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Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind

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Overview

"At the heart of Spinoza's Heresy is a mystery: why was Baruch Spinoza so harshly excommunicated from the Amsterdam Jewish community at the age of twenty-four?" "In this philosophical sequel to his biography of the seventeenth-century thinker, Steven Nadler argues that Spinoza's main offence was a denial of the immortality of the soul. But this only deepens the mystery. For there is no specific Jewish dogma regarding immortality: there is nothing that a Jew is required to believe about the soul and the afterlife. It was, however, for various religious, historical and political reasons, simply the wrong issue to pick on in Amsterdam in the 1650s." Aftering considering the nature of the ban, or cherem, as a disciplinary tool in the Sephardic community, and a number of possible explanations for Spinoza's ban, Nadler turns to the variety of traditions in Jewish religious thought on the post-mortem fate of a person's soul. This is followed by an examination of Spinoza's own views on the eternity of the mind and the role that the denial of personal immortality plays in his overall philosophical project. Nadler argues that Spinoza's beliefs were not only an outgrowth of his own metaphysical principles, but also a culmination of an intellectualist trend in Jewish rationalism.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Nadler's project is intriguing because it takes us right into the heart of the most difficult and interesting parts of Spinoza's philosophy, as well as into the thick of the historical milieu in which the expulsion took place and which helped shape Spinoza's intellectual development....Nadler does an excellent job of summarizing and synthesizing a vast body of literature into an accessible and plausible narrative....In short, Nadler's book is an admirable piece of work. It relates Spinoza's thought to a wide variety of contexts, each of which enrich our understanding of Spinoza. It is clearly written and highly readable, continuing the story begun in Nadler's earlier Spinoza: A Life. It will be mandatory reading for students of Spinoza, as well as for students of Jewish thought and history more generally."—Martin Lin, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199268870
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/26/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Nadler is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
1 Cherem in Amsterdam 1
2 Abominations and Heresies 16
3 Patriarchs, Prophets, and Rabbis 42
4 The Philosophers 67
5 Eternity and Immortality 94
6 The Life of Reason 132
7 Immortality on the Amstel 157
Conclusion 182
Notes 185
Bibliography 213
Index 223
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