Sunday, May 28, 2006

The hidden Jew in Spinoza

Spinoza was most interested in creating a state in which it would be safe to philosophize and trying to rein in the more pernicious forces of religion. Spinoza had already died when John Locke had to leave England and went to Amsterdam. But in Amsterdam, Locke did hang with these dissident Protestant thinkers who Spinoza had made a big impression on. And when Locke went back to England, he produced his writings on tolerance that influenced the people who created this extraordinary country that we're fortunate enough to live in. It's a wonderful kind of conceit to think that this reviled Jew might have played a role in creating America.
Rarely have I read so much nonsense as in Betraying Spinoza, a book that would be worthless were it not so dangerous. Goldstein's deep delusions about Spinoza would be comical, were they not being taken so seriously, and have received the Nextbook stamp of approval. The book is riddled with errors of historical fact, to say nothing of very dubious interpretations. Any half-way competent editor would have found these errors. It is one thing to write a fictional biography. But Goldstein just makes stuff up (like her total distortion of the letter to Albert Burgh where he cynically refers to the tiresome boasting of the Pharisees about their martyrs -- Spinoza is hardly identifying with Jewish history or her martyrs.
Quite the opposite. His point to Burgh is that a proliferation of martyrs is no proof oif the truth of Catholicism, to which Burgh had recently converted, than it is of the truth of Judaism. Goldstein is so desperate to find the hidden Jew in Spinoza that she simply ignore the overwhelming evidence -- especially in the Theological Political Treatise, with which she hardly deals -- that he despised the Jews and the Judaism of his day, and much preferred Jesus and Paul to Moses and Aaron. Spinoza is very explicit about this preference for Christianity, despite his own atheism, when he writes: "God sent God his Christ to free all men alike from the bondage of the law (i.e. Halakha)...thus, Paul's teachings coincides exactly with our own." (Chapter 3 of the Treatise) Of course, Goldstein simply ignores all of the inconvenient evidence, because the book is all about HER PERSONAL LOVABLE Spinoza, not the actual historical Spinoza and his philosophy.
In fact, her book is really all about her wanting to turn Baruch Spinoza into Rebecca Goldstein. How utterly selfish, narcissistic annoying. And SHAME on Nextbook for publishing this irresponsible rubbish, when there are so many wonderful and responsible single-volume introductions to Spinoza in print. This lazy, self-absorbed book will only misinform its readers about one of the most important thinkers in modern times. And that is a terrible shame ! Posted by Hakham Ba-Layla on 05.26.06

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