Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

Happy New Year! As we look ahead to new beginnings, this week's review explores how to live a joyous and fulfilling life

Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

Nadler, Steven M. Princeton, 2020
234p bibl index, 9780691183848 $27.95, 9780691207681

Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die book cover

This reviewer frequently directs people to the dominant texts in the history of philosophy (often the skeptics, or existentialists) when they express questions about big problems of the human condition: What makes actions right or wrong? What do we owe to each other? But when the question is the meaning of one must point to Spinoza. However, owing to the complexity of philosophy—its writing and the obscurity of language—philosophy’s central ideas are often obfuscated, leaving readers struggling to appreciate the subtlety and power of the arguments therein. This is the value of excellent and important books like Nadler’s Think Least of Death: his analysis of Spinoza’s answer to big, timeless problems is approachable for nonspecialists as well as specialists. Nadler (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) focuses on connecting Spinoza’s atheistic, determinist metaphysics to his ethics, an ethic that is not nihilistic as one would expect but rather defines a meaning of life based in happiness, well-being, and human flourishing that is stable, complete, and not subject to random chance. This book is accessible and yet academically rigorous, and the subject could not be more important.

Summing Up: Essential. All readers.
R. C. Robinson, Georgia State University
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Classical Studies
Subject: Humanities – Philosophy
Choice Issue: Dec 2021

Enjoy this week’s review? Check out more reviews of related titles: