my list on attention and why it is the ultimate currency.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2000, I entered the University of California, Irvine as an assistant professor. Suddenly faced with multiple research projects, courses, committees, grant-writing, and student mentoring, I found myself switching screens and tasks like crazy. But I was also glued to my computer. I began to wonder if this was normal? Trained as a psychologist, I decided to study empirically what was happening to our attention. I began research over two decades on attention and discovered how our attention spans have shrunk over time (to a mere average of 47 seconds). Fast forward, I've continued to study our relationships with our technology, uncovering different types of attention and busting myths associated with focus and productivity. 

Gloria's book list on attention and why it is the ultimate currency

Gloria Mark Why did Gloria love this book?

There is no better place to start learning about attention than from The Principles of Psychology.

I have always been captivated by the writings and deep insight of William James, known as the father of psychology. This is not a pop science book by any means—it was written in the 19th century, and you’ll see how gorgeous the language is. If you don’t want to plough through all 720 pages, I suggest you start with Chapter VIII on Attention. As James says, “Everyone knows what attention is.” But do we really? You will find some amazing gems in it.

It is available for free by Project Gutenberg.

By William James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"For the psychologist, standard reading, to all readers, a classic of interpretation." — Psychiatric Quarterly
This is the first inexpensive edition of the complete Long Course in Principles of Psychology, one of the great classics of modern Western literature and science and the source of the ripest thoughts of America’s most important philosopher. As such, it should not be confused with the many abridgements that omit key sections.
The book presents lucid descriptions of human mental activity, with detailed considerations of the stream of thought, consciousness, time perception, memory, imagination, emotions, reason, abnormal phenomena, and similar topics. In its course…


Book cover of Benedict de Spinoza: An Introduction

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

From my list on Spinoza.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.

Steven's book list on Spinoza

Steven Nadler Why did Steven love 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.

By Henry Allison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Benedict de Spinoza as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the rear cover of this 254 page book: "This highly acclaimed book provides a general introduction to the life and works of one of the major philosophers of the seventeenth century. In this revised edition, Henry E. Allison has rewritten the central chapters on the 'Ethics', taking into consideration the most important recent literature on Spinoza's metaphysics, epistemology, psychology, and moral theory. This is an excellent general introduction to Spinoza's thought. Allison expounds Spinoza sympathetically, but without glossing over the difficulties. Though written in a way which should make it accessible to undergraduates, his book also contains much that…


Book cover of Spinoza: A Life

Joshua A. Fogel Author Of Maiden Voyage: The Senzaimaru and the Creation of Modern Sino-Japanese Relations

From my list on Jewish history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of China and Japan whose work has hewed close to the cultural interactions between Chinese and Japanese over recent centuries. I’m now working on the history of the Esperanto movement in China and Japan from the first years of the twentieth century through the early 1930s. The topic brings together my interests in Sino-Japanese historical relations, linguistic scholarship, and Jewish history (the creator of Esperanto was a Polish-Jewish eye doctor). Over the last couple of decades, I have become increasingly interested in Jewish history. I think by now I know what counts as good history, but I’m still an amateur in Jewish history. Nonetheless, these books all struck me as extraordinary.

Joshua's book list on Jewish history

Joshua A. Fogel Why did Joshua love this book?

Over the past decade or so, I’ve probably read six or seven biographies of Spinoza, some considerably more helpful than others. Nadler’s study is a striking success of scholarship and biography. Spinoza’s story of being this deft thinker but also being excommunicated in Holland (and we still don’t exactly know why) can make for a great story, but that was not the case before Nadler’s book appeared. I was fortunate to be able to tell the author how I felt about his book in person.

By Steven Nadler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spinoza as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was one of the most important philosophers of all time; he was also one of the most radical and controversial. The story of Spinoza's life takes the reader into the heart of Jewish Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and, with Spinoza's exile from Judaism, into the midst of the tumultuous political, social, intellectual, and religious world of the young Dutch Republic. This new edition of Steven Nadler's biography, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award for biography and translated into a dozen languages, is enhanced by exciting new archival discoveries about his family background, his youth, and…


Book cover of Potentia: Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics

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

From my list on Spinoza.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.

Steven's book list on Spinoza

Steven Nadler Why did Steven love 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.

By Sandra Leonie Field,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Potentia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We live in an age of growing dissatisfaction with the standard operations of representative democracy. The solution, according to a long radical democratic tradition, is the unmediated power of the people. Mass plebiscites and mass protest movements are celebrated as the quintessential expression of popular power, and this power promises to transcend ordinary institutional politics. But the outcomes of mass political phenomena can be just as disappointing as the
ordinary politics they sought to overcome, breeding skepticism about democratic politics in all its forms.

Potentia argues that the very meaning of popular power needs to be rethought. It offers a…


Book cover of Spinoza's Religion: A New Reading of the Ethics

John Cottingham Author Of In Search of the Soul: A Philosophical Essay

From my list on the human search for meaning.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my career writing and teaching philosophy, working on early-modern philosophers, especially that most controversial and enigmatic figure, René Descartes. In recent years my main interest has been in the philosophy of religion, focusing on grand traditional questions about the meaning of life, and on the spiritual dimension of religious thought and practice. I have argued for a ‘humane’ turn in philosophy, meaning that philosophical inquiry should not confine itself to abstract intellectual argument alone, but should draw on a full range of resources, including literary, poetic, imaginative, and emotional modes of awareness, as we struggle to come to terms with the mystery of human existence. 

John's book list on the human search for meaning

John Cottingham Why did John love this book?

Next to Descartes, Spinoza is perhaps the greatest philosopher of the early modern period. He is often regarded as a precursor of today’s secularist outlook, while others see him as a kind of pantheist. In this fluent and original new study, Clare Carlisle brought home to me the religious dimension in Spinoza’s thought, and she offers a brilliant account of why he is still relevant today, when religious ways of thinking are increasingly under attack.

By Clare Carlisle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spinoza's Religion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bold reevaluation of Spinoza that reveals his powerful, inclusive vision of religion for the modern age

Spinoza is widely regarded as either a God-forsaking atheist or a God-intoxicated pantheist, but Clare Carlisle says that he was neither. In Spinoza's Religion, she sets out a bold interpretation of Spinoza through a lucid new reading of his masterpiece, the Ethics. Putting the question of religion centre-stage but refusing to convert Spinozism to Christianity, Carlisle reveals that "being in God" unites Spinoza's metaphysics and ethics. Spinoza's Religion unfolds a powerful, inclusive philosophical vision for the modern age-one that is grounded in a…


Book cover of Spinoza on Reason, Passions, and the Supreme Good

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

From my list on Spinoza.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.

Steven's book list on Spinoza

Steven Nadler Why did Steven love 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.

By Andrea Sangiacomo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spinoza on Reason, Passions, and the Supreme Good as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spinoza's thought is at the centre of an ever growing interest. Spinoza's moral philosophy, in particular, points to a radical way of understanding how human beings can become free and enjoy supreme happiness. And yet, there is still much disagreement about how exactly Spinoza's recipe is supposed to work. For long time, Spinoza has been presented as an arch rationalist who would identify in the purely intellectual cultivation of reason the key for ethical progress.
Andrea Sangiacomo offers a new understanding of Spinoza's project, by showing how he himself struggled during his career to develop a moral philosophy that could…


Book cover of Bento's Sketchbook

Eduardo Côrte-Real Author Of The Smooth Guide to Travel Drawing

From my list on unassumingly sketching the world around us.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've taught Drawing in universities since 1985. Currently, I work at IADE-Universidade Europeia in Lisbon, Portugal. Long before that, at the age of five, I drew a volcano. A mountain exploding on the top as a delirious shiny crown and lava running from its flanks making a pattern of vibrant reddish-yellow. Proudly, I showed it to my mother. She exclaimed: What a beautiful pineapple! I only retained the word ‘beautiful’ and never stopped drawing. Trained as an architect, I discovered the virtue of drawing what we see, while experiencing the act of being there. I also became a compulsive reader, perhaps to experience the act of being elsewhere. 

Eduardo's book list on unassumingly sketching the world around us

Eduardo Côrte-Real Why did Eduardo love this book?

John Berger taught us to see art in a new way. His acclaimed BBC series changed the way art was shown on TV. Contemplating art included looking around and finding remarkable images being used in plain situations. In his book, Here is where we meet he placed a heart-touching short story in Lisboa, my adored city. I realised that we had often crossed the same roads and parks, enjoyed the same views. I was conquered. In Bento’s Sketchbook, Berger searches for the mind of Baruch (Bento) Spinoza, one of the most enigmatic philosophers of the 17th century. It is nice to follow this book by reading Antonio Damásio’s Looking for Spinoza, Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Berger also mentions Damásio, describing what goes on in his mind and body when drawing. The Dutch Philosopher, a member of the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam, had a rich work…

By John Berger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bento's Sketchbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The seventeenth-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza-also known as Benedict or Bento de Spinoza-spent the most intense years of his short life writing. He also carried with him a sketchbook. After his sudden death, his friends rescued letters, manuscripts, notes-but no drawings.

For years, without knowing what its pages might hold, John Berger has imagined finding Bento's sketchbook, wanting to see the drawings alongside his surviving words. When one day a friend gave him a beautiful virgin sketchbook, Berger said, "This is Bento's!" and he began to draw, taking his inspiration from the philosopher's vision.

In this illustrated color book John Berger…


Book cover of Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times

Jesse Cohn Author Of Underground Passages: Anarchist Resistance Culture, 1848-2011

From my list on how might one live an anarchist life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I knew I was an anti-authoritarian before I had words for it, and my education in social justice has been long and slow. I have been researching and writing about anarchism for the better part of three decades, and am now a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies. Anarchy is a subject that engages me both at the level of intellectual passion, what lights up my mind, and on a visceral level, in my revulsion at the inequalities and iniquities in this world and my yearning for a fully emancipated way of life.

Jesse's book list on how might one live an anarchist life

Jesse Cohn Why did Jesse love this book?

When I opened this book, I knew immediately that I was among friends. This is a handbook for constructing the kind of life in which joyful effects—associated with comradeship and mutual empowermentmight flourish. Eminently practical and down-to-earth, but also informed by a philosophical tradition stretching back through the anarchists to Baruch Spinoza in which life is not reducible to the “recipes” of self-help books but is a creative search for wider possibilities, for the “capacity to participate in something life-giving.” Written in contact with Indigenous and feminist social movements, this is also a guide to avoiding the kinds of blockages and dead ends on which such movements often founder.

By Nick Montgomery, Carla Bergman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Joyful Militancy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Absolutely what we need in these days of spreading gloom." —John Holloway, author of Crack Capitalism

"A guide to a fulfilling militant life." —Michael Hardt, co-author of Assembly

"Rigid radicalism" is the congealed and debilitating practices that suck life and inspiration from the fight for a better world. Joyful Militancy investigates how fear, self-righteousness, and moralism infiltrate and take root within liberation movements, what to do about them, and ultimately how tenderness and vulnerability can thrive alongside fierce militant commitment.

Carla Bergman co-edited Stay Solid: A Radical Handbook For Youth.

Nick Montgomery is an organizer and writer currently at Queen's…


Book cover of A Little Philosophical Lexicon of Anarchism from Proudhon to Deleuze

Jesse Cohn Author Of Underground Passages: Anarchist Resistance Culture, 1848-2011

From my list on how might one live an anarchist life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I knew I was an anti-authoritarian before I had words for it, and my education in social justice has been long and slow. I have been researching and writing about anarchism for the better part of three decades, and am now a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies. Anarchy is a subject that engages me both at the level of intellectual passion, what lights up my mind, and on a visceral level, in my revulsion at the inequalities and iniquities in this world and my yearning for a fully emancipated way of life.

Jesse's book list on how might one live an anarchist life

Jesse Cohn Why did Jesse love this book?

Translating this book from the French was a slow process, the slowest reading I have ever done, and some of the most rewarding. This book did not just return me to my pre-existing ideas; it changed my way of thinking permanently. Colson writes to us from a world that is full of unexpected possibilities for life, a “world within which many worlds might fit,” as the Zapatistas have itpossibilities for the better and the worse that are screened off from our view. Difficult, demanding reading, but it too suggests a way of living that is premised on finding good connections with others (ones that expand your “collective force”) and withdrawing from relations characterized by “error and sadness,” linking people to “the dominations that, internally and externally, chain them to their own misfortune.” In other words, Colson is drawing from the same Spinozan currents as Bergman and Montgomery, that…

By Daniel Colson, Jesse Cohn (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little Philosophical Lexicon of Anarchism from Proudhon to Deleuze as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is the thought of Gilles Deleuze secretly linked to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's declaration: "I am an anarchist"? Has anarchism, for more than a century and a half, been secretly Deleuzian? In the guise of a playfully unorthodox lexicon, sociologist Daniel Colson presents an exploration of hidden affinities between the great philosophical heresies and "a thought too scandalous to take its place in the official edifice of philosophy," with profound implications for the way we understand social movements.