Thursday, June 29, 2006

Biography of Spinoza (intriguing book review)

Rarely does a book review spur me to go and buy a book about a subject that I don't already have an interest in.

This book review of a new Spinoza biography makes you want to start reading Spinoza as well as read about his life.

The secret behind this book review's success is probably its concise summaries of ideas.

One might call this a Richard Rortyeffect ("arguing within a given language game" which in itself sounds very Spinoza-like). In his lectures Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity Rorty repeatedly summarizes the ideas of major figures in the intellectual history of the west like Plato, Kant, Marx, Nabokov, Nietszche Dewey, Proust in only a few sentences. Regarding "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity":

"...[the book] was published in 1989. In it, Rorty abandons the attempt to explain his theories in analytic terms and creates an alternative conceptual schema to that of the 'Platonists' he rejects. This schema is based on the belief that there is no 'truth' higher than one's ability to (re)create her/himself, a view adapted from Nietzsche and which Rorty also identifies with the novels of Proust and Henry James. This book also marks his first attempt to specifically articulate a political vision consonant with his philosophy, the vision of a diverse community bound together by opposition to cruelty, and not by abstract ideas such as 'justice' or 'common humanity' policed by the separation of the public and private realms of life.