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The business ran into serious financial difficulties, however, perhaps as a result of the First Anglo-Dutch War. In March , Spinoza filed suit with the Amsterdam municipal authorities to be declared an orphan in order to escape his father's business debts and so that he could inherit his mother's estate which at first was incorporated into his father's estate without it being subject to his father's creditors.

Spinoza was eventually able to relinquish responsibility for the business and its debts to his younger brother, Gabriel, and devote himself chiefly to the study of philosophy, especially the system expounded by Descartes , and to optics. The Lords of the ma'amad, having long known of the evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Espinoza, have endeavoured 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 practised and taught and about his monstrous deeds, and having for this numerous trustworthy witnesses who have deposed and borne 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 honourable chachamin [sages], 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 , [46] with the curse with which Elisha cursed the boys [47] 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 favour, 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. First, there were Spinoza's radical theological views that he was apparently expressing in public. As philosopher and Spinoza biographer Steven Nadler puts it: 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.

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Can there be any mystery as to why one of history's boldest and most radical thinkers was sanctioned by an orthodox Jewish community? Second, the Amsterdam Jewish community was largely composed of former "conversos" who had fled from the Portuguese Inquisition within the previous century, with their children and grandchildren. This community 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.

The Life & Thought of Spinoza

But "in , 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. Third, it appears likely that Spinoza 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, [57] [36] he had in any case effectively stopped contributing to the synagogue by March He had also committed the "monstrous deed," contrary to the regulations of the synagogue and the views of some rabbinical authorities including Maimonides , of filing suit in a civil court rather than with the synagogue authorities [43] —to renounce his father's heritage, no less.

Upon being notified of the issuance of the censure, he is reported to have said: After the censure, Spinoza is said to have addressed an "Apology" defence , 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.

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. Thus, by default, Baruch de Espinoza became the first secular Jew of modern Europe.

However he declined to remove it, citing Spinoza's "preposterous ideas, where he was tearing apart the very fundamentals of our religion". Spinoza spent his remaining 21 years writing and studying as a private scholar. Spinoza believed in a "Philosophy of tolerance and benevolence" [62] and actually lived the life which he preached. He was criticized and ridiculed during his life and afterwards for his alleged atheism.

However, even those who were against him "had to admit he lived a saintly life".

Benedict de Spinoza | Biography, Ethics, & Facts |

After the cherem, the Amsterdam municipal authorities expelled Spinoza from Amsterdam, "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". During this time in Amsterdam, Spinoza wrote his Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being , which he never published in his lifetime—assuming with good reason that it might get suppressed. Two Dutch translations of it survive, discovered about Spinoza moved around or from Amsterdam to Rijnsburg near Leiden , the headquarters of the Collegiants.

In , he returned briefly to Amsterdam, where he finished and published Descartes' "Principles of Philosophy," the only work published in his lifetime under his own name, and then moved the same year to Voorburg. In Voorburg, Spinoza continued work on the Ethics and corresponded with scientists, philosophers, and theologians throughout Europe. 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.

In , 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. Spinoza was offered the chair of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg , but he refused it, perhaps because of the possibility that it might in some way curb his freedom of thought. In , Spinoza met with Leibniz at The Hague for a discussion of his principal philosophical work, Ethics , which had been completed in Spinoza's health began to fail in , and he died on 21 February at the age of Later, a shrine was made of his home in The Hague.

Textbooks and encyclopaedias 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. Anthony Gottlieb described him as living "a saintly life. Stuart Phelps noted, "No one has ever come nearer to the ideal life of the philosopher than Spinoza. 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. Spinoza also corresponded with Peter Serrarius , a radical Protestant and millenarian 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 Spinoza has been associated with Leibniz and Descartes as " rationalists " in contrast to " empiricists.

Spinoza engaged in correspondence from December to June with Willem van Blijenbergh , an amateur Calvinist theologian, who questioned Spinoza on the definition of evil. Later in , Spinoza notified Oldenburg that he had started to work on a new book, the Theologico-Political Treatise , published in Leibniz disagreed harshly with Spinoza in his own manuscript "Refutation of Spinoza," [81] but he is also known to have met with Spinoza on at least one occasion [73] [80] as mentioned above , and his own work bears some striking resemblances to specific important parts of Spinoza's philosophy see: 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 the word caute Latin for "cautiously" underneath a rose, itself a symbol of secrecy. 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 modelled on Euclid's geometry [9] and has been described as a "superbly cryptic masterwork.

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In a letter, written in December and sent to Albert Burgh, who wanted to defend Catholicism , Spinoza clearly explained his view of both Catholicism and Islam. He stated that both religions are made "to deceive the people and to constrain the minds of men". He also states that Islam far surpasses Catholicism in doing so. 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? Spinoza argued that God exists and is abstract and impersonal. This view was held by Epicureans before him, as they believed that atoms with their probabilistic paths were the only substance that existed fundamentally. 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. Humans presume themselves to have free will , he argues, which is a result of their awareness of appetites that affect their minds, while being unable to understand the reasons why they desire what they desire and act as they do. Spinoza contends that " Deus sive Natura " 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 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 and denies dualism. The universal Substance emanates both body and mind; while they are different attributes, 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, by which it can and does make changes, but a God that is the deterministic system of which everything in nature is a part. Spinoza argues that "things could not have been produced by God in any other way or in any other order than is the case,"; [90] he directly challenges a transcendental God that 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 provides the best response to the world around them. Not only is it impossible for two infinite Substances to exist two infinities being absurd , [91] God as the ultimate Substance cannot be affected by anything else, or else it would be affected by something else, and not be the fundamental, all-pervasive Substance.

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 that we are determined and to understand why we act as we do. 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 process allows us to become both more free and more like God, as Spinoza argues in the Scholium to Prop.

However, Spinoza also held that everything must necessarily happen the way that it does. Therefore, humans have no free will, despite strongly believing that they do. This illusionary perception of freedom stems from human consciousness, experience, and indifference to prior natural causes. For Spinoza, our actions are guided entirely by natural impulses. In his letter to G. Schuller Letter 58 , he wrote: This picture of Spinoza's determinism is illuminated by this famous quote in Ethics: Spinoza's philosophy has much in common with Stoicism inasmuch as both philosophies sought to fulfil a therapeutic role by instructing people how to attain happiness.

Spinoza, however, 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.

Spinoza shared ethical beliefs with ancient Epicureans, in renouncing ethics beyond the material world, although Epicureans focused more on physical pleasure and Spinoza more on emotional wellbeing. 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.

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. In the universe anything that happens comes from the essential nature of objects, or of God or Nature.

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  4. 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, is inadequate for discovering truth. Also in the "Ethics", [96] Spinoza discusses his beliefs about what he considers to be the three kinds of knowledge that come with perceptions. The first kind of knowledge he writes about is the knowledge of experiences. More precisely, this first type of knowledge can be known as the knowledge of things that could be "mutilated, confused, and without order. Dangerous reason lacks any type of rationality, and causes the mind to be in a "passive" state. This type of "passive mind" that Spinoza writes about in the earlier books of The Ethics is a state of the mind in which adequate causes become passions.

    He explains that this knowledge is had by the rationality of any adequate causes that have to do with anything common to the human mind. Gullan-Whur doctorate, University Coll. Gullan-Whur holds a degree in philosophy and critical theory of literature from the University of East Anglia and a doctorate in the philsosphy of Spinoza from University College London. A Life of Spinoza. Although most of the discussion concerns Judaism and the Hebrew Bible Old Testament , Spinoza also briefly indicates that Christian ceremonial law is also historically determined and therefore not binding on the modern believer.

    He cites in support of his conclusion the fact that Dutch Christians in Japan were willing to set aside all of their religious paraphernalia and practice during their trading visits in the country. According to Spinoza, divine law is necessary and eternal; it cannot be changed by any human or divine action. Hence, miracles, which by definition are violations of divinely created laws of nature, are impossible.

    Alleged miracles must have a rational, scientific explanation, and anyone who believes in the reality of miracles is thus simply ignorant. Scientific developments will explain all alleged miracles once all of the laws of nature have been discovered. Spinoza then turns his attention to the study of the Bible , arguing that it should be studied in almost the same way in which nature should be studied. Scripture should be examined in terms of linguistic development and historical context. Using his naturalistic approach to language , he argued that the scriptures were simply a collection of Hebrew writings by different persons from different times and places.

    Within Reason - A Life of Spinoza (Hardcover, 1st U.S. ed)

    Indeed, the examination of conflicting passages reveals that there must have been many authors, not just Moses and the prophets. Deuteronomy, for example, must have had more than one author, since the alleged author, Moses, describes his own death. While the scriptures may provide an interesting picture of ancient Hebrew life and times, they contain no superhuman dimension.

    Spinoza derides those who reinterpret scripture in order to see a rational message in it—as Moses Maimonides did—as well as those who accept its unreasonableness on faith. Instead, one should dispense with the view that the scriptures are a divine document and simply accept them as a historical one.

    This line of thought leads Spinoza to assert that the message of the scriptures is to be found not in any collection of ancient parchments but rather in the spirit that pervades them. He reduces this message to a simple set of propositions that any rational person could determine for himself: According to Spinoza, they develop not from supernatural forces but in response to human needs and human values. Spinoza proposes wide toleration of different religions as long as they help to make the people obedient and as long as they are subordinate to the state. Spinoza insists that the obligation to obey the sovereign is absolute; the people have no right of rebellion in any circumstances, no matter how badly the sovereign may rule.

    In this respect his view is more authoritarian than that of Hobbes, who believed that the people would be justified in rebelling against the sovereign if they were in fear of their lives or if they felt that their condition had become no better than it would be in a state of nature. At the end of the Tractatus , Spinoza argues for complete freedom of thought and of speech, claiming that no one can be forced to have one thought rather than another and that people should be allowed to develop their thoughts by themselves.

    People should be allowed to say and publish whatever they wish, so long as it does not interfere with the state. Spinoza ended the work with a declaration that this is what he thinks and, if the state thinks otherwise, he would be glad to change his text—which of course he never did. One year earlier the political leaders of the Netherlands, Johan De Witt and his brother Cornelius, who had been accused of conspiring against the young prince of Orange, William III , had been torn apart by an angry mob.

    At this point Spinoza, concerned for his safety, seems to have wanted to leave the Netherlands, and he considered an invitation from Louis II to move to Paris, as well as an offer of a professorship from the University of Heidelburg. He ultimately decided against going to Paris, because he feared that Louis did not have enough power to protect him from bigots in France, and he declined the offer from Heidelburg because he did not think he would have complete freedom to teach as he wished.

    His famous letter to the Heidelburg authorities, which contains an impressive defense of academic freedom , may in fact have been composed after the offer was withdrawn. At any rate, Spinoza seems to have reconciled himself to staying in the Netherlands for the rest of his life. Spinoza resumed work on his masterpiece, the Ethica Ethics , finishing a five-part version by He delayed its publication, however, after being advised that it would cause even greater controversy than the Tractatus. It was finally published, together with the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and an unfinished work on politics, the Tractatus Politicus , at the instigation of some of his Collegiant friends a few months after his death in Spinoza apparently believed that a geometric presentation of his ideas would be clearer than the conventional narrative style of his earlier works.

    The early portion of the work contains no introductory or explanatory material to aid the reader, apparently because Spinoza initially thought it unnecessary. By the middle of Part I, however, he had added various notes and observations to ensure that the reader would understand the significance of the conclusions being developed.

    By the end of Part I he had also added polemical essays and introductions to various topics. The form of the work as a whole is therefore a mixture of axiomatic proof and philosophical narrative.

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    The Ethics relies on three Jewish sources, which were probably familiar to Spinoza from his early intellectual life. Spinoza had a copy in Spanish in his library. Last, Spinoza seems to have had access to the Gate of Heaven by Abraham Cohen de Herrera, the most philosophically sophisticated Kabbalist of the 17th century.

    A disciple of Isaac ben Solomon Luria and an early member of the Amsterdam congregation, Herrera knew a vast amount of ancient, Islamic, Jewish, and Christian philosophy, as well as Kabbalistic thought. The Gate of Heaven , his major work, circulated in Amsterdam in Spanish and appeared in a Hebrew abridgement in Spinoza begins by stating a set of definitions of eight terms: Spinoza quickly establishes that substance must be existent, self-caused, and unlimited.

    From this he proves that there cannot be two substances with the same attribute, since each would limit the other. This leads to the monumental conclusion of Proposition God is everywhere, and everything that exists is a modification of God. Later in Part I, Spinoza established that everything that occurs necessarily follows from the nature of God and that there can be no contingencies in nature. Part I concludes with an appended polemic about the misreading of the world by religious and superstitious people who think that God can change the course of events and that the course of events sometimes reflects a divine judgment of human behaviour.

    Part II explores the two attributes through which human beings understand the world, thought and extension. The latter form of understanding is developed in natural science , the former in logic and psychology. For Spinoza, there is no problem, as there is for Descartes , of explaining the interaction between mind and body. The two are not distinct entities causally interacting with each other but merely different aspects of the same events. Spinoza accepted the mechanistic physics of Descartes as the right way of understanding the world in terms of extension.

    Because God is the only substance, all physical and mental entities are modes of God. Physical modes that are biological have a feature beyond simple extension, namely, conatus Latin: Unconsciously, biological modes are also driven by emotions of fear and pleasure to act in certain ways.