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Nadler received his PhD from Columbia University in 1986. His research focus since then has been devoted to the study of philosophy in the seventeenth century, including Descartes and Cartesian philosophy, Spinoza, and Leibniz. His research also includes antecedents of aspects of early modern thought in medieval Latin philosophy and (especially with respect to Spinoza) medieval Jewish philosophy.
He has taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison since 1988, and was a visiting professor of philosophy at Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris. In 2008 he held the Spinoza Chair at the University of Amsterdam. Nadler was also a speaker at the Beyond Belief symposium on November 2006.
He is currently the editor of the Journal of the History of Philosophy.
- Arnauld and the Cartesian Philosophy of Ideas (Manchester University Press, 1989) ISBN 0-691-07340-6
- Malebranche and Ideas (Oxford University Press, 1992)
- Editor, Causation in Early Modern Philosophy (Penn State Press, 1993) ISBN 0-271-02657-X
- Spinoza: A Life (Cambridge, 1999) - Winner of the 2000 Koret Jewish Book Award ISBN 0-521-00293-1
- Editor, The Cambridge Companion to Malebranche (Cambridge University Press, 2000) ISBN 0-521-62729-X
- Editor, A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy (Blackwell, 2002) ISBN 0-631-21800-9
- Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind (Oxford, 2002) ISBN 0-19-924707-2
- Rembrandt's Jews (Chicago, 2003) - Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 2004. ISBN 0-226-56737-0
- Co-editor (with Manfred Walther and Elhanan Yakira), Spinoza and Jewish Identity (Konigshausen & Neumann, 2003) ISBN 3-8260-2715-9
- Co-editor (with Daniel Garber), Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2006) ISBN 0-19-920394-6
- Spinoza's Ethics: An Introduction (Cambridge, 2006) ISBN 0-521-83620-4
- The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008; paperback, Princeton University Press, 2010)
- 'A Book Forged in Hell': Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise (Princeton University Press, 2011)
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