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The Courtier and the Heretic

 
 
Arjen
 
Reply Tue 9 Sep, 2008 09:44 am
The Courtier and the Heretic.
Leibniz, Spinoza, and the fate of God in the modern world.
Matthew Stewrt
ISBN: 0-300-12507-0
Publisher: Yale University Press

OVERVIEW: This work is a stroy written by the use of a lot of historical facts and letters, creating a hypothesis of the intents, thoughts and lives of both Leibniz and Spinoza. Because Leibniz has left many written works, containing dozens of letters the writer is a lot more accurate concerning Leibniz than he is concerning Spinoza. The writer creates a lively introductin into a fascinating period in history, but as said, it is all hypothetical. The writer backs his thoughts and speculations up by countless citations of the actual writing of both philosophers, which he makes into a very entertaining whole. One must be carefull, however, to use this work as a source on either of the philsopherss' philosophies and for some of the historical events in motion. The writer has gone a long way in researching details, losing sight of how it fits in the grand total. All and all I would recommend this book to everybody who would like to get an idea of life at the turning point between the renaissance and the enlightenment in The Netherlands, France and Germany. It is also a good way to get a look at the (hypothetical) personalities of Leibniz and Spinoza.



PRO'S:
  • Readability
  • Insight into the power-struggles of a philosophical and scientific elite, and Leibniz.
  • Brilliant use of uncountable citations.
  • Educational insight into a very lively point in history in The Netherlands, France and Germany.
  • Many amusing (educational?) events described; many worth quoting.
  • Historically very correct.
  • A good way to study the (hypothetical) personalities of Spinoza and Leibniz.
CON'S:
  • The writers knowledge of Spinoza's work is very much in question. I do not know Leibniz' work, but I suspect the same being the case there because of discrepancies in the discriptions given. This might also be a flaw of Leibniz himself, judging from the character profile which becomes evident in the book.
  • The writers knowledge of the intents of 'the church' and 'the inquisition' are questionable because he misses the entral problems with Spinoza's Ethica and why it was not published.
HIGHLITES:
  • The excommunication of Spinoza.
  • Spinoza's way of living and dealing with his excommunication.
  • Leibniz' struggle to gain influence and wages on several courts.
  • Leibniz' struggle to keep informed on just about everything and staying on top of 'public' discussions.
  • Leibniz' way of writing different things on the same subject to different people.
Rating (1-10): 6.0
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