“Interestingly enough, philosophers have long been in the business of offering advice on how to be happy. Or at least not too sad.” Spinoza is one of the great philosophers offering advice on how to be happy: “As Spinoza saw it, people are slaves to their emotions and chained to what they love, such as fame, fortune and other people. This inevitably leads to sadness … .” In Spinoza, Self Help and Agency, Mike LaBossiere explains Spinoza’s advice about how we can free ourselves from our emotions … and then points out “one crushing and obvious problem with Spinoza’s advice.” Along the way he makes quite a few interesting points about free will and determinism.
Matthew Stewart’s The Courtier and the Heretic is about Leibniz (the courtier) and Spinoza (the heretic). It is a superb introduction to their ideas and also an exciting story. As Liesl Schillinger put it in Great Minds Don’t Think Alike, a book review in the New York Times, “With ‘The Courtier and the Heretic,’ Stewart has achieved a near impossibility, creating a page-turner about jousting metaphysical ideas that casts the hallowed, hoary thinkers as warriors in a heated ideological battle.” This book review, along with Mad, bad and dangerous to know – it can only be a philosopher and Of miracles and monads, will give you a good idea of Stewart’s book and of Spinoza’s and Leibniz’s ideas.