باروخ اسپینوزا

از ویکی‌پدیا، دانشنامهٔ آزاد
پرش به: ناوبری، جستجو
فارسی English
باروخ (بندیکت) د اسپینوزا
باروخ اسپینوزا
شناسنامه
نام کامل بنتو د اسپینوسا
زادروز ۲۴ نوامبر ۱۶۳۲
زادگاه آمستردام، هلند
تاریخ مرگ ۲۱ فوریه ۱۶۷۷
محل مرگ لاهه، هلند

باروخ اسپینوزا و بعدها بندیکت دِ اسپینوزا (۱۶۳۲ - ۱۶۷۷ میلادی) فیلسوف مشهور هلندی است. او قابلیت‌های علمی فراوانی داشت و گستره و اهمیت آثارش تا سال‌ها پس از مرگ او به طور کامل درک نشد. امروزه، اسپینوزا یکی از بزرگ‌ترین خردگرایان فلسفه قرن هفدهم و زمینه ساز ظهور نقد مذهبی و همچنین عصر روشنگری در قرن هجدهم به شمار می‌رود. اسپینوزا به واسطهٔ نگارش مهم‌ترین اثرش، اخلاقیات، که پس از مرگ او به چاپ رسید و در آن دوگانه‌انگاری دکارتی را به چالش می‌کشد، یکی از مهم‌ترین فیلسوفان تاریخ فلسفهٔ غرب به شمار می‌رود. فیلسوف و مورخ، گئورگ ویلهلم فریدریش هگل، دربارهٔ فیلسوفان هم عصر خود نوشت:«شما یا پیرو اسپینوزا هستید، و یا اساساً فیلسوف نیستید.»

اسپینوزا در جامعهٔ یهودیان هلند بزرگ شد و در آنجا تعلیمات یهودی را نزد تنی چند از بهترین خاخام‌های عصر خود فرا گرفت. اسپینوزا عهد عتیق و سایر متون یهودی را به خوبی فرا گرفت، اما با گذر زمان نظرهای بحث برانگیزی دربارهٔ سندیت عهد عتیق و سرشت امر مقدس پیدا کرد که به نظر می‌رسد در نهایت منجر به تکفیر و رانده شدن او از جامعهٔ یهودیان در سن ۲۳ سالگی شد. حتی پیش از واکنش یهودیان، کلیسای کاتولیک کتاب‌های او را در فهرست کتاب‌های ممنوعه قرار داد و پروتستانهای هلندی این کتاب‌ها را به آتش کشیدند.

پیشهٔ اسپینوزا تراش عدسی بود و زندگی آرامی داشت. او در طول زندگی، جایزه‌ها، افتخارات و تدریس در مکان‌های صاحب‌نام را رد کرد، و سهم ارث خانوادگی‌اش را به خواهرش بخشید. دستاوردهای فلسفی و شخصیت اخلاقی اسپینوزا زمینه‌ساز آن شد تا ژیل دلوز، او را «شاهزادهٔ فلسفه» بنامد. اسپینوزا در سن ۴۴ سالگی، ظاهراً به خاطر بیماری ریه که احتمالاً سل یا سیلیکوز بوده و در اثر استنشاق گرد شیشه در زمان انجام کارش وخیم‌تر شده، در گذشت. اسپینوزا در صحن نیو کرک مسیحیان در لاهه دفن شده‌است.

زندگی[ویرایش]

بندیکت د اسپینوزا (متولد ۲۴ نوامبر ۱۶۳۲ - فوت ۲۱ فوریه ۱۶۷۷) در زادگاه خود آمستردام به «بنتو د اسپینوسا» معروف بود. او یکی از فیلسوفان بزرگ خردگرای سده ۱۷ به شمار می‌آید.

اسپینوزا تحصیل علم را در مدرسهٔ یهودیان آغاز کرد اما رفته رفته نشانه‌های تردید در مورد کتاب مقدس یهودیان به عنوان وحی الهی در او آشکار شد. اسپینوزا تحت تأثیر فلسفهٔ دکارت بود. امّا در تعاملات متافیزیکی خود تلاش می‌کرد بر دوگانه انگاری دکارتی چیره گردد و خدا، روح و ماده را در پیوندی واحد به اندیشه درآورد.

باروخ (بندیکت) د اسپینوزا در یک خانوادهٔ مذهبی یهودی در آمستردام متولّد شد. خانوادهٔ او در اوایل همان سده به همراه بسیاری از دیگر یهودیان پرتغالی و اسپانیایی، از بیم پیگرد توسط دستگاه تفتیش عقاید کلیسا، به هلند پناه آورده بودند. هلند در آن زمان از نظر مذهبی سرزمین نسبتاً رواداری بود.

پدر اسپینوزا او را به مدرسهٔ یهودیان سپرد تا با آموزش در حوزه دین‌شناسی، خاخام شود. اسپینوزا در سن ۱۶ سالگی شاگردی استثنایی در حوزه امور دینی بود، اما یادگیری در این زمینه او را راضی نمی‌ساخت. به دلیل آشنایی به چند زبان، به طور مستقل به مطالعه آثار فلسفی پرداخت. در سن ۱۸ سالگی، نشانه‌های تردید در مورد کتاب مقدس یهودیان به عنوان وحی الهی در او آشکار شد و به تدریج موضوع‌هایی چون دخالت یک خدای شخصی در امور انسانی، برگزیدگی قوم یهود از طرف خداوند و نیز حقوق ویژه روحانیون را مورد شک و پرسش قرار داد.

اسپینوزا مراسم عبادی و دینی را بی اهمیت و زاید خواند و به این نظر رسید که متن‌های کتاب مقدس را نباید کلمه به کلمه فهمید. از همین رو، او را در سن ۲۴ سالگی به جرم افکار انحرافی از جامعه یهودیان هلند اخراج و ورودش را به کنیسه‌ها ممنوع کردند. نظریاتش دشمنان زیادی برای او تراشیده بود و پس از اینکه سوء قصد به جان او نافرجام ماند، از آمستردام گریخت و گوشه گیری و انزوا پیشه کرد و خود را یکسره وقف فلسفه نمود.

اسپینوزا زندگی سادهٔ خود را از راه تراش شیشه‌های ذره‌بین تأمین می‌کرد. در سال ۱۶۷۳ شهریار پفالتس که با نظریات فلسفی اسپینوزا آشنا بود، به وی پیشنهاد کرسی استادی فلسفه در دانشگاه هایدلبرگ را داد، مشروط بر آنکه او از آزادی پژوهش فلسفی برای براندازی دین عمومی سوءاستفاده نکند. اسپینوزا این دعوت را رد کرد، چون نمی‌خواست استقلال فکری خود را قربانی مقام و عقل را تابع ایمان سازد. وی در پاسخ به دعوت آن شهریار نوشت: «از آنجا که نمی‌دانم مرزهای آزادی فلسفی، برای اینکه دین برانداخته نشود کجاست، نمی‌توانم از فرصت به دست آمده استفاده کنم».

در سال ۱۶۷۵ یک دیندار کاتولیک به نام آلبرت بورگ در نامه‌ای به اسپینوزا نوشت: «من این نامه را بنابر وظیفه دینی خود برایتان می‌نویسم تا عشق به همسایه را حتی به شما که یک کافر هستید نشان دهم. شما را فرا می‌خوانم که روح خود را به موقع نجات دهید و به مسیحیت بگروید. شما مدعی هستید که سرانجام، فلسفه حقیقی را یافته‌اید. اما از کجا می‌دانید که فلسفه شما بهترین است؟ آیا می‌خواهید کفرگویی‌های ناگفتنی موجودی نکبت‌زده، کِرمی حقیر و انسانی خاکی را که سرانجام غذای کِرم‌ها می‌شود، گستاخانه بر حکمت بی‌انتهای پدر جاودانی برتر شمارید؟ از شما خواهش می‌کنم بس کنید و دیگران را نیز همراه خود به فساد نکشانید».

اسپینوزا در پاسخ این مؤمن مسیحی نوشت: «من ادعا نمی‌کنم که بهترین فلسفه را یافته‌ام، اما می‌دانم که حقیقت را می‌توان شناخت. تمام دلیل‌هایی که شما در نامه خود اقامه کردید، فقط در طرفداری از کلیسای رومی است. آیا معتقدید که با آن‌ها می‌توان اقتدار این کلیسا را به روش ریاضی اثبات کرد؟ و چون این چنین نیست چگونه می‌خواهید باور کنم که بُرهان‌های من، ساخته و پرداخته ارواح خبیث است و سخنان شما مُلَهم از پروردگار؟ افزون بر آن، من می‌بینم و نامه شما نیز آشکارا نشان می‌دهد که برده این کلیسا شده‌اید، نه به خاطر عشق به خداوند، بلکه از بیم آتش دوزخ که تنها علت خرافه‌است. این خرافه را از خود دور سازید و خردی را که خداوند به شما ارزانی داشته به رسمیت بشناسید و اگر نمی‌خواهید جزو موجودات فاقد خرد به شمار آیید، از آن بهره گیرید. بس کنید و خطاهای ابلهانه را معما و رازورزی جلوه ندهید!».

اسپینوزا کتاب مقدس را حاوی قانون‌هایی اخلاقی می‌دانست که فرمانبری می‌طلبد، اما کمکی به شناخت حقیقت نمی‌کند. اگر کسی این سخن را در ایتالیا یا اسپانیا بر زبان می‌آورد، بی تردید کلیسا او را در آتش می سوزاند. هم عصران اسپینوزا نمی‌دانستند او را چگونه آدمی ارزیابی کنند. حتی بسیاری از هوشمندان زمانه اش او را رهزن عقل سلیم می‌دانستند، اما معدودی نیز یک قدیس.

مهم‌ترین اثر اسپینوزا «اخلاقیات» نام دارد. اما این کتاب بر خلاف عنوانش، به معنای گستردهٔ کلمه بیشتر متافیزیک است و فلسفهٔ اخلاق در آن جایگاه اصلی را ندارد. اسپینوزا در زمان حیاتش، این اثر را فقط در اختیار معدودی از دوستانش قرار داد و به اصرار شخصی او، انتشار این کتاب پس از مرگش صورت گرفت.

اسپینوزا از جوانی دچار بیماری سل بود و تقریباً تمام عمر ناچار شد از یک رژیم سخت غذایی پیروی کند. اهل خوشگذرانی و معاشرت نبود. در نهایت سادگی می­زیست و پول بازنشستگی‌ای را که بنابر وصیت دوستی دریافت می‌کرد، خود از پانصد گولدن به سیصد گولدن کاهش داد. وی هشت ماه پیش از مرگش نامه‌ای نوشت که نشان می‌دهد علی‌رغم جسمی فرسوده و بیمار، ذهنی از نظر فلسفی و علمی تیز و شاداب داشته‌است. اسپینوزا در ۲۱ فوریه ۱۶۷۷ در سن ۴۵ سالگی در لاهه چشم از جهان فروبست.

آرا[ویرایش]

Sanzio 01 cropped.png
تاریخ فلسفه
ریشه‌های اندیشه فلسفی
بر پایهٔ تمدن و مکان:
فلسفه شرقی
فلسفه هندی
فلسفه چینی
فلسفه ایرانی
فلسفه اسلامی
فلسفه یهودی
فلسفه مسیحی
فلسفه کره‌ای
فلسفه یونان
بر پایهٔ دوره و زمان:
فلسفه پیشاسقراطی
فلسفه دوران باستان
فلسفه قرون وسطی
فلسفه عصر نوزائی
سدهٔ هفده: عصر خرد
سدهٔ هجده: عصر روشنگری
سدهٔ نوزده: آرمان‌گرایی، ماده‌باوری
فلسفه مدرن
فلسفه معاصر


مفاهیم بنیادی اسپینوزا برای ارائهٔ دیدگاهش دربارهٔ هستی، که با آگاهی او از خدا تذهیب شده‌اند، این‌چنین هستند. ممکن است در نگاه اول عجیب به نظر آیند. در پاسخ به پرسش «چه هست؟» اسپینوزا می‌گوید «جوهر، ویژگی‌ها و وجوه آن».

اسپینوزا تحت تأثیر فلسفهٔ دکارت بود. اما در تاملات متافیزیکی خود تلاش می‌کرد بر ثنویت دکارتی چیره گردد و خدا، روح و ماده را در پیوندی واحد به اندیشه درآورد. خدا برای اسپینوزا، خدایی آن جهانی نیست که جهان را از نیستی آفریده باشد. جهان ناآفریده‌است. نه آغازی داشته و نه پایانی برای آن در نظر گرفته شده. جهان برای اسپینوزا، خدای جاودانی و به عبارت دیگر صورت پدیداری الوهیت است. برای وی، خدا و طبیعت و جوهر این همانند. این، عالی­ترین مفهوم متافیزیک اسپینوزاست.

اسپینوزا بر خلاف آموزه‌های دکارت که به یک جوهر ناکران‌مند (خدا) و دو جوهر کران‌مند (روح یا اندیشه و ماده یا گستردگی) قائل بود، فقط خدا را به عنوان جوهر معتبر می‌دانست. برای او اندیشه و گستردگی، صفات جوهر یگانه هستند، ویژگی‌های عمومی ذاتی خدا.

اسپینوزا جوهر را چنین تعریف می‌کند: جوهر آن چیزی است که بخودی خود است و از طریق خود فهمیده می‌شود. مفهوم جوهر وابسته به هیچ مفهوم دیگری نیست. جوهر کامل‌ترین ذاتی است که به اندیشه درمی‌آید و به جان هستی و به طبیعت آن تعلق دارد. سایر تعیینات جوهر: ناکرانمندی، بی‌زمانی، یگانگی، تقسیم‌ناپذیری و آزادی است. اسپینوزا جوهر را آزاد می‌داند، زیرا که از ضرورت طبیعت خود ناشی می‌شود و از طریق خود رفتارش را مقرر می‌کند.

روش اسپینوزا بصورتی سرسختانه ریاضی و خردگرا است. در استنتاج منطقی او که مدعی قطعیت مطلق است، تجربیات، نقشی بازی نمی‌کنند. در مهم‌ترین اثرش یعنی «اخلاقیات» تعاریف و اصل‌های موضوعه (آکسیوم‌ها) را مبنا قرار می‌دهد، گزاره‌های آموزشی را بر آن‌ها استوار می‌سازد، برهان‌ها را ارائه می‌دهد و توضیحات و نتیجه‌گیری‌ها را به آنان می‌پیوندد.

شناخت برای اسپینوزا در سه مرحله صورت می‌گیرد: در مرحلهٔ نخست، به یاری دریافت حسی و تصورات که هر دو پذیرشی غیرفعال و بدون بصیرت نسبت به دلایل و ارتباطات بر می‌انگیزند. دومین مرحله به یاری فهم صورت می‌گیرد که در آن انسان بطور فعال مفاهیم عمومی را در مورد تصورات و دیده‌ها و شنیده‌های خود به کار می‌گیرد و به بصیرت در مورد دلایل و علت‌ها نایل می‌شود. با این حال به نظر اسپینوزا این هنوز عالی‌ترین مرحلهٔ شناخت نیست. زیرا برای درک واپسین علت‌های تمام اشیا یعنی جوهر، باید فهم محدود انسانی را در مورد زنجیرهٔ نامحدود علت‌ها به کار برد و این از توانایی فهم ما خارج است. برای اسپینوزا سومین و عالی‌ترین مرحلهٔ شناخت آن است که به کمک شناخت شهودی به دست می‌آید. شناخت شهودی، شناخت درونی زنده و نگرش روحی جوهر و پی‌بردن به ذات واقعی همهٔ اشیا است. اسپینوزا این شناخت را «عشق روحی به خدا» می­نامد. در پرتو چنین شناختی است که انسان به ذات‌های واقعی، امور پایدار و صورت‌ها از یکسو و قوانین یعنی رویدادهای یکسان از دیگر سو پی می‌برد.

پس برای اسپینوزا، عالی‌ترین هدف شناخت، شناخت جوهر است. به نظر او خطا، شناخت نادرست نیست، بلکه کمبود شناخت است. نظریهٔ شناخت اسپینوزا بر ایده‌های فطری در انسان استوار است که او آن‌ها را مفاهیم عمومی (notiones communes) می‌نامد. این مفاهیم عمومی مقدم بر تجربه و در نفس انسانی وجود دارند. جوهر، آگاهی و مادیت از جملهٔ این مفاهیم هستند که قوانین اندیشهٔ منطقی به شمار می‌روند. همین مفاهیم عمومی هستند که تعیینات دیگری را که صفات جوهر هستند میسر می‌سازند.

صفت (attribut) برای اسپینوزا چیزی است که نیروی فهم به عنوان ذات متعلق به جوهر می‌شناسد. جوهر دارای بی‌نهایت صفات است و دلیل اینکه ما فقط دو صفت اندیشه و گستردگی آن را درک می‌کنیم، به شعور محدود انسان باز می‌گردد. اسپینوزا نفس انسان را وجهی (modi) از صفت اندیشهٔ جوهر و جسم انسان را وجهی از صفت گستردگی آن می‌داند. وی اما زمان را جزو مفاهیم عمومی نمی‌داند و آن را تصوری کمکی برای انسان به عنوان موجودی فانی به شمار می­آورد.

به نظر اسپینوزا، در فعالیت‌های روحی انسان باید اندیشه را از خواست و اراده تفکیک کند، اما نزد خدا، روح و اراده یکی است. اسپینوزا به غایتمندی در جهان باور نداشت. او می‌گفت که در جهان غایتی وجود ندارد، زیرا جهان در کل خود نمی‌تواند در خدمت غایتی باشد وگرنه غایت آن می‌باید بیرون از جهان قرار داشته باشد. اما بیرون از جهان چیزی وجود ندارد. اشیا جداگانه نیز، نمی‌توانند مطابق غایتی بوجود آمده باشند، چرا که غایت‌ها پیش‌شرطی برای آن هستند که اشیا می‌توانستند طور دیگری باشند، در صورتی که همه چیز با ضرورت روشن چنین شده‌است.

اسپینوزا فلسفهٔ اخلاق خود را بر نگرش‌های متافیزیکی و روان‌شناختی استوار می‌سازد. به نظر وی، وظیفه و هدف اخلاقی انسان باید «حفظ خویشتن» باشد. حفظ خویشتن، دربرگیرندهٔ شناخت، فضیلت، آزادی، توانمندی، قدرت و نیکبختی است. در نقطهٔ مقابل حفظ خویشتن، «ویرانسازی خویشتن» قرار دارد. خطا، رذیلت، بندگی، ناتوانی، درماندگی و نکبت در خدمت ویرانسازی خویشتن قرار دارند. به این ترتیب می‌توان گفت که برای اسپینوزا آنچه که در خدمت حفظ خویشتن است نیک و آنچه که در خدمت ویرانی خویشتن است شر است.

حکم تکفیر[ویرایش]

عقیدهٔ همه خدایی اسپینوزا منجر به صدور حکم تکفیر او از سوی روحانیون یهودی شد:

به قضاوت فرشتگان و روحانیون، ما باروخ اسپینوزا، را تکفیر می‌کنیم، از اجتماع یهودی خارج می‌کنیم و او را لعنت و نفرین می‌کنیم. تمامی لعنت‌های نوشته شده در قانون (منظور تلمود و تورات است) بر او باد، در روز بر او لعنت باد، در شب بر او لعنت باد. وقتی خواب است بر او لعنت باد، وقتی بیدار است بر او لعنت باد، وقتی بیرون می‌رود بر او لعنت باد و وقتی باز می‌گردد بر او لعنت باد. خداوند او را نبخشد و خشم و غضب خدا علیه او مستدام باد، خداوند نام او را در زیر این خورشید محو کند و او را از تمامی قبایل اسرائیل خارج کند. ما شما را نیز هشدار می‌دهیم، که هیچ کس حق ندارد با او سخن بگوید، چه به طور گفتاری و چه بطور نوشتاری. هیچکس حق ندارد به او لطفی بکند، کسی حق ندارد با او زیر یک سقف بماند، و در دو متری او قرار بگیرد، و هیچ کس حق ندارد هیچ نوشته‌ای از او را بخواند.

جستارهای وابسته[ویرایش]

منابع[ویرایش]

پیوند به بیرون[ویرایش]

جستجو در ویکی‌گفتاورد مجموعه‌ای از گفتاوردهای مربوط به باروخ اسپینوزا در ویکی‌گفتاورد موجود است.
جستجو در ویکی‌انبار در ویکی‌انبار پرونده‌هایی دربارهٔ باروخ اسپینوزا موجود است.
جستجو در ویکی‌انبار در ویکی‌انبار پرونده‌هایی دربارهٔ باروخ اسپینوزا موجود است.


Baruch Spinoza
Spinoza.jpg
Born (1632-11-24)24 November 1632
Amsterdam, Dutch Republic
Died 21 February 1677(1677-02-21) (aged 44)
The Hague, Dutch Republic
Residence Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Era 17th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Rationalism, founder of Spinozism
Main interests Ethics, Epistemology, Metaphysics
Notable ideas Pantheism, Determinism, neutral monism, intellectual and religious freedom / separation of church and state, Criticism of Mosaic authorship of some books of the Hebrew Bible, Political society derived from power, not contract

Baruch Spinoza (/bəˈrk spɪˈnzə/; born Benedito de Espinosa; 24 November 1632 – 21 February 1677, later Benedict de Spinoza) was a Dutch philosopher.[2] The breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death. By laying the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment[3] and modern biblical criticism,[4] including modern conceptions of the self and, arguably, the universe,[5] he came to be considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy.[6] His magnum opus, the posthumous Ethics, in which he opposed Descartes's mind–body dualism, has earned him recognition as one of Western philosophy's most important thinkers. In the Ethics, "Spinoza wrote the last indisputable Latin masterpiece, and one in which the refined conceptions of medieval philosophy are finally turned against themselves and destroyed entirely."[7] Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said of all contemporary philosophers, "You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all."[8]

Spinoza's given name in different languages is Hebrew: ברוך שפינוזהBaruch Spinoza, Portuguese: Benedito or Bento de Espinosa and Latin: Benedictus de Spinoza; in all these languages, the given name means "the Blessed". Spinoza was raised in the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam. He developed highly controversial ideas regarding the authenticity of the Hebrew Bible and the nature of the Divine. The Jewish religious authorities issued a cherem (Hebrew: חרם, a kind of ban, shunning, ostracism, expulsion, or excommunication) against him, effectively excluding him from Jewish society at age 23. His books were also later put on the Catholic Church's Index of Forbidden Books.

Spinoza lived an outwardly simple life as a lens grinder, turning down rewards and honors throughout his life, including prestigious teaching positions. The family inheritance he gave to his sister. His philosophical accomplishments and moral character prompted 20th-century philosopher Gilles Deleuze to name him "the 'prince' of philosophers".[9]

Spinoza died at the age of 44 allegedly of a lung illness, perhaps tuberculosis or silicosis exacerbated by fine glass dust inhaled while grinding optical lenses. Spinoza is buried in the churchyard of the Christian Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague.[10]

Biography

Family and community origins

Spinoza's ancestors were of Sephardic Jewish descent, and were a part of the community of Portuguese Jews that had settled in the city of Amsterdam in the wake of the Alhambra Decree in Spain (1492) and the Portuguese Inquisition (1536), which had resulted in forced conversions and expulsions from the Iberian peninsula.[11]

Attracted by the Decree of Toleration issued in 1579 by the Union of Utrecht, Portuguese "conversos" first sailed to Amsterdam in 1593 and promptly reconverted to Judaism.[12] In 1598 permission was granted to build a synagogue, and in 1615 an ordinance for the admission and government of the Jews was passed.[13] As a community of exiles, the Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam were highly proud of their identity.[13]

The Spinoza family ("Espinosa" in Portuguese) probably had its origins in Espinosa de los Monteros, near Burgos, or in Espinosa de Cerrato, near Palencia, both in Northern Castile, Spain. The family was expelled from Spain in 1492 and fled to Portugal. Portugal compelled them to convert to Catholicism in 1498.[14][15]

Spinoza's father was born roughly a century after this forced conversion in the small Portuguese city of Vidigueira, near Beja in Alentejo. When Spinoza's father was still a child, Spinoza's grandfather, Isaac de Spinoza (who was from Lisbon), took his family to Nantes in France. They were expelled in 1615 and moved to Rotterdam, where Isaac died in 1627.

Spinoza's father, Miguel (Michael), and his uncle, Manuel, then moved to Amsterdam where they resumed the practice of Judaism. Miguel was a successful merchant and became a warden of the synagogue and of the Amsterdam Jewish school.[13] He buried three wives and three of his six children died before reaching adulthood.[16]

17th century Holland

Amsterdam and Rotterdam operated as important cosmopolitan centers where merchant ships from many parts of the world brought people of various customs and beliefs. This flourishing commercial activity made for a culture relatively tolerant of the play of new ideas, sheltered from the censorious hand of ecclesiastical authority. Not by chance the philosophical works of both Descartes and Spinoza were developed in the cultural and intellectual background of the Dutch Republic in the 17th century.[17] Spinoza may have had access to a circle of friends who were unconventional in terms of social tradition, including members of the Collegiants.[18] One of the people he knew was Niels Stensen, a brilliant Danish student in Leiden;[19] others included Albert Burgh, with whom Spinoza is known to have corresponded.[20]

Early life

Map by Balthasar Florisz van Berckenrode (1625) with the present location of the Moses and Aaron church in white, but also the spot where Spinoza grew up.[21]
Spinoza lived where the Moses and Aaron Church is located now, and there is strong evidence that he may have been born there.[22]

Baruch de Espinoza was born on 24 November 1632 in the Jodenbuurt in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He was the second son of Miguel de Espinoza, a successful, although not wealthy, Portuguese Sephardic Jewish merchant in Amsterdam.[23] His mother, Ana Débora, Miguel's second wife, died when Baruch was only six years old.[24] Spinoza's mother tongue was Portuguese, although he also knew Hebrew, Spanish, Dutch, perhaps French, and later Latin.[25] Although he wrote in Latin, Spinoza learned Latin late in his youth.

Spinoza had a traditional Jewish upbringing, attending the Keter Torah yeshiva of the Amsterdam Talmud Torah congregation headed by the learned and traditional senior Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira. His teachers also included the less traditional Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel, "a man of wide learning and secular interests, a friend of Vossius, Grotius, and Rembrandt".[26] While presumably a star pupil, and perhaps considered as a potential rabbi, Spinoza never reached the advanced study of the Torah in the upper levels of the curriculum.[27] Instead, at the age of 17, after the death of his elder brother, Isaac, he cut short his formal studies in order to begin working in the family importing business.[27]

In 1653, at age 20, Spinoza began studying Latin with Frances van den Enden (Franciscus van den Enden), a notorious free thinker, former Jesuit, and radical democrat who likely introduced Spinoza to scholastic and modern philosophy, including that of Descartes.[28] (A decade later, in the early 1660s, Van den Enden was considered to be a Cartesian and atheist,[29] and his books were put on the Catholic Index of Banned Books.)

Spinoza's father, Miguel, died in 1654 when Spinoza was 21. He duly recited Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning, for eleven months as required by Jewish law.[30] When his sister Rebekah disputed his inheritance, he took her to court to establish his claim, won his case, but then renounced his claim in her favor.[31]

Spinoza adopted the Latin name Benedictus de Spinoza,[32] began boarding with Van den Enden, and began teaching in his school.[33] He is said to have fallen in love with his teacher's daughter, Clara, but she rejected him for a richer student (although this story has also been discounted on the basis that Clara Maria van den Enden was born in 1643 and would have been no more than about 18 years old at the time Spinoza left Amsterdam.[25] In 1671 she married Dirck Kerckring.)

During this period Spinoza also became acquainted with the Collegiants, an anti-clerical sect of Remonstrants with tendencies towards rationalism, and with the Mennonites who had existed for a century but were close to the Remonstrants.[34] Many of his friends belonged to dissident Christian groups which met regularly as discussion groups and which typically rejected the authority of established churches as well as traditional dogmas.[2]

It should be noted, though, Spinoza's break with the prevailing dogmas of Judaism, and particularly the insistence on non-Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, was not sudden; rather, it appears to have been the result of a lengthy internal struggle: "If anyone thinks my criticism [regarding the authorship of the Bible] is of too sweeping a nature and lacking sufficient foundation, I would ask him to undertake to show us in these narratives a definite plan such as might legitimately be imitated by historians in their chronicles... If he succeeds, I shall at once admit defeat, and he will be my mighty Apollo. For I confess that all my efforts over a long period have resulted in no such discovery. Indeed, I may add that I write nothing here that is not the fruit of lengthy reflection; and although I have been educated from boyhood in the accepted beliefs concerning Scripture, I have felt bound in the end to embrace the views I here express."[35]

Nevertheless, once branded as a heretic, Spinoza's clashes with authorities became more pronounced. For example, questioned by two members of his synagogue, Spinoza apparently responded that God has a body and nothing in scripture says otherwise.[36] He was later attacked on the steps of the synagogue by a knife-wielding assailant shouting "Heretic!" He was apparently quite shaken by this attack and for years kept (and wore) his torn cloak, unmended, as a souvenir.[37]

After his father's death in 1654, Spinoza and his younger brother Gabriel (Abraham).[30] ran the family importing business. The business ran into serious financial difficulties, however, perhaps as a result of the First Anglo-Dutch War. In March 1656, Spinoza filed suit with the Amsterdam municipal authorities to be declared an orphan in order to escape his father's business debts so that he could inherit his mother's estate (which his father had inherited in trust for him) without it being subject to his father's creditors.[38] In addition, after having made substantial contributions to the Talmud Torah synagogue in 1654 and 1655, he reduced his December 1655 contribution and his March 1656 pledge to nominal amounts (and the March 1656 pledge was never paid).[39]

Spinoza was eventually able to relinquish responsibility for the business and its debts to his younger brother, Gabriel, and devote himself to philosophy and optics.

Expulsion from the Jewish religious community

On 27 July 1656, the Talmud Torah congregation of Amsterdam issued a writ of cherem (Hebrew: חרם, a kind of ban, shunning, ostracism, expulsion, or excommunication) against the 23 year old Spinoza.[40] The following document translates the official record of the censure:[41]

The Lords of the ma'amad, having long known of the evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Espinoza, have endeavord by various means and promises, to turn him from his evil ways. But having failed to make him mend his wicked ways, and, on the contrary, daily receiving more and more serious information about the abominable heresies which he practiced and taught and about his monstrous deeds, and having for this numerous trustworthy witnesses who have deposed and born witness to this effect in the presence of the said Espinoza, they became convinced of the truth of the matter; and after all of this has been investigated in the presence of the honorable chachamin, they have decided, with their consent, that the said Espinoza should be excommunicated and expelled from the people of Israel. By the decree of the angels, and by the command of the holy men, we excommunicate, expel, curse and damn Baruch de Espinoza, with the consent of God, Blessed be He, and with the consent of all the Holy Congregation, in front of these holy Scrolls with the six-hundred-and-thirteen precepts which are written therein, with the excommunication with which Joshua banned Jericho, with the curse with which Elisha cursed the boys, and with all the curses which are written in the Book of the Law. Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down, and cursed be he when he rises up; cursed be he when he goes out, and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not spare him; the anger and wrath of the Lord will rage against this man, and bring upon him all the curses which are written in this book, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven, and the Lord will separate him to his injury from all the tribes of Israel with all the curses of the covenant, which are written in the Book of the Law. But you who cleave unto the Lord God are all alive this day. We order that no one should communicate with him orally or in writing, or show him any favor, or stay with him under the same roof, or within four ells of him, or read anything composed or written by him.

The Talmud Torah congregation issued censure routinely, on matters great and small, so such an edict was not unusual.[42]

Statue of Spinoza, near his house on the Paviljoensgracht in The Hague.

The language of Spinoza's censure is unusually harsh, however, and does not appear in any other censure known to have been issued by the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam.[43] The exact reason for expelling Spinoza is not stated.[44] The censure refers only to the "abominable heresies that he practiced and taught," to his "monstrous deeds," and to the testimony of witnesses "in the presence of the said Espinoza." There is no record of such testimony, but there appear to have been several likely reasons for the issuance of the censure.

First, there were Spinoza's radical theological views that he was apparently expressing in public. As philosopher and Spinoza biographer Steven Nadler puts it: "No doubt he was giving utterance to just those ideas that would soon appear in his philosophical treatises. In those works, Spinoza denies the immortality of the soul; strongly rejects the notion of a providential God—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and claims that the Law was neither literally given by God nor any longer binding on Jews. Can there be any mystery as to why one of history's boldest and most radical thinkers was sanctioned by an orthodox Jewish community?"[45]

Second, there is ample basis to assume that the Amsterdam Jewish community, largely comprising former "conversos" having within the last century fled from the Portuguese Inquisition (and their children and grandchildren), must have been concerned to protect its reputation from any association with Spinoza lest his controversial views provide the basis for their own possible persecution or expulsion.[46] There is little or no evidence that the Amsterdam municipal authorities were directly involved in Spinoza's censure itself. But "in 1619, the town council expressly ordered [the Portuguese Jewish community] to regulate their conduct and ensure that the members of the community kept to a strict observance of Jewish law";[47] and other evidence, such as bans adopted by the synagogue itself on public wedding or funeral processions and on discussing religious matters with Christians, lest such activity might "disturb the liberty we enjoy,"[48] makes it clear that the danger of upsetting the civil authorities was never far from mind. Thus, the issuance of Spinoza's censure was almost certainly, in part, an exercise in self-censorship by the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam.[49]

Third, it appears likely that Spinoza himself had already taken the initiative to separate himself from the Talmud Torah congregation and was vocally expressing his hostility to Judaism itself. He had probably stopped attending services at the synagogue either after the lawsuit with his sister or after the knife attack on its steps. He might already have been voicing the view expressed later, in his Theological-Political Treatise, that the civil authorities should suppress Judaism as harmful to the Jews themselves. Either for financial or other reasons,[50] he had in any case effectively stopped contributing to the synagogue by March 1656. He had also committed the "monstrous deed," contrary to the regulations of the synagogue and the views of certain rabbinical authorities (including Maimonides), of filing suit in a civil court rather than with the synagogue authorities[51]—to renounce his father's heritage, no less. Upon being notified of the issuance of the censure, he is reported to have said: "Very well; this does not force me to do anything that I would not have done of my own accord, had I not been afraid of a scandal."[52] Thus, unlike most of the censure issued routinely by the Amsterdam congregation to discipline its members, the censure issued against Spinoza did not lead to repentance and so was never withdrawn.

After the censure, Spinoza is said to have addressed an "Apology" (defense), written in Spanish, to the elders of the synagogue, "in which he defended his views as orthodox, and condemned the rabbis for accusing him of 'horrible practices and other enormities' merely because he had neglected ceremonial observances."[53] This "Apology" does not survive, but some of its contents may later have been included in his Theological-Political Treatise.[54] For example, he cited a series of cryptic statements by medieval biblical commentator Abraham Ibn Ezra intimating that certain apparently anachronistic passages of the Pentateuch (i.e., "[t]he Canaanite was then in the land," Genesis 12:6, which Ibn Ezra called a "mystery" and exhorted those "who understand[] it keep silent") were not of Mosaic authorship as proof that his own views had valid historical precedent.[35]

The most remarkable aspect of the censure may be not so much its issuance, or even Spinoza's refusal to submit, but the fact that Spinoza's expulsion from the Jewish community did not lead to his conversion to Christianity.[55] Spinoza kept the Latin (and so implicitly Christian) name Benedict de Spinoza, maintained a close association with the Collegiants, a Christian sect, even moved to a town near the Collegiants' headquarters, and was buried in a Christian graveyard—but there is no evidence or suggestion that he ever accepted baptism or participated in a Christian mass. Thus, by default, Baruch de Espinoza became the first secular Jew of modern Europe.[55]

The philosopher Richard Popkin questions the historical veracity of the censure, which Popkin claims emerged close to 300 years after Spinoza's death.[56][why?]

Later life and career

Spinoza's house in Rijnsburg from 1661 to 1663, now a museum
Study room of Spinoza

Spinoza spent his remaining 21 years writing and studying as a private scholar.[2]

After the cherem, the Amsterdam municipal authorities, "responding to the appeals of the rabbis, and also of the Calvinist clergy, who had been vicariously offended by the existence of a free thinker in the synagogue,"[57] promptly expelled Spinoza from Amsterdam. He spent a brief time in or near the village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, but returned soon afterwards to Amsterdam and lived there quietly for several years, giving private philosophy lessons and grinding lenses, before leaving the city in 1660 or 1661.[58]

During this time in Amsterdam, Spinoza wrote his Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being, "of which two Dutch translations survive, discovered about 1810."[59]

Spinoza moved around 1660 or 1661 from Amsterdam to Rijnsburg, (near Leiden), the headquarters of the Collegiants.[60] In Rijnsburg he began work on his Descartes' "Principles of Philosophy" as well as on his masterpiece, the Ethics. In 1663 he returned briefly to Amsterdam, where he finished and published Descartes's "Principles of Philosophy" (the only work published in his lifetime under his own name), and then moved the same year to Voorburg.[61]

Voorburg

In Voorburg, Spinoza continued work on the Ethics and corresponded with scientists, philosophers, and theologians across Europe.[62] He also wrote and in 1670 published his Theological Political Treatise in defense of secular and constitutional government—and in support of Jan de Witt, the Grand Pensionary of the Netherlands, against the Stadholder, the Prince of Orange.[63] Leibniz, who visited Spinoza, claimed that Spinoza's life was in danger when supporters of the Prince of Orange murdered de Witt in 1672.[64] While published anonymously, the work did not long remain so, and de Witt's enemies characterized it as "forged in Hell by a renegade Jew and the Devil, and issued with the knowledge of Jan de Witt."[65] It was condemned in 1673 by the Synod of the Reformed Church and formally banned in 1674.[66]

Lens grinding and optics

Spinoza earned a modest living from lens-grinding and instrument making, yet while living in Voorburg through correspondence and friendships with scientist Christiaan Huygens and mathematician Johannes Hudde he was involved in important optical investigations of the day including debate over microscope design with Huygens, favoring small objectives[67] and collaborating on calculations for a prospective 40 ft telescope which would have been one of the largest in Europe at the time.[68] The quality of Spinoza's lenses was much praised by Christiaan Huygens among others[69] in fact his technique and instruments were so esteemed Constantijn Huygens in 1687 ground a "clear and bright" 42 ft. telescope lens from one of Spinoza's grinding dishes 10 years after his death.[70] The exact type of lenses Spinoza made are not known, but very likely included lenses for both the microscope and telescope. He was said by anatomist Theodor Kerckring to have produced an "excellent" microscope, the quality of which was the foundation of Kerckring's anatomy claims.[71] During his time as a lens and instrument maker he was also supported by small, but regular, donations from close friends.[2]

The Hague

In 1670 Spinoza moved to The Hague, where he lived on a small pension from Jan de Witt and a small annuity from the brother of his dead friend, Simon de Vries.[72] He worked on the Ethics, wrote an unfinished Hebrew grammar, began his Political Treatise, wrote two scientific essays ("On the Rainbow" and "On the Calculation of Chances"), and began a Dutch translation (that he later destroyed) of the Bible.[73]

Spinoza chose the Latin word "caute" (be cautious), inscribed beneath a rose, itself a symbol of secrecy, as his device.[7] "For, having chosen to write in a language that was so widely intelligible, he was compelled to hide what he had written."[7]

In 1676, Spinoza met with Leibniz at The Hague for a discussion of his principal philosophical work, Ethics, which had been completed in 1676. This meeting was described in Matthew Stewart's The Courtier and the Heretic.[74]

Spinoza's health began to fail in 1676, and he died on 20 February 1677, at the age of 44.[75] His premature death was said to be due to lung illness, possibly silicosis as a result of breathing in glass dust from the lenses he ground. Later, a shrine was made of his home in The Hague.[3]

Textbooks and encyclopedias often depict Spinoza as a solitary soul who eked out a living as a lens grinder; in reality, he had many friends but kept his needs to a minimum.[2] He preached a philosophy of tolerance and benevolence. Anthony Gottlieb described him as living "a saintly life."[2] The reviewer M. Stuart Phelps noted "No one has ever come nearer to the ideal life of the philosopher than Spinoza."[76] Another reviewer, Harold Bloom, wrote: "As a teacher of reality, he practiced his own wisdom, and was surely one of the most exemplary human beings ever to have lived."[77] According to the New York Times "In outward appearance he was unpretending, but not careless. His way of living was exceedingly modest and retired; often he did not leave his room for many days together. He was likewise almost incredibly frugal; his expenses sometimes amounted only to a few pence a day."[78] According to Harold Bloom and the Chicago Tribune "He appears to have had no sexual life."[77][79] Spinoza also corresponded with Peter Serrarius, a radical Protestant and millennarian merchant. Serrarius was a patron to Spinoza after Spinoza left the Jewish community, and even had letters sent and received for the philosopher to and from third parties. Spinoza and Serrarius maintained their relationship until Serrarius' death in 1669.[80] By the beginning of the 1660s, Spinoza's name became more widely known, and eventually Gottfried Leibniz[74] and Henry Oldenburg paid him visits, as stated in Matthew Stewart's The Courtier and the Heretic.[74] Spinoza corresponded with Oldenburg for the rest of his short life.

Writings and correspondence

The writings of René Descartes have been described as "Spinoza's starting point."[77] Spinoza's first publication was his geometric exposition (proofs using the geometric method on the model of Euclid with definitions, axioms, etc.) of Descartes's Parts I and II of Principles of Philosophy (1663). Spinoza has been associated with Leibniz and Descartes as "rationalists" in contrast to "empiricists".[81]

From December 1664 to June 1665, Spinoza engaged in correspondence with Willem van Blijenbergh, an amateur Calvinist theologian, who questioned Spinoza on the definition of evil. Later in 1665, Spinoza notified Oldenburg that he had started to work on a new book, the Theologico-Political Treatise, published in 1670. Leibniz disagreed harshly with Spinoza in Leibniz's own later published manuscript "Refutation of Spinoza,"[82] but he is also known to have met with Spinoza on at least one occasion[74][81] (as mentioned above), and his own work bears some striking resemblances to specific important parts of Spinoza's philosophy (see: Monadology).

When the public reactions to the anonymously published Theologico-Political Treatise were extremely unfavourable to his brand of Cartesianism, Spinoza was compelled to abstain from publishing more of his works. Wary and independent, he wore a signet ring which he used to mark his letters and which was engraved with a rose and the word "caute" (Latin for "cautiously").[83]

The Ethics and all other works, apart from the Descartes' Principles of Philosophy and the Theologico-Political Treatise, were published after his death, in the Opera Posthuma edited by his friends in secrecy to avoid confiscation and destruction of manuscripts. The Ethics contains many still-unresolved obscurities and is written with a forbidding mathematical structure modeled on Euclid's geometry[2] and has been described as a "superbly cryptic masterwork."[77]

Philosophy

The opening page of Spinoza's magnum opus, Ethics

Substance, attributes and modes

These are the fundamental concepts with which Spinoza sets forth a vision of Being, illuminated by his awareness of God. They may seem strange at first sight. To the question "What is?" he replies: "Substance, its attributes, and modes".

Karl Jaspers[84]

Spinoza argued that God exists and is abstract and impersonal.[2] Spinoza's system imparted order and unity to the tradition of radical thought, offering powerful weapons for prevailing against "received authority." As a youth he first subscribed to Descartes's dualistic belief that body and mind are two separate substances, but later changed his view and asserted that they were not separate, being a single entity. He contended that everything that exists in Nature (i.e., everything in the Universe) is one Reality (substance) and there is only one set of rules governing the whole of the reality which surrounds us and of which we are part. Spinoza viewed God and Nature as two names for the same reality,[77] namely a single, fundamental substance (meaning "that which stands beneath" rather than "matter") that is the basis of the universe and of which all lesser "entities" are actually modes or modifications, that all things are determined by Nature to exist and cause effects, and that the complex chain of cause and effect is understood only in part. His identification of God with nature was more fully explained in his posthumously published Ethics.[2] Spinoza's main contention with Cartesian mind–body dualism was that, if mind and body were truly distinct, then it is not clear how they can coordinate in any manner. That humans presume themselves to have free will, he argues, is a result of their awareness of appetites which affect their minds while being unable to understand the reasons why they want and act as they do. Spinoza has been described by one writer as an "Epicurean materialist,"[77] although to call Spinoza a materialist (as the Epicureans were) would be misleading as he treats both thought (the realm of the mind and thought) and extension (physical reality) as derivatives of an ultimate, infinite substance (Deus sive Natura, or God) which expresses infinite attributes and modes. To use an example, human experience is but a single drop of water in an infinite ocean which constitutes existence.

Spinoza contends that "Deus sive Natura" ("God or Nature") is a being of infinitely many attributes, of which thought and extension are two. His account of the nature of reality, then, seems to treat the physical and mental worlds as intertwined, causally related, and deriving from the same substance. It is important to note here that, in Parts 3 through 4 of the Ethics, Spinoza describes how the human mind is affected by both mental and physical factors. He directly contests dualism. The universal substance emanates both body and mind; while they are different modes, there is no fundamental difference between these aspects. This formulation is a historically significant solution to the mind–body problem known as neutral monism. Spinoza's system also envisages a God that does not rule over the universe by Providence in which God can make changes, but a God which itself is the deterministic system of which everything in nature is a part. While it could be said that this still accounts for Divine Providence, as Spinoza argues that "things could not have been produced by God in any other way or in any other order than is the case,"[85] he directly challenges a transcendental God which actively responds to events in the universe. Everything that has and will happen is a part of a long chain of cause and effect which, at a metaphysical level, humans are unable to change. No amount of prayer or ritual will sway God. Only knowledge of God, or the existence which humans inhabit, allows them to best respond to the world around them. Thus, according to this understanding of Spinoza's system, the universe humans currently live in and experience comes from God. God is completely impersonal to existence because, not only is it impossible for two infinite substances to exist (two infinities being absurd),[86] God—being the ultimate substance—cannot be affected by anything else, or else it would be affected by something else, and not be the fundamental substance.

In addition to substance, the other two fundamental concepts Spinoza presents and develops in the Ethics are attribute (that which the intellect perceives as constituting the essence of substance) and mode (substance's way, manner, or state)[87] of existence.[citation needed]

Spinoza was a thoroughgoing determinist who held that absolutely everything that happens occurs through the operation of necessity. For him, even human behaviour is fully determined, with freedom being our capacity to know we are determined and to understand why we act as we do. So freedom is not the possibility to say "no" to what happens to us but the possibility to say "yes" and fully understand why things should necessarily happen that way. By forming more "adequate" ideas about what we do and our emotions or affections, we become the adequate cause of our effects (internal or external), which entails an increase in activity (versus passivity). This means that we become both more free and more like God, as Spinoza argues in the Scholium to Prop. 49, Part II. However, Spinoza also held that everything must necessarily happen the way that it does. Therefore, humans have no free will. They believe, however, that their will is free. This illusionary perception of freedom stems from our human consciousness, experience, and indifference to prior natural causes. Humans think they are free but they ″dream with their eyes open″. For Spinoza, our actions are guided entirely by natural impulses. In his letter to G. H. Schuller (Letter 58), he wrote: "men are conscious of their desire and unaware of the causes by which [their desires] are determined."[88]

This picture of Spinoza's determinism is ever more illuminated through reading this famous quote in Ethics: ″the infant believes that it is by free will that it seeks the breast; the angry boy believes that by free will he wishes vengeance; the timid man thinks it is with free will he seeks flight; the drunkard believes that by a free command of his mind he speaks the things which when sober he wishes he had left unsaid. … All believe that they speak by a free command of the mind, whilst, in truth, they have no power to restrain the impulse which they have to speak.″[89] Thus for Spinoza morality and ethical judgment like choice is predicated on an illusion. For Spinoza, ″Blame″ and ″Praise″ are non existent human ideals only fathomable in the mind because we are so acclimatized to human consciousness interlinking with our experience that we have a false ideal of choice predicated upon this.

Spinoza's philosophy has much in common with Stoicism inasmuch as both philosophies sought to fulfill a therapeutic role by instructing people how to attain happiness. However, Spinoza differed sharply from the Stoics in one important respect: he utterly rejected their contention that reason could defeat emotion. On the contrary, he contended, an emotion can only be displaced or overcome by a stronger emotion. For him, the crucial distinction was between active and passive emotions, the former being those that are rationally understood and the latter those that are not. He also held that knowledge of true causes of passive emotion can transform it to an active emotion, thus anticipating one of the key ideas of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis.[90]

Ethical philosophy

Encapsulated at the start in his Treatise on the Improvement of the Understanding (Tractatus de intellectus emendatione) is the core of Spinoza's ethical philosophy, what he held to be the true and final good. Spinoza held good and evil to be relative concepts, claiming that nothing is intrinsically good or bad except relative to a particularity. Things that had classically been seen as good or evil, Spinoza argued, were simply good or bad for humans. Spinoza believes in a deterministic universe in which "All things in nature proceed from certain [definite] necessity and with the utmost perfection." Nothing happens by chance in Spinoza's world, and nothing is contingent.

Spinoza's Ethics

In the universe anything that happens comes from the essential nature of objects, or of God/Nature. According to Spinoza, reality is perfection. If circumstances are seen as unfortunate it is only because of our inadequate conception of reality. While components of the chain of cause and effect are not beyond the understanding of human reason, human grasp of the infinitely complex whole is limited because of the limits of science to empirically take account of the whole sequence. Spinoza also asserted that sense perception, though practical and useful for rhetoric, is inadequate for discovering universal truth; Spinoza's mathematical and logical approach to metaphysics, and therefore ethics, concluded that emotion is formed from inadequate understanding. His concept of "conatus" states that human beings' natural inclination is to strive toward preserving an essential being and an assertion that virtue/human power is defined by success in this preservation of being by the guidance of reason as one's central ethical doctrine. According to Spinoza, the highest virtue is the intellectual love or knowledge of God/Nature/Universe.

In the final part of the "Ethics", his concern with the meaning of "true blessedness", and his explanation of how emotions must be detached from external cause and so master them, foreshadow psychological techniques developed in the 1900s. His concept of three types of knowledge—opinion, reason, intuition—and his assertion that intuitive knowledge provides the greatest satisfaction of mind, lead to his proposition that the more we are conscious of ourselves and Nature/Universe, the more perfect and blessed we are (in reality) and that only intuitive knowledge is eternal. His unique contribution to understanding the workings of mind is extraordinary, even during this time of radical philosophical developments, in that his views provide a bridge between religions' mystical past and psychology of the present day.

Given Spinoza's insistence on a completely ordered world where "necessity" reigns, Good and Evil have no absolute meaning. The world as it exists looks imperfect only because of our limited perception.

History of reception

Panentheist, pantheist, or atheist?

An early engraving of philosopher Spinoza, captioned in Latin, "A Jew and an Atheist".

It is a widespread belief that Spinoza equated God with the material universe. He has therefore been called the "prophet"[91] and "prince"[92] of pantheism. However, in a letter to Henry Oldenburg he states that: "as to the view of certain people that I identify god with nature (taken as a kind of mass or corporeal matter), they are quite mistaken".[93] For Spinoza, our universe (cosmos) is a mode under two attributes of Thought and Extension. God has infinitely many other attributes which are not present in our world. According to German philosopher Karl Jaspers, when Spinoza wrote "Deus sive Natura" (God or Nature) Spinoza meant God was Natura naturans not Natura naturata, and Jaspers believed that Spinoza, in his philosophical system, did not mean to say that God and Nature are interchangeable terms, but rather that God's transcendence was attested by his infinitely many attributes, and that two attributes known by humans, namely Thought and Extension, signified God's immanence.[94] Even God under the attributes of thought and extension cannot be identified strictly with our world. That world is of course "divisible"; it has parts. But Spinoza insists that "no attribute of a substance can be truly conceived from which it follows that the substance can be divided" (Which means that one cannot conceive an attribute in a way that leads to division of substance), and that "a substance which is absolutely infinite is indivisible" (Ethics, Part I, Propositions 12 and 13).[95] Following this logic, our world should be considered as a mode under two attributes of thought and extension. Therefore the pantheist formula "One and All" would apply to Spinoza only if the "One" preserves its transcendence and the "All" were not interpreted as the totality of finite things.[94]

Martial Guéroult suggested the term "Panentheism", rather than "Pantheism" to describe Spinoza's view of the relation between God and the world. The world is not God, but it is, in a strong sense, "in" God. Not only do finite things have God as their cause; they cannot be conceived without God.[95] In other words, the world is a subset of God. However, American panentheist philosopher Charles Hartshorne insisted on the term Classical Pantheism to describe Spinoza's view.[96]

In 1785, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi published a condemnation of Spinoza's pantheism, after Lessing was thought to have confessed on his deathbed to being a "Spinozist", which was the equivalent in his time of being called an atheist. Jacobi claimed that Spinoza's doctrine was pure materialism, because all Nature and God are said to be nothing but extended substance. This, for Jacobi, was the result of Enlightenment rationalism and it would finally end in absolute atheism. Moses Mendelssohn disagreed with Jacobi, saying that there is no actual difference between theism and pantheism. The issue became a major intellectual and religious concern for European civilization at the time.

The attraction of Spinoza's philosophy to late 18th-century Europeans was that it provided an alternative to materialism, atheism, and deism. Three of Spinoza's ideas strongly appealed to them:

  • the unity of all that exists;
  • the regularity of all that happens;
  • the identity of spirit and nature.

By 1879, Spinoza’s pantheism was praised by many, but was considered by some to be alarming and dangerously inimical.[97]

Spinoza's "God or Nature" (Deus sive Natura) provided a living, natural God, in contrast to the Newtonian mechanical "First Cause" or the dead mechanism of the French "Man Machine". Coleridge and Shelley saw in Spinoza's philosophy a religion of nature.[2] Novalis called him the "God-intoxicated man".[77][98] Spinoza inspired the poet Shelley to write his essay "The Necessity of Atheism".[77]

Spinoza was considered to be an atheist because he used the word "God" (Deus) to signify a concept that was different from that of traditional Judeo–Christian monotheism. "Spinoza expressly denies personality and consciousness to God; he has neither intelligence, feeling, nor will; he does not act according to purpose, but everything follows necessarily from his nature, according to law...."[99] Thus, Spinoza's cool, indifferent God[100] is the antithesis to the concept of an anthropomorphic, fatherly God who cares about humanity.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Spinoza's God is an “infinite intellect”, (Ethics 2p11c) all knowing, (2p3) and capable of loving both himself—and us, insofar as we are part of his perfection. (5p35c) And if the mark of a personal being is that it is one towards which we can entertain personal attitudes, then we should note too that Spinoza recommends amor intellectualist dei (the intellectual love of God) as the supreme good for man. (5p33) However, the matter is complex. Spinoza's God does not have free will (1p32c1), he does not have purposes or intentions (1apendix), and Spinoza insists that “neither intellect nor will pertain to the nature of God” (1p17s1). Moreover, while we may love God, we need to remember that God is really not the kind of being who could ever love us back. “He who loves God cannot strive that God should love him in return,” says Spinoza (5p19).[101]

Steven Nadler suggests that settling the question of Spinoza's atheism or pantheism depends on an analysis of attitudes. If pantheism is associated with religiosity, then Spinoza is not a pantheist, since Spinoza believes that the proper stance to take towards God is not one of reverence or religious awe, but instead one of objective study and reason, since taking the religious stance would leave one open to the possibility of error and superstition.[102]

Comparison to Eastern philosophies

Similarities between Spinoza's philosophy and Eastern philosophical traditions have been discussed by many authorities. The 19th-century German Sanskritist Theodore Goldstücker was one of the early figures to notice the similarities between Spinoza's religious conceptions and the Vedanta tradition of India, writing that Spinoza's thought was "... a western system of philosophy which occupies a foremost rank amongst the philosophies of all nations and ages, and which is so exact a representation of the ideas of the Vedanta, that we might have suspected its founder to have borrowed the fundamental principles of his system from the Hindus, did his biography not satisfy us that he was wholly unacquainted with their doctrines... We mean the philosophy of Spinoza, a man whose very life is a picture of that moral purity and intellectual indifference to the transitory charms of this world, which is the constant longing of the true Vedanta philosopher... comparing the fundamental ideas of both we should have no difficulty in proving that, had Spinoza been a Hindu, his system would in all probability mark a last phase of the Vedanta philosophy."[103][104]

Max Muller, in his lectures, noted the striking similarities between Vedanta and the system of Spinoza, saying "the Brahman, as conceived in the Upanishads and defined by Sankara, is clearly the same as Spinoza's 'Substantia'."[105] Helena Blavatsky, a founder of the Theosophical Society also compared Spinoza's religious thought to Vedanta, writing in an unfinished essay "As to Spinoza's Deity—natura naturans—conceived in his attributes simply and alone; and the same Deity—as natura naturata or as conceived in the endless series of modifications or correlations, the direct outflowing results from the properties of these attributes, it is the Vedantic Deity pure and simple."[106]

Spinoza's political theory

Late 20th-century Europe demonstrated a greater philosophical interest in Spinoza, often from a left-wing or Marxist perspective. Karl Marx liked Spinoza's account of the universe, interpreting it as materialistic.[2] Notable philosophers Louis Althusser, Gilles Deleuze, Antonio Negri, Étienne Balibar and Marilena Chaui have each drawn upon Spinoza's philosophy. Deleuze's doctoral thesis, published in 1968, refers to him as "the prince of philosophers."[107] Other philosophers heavily influenced by Spinoza include Constantin Brunner and John David Garcia. Stuart Hampshire wrote a major English language study of Spinoza, though H. H. Joachim's work is equally valuable. Unlike most philosophers, Spinoza was highly regarded by Nietzsche.

Spinoza was an important philosophical inspiration for George Santayana. When Santayana graduated from college, he published an essay, "The Ethical Doctrine of Spinoza", in The Harvard Monthly.[108] Later, he wrote an introduction to Spinoza's Ethics and "De intellectus emendatione".[109] In 1932, Santayana was invited to present an essay (published as "Ultimate Religion")[110] at a meeting at The Hague celebrating the tricentennial of Spinoza's birth. In Santayana's autobiography, he characterized Spinoza as his "master and model" in understanding the naturalistic basis of morality.[111]

Spinoza's religious criticism and its effect on the philosophy of language

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein evoked Spinoza with the title (suggested to him by G. E. Moore) of the English translation of his first definitive philosophical work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, an allusion to Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Elsewhere, Wittgenstein deliberately borrowed the expression sub specie aeternitatis from Spinoza (Notebooks, 1914-16, p. 83). The structure of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus does have some structural affinities with Spinoza's Ethics (though, admittedly, not with the latter's own Tractatus) in erecting complex philosophical arguments upon basic logical assertions and principles. Furthermore, in propositions 6.4311 and 6.45 he alludes to a Spinozian understanding of eternity and interpretation of the religious concept of eternal life, stating that "If by eternity is understood not eternal temporal duration, but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present." (6.4311) "The contemplation of the world sub specie aeterni is its contemplation as a limited whole." (6.45)

Leo Strauss dedicated his first book ("Spinoza's Critique of Religion") to an examination of the latter's ideas. In the book, Strauss identified Spinoza as part of the tradition of Enlightenment rationalism that eventually produced Modernity. Moreover, he identifies Spinoza and his works as the beginning of Jewish Modernity.[77] More recently Jonathan Israel, Professor of Modern European History at The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, has made a detailed case that from 1650 to 1750 Spinoza was "the chief challenger of the fundamentals of revealed religion, received ideas, tradition, morality, and what was everywhere regarded, in absolutist and non-absolutist states alike, as divinely constituted political authority."[112]

Spinoza in literature and popular culture

Spinoza has had influence beyond the confines of philosophy.

  • The 19th century novelist George Eliot produced her own translation of the Ethics, the first known English translation of it. Eliot liked Spinoza's vehement attacks on superstition.[2]
  • In his autobiography "From My Life: Poetry and Truth", Goethe recounts the way in which Spinoza's Ethics calmed the sometimes unbearable emotional turbulence of his youth. Goethe later displayed his grasp of Spinoza's metaphysics in a fragmentary elucidation of some Spinozist ontological principles entitled Study After Spinoza.[113] Moreover, he cited Spinoza alongside Shakespeare and Carl Linnaeus as one of the three strongest influences on his life and work.[114]
  • The 20th century novelist W. Somerset Maugham alluded to one of Spinoza's central concepts with the title of his novel Of Human Bondage.
  • In the early Star Trek episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the chief protagonist, Gary Mitchell is seen reading Spinoza and there is implication in the dialogue that Captain Kirk also may have read him as part of his studies at Starfleet Academy.
  • Albert Einstein named Spinoza as the philosopher who exerted the most influence on his world view (Weltanschauung). Spinoza equated God (infinite substance) with Nature, consistent with Einstein's belief in an impersonal deity. In 1929, Einstein was asked in a telegram by Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein whether he believed in God. Einstein responded by telegram: "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings."[115][116]
  • Spinoza's pantheism has also influenced environmental theory; Arne Næss, the father of the deep ecology movement, acknowledged Spinoza as an important inspiration.
  • The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges was greatly influenced by Spinoza's world view. Borges makes allusions to the philosopher's work in many of his poems and short stories, as does Isaac Bashevis Singer in his short story The Spinoza of Market Street.[117]
  • The title character of Hoffman's Hunger, the fifth novel by the Dutch novelist Leon de Winter, reads and comments upon the Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione over the course of the novel.
  • Spinoza has been the subject of numerous biographies and scholarly treatises.[98][118][119][120]
  • Spinoza is an important historical figure in the Netherlands, where his portrait was featured prominently on the Dutch 1000-guilder banknote, legal tender until the euro was introduced in 2002. The highest and most prestigious scientific award of the Netherlands is named the Spinozaprijs (Spinoza prize). Spinoza was included in a 50 theme canon that attempts to summarise the history of the Netherlands.[121]
  • Spinoza's life has been honored by educators.[56]
  • In the sequel to Eric Flint's alternate-history novel, 1632, a Jewish man and his wife are killed during an attack on Amsterdam, leaving behind a less-than-year-old son. The identity of the child is quickly revealed to be the infant Spinoza himself.
  • The 2008 play "New Jerusalem," by David Ives, is based on the cherem (ban, shunning, ostracism, expulsion or excommunication) issued against Spinoza by the Talmud Torah congregation in Amsterdam in 1656, and events leading to it.[122]

See also

Bibliography

By Spinoza

About Spinoza

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  • Balibar, Étienne, 1985. Spinoza et la politique ("Spinoza and politics") Paris: PUF.
  • Bennett, Jonathan, 1984. A Study of Spinoza's Ethics. Hackett.
  • Boucher, Wayne I., 1999. Spinoza in English: A Bibliography from the Seventeenth Century to the Present. 2nd edn. Thoemmes Press.
  • Boucher, Wayne I., ed., 1999. Spinoza: Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Discussions. 6 vols. Thoemmes Press.
  • Carlisle, Claire. "Questioning Transcendence, Teleology and Truth" in Kierkegaard and the Renaissance and Modern Traditions (ed. Jon Stewart. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2009).
  • Damásio, António, 2003. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Harvest Books,ISBN 978-0-15-602871-4
  • Deleuze, Gilles, 1968. Spinoza et le problème de l'expression. Trans. "Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza" Martin Joughin (New York: Zone Books).
  • ———, 1970. Spinoza - Philosophie pratique. Transl. "Spinoza: Practical Philosophy".
  • ———, 1990. Negotiations trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press).
  • Della Rocca, Michael. 1996. Representation and the Mind-Body Problem in Spinoza. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-509562-3
  • Garrett, Don, ed., 1995. The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza. Cambridge Uni. Press.
  • Gatens, Moira, and Lloyd, Genevieve, 1999. Collective imaginings : Spinoza, past and present. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-16570-9, ISBN 978-0-415-16571-6
  • Goldstein, Rebecca, 2006. Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity. Schocken. ISBN 978-0-8052-1159-7
  • Goode, Francis, 2012. Life of Spinoza. Smashwords edition. ISBN 978-1-4661-3399-0
  • Gullan-Whur, Margaret, 1998. Within Reason: A Life of Spinoza. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 978-0-224-05046-3
  • Hampshire, Stuart, 1951. Spinoza and Spinozism, OUP, 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-927954-8
  • Hardt, Michael, trans., University of Minnesota Press. Preface, in French, by Gilles Deleuze, available here.[124]
  • Israel, Jonathan, 2001. The Radical Enlightenment, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • ———, 2006. Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670–1752, (ISBN 978-0-19-927922-7 hardback)
  • Ives 2009: Ives, David, "New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656," 2009 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York, ISBN 978-0-8222-2385-6).
  • Kasher, Asa, and Shlomo Biderman. "Why Was Baruch de Spinoza Excommunicated?"
  • Kayser, Rudolf, 1946, with an introduction by Albert Einstein. Spinoza: Portrait of a Spiritual Hero. New York: The Philosophical Library.
  • Lloyd, Genevieve, 1996. Spinoza and the Ethics. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-10781-5, ISBN 978-0-415-10782-2
  • LeBuffe, Michael. 2010. Spinoza and Human Freedom. Oxford University Press.
  • Lucas, P. G., 1960. "Some Speculative and Critical Philosophers", in I. Levine (ed.), Philosophy (London: Odhams)
  • Lovejoy, Arthur O., 1936. "Plenitude and Sufficient Reason in Leibniz and Spinoza" in his The Great Chain of Being. Harvard University Press: 144-82 (ISBN 978-0-674-36153-9). Reprinted in Frankfurt, H. G., ed., 1972. Leibniz: A Collection of Critical Essays. Anchor Books.
  • Macherey, Pierre, 1977. Hegel ou Spinoza, Maspéro (2nd ed. La Découverte, 2004).
  • ———, 1994-98. Introduction à l'Ethique de Spinoza. Paris: PUF.
  • Magnusson 1990: Magnusson, M (ed.), Spinoza, Baruch, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, Chambers 1990, ISBN 978-0-550-16041-6.
  • Matheron, Alexandre, 1969. Individu et communauté chez Spinoza, Paris: Minuit.
  • Montag, Warren. Bodies, Masses, Power: Spinoza and his Contemporaries. (London: Verso, 2002).
  • Moreau, Pierre-François, 2003, Spinoza et le spinozisme, PUF (Presses Universitaires de France)
  • Nadler 1999: Nadler, Steven, Spinoza: A Life, 1999 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge England, ISBN 978-0-521-55210-3).
  • Nadler 2001: Nadler, Steven, Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind, 2001 (Oxford University Press, Oxford England, New York NY, reprinted 2004, ISBN 0-19-926887-8).
  • Nadler 2006: Nadler, Steven, Spinoza's Ethics: An Introduction, 2006 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge England, ISBN 978-0-521-83620-3).
  • Nadler 2011: Nadler, Steven, A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age, 2011 (Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, ISBN 978-0-691-13989-0).
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  • ———, 2004. Subversive Spinoza: (Un)Contemporary Variations).
  • Popkin, R. H., 2004. Spinoza (Oxford: One World Publications)
  • Prokhovnik, Raia (2004). Spinoza and republicanism. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0333733908. 
  • Ratner, Joseph, 1927. The Philosophy of Spinoza (The Modern Library: Random House)
  • Scruton 1986: Scruton, Roger, Spinoza: A Very Short Introduction, 1986 (Oxford University Press, Oxford England), 2002 (reprinted as A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford England, ISBN 0-19-280316-6).
  • Stewart, Matthew. The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza and the Fate of God.2006. W.W. Norton[81]
  • Stolze, Ted and Warren Montag (eds.), The New Spinoza; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
  • Strauss, Leo. Persecution and the Art of Writing. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1952. Reprint. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.
  • ———ch. 5, "How to Study Spinoza's Tractus Theologico-Politicus;" reprinted in Strauss, Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity, ed. Kenneth Hart Green (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1997), 181-233.
  • ———Spinoza's Critique of Religion. New York: Schocken Books, 1965. Reprint. University of Chicago Press, 1996.
  • ———, "Preface to the English Translation" reprinted as "Preface to Spinoza's Critique of Religion," in Strauss, Liberalism Ancient and Modern (New York: Basic Books, 1968, 224-59; also in Strauss, Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity, 137-77).
  • Smilevski, Goce. Conversation with SPINOZA. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 2006.
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  • Yovel, Yirmiyahu, "Spinoza and Other Heretics, Vol. 2: The Adventures of Immanence." Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1989.
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