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Spinoza (1632-77) was one of the towering philosophers of the seventeenth century, described by Bertrand Russell as "the noblest and most lovable of all the great philosophers". His work investigated some of the deepest questions of philosophy and whilst renowned for his metaphysics, he also made significant contributions to understanding the human mind, the emotions, moral philosophy, and political philosophy.

In this outstanding introduction to Spinoza's philosophy, Michael Della Rocca takes Spinoza's fundamental conviction that everything exists for a reason - a principle that came to be known as the 'principle of sufficient reason' - as the key to unlocking his thought.

Beginning with an overview of Spinoza's life in the context of his Jewish background, Della Rocca carefully unpacks and explains Spinoza's philosophy: his metaphysics of substance and argument at the center of his whole system that God is the sole independent substance and that finite things are merely ways in which this one substance exists; Spinoza's account of the human mind and its relation to the body; his theory that human beings tend towards self-preservation and the role of the emotions; the central arguments in his most famous work, the Ethics, above all the problem of free will; and his writings on the state, religion and scripture. Della Rocca concludes with a chapter on Spinoza's legacy and how modern philosophers, such as Hume, Hegel, and Nietzsche, responded to Spinoza's challenge.

Ideal for those coming to Spinoza for the first time as well as those already acquainted with his thought, Spinoza is essential reading for anyone studying philosophy and also those in related subjects such asreligion and history.

About the Author:
Michael Della Rocca is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Yale University. He is the author of Representation and the Mind-Body Problem in Spinoza, and of numerous articles in early modern philosophy and contemporary metaphysics

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'In his Spinoza, Michael Della Rocca has performed a service for those seeking a thorough, accessible and engaging overview of Spinoza’s life and philosophy. …unquestionably the best general introduction to Spinoza’s overall philosophy since Henry Allison’s Benedict de Spinoza: An Introduction, published over twenty years ago.' - Times Literary Supplement

'Spinoza offers highly original, often brilliant scholarship and will be an indispensable resource for undergraduates.' - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

'An absolutely fantastic book. Della Rocca has succeeded in making Spinoza’s notoriously difficult thought accessible to a general audience without sacrificing any of the conceptual complexity and rigors that makes Spinoza such a good philosopher.' - Martin Lin, University of Toronto, Canada

'This is an exciting, interesting, and highly-readable book on Spinoza. Della Rocca offers a bold thesis: that Spinoza's philosophy results from persistently applying the principle of sufficient reason to absolutely everything - so, in short, there can be no dumb luck, no brute facts. Della Rocca successfully uses this thesis to illuminate the basics of Spinoza's philosophy, and to extend several scholarly discussions in new and interesting directions. His book will instruct both beginning and advanced students of Spinoza.' - Charles Hueneman, Utah State University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415283298
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 10/23/2008
  • Series: Routledge Philosophers Series
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Della Rocca is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Yale University. He is the author of Representation and the Mind Body Problem in Spinoza, and our numerous articles in early modern philosophy and contemporary metaphysics.

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Table of Contents


1 Spinoza's Understanding and Understanding Spinoza 1

1 Spinoza's Understanding

2 Understanding Spinoza


Further Reading

2 The Metaphysics of Substance 33

1 Descartes on Substance

2 Spinoza Contra Descartes on Substance

3 The Argument for Substance Monism

4 Modes

5 Necessitarianism

6 The Purpose of It All


Further Reading

3 The Human Mind 89

1 Parallelism and Representation

2 Essence and Representation

3 Parallelism and Mind-Body Identity

4 The Idea of the Human Body

5 The Pancreas Problem, the Pan Problem, and Panpsychism

6 Nothing but Representation

7 Representation, Will, and Belief

8 Skepticism


Further Reading

4 Psychology: Striving and Self-preservation 137

1 Conatus

2 Desire, Joy, and Sadness

3 Love, Hate, and All That


Further Reading

5 The Ethics of the Ethics 175

1 The Good Notion of the Good

2 The Right Notion of the Right

3 Knowledge and Morality

4 Freedom and Morality

5 Helping Others

6 Lies and Degrees of Freedom


Further Reading

6 The State, Religion, and Scripture 206

1 Rights and Power

2 Religion and the State

3 Scripture

4 Prophecy and the Truth of the Bible


Further Reading

7 From PSR to Eternity 254


Further Reading

8 The Aftermath of Spinoza 275

1 Leibniz

2 Bayle and Hume

3 The Pantheism Controversy

4 Hegel

5 Nietzsche

6 Prospects of Spinozistic Rationalism


Further Reading

Glossary 314

Notes 318

Bibliography 327

Index 333

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