9780393058987 / 0393058980

The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World


3.94 avg rating566 ratings by GoodReads

Publisher:W. W. Norton, 2006



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About the book:

Philosophy in the late seventeenth century was a dangerous business. No careerist could afford to know the reclusive philosopher known as the 'atheist Jew', Baruch de Spinoza. Yet the wildly ambitious young genius Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz became obsessed with Spinoza's writings, wrote him clandestine letters, and ultimately called on Spinoza in person at his home in The Hague. Both men were at the centre of the intense religious, political and personal battles that gave birth to the modern age. One was a hermit with many friends; the other, a socialite no one trusted. One believed in a God whom almost nobody thought divine; the other defended a God in whom he probably did not believe. Their characters and ways of life defined their philosophies. In this exquisitely written philosophical romance of attraction and repulsion, greed and virtue, religion and heresy, Matthew Stewart dramatises a titanic clash of beliefs that still continues today. 'A sprightly and enlightening biography ...this is an exhilaratingly epic canvas. Stewart's writing has huge panache ...It is philosophy exuberantly rooted in history, grabbing you by the lapels and making sure that you know why you are being dragged round the backstreets of The Hague and up the front of the Leineschloss in Hanover. You will not regret the visits.' Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, 'The Guardian' 'Gripping ...the best current untechnical introduction to the lives and philosophies of the two men. Stewart does it in very agreeable prose, and what he says rests on a sound bottom of historical and philosophical scholarship, so lightly worn that one is not conscious of the skill that has gone into making the epoch and its seminal ideas accessible. The result is a thoroughly good book, hard to put down for anyone interested in the great story of the Western intellectual tradition.' A. C. Grayling, 'Literary Review' 'A compelling adventure' Nicholas Fearn, 'The Independent' ' ...superbly elegant and intelligent prose.' Edward Skidelsky, 'The Saturday Telegraph' Matthew Stewart received his doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University. He sold his management consulting firm so as to devote his time to other thoughts. He lives in New York.

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