Nadler, Steven M. 1958-
NADLER, Steven M. 1958-
PERSONAL: Born 1958. Education: Washington University, B.A. (cum laude), 1980; Columbia University, M.A., 1981, Ph.D., 1986.
CAREER: Professor of philosophy. Columbia University, New York, NY, instructor, 1983-86; St. John's College, Annapolis, MD, tutor (assistant professor), 1986-88; University of Wisconsin, Madison, assistant professor, 1988-92, associate professor, 1992-98, professor of philosophy, 1998—, founding director of the Center for Humanities, 1999-2003, director of the George L. Mosse/Lawrence A. Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies. Stanford University, visiting associate professor of philosophy, 1993.
MEMBER: American Philosophical Association, Association for Jewish Studies, Wisconsin Humanities Council.
AWARDS, HONORS: Grants and awards from the University of Wisconsin, Brown University, and National Endowment for the Humanities; Selma V. Forkash Prize, 1995; Koret Jewish Book Award, 2000, for Spinoza: A Life; Pulitzer Prize finalist for general nonfiction, 2004, for Rembrandt's Jews.
Arnauld and the Cartesian Philosophy of Ideas ("Studies in Intellectual History and the History of Philosophy" series), Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1989.
(Editor) Nicolas Malebranche, Philosophical Selections, Hackett Publishing (Indianapolis, IN), 1992.
(Editor) Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Preestablished Harmony, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1993.
Spinoza: A Life, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor) The Cambridge Companion to Malebranche, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.
(Editor) A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy ("Blackwell Companions to Philosophy" series), Blackwell Publishers (Malden, MA), 2002.
(Editor, with Daniel Garber) Oxford Studies in EarlyModern Philosophy, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), Volume 1, 2003, Volume 2, in press.
Rembrandt's Jews, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2003.
Contributor to books, including The Encyclopedia of the Scientific Revolution, Garland (New York, NY), 2000; The Blackwell Guide to Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Nietszche, edited by Steven Emmanuel, Blackwell, 2000; The Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2nd edition, edited by Lawrence Becker, Routledge (New York, NY), 2001; Hellenistic Philosophy and the Early Modern Period, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2003; and Cartesian Views, edited by Thomas Lennon, Brill, 2003. Contributor to and reviewer for journals, including Journal of the History of Philosophy, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Notre DamePhilosophical Reviews, Isis, Journal of Philosophy, and Journal of the History of Ideas. Serves on the editorial board of Journal of the History of Philosophy and Journal of the History of Ideas; general editor of the Blackwell "Great Minds" series.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Occasionalism: Causation among the Cartesians, for Oxford University Press (New York, NY); Spinoza's Ethics: An Introduction, for Cambridge University Press (New York, NY); and The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy: From Antiquity through the Seventeenth Century, for Cambridge University Press (New York, NY).
SIDELIGHTS: Professor of philosophy Steven M. Nadler, who has written and edited a number of volumes on his subject, was a 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his study Rembrandt's Jews. Nadler's interests are moral philosophy, Jewish philosophy, and metaphysics. One of the earlier volumes of which he is editor is Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Preestablished Harmony, which was reviewed in the Review of Metaphysics, by Donald Felipe. Felipe wrote that most of the ten essays "discuss the development of occasionalism and preestablished harmony in major seventeenth-century thinkers and how these theories emerge from the background Cartesian metaphysics, mechanistic physics, revealed theology, and traditional philosophy." Felipe concluded by saying that "not a weak essay can be found in this anthology. . . . The fine scholarship and exegesis of these essays make this book a solid contribution to the historiography of seventeenth-century philosophy."
In Spinoza: A Life, Nadler considers what it may have been like to be a Jewish philosopher in the Dutch Golden Age. In this study, Nadler provides a history of the life of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) and an analysis of his thinking. Spinoza was born in Amsterdam in a community of expatriate Portuguese Jews who, because they had previously practiced their religion in secret, had forgotten much of their tradition and Jewish law. Spinoza was excommunicated at the age of twenty-three because he exhibited what was perceived as improper Jewish behavior. He spent the rest of his short life writing and studying, surviving primarily on gifts from friends. Although a complete biography had never before been written for lack of details, Nadler "effectively integrates historical background, factual statistics, and philosophical thought into his portrayal of Spinoza," noted Michael Spinella in Booklist.
In writing the book, Nadler drew on sixty years' worth of research and archival materials, "meticulously surveyed and lucidly presented," noted R. M. Silverman in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History.
In reviewing Spinoza in the New York Times Book Review, Anthony Gottlieb noted that many of Spinoza's friends were members of dissident Christian groups known collectively as Collegiants. It is his sharing of their views for which Spinoza is most well-known. The Collegiants rejected established religion, ceremony, and traditional dogma, and instead promoted the separation of church and state and the idea of religious freedom. Spinoza, who lived and preached tolerance and benevolence, suffered because of his professed atheism, and, as Gottlieb noted, it was with the publication of his Ethics that he received the most attention. "Coleridge and Shelley saw in it a religion of nature. George Eliot, who translated some of Ethics into English, liked Spinoza for his vehement attacks on superstition. Marx liked him for what he took to be his materialistic account of the universe. Goethe could not say exactly what it was that he liked in the Ethics, but he knew he was profoundly moved by something or other." Nadler outlines the conclusions of this complex work but does not go further.
Gottlieb pointed out that Ethics "is a work with many still-unresolved obscurities, a forbidding mathematical structure modeled on Euclid's geometry and a technical vocabulary derived in part from medieval scholasticism." Gottlieb noted that Spinoza's earlier Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, perhaps the first major work of modern biblical criticism, which was published anonymously during Spinoza's lifetime, is, on the other hand, easily understood. Gottlieb called it "one of the finest defenses of freedom of thought and a neglected masterpiece. It is certainly the first work of Spinoza's to which readers who have been introduced to him by this engaging biography should turn."
Shofar's Willi Goetschel wrote that "recognizing the challenge of reconstructing his life as the task to grasp the productive dynamics of a complicated existence of an independent recluse and philosopher at the interface of Jewish and Dutch sensitivities, Nadler moves towards an appreciation of Spinoza beyond a historical flatness and mythical profundity—a Spinoza who is finally granted his own particularity at the threshold to modernity."
Nadler has frequently written about French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715), whose "lengthy discussions of the laws of grace, his emotionally over-the-top style, and his hyper-metaphysical participation doctrines won him few readers," wrote Catherine Wilson in Philosophical Review. Nadler's The Cambridge Companion to Malebranche is the first collection of articles on Malebranche to be published in English. Wilson said that Nadler "is to be thanked for assembling, and in some cases translating, this set of papers by well-known historians."
Rembrandt's Jews is Nadler's study of the Baroque artist Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), who it is said had a particular affection for the Jewish people, as reflected by his many Jewish subjects and depictions of stories from the Hebrew bible. What Nadler shows is that Jewish culture also inspired other artists, including Jacob van Ruisdael and Emmanuel de Witte. Nadler provides a glimpse into seventeenth-century Amsterdam, as well as the modern city, which he has visited to conduct his research. "What is illuminated by this book, owing to a remarkable feat of historical imagination, is Amsterdam's Jewish society," noted Frances Spalding in a review for Independent Enjoyment online. "Nadler is a sympathetic guide to its development, as it takes root and becomes woven into the city's cultural life and material boom." Jews of the period, including those who had fled from Germany, Eastern Europe, and the Inquisition led peaceful lives within Dutch society, which held to a "live and let live" attitude, and which itself had only recently escaped from Spanish Catholic rule.
Forward writer Toby Appleton Perl noted that "Calvinism always had a doctrinal soft spot for the monotheistic, idol-smashing Jews, and believed that engaging them in a dialogue would ease their conversion and hasten the Second Coming. Despite grumbling from some quarters, the prevailing inclination was to tolerate these refugees, and even to grant them liberal, though circumscribed, rights." Perl wrote that the book "is a far-ranging analysis not only of the community itself, but of the complex theological attitude of Dutch Christians toward the Jews living in their midst, as viewed through the lens of the country's native artists."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 1999, Michael Spinella, review of Spinoza: A Life, p. 1005; November 1, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of Rembrandt's Jews, p. 471.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, April, 2001, R. M. Silverman, review of Spinoza, p. 384.
New York Times Book Review, July 18, 1999, Anthony Gottlieb, review of Spinoza, p. 20.
Philosophical Review, January, 2002, Catherine Wilson, review of The Cambridge Companion to Malebranche, p. 108.
Religious Studies, September, 2001, Martin Stone, review of The Cambridge Companion to Malebranche, p. 369.
Review of Metaphysics, September, 1994, Donald Felipe, review of Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Preestablished Harmony, p. 156.
Shofar, fall, 2001, Willi Goetschel, review of Spinoza, p. 138.
Forward,http://www.forward.com/ (January 30, 2004), Toby Appleton Perl, review of Rembrandt's Jews.
Independent Enjoyment,http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/ (January 21, 2004), Frances Spalding, review of Rembrandt's Jews.