Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Malinowski-Charles, Syliane. Review of Olli Koistinen, ed. CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO SPINOZA'S ETHICS. NDPR (February 2010).

Koistinen, Olli, ed. Cambridge Companion to Spinoza's Ethics. Cambridge: CUP, 2009. This new Companion is in no way intended to replace the 1996 Cambridge Companion to Spinoza edited by Don Garrett. Rather, it is meant to complement it by providing more focused analyses of Spinoza's magnum opus at a time in which Spinoza studies have known a formidable explosion everywhere in the world, and particularly in North America during the last five years. Whereas the first Cambridge Companion covered many aspects of Spinoza's philosophy generally, this one offers analyses that will be useful to anyone teaching Spinoza's Ethics properly speaking, or to anyone trying to understand better the theories that Spinoza presented in it. Beyond only three articles referring mostly to the Ethics, specifically those devoted to Spinoza's metaphysics, to his theory of knowledge, and to his ethical theory, the reader of the first Companion also had the opportunity to learn about Spinoza's life and reception, his natural science, and his theology and biblical scholarship -- among other things. Here, by contrast, the articles follow the order of the Ethics and treat, one after the other and in depth, the main concepts that Spinoza put forth in the book in which he enclosed all his wisdom. In a nutshell, this is a much-needed Companion coming at a time when a growing number of English-speaking scholars have started to include a study of the Ethics in their classrooms, and have themselves been struggling with the difficulties of Spinoza's thought. It will provide conceptual tools as much for the more advanced as for the beginner in the study of this difficult but fascinating philosophy. Something particularly interesting about this book is the list of contributors, which includes a number of younger and very promising Spinoza scholars (e.g., Michael LeBuffe, Valtteri Viljanen, and Andrew Youpa), while also benefiting from the experience of more established academics such as Piet Steenbakkers, Susan James, and Don Garrett. This gives some fresh voices to the well-trodden themes already studied by older or more recognized contributors such as those who were included in the 1996 Companion to Spinoza, who had written the first important books on Spinoza at the time of the renewal of interest in his work in that decade as well as at the end of the preceding one -- crucial scholars such as Jonathan Bennett, Margaret Wilson, Alan Donogan, Edwin Curley, Richard Popkin, or Pierre-François Moreau. While their contributions remain jewels and a continued source of inspiration and knowledge for all Spinoza scholars, it is nice to see that some new names are being made known to readers. The choice of contributors is limited, of course, and many very valuable persons are left out, but it is an interesting start to a rather unusual practice for the Cambridge Companions. . . . Read the whole review here:

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