Baruch Spinoza


Picture of Baruch Spinoza

Baruch (de) Spinoza (24 November 1632 – 21 February 1677), also known under his Latinized pen name Benedictus de Spinoza, was a Jewish Dutch philosopher. As a prominent thinker of the Age of Reason, Spinoza significantly influenced modern biblical criticism, 17th-century Rationalism, and contemporary conceptions of the self and the universe, establishing himself as one of the most important and radical philosophers of the early modern period. He was influenced by Stoicism, Maimonides, Machiavelli, Descartes, Hobbes, and a variety of heterodox Christian thinkers of his day.Spinoza was born in Amsterdam to a Portuguese-Jewish family and had a traditional Jewish upbringing. As a young man, Spinoza was permanently expelled from the Jewish community for disputing Jewish theology. After his expulsion, he did not affiliate with any religion, instead focusing on philosophical study. He had a dedicated clandestine circle of supporters, a philosophical sect, who met to discuss the writings he shared with them in his lifetime, and, immediately following his death, rescued his unpublished writings for posterity.Spinoza challenged the divine origin of the Hebrew Bible, the nature of God, and the earthly power wielded by religious authorities, Jewish and Christian alike. He was frequently called an "atheist" by contemporaries, although nowhere in his work does Spinoza argue against the existence of God. This can be explained by the fact that, unlike contemporary 21st-century scholars, "When seventeenth-century readers accused Spinoza of atheism, they usually meant that he challenged doctrinal orthodoxy, particularly on moral issues, and not that he denied God’s existence." His theological studies were inseparable from his thinking on politics; he is grouped with Hobbes, Locke, Leibniz, and Kant, who "helped establish the genre of political writing called secular theology."Spinoza's philosophy encompasses nearly every area of philosophical discourse, including metaphysics, epistemology, political philosophy, ethics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. With an enduring reputation as one of the most original and influential thinkers of the seventeenth century, Rebecca Goldstein dubbed him "the renegade Jew who gave us modernity."

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Quotes from Baruch Spinoza