Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Aug 11, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 304 pages
Part of the Jewish Encounter series

In 1656, Amsterdam’s Jewish community excommunicated Baruch Spinoza, and, at the age of twenty–three, he became the most famous heretic in Judaism. He was already germinating a secularist challenge to religion that would be as radical as it was original. He went on to produce one of the most ambitious systems in the history of Western philosophy, so ahead of its time that scientists today, from string theorists to neurobiologists, count themselves among Spinoza’s progeny.

In Betraying Spinoza, Rebecca Goldstein sets out to rediscover the flesh-and-blood man often hidden beneath the veneer of rigorous rationality, and to crack the mystery of the breach between the philosopher and his Jewish past. Goldstein argues that the trauma of the Inquisition’ s persecution of its forced Jewish converts plays itself out in Spinoza’s philosophy. The excommunicated Spinoza, no less than his excommunicators, was responding to Europe’ s first experiment with racial anti-Semitism.

Here is a Spinoza both hauntingly emblematic and deeply human, both heretic and hero—a surprisingly contemporary figure ripe for our own uncertain age.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ashergabbay - LibraryThing

On the face of things, reading a book about Baruch Spinoza is not an easy task for a religious Jew. After all, Spinoza is one of the great rationalist philosophers who started his "career" by annoying ... Read full review

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User Review  - carioca - LibraryThing

I loved this book. Not only I am fascinated by Spinoza, but Rebecca Goldstein does a fantastic job introducing him as a person, philosopher and Jew. She aptly describes his environment growing up ... Read full review

Contents

Baruch Bcnto BcncdictUS
3
In Search of Baruch
17
The Project of Escape
67
Epilogue 278
258
Chronology
267
Notes
273
Acknowledgments
285
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

REBECCA NEWBERGER GOLDSTEIN received her doctorate in philosophy from Princeton University. Her award-winning books include the novels The Mind-Body Problem, Properties of Light, and 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction and nonfiction studies of Kurt Gödel and Baruch Spinoza. She has received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, has been designated a Humanist of the Year and a Freethought Heroine, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2015. She lives in Massachusetts.

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