The New York Times
The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern Worldby Matthew Stewart
Philosophy in the late seventeenth century was a dangerous business. No careerist could afford to know the reclusive, controversial philosopher Baruch de Spinoza. Yet the wildly ambitious genius Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz,
"A colorful reinterpretation. . . . Stewart’s wit and profluent prose make this book a fascinating read." (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
Philosophy in the late seventeenth century was a dangerous business. No careerist could afford to know the reclusive, controversial philosopher Baruch de Spinoza. Yet the wildly ambitious genius Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who denounced Spinoza in public, became privately obsessed with Spinoza’s ideas, wrote him clandestine letters, and ultimately met him in secret.
"In refreshingly lucid terms" (Booklist) Matthew Stewart "rescues both men from a dusty academic shelf, bringing them to life as enlightened humans" (Library Journal) central to the religious, political, and personal battles that gave birth to the modern age. Both men put their faith in the guidance of reason, but one spent his life defending a God he may not have believed in, while the other believed in a God who did not need his defense. Ultimately, the two thinkers represent radically different approaches to the challenges of the modern era. They stand for a choice that we all must make.
The New York Times
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- 6.50(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Meet the Author
Matthew Stewart is the author of Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic, The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World and The Management Myth: Debunking the Modern Philosophy of Business. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
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This book is a story of interaction between two great minds of XVII century, Baruch Spinoza and Gotfried Leibnitz : two thinkers of completely opposite backgrounds, lifestyles, goals in life, philosophical views and moral convinctions. (Just imagine you discover the that, lets say, Mother Theresa and Mao Zedong for years were involved in active , respectful, mutually interested, and obviously secret discussion by correspondence. ) It opens an amazing window on the intellectual life of Europe of that time and the human side of both scholars and many other people around them . Sometimes heavy as it goes over their philosophies (it is written by a philosopher after all :) but even these parts are relatively readable . I grade the books as Buy and Keep (BK), Read Library book and Return ( RLR) and Once I Put it Down I Couldn't Pick it Up ( OIPD-ICPU). This one is RLR , I think.
It is a brilliant idea to compare and contrast Spinoza and Leibniz - not only in respect of their ideas, but also in respect of their personalities, life-styles and the historical settings in which they operated. They are both very difficult philosophers, and it is one of the many virtues of this sparkling book that they are made as accessible to the general public as they can be. Even so, the relevant passages will still be rather hard going for readers new to the ideas. Particularly close reading is required for chapter 16 near the end of the book, in which Stewart shows that Leibniz was entangled with Spinozism even when the differences between the two men¿s philosophies appear at their starkest. Matthew Stewart brilliantly illustrates how philosophy only makes sense when construed as the systems created by brilliant individuals to make sense of the great issues of their day.
This book is an engrossing snapshot of the 17th century mindset about religion and philosophy and how the lines of thought created by these two great thinkers and their interaction affected developments in their own countries and later throughout the western world. It is unfortunate that the 'From the Publisher' notes are totally unrelated to the book being reviewed!