• A Book Forged in Hell

  • Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age
  • By: Steven Nadler
  • Narrated by: John Lescault
  • Length: 9 hrs and 17 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (246 ratings)

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A Book Forged in Hell

By: Steven Nadler
Narrated by: John Lescault
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Publisher's Summary

The story of one of the most important - and incendiary - books in Western history.

When it appeared in 1670, Baruch Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise was denounced as the most dangerous book ever published - “godless”, “full of abominations”, “a book forged in hell...by the devil himself”. Religious and secular authorities saw it as a threat to faith, social and political harmony, and everyday morality, and its author was almost universally regarded as a religious subversive and political radical who sought to spread atheism throughout Europe. Yet Spinoza’s book has contributed as much as the Declaration of Independence or Thomas Paine’s Common Sense to modern liberal, secular, and democratic thinking.

In A Book Forged in Hell, Steven Nadler tells the fascinating story of this extraordinary book: its radical claims and their background in the philosophical, religious, and political tensions of the Dutch Golden Age, as well as the vitriolic reaction these ideas inspired.

It is not hard to see why Spinoza’s Treatise was so important or so controversial or why the uproar it caused is one of the most significant events in European intellectual history. In the book, Spinoza became the first to argue that the Bible is not literally the word of God but rather a work of human literature; that true religion has nothing to do with theology, liturgical ceremonies, or sectarian dogma; and that religious authorities should have no role in governing a modern state. He also denied the reality of miracles and divine providence, reinterpreted the nature of prophecy, and made an eloquent plea for toleration and democracy.

A vivid story of incendiary ideas and vicious backlash, A Book Forged in Hell will interest anyone who is curious about the origin of some of our most cherished modern beliefs.

©2010 Princeton University Press (P)2021 Blackstone Publishing
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about A Book Forged in Hell

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    4 out of 5 stars

Well researched, comprehensive intro to Spinoza’s work.

I read a lot of contemporary Philosophy and have often come across references to the influence of Spinoza’s writing. It has always struck me though, that he is not often ranked among the top tier of European thinkers, while he is becoming more noticed recently.

Reading Nadler’s book, I think I understand that while his work was virtually suppressed by the Religious powers of his time, his demand for freedom of thought, unbound by obeisance to Sacred Texts whether Jewish or Christian, is far more likely to be respected in our more Secular Age. His approach to Philosophic issues was obviously far ahead of his time, a dangerous stance in the Seventeenth Century.

Nadler does a good job of staying out of the weeds, presenting the source documents when necessary, but relating Spinoza’s principles in terms understandable to the laymen of our time.

A clear and pleasant read of the work of a powerful, often overlooked Mind. Four Stars. ****

3 people found this helpful

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A fine book

A fine book indeed and with a professional reading. I’m not sure if it is a blemish or not, but the author states that this is not a book about Spinoza’s Ethics. At some point he dives into a discussion of The Ethics and then he keeps at it.

I say I’m not sure if it is a blemish or not because a discussion of the Ethics does fill out what Spinoza was saying in his Tractatus.

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I really liked it

I was not familiar with Spinozas work and this was a superb audio book to get me up to speed.
I'm giving it 5 stars because the author does a great job of explaining Spinozas publication. One may like or dislike Spinozas writings, but the author and narrator of this book do an extremely good job of presenting that material in a factual light, not pressing any biases.
You certainly learn how Spinoza has influenced our age for better or worse. Great book.

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Robo-narrator

I couldn’t get half an hour into it. Absolutely no way I can follow the narrator with his absolute lack of inflection.

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Narrator sounds like a robot

The narration sounds like it’s done by a robot. Very little variation in tone throughout, and often no pause between sentences. Bizarre.

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not an easy bo9k, but worth the time

this is not your usual walk in the park and listen kind of book. it is deeply philosophical and rooted in logical reasoning so full attention is required. also full openness. if you are a dogmatic religious person you won't enjoy this. If you want to pursue somewhat the reasoning path without encumbrance of biases, then this is the boom for you. Will give it another read in a while after ideas settle. spinoza is a fascinating man both in the conext of his age and as an influence for the philosophers of nowadays

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A fine little heresy.

A fine little heresy.

Spinoza's 1670 "Theological-Political Treatise" took the view that the Bible (primarily the Old Testament) could not be taken literally and should instead be read as a more literary/metaphorical text for to do otherwise would be to limit God to our own anthropomorphic emotions and tendencies and also as a way to counter the abuse of the clerisy across most aspects of society. Diving a hard liune between philosophy and theology, and never the twain shall meet, Spinoza challenged the orthodox views of prophecy, ceremony, and even the divine provenance of miracles. Suffice it to say, he was not the most popular guy at church parties.

Nadler's 2011 "A Book Forged in Hell" (a description given to Spinoza's Treatise at the time) walks the reader through Spinoza's thinking and how his Treatise came to be written (for a general audience while his "Ethics" was a more analytic and less accessible work espousing his overall philosophy). Just as much a work of religious philosophy as it was a political response to what Spinoza saw as the corrupting influence of the clerical class, Nadler expertly helps the reader understand the multiple threads Spinoza was working with as well as the institutional reactions thereto. A solid and enlightening look at a seminal philosophical work.

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  • Tout en chantant
  • 05-16-21

Long live Baruch

Excellent account of the context, content and purport of this significant text. John Lescault reads it beautifully. Fascinating listen.

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  • merlin
  • 11-25-22

Benedicto De Spinoza changed our world

Short
Easy to grasp
Tragic triumph of a personal kind
Unappreciated but eventually so so important
Thank you Benedicto buried in a Christian graveyard with Christian friends.
Spurned by many, especially his early religious peers.