Drawing extensively on the whole range of Spinoza’s philosophical writing, Staring into the Void devotes twelve chapters to showing in detail how the architecture of reality as Spinoza saw it rises in stages from a theory of being (the existence of only One Real Thing) to prophetically modern theories of the physical world (actual or possible), of causal law, of perceptual and intuitive knowledge, of determinism (and the kind of freedom that is compatible with determinism), of the roots of human motivation, and of the kinds of civil society that human nature is capable of sustaining. Professor Skulsky tries to disarm the justifiably skeptical reader by showing why Spinoza’s thesis about the One Real Thing is as arguable as it is outrageous. The Spinoza of this intellectual portrait is a bleaker and more subversive figure than the hero of Enlightenment humanism now in general circulation. Harold Skulsky is the Mary Augusta Jordan Professor of English Language and Literature Emeritus at Smith College and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Hofstra University.
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