Nadler, Steven. “Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die”, Princeton University Press, 2020.
What We Can Learn from Spinoza
At my Temple, I am often referred to as a Spinoza adherent because I try to maintain that what once caused Spinoza so much trouble has actually come to be. Yet one of the aspects of his philosophy I have never really studied before Steven Nadler’s “Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die” are his views on death.
In 1656, Spinoza was excommunicated from Amsterdam’s Portuguese-Jewish community for “abominable heresies” and “monstrous deeds.” He had abandoned his family’s import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He soon became notorious across Europe for his views on God, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his total defense of free thought. This “radicalism” of Spinoza’s views has long hidden that his reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of the most urgent questions of humanity: How can we lead a good life and enjoy happiness in a world without a providential God? Here, Steven Nadler connects Spinoza’s ideas with his life and times to give us a compelling account of how Baruch Spinoza can provide a guide to living one’s best life.
In his “Ethics”, Spinoza gives us his vision of the ideal human being, the “free person” who is motivated by reason and who lives a life of joy devoted to what is most important that is, to oneself and others. Passions such as hate, greed, and envy are of no concern and free people treat others with benevolence, justice, and charity. The focus is on the rewards of goodness and pleasures are enjoyed in moderation. This free person thinks least of all of death and his wisdom is a meditation on life and not death. Nadler shows how Spinoza’s ideas still provide valuable insights about how to live today.
This is an introduction to Spinoza’s moral philosophy and examines the question of what constitutes a good human life.Here is Spinoza as a moral philosopher along with his often overlooked contributions to traditional ethical subjects like death and suicide.
This book analyzes the core points in Spinoza’s Ethics regarding living as a “free person” and dying as one. Spinoza advocates the “logical life”, free of outside passions, but since this seems unattainable, he presents the closest mortal counterpart. Nadler focuses on putting Spinoza’s writings into perspective.
Nadler addresses the paradoxes of Spinoza’s philosophy and presents a look at a philosophical approach that does not reach the non-academic word. The book explores the last three parts of Spinoza’s “Ethics” in whichSpinoza lays out a pantheistic conception of God, a God who is everything and synonymous with nature. Spinoza’s conception of God andnot how we should act in light of that God is the main thrust.
After briefly explaining Spinoza’s theological framework, Nadler explores a number of issues that come out of it, including what makes a person free, how to live an honest life, the nature of a good friendship, and the ideal attitude toward death. Even with this, Spinoza remains difficult and so it is important to read this book carefully. This is an indispensable book for anyone interested in learning about Spinoza and one we can all use to better understand the people we seek to be and the lives that we hope we can live.