Spinoza and the Joy of Insight
Spinoza’s relevance as a rigorous philosopher of freedom
Spinoza (1632-1677) is much read but little understood. A Dutch-Jewish philosopher, he is the subject of a rich literature of interpretations, most of them as difficult to follow as the great thinker himself. In this book, Kees Schuyt, sociologist, legal expert, but above all teacher, guides the reader through Spinoza’s work
Schuyt has spent almost half his life studying what Spinoza wrote and explaining it to groups of students. The results of his lifelong fascination are reflected in Spinoza and the Joy of Insight, in which he describes how Spinoza’s thinking developed, from his earliest work to his masterpiece, Ethics.
Kees Schuyt has not simply presented us with yet another introduction to Spinoza’s thought. He reports on his own personal search over twenty-five years to grasp the often difficult subjects Spinoza addresses. Taking well-chosen quotes as his starting point, he systematically explains and unravels a number of essential elements of Spinoza’s philosophy.
Is there in fact an urge to exist, Spinoza’s conatus, that makes people go on living in even the most bitter of circumstances? Are knowledge and insight gradual in nature? What is the relationship between freedom and determinism? Did Spinoza really believe that ‘evil does not exist’?
Along the way, Schuyt is prepared to criticize some of Spinoza’s ideas as well as those of his current admirers. He also underlines Spinoza’s relevance as a rigorous philosopher of freedom.
Schuyt ends by appealing to us, in these turbulent political times, to use Spinoza’s philosophy to help us in gaining a greater understanding of the world and our own lives. Spinoza’s thought is always relevant to anyone interested in issues such as the purpose of the state, security, prosperity, peace, liberty, personal freedom and moral responsibility.