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A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  166 ratings  ·  26 reviews
When it appeared in 1670, Baruch Spinoza's "Theological-Political Treatise" was denounced as the most dangerous book ever published--"godless," "full of abominations," "a book forged in hell . . . by the devil himself." Religious and secular authorities saw it as a threat to faith, social and political harmony, and everyday morality, and its author was almost universally r ...more
Hardcover, 279 pages
Published October 9th 2011 by Princeton University Press (first published 2011)
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Adam Floridia
One time for Christmas, I used my credit card points to get Erin jewelry for Christmas. Full of joy that Xmas morning, I handed her my thoughtful gift with a twinkle in my eye and love in my heart. She opened the small box and her eyes lit up and her mouth fell agape. "Gross!" she gagged. I told her that if she just tried the necklace and earrings on, maybe she'd like them. "If I put that on, I think I'll puke," she replied. From that day forth, I have sworn to never again order jewelry off of t ...more
David S. T.
My interest in philosophy started only a little over half a year ago; I read Durant's History of Philosophy and I've slowly read more in the months after. From Durant's book the philosopher I've been most interested in is Spinoza. Here was this renegade Jew whom questioned the bible and the faith of his fathers only to be excommunicated and later wrote a few political and religious texts. Eventually I'm going to attempt to tackle his Ethics, but the geometric style sort of scares me (furthermore ...more
Jon
I have to dissent from other Goodreads reviewers of this book, I suppose partly because I was misled by the provocative title into thinking that it would be similar to the recent semi-bestseller The Swerve, by Stephen Greenblatt. But it is definitely not for the general reader: it is a scholarly book for a relatively narrow audience, lightly edited to make it seem more relevant to general interests. Spinoza's scandalous treatise was widely condemned for declaring that the Bible is not literally ...more
Brad Lyerla
Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) is regarded as one of the most original thinkers in modern western philosophy. A BOOK FORGED IN HELL is Stephen Nadler's account of Spinoza's TRACTATUS THEOLOGICO-POLITICUS (the 'Treatise'), which was published in 1670.

The Treatise was motivated by politics. Spinoza hoped to persuade influential people in the Dutch Republic to support greater freedom for the pursuit of philosophy and science. The Treatise failed to accomplish Spinoza's goal and instead provoked a backla
...more
Robin Friedman
About 25 years ago, I was engaged in serious graduate study in philosophy and preparing to write a dissertation on Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise (1670). I have had a lifelong interest in Spinoza and was interested in the Treatise because of the questions of how to interpret texts it raises in terms of its treatment of the Bible. Also, at the time, the Treatise was receiving far less attention than Spinoza's most famous work, the Ethics. I never completed the dissertation but retained ...more
Lauren Albert
How was Spinoza's writing shocking and why was it? Those are the two questions Nadler answers. Having read a fair amount about Spinoza, I found the long passages explaining his philosophy a bit tedious. I found the cultural aspect more interesting--for instance, Nadler's take on why so many people who should have been sympathetic turned on Spinoza. I believe he is probably right that those less radical than Spinoza both did not want to be associated with him and felt that turning on him might sa ...more
Sam Schulman
Sadly, a disappointment. Written in a slightly jokey style by the American expert on Spinoza, the book is of course informative and reliable about the Tractatus's argument and Spinoza's life. But as a non-expert and non-philosopher, I still found it rather limp and dull. Surely Nadler knows more than this, and he is talking down in a badly judged way to a popular audience. Actually, the Tractatus itself is more thrilling and un-put-downable. And I don't mean to be cruel with that remark - but th ...more
Jeff Rowe
First off, I'm not a big fan of pure philosophy, which oftentimes boils down to arguing about the semantics of words. I chose this initially because of the title. And it wasn't too thick. Turns out it was pretty good. I'm not going to quibble about Spinoza's philosophy. I mean he's writing from the 1600's so what do you expect. What this book really delivers is a clear explanation of what Spinoza was proposing. And a shocking proposal it must have been at the time too; that God isn't some being ...more
Charles Gonzalez
How is it possible that I have not , in over 35 years of reading and study of western knowledge, read or been exposed to the thinking and writing of this great man? Chalk it up to a less than adequate general education and curiosity on my part....saying that, I have just received a copy of the the Treatise to study in the original, so that Spinoza's own words find their way into my experience. I, we , owe a profound debt to this remarkably intelligent, courageous and gifted thinker and writer. I ...more
Suzanne Arcand
Ever since I read A Secular Age by Charles Taylor, I had wanted to know more about Spinoza. However I was not willing to tackle a hardcore philosophy book. That’s why I chose A Book Forged in Hell. I was not disappointed even though this book was a more difficult read than I expected.

Of course I learned about Spinoza and his Theological-Political Treatise but I also learned about life and politics in Holland in the 17th century where the freedom to philosophize was greater than I expected. Where
...more
Kamran Swanson
Summary: Written by 17th century philosophy scholar Steven Nadler, "A Book Forged in Hell" aims to couch Spinoza's controversial book, "The Theological-Political Treatise," in its social, political, and intellectual history. The book does, obviously, summarize some of the TTP's main and most controversial arguments, but its main virtue is to trace Spinoza's intellectual predecessors and contemporaries, the status of political philosophy and politics in 17th century Europe, and to illustrate the ...more
John
Despite the somewhat dry subject matter, this is still a very timely topic. Nadler does a deep annotation on Baruch Spinoza's 1670 Theological-Political Treatise which advanced the scandalous notion that the Old Testament was written by a variety of people not named in the titles of the books, that millenia-old reports of prophecy and miracles should be looked at skeptically, and that there should be real limits to what the church allows free men to think and free states to do. Nadler breaks dow ...more
Neil Novesky
Excellent. Portrays Spinoza as the rational and consistent thinker he was. It is very helpful to read as much about the life of the individual as the substance of his (or her) thinking. Cite the high quality biography on Marx; Love and Capital (also highly recommended) as another example. If more people actually read Spinoza there might be more astute discussion in regard to religious tradition and dogma. The section of this book related to his view of miracles (or lack thereof) and the role the ...more
Todd
Meaningful analysis and wonderfully done way point in narrative and historical meaning as the ship of "God" sails the seas.
Tamara
I have to say that this text might give me enough courage to read the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. For a philosopher, Nadler is an exquisite writer. I enjoyed his biography of Spinoza more than this "biography of a book," but maybe that's because Spinoza's life is even more compelling than his ideas. Spinoza thought that civil authorities ought to appoint religious curators. That's interesting. Would he really trust a king more than a theologian? If so, is that because the compromises require ...more
Rebecca
I was very interested in this book because I really enjoyed Greenblatt's book on the rediscovery of Lucretius' "De Rerum Natura". I thought this would be as accessible, however I was mistaken. I enjoyed it but it was a slog. Nadler wrote a lot about Spinoza's era but not about how the treatise influenced secularism thruout the time since.
Ned Leffingwell
I would not have chosen to read this book on my own. I read it for a class on the Renaissance. Spinoza was a man I would have enjoyed talking to. The author does a good job of explaining Spinoza's works but he could of done a better job explaining the modern influences that Spinoza's works had.
Carol


A scholarly work that I read a chapter at a time. It is very thought provoking and makes one realize that the conflicts between religions and political systems are inherent. The discourse in the 17th century sounds just like the discourse today.
Michael
Good review of Spinoza's time and how his books had an effect on our secular age. However, at times it became somewhat repetitious - as if the author wasn't sure the message on religion was getting through. That being said - still a book I would recommend.
Justin
A page-turner about an important (and contemporarily relevant) 17th century work on theology and politics. How many books can you say that about? Another tremendous work from one of Spinoza's most respected modern champions.
Paultc
I found this to be excellent--very clearly written and relevant to a lot of current debates. Spinoza appears to be the father of modern secular humanism.
Bruce Jones
An interesting look at Spinoza, his views and especially his treatise, as a response to the forces and incidents of his time.
Joshua Berg
My wife bought this book for her to read. I picked it up and I am glad I did. It was very informative and intelligent.
Kubilay
An adequate companion on Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico Politicus. Must be read concurrently with it.
Ryan
spinoza is one of my heroes.
David
David marked it as to-read
Dec 27, 2014
Kenzie Lyn
Kenzie Lyn marked it as to-read
Dec 26, 2014
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