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Massive New Biography of Spinoza by J. Israel

Posted: Fri Sep 08, 2023 6:38 am
by Irish1975

Jonathan I. Israel
Spinoza: Life & Legacy
Oxford UP

21 years ago, Jonathan Israel—professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies—revolutionized the history of secularism and modernity with his book Radical Enlightenment (2002), which argued that Spinoza’s two great books of the 1670s (Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and Ethica) were uniquely impactful in the emergence of modern secular Europe, aka the Enlightenment. He is known for emphasizing the unique causal importance of books and ideas in cultural change across many European nations, from the Reformation era to 19th century, but above all the 18th century and French Revolution.

This month OUP is publishing his 1300+ page biography of Spinoza and study of his significance.

Any fans of Israel out there? I can’t recommend him highly enough to anyone with a sincere interest in secularism, its problems, and its origins. Before Israel, Paul Hazard’s WW2-era classic « Crisis of the European Mind » told a gripping tale of transformation in Europe in the late 1600s, early 1700s. Israel radicalized and extended Hazard’s emphasis on ideas and the decline of theology and religion in Western Europe.

I am ordering it today.

Re: Massive New Biography of Spinoza by J. Israel

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2023 9:04 am
by StephenGoranson
That biography, I would guess, is the result of excellent research.
Minor, minor curious note. In my browser the thread title read
"Massive New Biography of Spin..."

Re: Massive New Biography of Spinoza by J. Israel

Posted: Thu Sep 14, 2023 10:09 pm
by DCHindley
A while back I (well, a kind of alter ego I was playing with in 2014) kind of reviewed David Laird Dungan's work on the synoptic problem, noting that he makes a serious study of the issues at play, one of which was the influence of Baruch Spinoza.


I included his TOC and quoted his concluding chapter.

Dungan is Roman Catholic, but he seems to think that these matters, especially modernism and the enlightenment, while painful for Catholics as well as Protestant evangelicals to adapt to, was in fact the way God interacts with his creation so we better get used to it.

Interesting perspective.

I'll have to look at the Israel book that you (Irish) recommended.


Re: Massive New Biography of Spinoza by J. Israel

Posted: Sat Sep 16, 2023 8:44 am
by Irish1975
One of his early books was a history of the Dutch Republic, which as Americans we know nothing about, even though it was a crucible of modern capitalism, toleration, spirituality, religion, theology, and republican government (as opposed to monarchy).

Didn’t they have something to do with New York? Erasmus was a nice and clever guy who helped people with the Bible, and thought Luther went too far. Also: Royale With Cheese, legal weed, windmills, and gloomy art.