The Full Wiki


More info on Baruch Spinoza

Baruch Spinoza: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Baruch Spinoza

Include this on your site/blog:



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

from PLANETCOP: this man was murdered.

Baruch de Spinoza
Full name Baruch de Spinoza
Born November 24, 1632(1632-11-24)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died February 21, 1677 (aged 44)
The Hague, Netherlands
Era 17th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Rationalism, founder of Spinozism
Main interests Ethics, Epistemology, Metaphysics
Notable ideas Panentheism, Pantheism, Deism, 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 or Benedict de Spinoza (Hebrew: ברוך שפינוזה‎, Portuguese: Bento de Espinosa, Latin: Benedictus de Spinoza) (November 24, 1632 – February 21, 1677) was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin.[1] Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death. Today, he is considered one of the great rationalists[2] of 17th-century philosophy, laying the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment[2] and modern biblical criticism.[2] By virtue of his magnum opus, the posthumous Ethics, in which he opposed Descartes' mind–body dualism, Spinoza is considered to be one of Western philosophy's most important philosophers. Philosopher and historian Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said of all modern philosophers, "You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all."[3]

Though Spinoza was active in the Dutch Jewish community and extremely well-versed in Jewish texts, his controversial ideas eventually led community leaders to issue a cherem (Hebrew: חרם, a kind of excommunication) against him, effectively dismissing him from Jewish society at age 23.[1][2] Likewise, all of Spinoza's works were listed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books) by the Roman Catholic Church.

Spinoza lived quietly as a lens grinder, turning down rewards and honors throughout his life, including prestigious teaching positions, and gave his family inheritance to his sister. Spinoza's moral character and philosophical accomplishments prompted 20th century philosopher Gilles Deleuze to name him "the 'prince' of philosophers."[4] Spinoza died at the age of 44 of a lung illness, perhaps tuberculosis or silicosis exacerbated by fine glass dust inhaled while plying his trade. Spinoza is buried in the churchyard of the Nieuwe Kerk on Spui in The Hague.



Family origins

Spinoza's ancestors were of Sephardic Jewish descent, and were a part of the community of Portuguese Jews that grew in the city of Amsterdam after the Alhambra Decree in Spain (1492) and the Portuguese Inquisition (1536) had led to forced conversions and expulsions from the Iberian peninsula.[5]

Some historians argue the Spinoza family ("Espinosa" in Portuguese) had its origins in Espinosa de los Monteros, near Burgos, Spain.[6] Others claim they were Portuguese Jews who had moved to Spain and then returned to their home country in 1492, only to be forcibly converted to Catholicism in 1498. 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, and his uncle, Manuel, then moved to Amsterdam where they reassumed their Judaism. Manuel changed his name to Abraão de Spinoza, though his "commercial" name was still the same.[citation needed]

Early life and career

Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. His mother Ana Débora, Miguel's second wife, died when Baruch was only six years old. Miguel was a successful importer/merchant and Baruch had a traditional Jewish upbringing; however, his critical, curious nature would soon come into conflict with the Jewish community. Wars with England and France took the life of his father and decimated his family's fortune but he was eventually able to relinquish responsibility for the business and its debts to his brother, Gabriel, and devote himself to philosophy and optics.

Controversial ideas and Jewish reaction

Spinoza became known in the Jewish community for positions contrary to prevailing Jewish belief of the period, wherein he harbored critical positions towards the anti-maimonidean dominance of Jewish religious texts that persisted since the Maimonidean Controversy.[7] On 27 July 1656, the Jewish community issued to him the writ of cherem (Hebrew: חרם, a kind of excommunication). Righteous indignation on the part of the synagogue elders at Spinoza's heresies was not the sole cause for the excommunication; there was also the practical concern that his ideas, which disagree equally well with the orthodoxies of other religions as with Judaism, would not sit well with the Christian leaders of Amsterdam and would reflect badly on the whole Jewish community, endangering the limited freedoms that the Jews had achieved in that city. The terms of his cherem were severe.[8] He was, in Bertrand Russell's words, "cursed with all the curses in Deuteronomy and with the curse that Elisha pronounced on the children who, in consequence, were torn to pieces by the she-bears."[9] The cherem was, atypically, never revoked. Following his excommunication, he adopted the first name Benedictus, the Latin equivalent of his given name, Baruch; they both mean "blessed". In his native Amsterdam he was also known as Bento (Portuguese for Benedict or blessed) de Spinoza, which was the informal form of his name.

The Ban

The ban, written in Portuguese, is still preserved in the archives of the Amsterdam community. The pronouncement preceding the ban reads:

The chiefs of the council make known to you that having long known of evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Spinoza, they have endeavored by various means and promises to turn him from evil ways. Not being able to find any remedy, but on the contrary receiving every day more information about the abominable heresies practiced and taught by him, and about the monstrous acts committed by him, having this from many trustworthy witnesses who have deposed and borne witness on all this in the presence of said Spinoza, who has been convicted; all this having been examined in the presence of the Rabbis, the council decided, with the advice of the Rabbi, that the said Spinoza should be excommunicated and cut off from the Nation of Israel.

It has often been noted that, in view of Christian opposition to Spinoza's opinions, the Jewish community had little option but to dissociate itself from Spinoza's "heresies." After his cherem, it is reported that Spinoza lived and worked in the school of Franciscus van den Enden, who taught him Latin in his youth and may have introduced him to modern philosophy, although Spinoza never mentions Van den Enden anywhere in his books or letters. Van den Enden was a Cartesian and atheist who was forbidden by the city government to propagate his doctrines publicly.

During this period Spinoza also became acquainted with several Collegiants, members of an eclectic sect with tendencies towards rationalism. 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.[1] 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.[1] One reviewer noted "No one has ever come nearer to the ideal life of the philosopher than Spinoza."[10] Another 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."[11] "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."[12] "He appears to have had no sexual life."[11][13] Spinoza also corresponded with Peter Serrarius, a radical Protestant and millennarian merchant. Serrarius is believed to have been a patron of Spinoza at some point.[citation needed] By the beginning of the 1660s, Spinoza's name became more widely known, and eventually Gottfried Leibniz[14] and Henry Oldenburg paid him visits, as stated in Matthew Stewart's The Courtier and the Heretic.[14] Spinoza corresponded with Oldenburg for the rest of his short life.

Descartes has been described as "Spinoza's starting point."[11] Spinoza's first publication was his geometric exposition (formal math proofs) of Descartes, Parts I and II of Descartes' Principles of Philosophy (1663). Spinoza has been associated with Leibniz and Descartes as "rationalists" in contrast to "empiricists".[15] From December 1664 to June 1665, Spinoza engaged in correspondence with Blyenbergh, 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 published Refutation of Spinoza, but he is also known to have met with Spinoza on at least one occasion[14][15] (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 engraved with his initials, a rose[citation needed], and the word "caute" (Latin for "cautiously"). 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 [1] and has been described as a "superbly cryptic masterwork."[11]

Later life and career

Spinoza's house in Rijnsburg from 1661-3, now a museum
Study room of Spinoza

Spinoza spent his remaining 21 years writing and studying as a private scholar.[1] He preached a philosophy of tolerance and benevolence and was described as living "a saintly life."[1]

Spinoza relocated from Amsterdam to Rijnsburg (near Leiden) around 1661 and later lived in Voorburg and The Hague respectively. He earned a comfortable living from lens-grinding. While the lens-grinding aspect of Spinoza's work is uncontested, the type of lenses he made is in question. Many have said he produced excellent magnifying glasses, and some historians credit him with being an optician (in the sense of making lenses for eyeglasses). He was also supported by small, but regular, donations from close friends.[1]

He died in 1677 while still working on a political thesis. His premature death was due to lung illness, possibly the result of breathing in glass dust from the lenses he ground. Or also possibly due to a syndrome, known as Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF) which is a hereditary inflammatory disorder that affects groups of people originating from around the Mediterranean Sea (hence its name). It is prominently present in the Armenian people, Sephardi Jews (and, to a much lesser extent, Ashkenazi Jews), people from Turkey, and the Arab countries. Later, a shrine was made of his home in The Hague.[16]

Only a year earlier, Spinoza had 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.[14] Spinoza never married, nor did he father any children. When he died, he was considered a heathen anti-religionist by the general population, and when Boerhaave wrote his dissertation in 1688 he attacked the doctrines of Spinoza. He claimed later that defense of Spinoza's lifestyle cost him his reputation in Leiden and a post as minister.

Dutch Port cities as sites of free thought

Amsterdam and Rotterdam were important cosmopolitan centers where merchant ships from many parts of the world brought people of various customs and beliefs. It was this hustle and bustle which ensured, as in the Mediterranean region during the Renaissance, some possibility of free thought and shelter from the crushing hand of ecclesiastical authority. Thus, Spinoza no doubt had access to a circle of friends who were basically heretics in the eyes of tradition. One of the people he must have known was Niels Stensen, a brilliant Danish student in Leiden; others were Coenraad van Beuningen and his cousin Albert Burgh, with whom Spinoza is known to have corresponded[citation needed].


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".

Spinoza believed God exists only philosophically and that God was abstract and impersonal.[1] 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 identity. 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,[11] namely the single 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 only understood in part. His identification of God with nature was more fully explained in his posthumously published Ethics.[1] That humans presume themselves to have free will, he argues, is a result of their awareness of appetites 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."[11]

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 one and the same. The universal substance consists of both body and mind, there being no difference between these aspects. This formulation is a historically significant solution to the mind-body problem known as neutral monism. The consequences of Spinoza's system also envisages a God that does not rule over the universe by providence, but a God which itself is the deterministic system of which everything in nature is a part. Thus, according to this understanding of Spinoza's system, God would be the natural world and have no personality.

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 – the modifications of substance, or that which exists in, and is conceived through, something other than itself.

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. In his letter to G. H. Schaller (Letter 62), he wrote: "men are conscious of their own desire, but are ignorant of the causes whereby that desire has been determined."[18]

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 (or eudaimonia, for the Stoics). 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.[19]

Some of Spinoza's philosophical positions are:

  • The natural world is infinite.
  • Good and evil are related to human pleasure and pain.
  • Everything done by humans and other animals is excellent and divine.
  • All rights are derived from the State.
  • Animals can be used in any way by people for the benefit of the human race, according to a rational consideration of the benefit as well as the animal's status in nature.[20][21]

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 particular individual. 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.

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 unique approach to, and explanation of how, emotions must be detached from external cause and so master them, gives some prediction of psychological techniques developed in the 1900s. His concept of three types of knowledge - opinion, reason, intuition - and assertion that intuitive knowledge provides the greatest satisfaction of mind, leads 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. Human catastrophes, social injustices, etc. are merely apparent. The world as it exists looks imperfect only because of our limited perception.

Panentheist, Pantheist, or Atheist?

It is a widespread belief that Spinoza equated God with the material universe. 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"[22]. 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" Spinoza meant God was Natura Naturans not Naturata Jaspers believed that in Spinoza's philosophical system, 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.[23] 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 can not 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).[24] 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.[23]

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.[24]

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 entire issue became a major intellectual and religious concern for European civilization at the time, which Immanuel Kant rejected, as he thought that attempts to conceive of transcendent reality would lead to antinomies (statements that could be proven both right and wrong) in thought.

The attraction of Spinoza's philosophy to late eighteenth-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; and
  • the identity of spirit and nature.

Spinoza's "God or Nature" 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[1] and called him the "God-intoxicated Man."[11][25] Spinoza inspired the poet Shelley to write his essay "The Necessity of Atheism."[11]

Modern relevance

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, a name Wittgenstein later paid homage to in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Late 20th century Europe demonstrated a greater philosophical interest in Spinoza, often from a left-wing or Marxist perspective. Karl Marx liked his materialistic account of the universe.[1] Notable philosophers Louis Althusser, Gilles Deleuze, Antonio Negri, Étienne Balibar and Marilena Chauí have each drawn upon Spinoza's philosophy. Deleuze's doctoral thesis, published in 1968, refers to him as "the prince of philosophers."[26] 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 and his work were 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.[27] Later, he wrote an introduction to Spinoza’s Ethics and ‘De intellectus emendatione’.[28] In 1932, Santayana was invited to present an essay (published as "Ultimate Religion,"[29]) 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.[30]

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) Furthermore, Wittgenstein's interpretation of religious language, in both his early and later career, may be said to bear a family resemblance to Spinoza's pantheism.

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.[11]

Spinoza has had influence beyond the confines of philosophy. The nineteenth century novelist, George Eliot, produced her own translation of the Ethics, the first known English translation thereof. Eliot liked Spinoza's vehement attacks on superstition.[1] Goethe could not say exactly what he liked in the Ethics, but was profoundly moved by it nevertheless (Goethe admitted he could not understand much of Spinoza.)[1] The twentieth century novelist, W. Somerset Maugham, alluded to one of Spinoza's central concepts with the title of his novel, Of Human Bondage. Albert Einstein named Spinoza as the philosopher who exerted the most influence on his world view (Weltanschauung). Einstein, in a telegram response, answered he believes in "Spinoza's God."[31] 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."[31][32] Spinoza's pantheism has also influenced environmental theory. Arne Næss, the father of the deep ecology movement, acknowledged Spinoza as an important inspiration.

Moreover, the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges was greatly influenced by Spinoza's world view. In many of his poems and short stories, Borges makes allusions to the philosopher's work. So of course does Isaac Bashevis Singer in his short story The Spinoza of Market Street.[1] Spinoza has been the subject of numerous biographies and scholarly treatises (see list below).[25][33][34][35]

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 Spinoza prijs (Spinoza prize). Spinoza was included in a 50 theme canon that attempts to summarise the history of the Netherlands.[36]

Spinoza's work is also mentioned as the favourite reading material for Bertie Wooster's valet Jeeves in the P. G. Wodehouse novels. Spinoza's life has been the subject of plays[2] and has been honored by educators.[37]

See also


By Spinoza

About Spinoza

  • Albiac, Gabriel, 1987. La sinagoga vacía: un estudio de las fuentes marranas del espinosismo. Madrid: Hiperión D.L. ISBN 84-7517-214-8
  • Balibar, Étienne, 1985. Spinoza et la politique ("Spinoza and politics") Paris: PUF.
  • 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.
  • Damásio, António, 2003. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Harvest Books,ISBN 978-0156028714
  • 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 0-19-509562-6
  • 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 0-415-16570-9, ISBN 0-415-16571-7
  • Goldstein, Rebecca, 2006. Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity. Schocken. ISBN 978-0-8052-1159-7
  • Gullan-Whur, Margaret, 1998. Within Reason: A Life of Spinoza. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-05046-X
  • Hampshire, Stuart, 1951. Spinoza and Spinozism , OUP, 2005 ISBN 978-0199279548
  • Hardt, Michael, trans., University of Minnesota Press. Preface, in French, by Gilles Deleuze, available here.
  • Israel, Jonathan, 2001. The Radical Enlightenment, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • ———, 2006. Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752, (ISBN 0-19-927922-5 hardback)
  • 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 0-415-10781-4, ISBN 0-415-10782-2
  • 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 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.
  • Matheron, Alexandre, 1969. Individu et communauté chez Spinoza, Paris: Minuit.
  • Morgan, Michael L. (ed.), 2002. "Spinoza: Complete Works", (Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company). ISBN 0-87220-620-3
  • 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, Steven, 1999. Spinoza: A Life. Cambridge Uni. Press. ISBN 0-521-55210-9
  • Nadler, Steven, 2006. Spinoza's Ethics: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-83620-3
  • Negri, Antonio, 1991. The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics.
  • ———, 2004. Subversive Spinoza: (Un)Contemporary Variations).
  • Popkin, R. H., 2004. Spinoza (Oxford: One World Publications)
  • Ratner, Joseph, 1927. The Philosophy of Spinoza (The Modern Library: Random House)
  • Stoltze, 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.
  • Yovel, Yirmiyahu, "Spinoza and Other Heretics, Vol. 1: The Marrano of Reason." Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1989.
  • Yovel, Yirmiyahu, "Spinoza and Other Heretics, Vol. 2: The Adventures of Immanence." Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1989.
  • The Courtier and the Heretic:Leibniz, Spinoza and the Fate of God; by Matthew Stewart[15]
  • Blessed Spinoza: A Biography; by Lewis Browne.[25]
  • Spinoza: Liberator of God and Man; by Benjamin De Casseres.[25]
  • Spinoza: The Biosopher; by Frederick Kettner.[25]
  • The Philosophy of Spinoza; by Henry Austryn Wolfson.[34]
  • Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity; by Rebecca Goldstein.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p ANTHONY GOTTLIEB. "God Exists, Philosophically (review of "Spinoza: A Life" by Steven Nadler)". The New York Times -- Books. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Play shows the price of Spinoza's ideas -- (David Ives' play "New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation.")". The Boston Globe. January 14, 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  3. ^ Hegel's History of Philosophy
  4. ^ quoted in the translator's preface of Deleuze Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza (1990).
  5. ^ Magnusson, M (ed.), Spinoza, Baruch, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, Chambers 1990, ISBN 0550160418.
  6. ^ Javier Muguerza in his Desde la perplejidad
  7. ^
  8. ^ Tel Aviv University: "Why Was Baruch De Spinoza Excommunicated?", by Asa Kasher and Shlomo Biderman
  9. ^ Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy Allen & Unwin (1946) New Ed.1961 p.552
  10. ^ Phelps, M. Stuart (February 21, 1877). "Spinoza. Oration by M. Ernest Renan, delivered at the Hague, Feb. 21, 1877 by Translated by M. Stuart Phelps [pp. 763-776"]. New Englander and Yale Review Volume 0037 Issue 147 (November 1878).;cc=nwng;rgn=full%20text;idno=nwng0037-6;didno=nwng0037-6;view=image;seq=00777;node=nwng0037-6%3A1. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Harold Bloom (book reviewer) (June 16, 2006). "Deciphering Spinoza, the Great Original -- Book review of "Betraying Spinoza. The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity." By Rebecca Goldstein". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  12. ^ "HOW SPINOZA LIVED". The New York Times. March 17, 1878. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  13. ^ "NEW LIGHT ON SPINOZA -- Joseph Freudenthal's Book, Published in German, Gives Facts.". The Chicago Tribune. November 19, 1899. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  14. ^ a b c d Lucas, 1960.
  15. ^ a b c Lisa Montanarelli (book reviewer) (January 8, 2006). "Spinoza stymies 'God's attorney' -- Stewart argues the secular world was at stake in Leibniz face off". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  16. ^ SPECIAL FEATURES (December 5, 1926). "SHRINE WILL BE MADE OF OLD SPINOZA HOME; Society That Bears His Name Seeks Fund to Buy Dwelling of Great Philosopher at The Hague on the 250th Anniversary of His Death". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  17. ^ Spinoza, Karl Jaspers p.9
  18. ^ Ethics, Pt. I, Prop. XXXVI, Appendix: "[M]en think themselves free inasmuch as they are conscious of their volitions and desires, and never even dream, in their ignorance, of the causes which have disposed them so to wish and desire."
  19. ^ Roger Scruton, Spinoza, A very Short Introduction, p.86
  20. ^ Ethics, Pt. IV, Prop. XXXVII, Note I.: "Still I do not deny that beasts feel: what I deny is, that we may not consult our own advantage and use them as we please, treating them in a way which best suits us; for their nature is not like ours...." (Emphasis added to quotation.)
  21. ^ Schopenhauer criticized Spinoza's attitude toward animals: "His contempt for animals, who, as mere things for our use, are declared by him to be without rights, conjunction with Pantheism, is at the same time absurd and abominable." The World as Will and Representation, tr.E.F.J. Payne (1958) Dover. New York 1966 Vol. 2, Chapter 50, p.645. = Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (hrsg.Arthur Hübscher), Reclam Stuttgart, 1987 Band 2, p.837
  22. ^ Correspondence of Benedict de Spinoza, Wilder Publications (March 26, 2009), ISBN 1604591560, letter 73
  23. ^ a b Karl Jaspers, Spinoza (Great Philosophers), Harvest Books (October 23, 1974), ISBN 0156847302, Pages: 14 and 95
  24. ^ a b Genevieve Lloyd, Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Spinoza and The Ethics (Routledge Philosophy Guidebooks), Routledge; 1 edition (October 2, 1996), ISBN 0415107822, Page: 40
  25. ^ a b c d e "Spinoza, "God-Intoxicated Man"; Three Books Which Mark the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the Philosopher's Birth BLESSED SPINOZA. A Biography. By Lewis Browne. 319 pp. New York: The Macmillan Com- pany. $4. SPINOZA. Liberator of God and Man. By Benjamin De Casseres, 145pp. New York: E.Wickham Sweetland. $2. SPINOZA THE BIOSOPHER. By Frederick Kettner. Introduc- tion by Nicholas Roerich, New Era Library. 255 pp. New York: Roerich Museum Press. $2.50. Spinoza". The New York Times. November 20, 1932. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  26. ^ Deleuze, 1968.
  27. ^ George Santayana, "The Ethical Doctrine of Spinoza," The Harvard Monthly, 2 (June 1886: 144–52)
  28. ^ George Santayana, "Introduction," in Spinoza’s Ethics and ‘De intellectus emendatione’(London: Dent, 1910, vii–xxii)
  29. ^ George Santayana, "Ultimate Religion," in Obiter Scripta, eds. Justus Buchler and Benjamin Schwartz (New York and London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936) 280-297.
  30. ^ George Santayana, Persons and Places (Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 1986) 233–36.
  31. ^ a b "EINSTEIN BELIEVES IN "SPINOZA'S GOD"; Scientist Defines His Faith in Reply, to Cablegram From Rabbi Here. SEES A DIVINE ORDER But Says Its Ruler Is Not Concerned "Wit Fates and Actions of Human Beings."". The New York Times. April 25, 1929. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  32. ^ Einstein's Third Paradise, by Gerald Holton
  33. ^ "Spinoza's First Biography Is Recovered; THE OLDEST BIOGRAPHY OF SPINOZA. Edited with Translations, Introduction, Annotations, &c., by A. Wolf. 196 pp. New York: Lincoln Macveagh. The Dial Press.". The New York Times. December 11, 1927. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  34. ^ a b IRWIN EDMAN (July 22, 1934). "The Unique and Powerful Vision of Baruch Spinoza; Professor Wolfson's Long-Awaited Book Is a Work of Illuminating Scholarship. (Book review) THE PHILOSOPHY OF SPINOZA. By Henry Austryn Wolfson". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  35. ^ "ROTH EVALUATES SPINOZA". Los Angeles Times. September 8, 1929. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  36. ^>
  37. ^ SOCIAL NEWS BOOKS (November 25, 1932). "TRIBUTE TO SPINOZA PAID BY EDUCATORS; Dr. Robinson Extols Character of Philosopher, 'True to the Eternal Light Within Him.' HAILED AS 'GREAT REBEL'; De Casseres Stresses Individualism of Man Whose Tercentenary Is Celebrated at Meeting.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  38. ^,_de_mensch_en_deszelvs_welstand
  39. ^ Spinoza's A Theologico-Political Treatise - Part 1:

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate human actions, but to understand them.

Benedictus de Spinoza (24 November 163221 February 1677) was a social and metaphysical philosopher who was excommunicated from the Jewish community of his native Amsterdam. He was named Baruch ("blessed" in Hebrew) Spinoza by his synagogue elders and known as Bento de Spinoza or Bento d'Espiñoza, but afterwards used the name Benedictus ("blessed" in Latin) de Spinoza.



I believe that, if a triangle could speak, it would say... that God is eminently triangular, while a circle would say that the divine nature is eminently circular...
We must take care not to admit as true anything, which is only probable. For when one falsity has been let in, infinite others follow...
We cannot infer that because sciences of things divine and human are full of controversies and quarrels, therefore their whole subject-matter is uncertain...
  • When you say that if I deny, that the operations of seeing, hearing, attending, wishing, &c., can be ascribed to God, or that they exist in Him in any eminent fashion, you do not know what sort of God mine is; I suspect that you believe there is no greater perfection than such as can be explained by the aforesaid attributes. I am not astonished; for I believe that, if a triangle could speak, it would say, in like manner, that God is eminently triangular, while a circle would say that the divine nature is eminently circular. Thus each would ascribe to God its own attributes, would assume itself to be like God, and look on everything else as ill-shaped.
    The briefness of a letter and want of time do not allow me to enter into my opinion on the divine nature, or the questions you have propounded. Besides, suggesting difficulties is not the same as producing reasons. That we do many things in the world from conjecture is true, but that our redactions are based on conjecture is false. In practical life we are compelled to follow what is most probable; in speculative thought we are compelled to follow truth. A man would perish of hunger and thirst, if he refused to eat or drink, till he had obtained positive proof that food and drink would be good for him. But in philosophic reflection this is not so. On the contrary, we must take care not to admit as true anything, which is only probable. For when one falsity has been let in, infinite others follow.
    Again, we cannot infer that because sciences of things divine and human are full of controversies and quarrels, therefore their whole subject-matter is uncertain; for there have been many persons so enamoured of contradiction, as to turn into ridicule geometrical axioms.
  • My opinion concerning God differs widely from that which is ordinarily defended by modern Christians. For I hold that God is of all things the cause immanent, as the phrase is, not transient. I say that all things are in God and move in God, thus agreeing with Paul, and, perhaps, with all the ancient philosophers, though the phraseology may be different; I will even venture to affirm that I agree with all the ancient Hebrews, in so far as one may judge from their traditions, though these are in many ways corrupted. The supposition of some, that I endeavour to prove in the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus the unity of God and Nature (meaning by the latter a certain mass or corporeal matter), is wholly erroneous.
    As regards miracles, I am of opinion that the revelation of God can only be established by the wisdom of the doctrine, not by miracles, or in other words by ignorance.
  • I make this chief distinction between religion and superstition, that the latter is founded on ignorance, the former on knowledge; this, I take it, is the reason why Christians are distinguished from the rest of the world, not by faith, nor by charity, nor by the other fruits of the Holy Spirit, but solely by their opinions, inasmuch as they defend their cause, like everyone else, by miracles, that is by ignorance, which is the source of all malice; thus they turn a faith, which may be true, into superstition.
    • Letter 21 (73) to Henry Oldenburg , November (1675)
I say that all things are in God and move in God, thus agreeing with Paul, and, perhaps, with all the ancient philosophers, though the phraseology may be different...
  • I do not think it necessary for salvation to know Christ according to the flesh: but with regard to the Eternal Son of God, that is the Eternal Wisdom of God, which has manifested itself in all things and especially in the human mind, and above all in Christ Jesus, the case is far otherwise. For without this no one can come to a state of blessedness, inasmuch as it alone teaches, what is true or false, good or evil. And, inasmuch as this wisdom was made especially manifest through Jesus Christ, as I have said, His disciples preached it, in so far as it was revealed to them through Him, and thus showed that they could rejoice in that spirit of Christ more than the rest of mankind. The doctrines added by certain churches, such as that God took upon Himself human nature, I have expressly said that I do not understand; in fact, to speak the truth, they seem to me no less absurd than would a statement, that a circle had taken upon itself the nature of a, square. This I think will be sufficient explanation of my opinions concerning the three points mentioned. Whether it will be satisfactory to Christians you will know better than I.
    • Letter 21 (73) to Henry Oldenburg , November (1675)
    • Variant translation: The eternal wisdom of God ... has shown itself forth in all things, but chiefly in the mind of man, and most of all in Jesus Christ.
I do not presume that I have found the best philosophy, I know that I understand the true philosophy.
  • You seem to wish to employ reason, and ask me, "How I know that my philosophy is the best among all that have ever been taught in the world, or are being taught, or ever will be taught?" a question which I might with much greater right ask you; for I do not presume that I have found the best philosophy, I know that I understand the true philosophy. If you ask in what way I know it, I answer: In the same way as you know that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles: that this is sufficient, will be denied by no one whose brain is sound, and who does not go dreaming of evil spirits inspiring us with false ideas like the true. For the truth is the index of itself and of what is false.
    But you, who presume that you have at last found the best religion, or rather the best men, on whom you have pinned your credulity, you, "who know that they are the best among all who have taught, do now teach, or shall in future teach other religions. Have you examined all religions, ancient as well as modern, taught here and in India and everywhere throughout the world? And, if you, have duly examined them, how do you know that you have chosen the best" since you can give no reason for the faith that is in you? But you will say, that you acquiesce in the inward testimony of the Spirit of God, while the rest of mankind are ensnared and deceived by the prince of evil spirits. But all those outside the pale of the Romish Church can with equal right proclaim of their own creed what you proclaim of yours.
    As to what you add of the common consent of myriads of men and the uninterrupted ecclesiastical succession, this is the very catch-word of the Pharisees. They with no less confidence than the devotees of Rome bring forward their myriad witnesses, who as pertinaciously as the Roman witnesses repeat what they have heard, as though it were their personal experience. Further, they carry back their line to Adam. They boast with equal arrogance, that their Church has continued to this day unmoved and unimpaired in spite of the hatred of Christians and heathen. They more than any other sect are supported by antiquity. They exclaim with one voice, that they have received their traditions from God Himself, and that they alone preserve the Word of God both written and unwritten. That all heresies have issued from them, and that they have remained constant through thousands of years under no constraint of temporal dominion, but by the sole efficacy of their superstition, no one can deny. The miracles they tell of would tire a thousand tongues. But their chief boast is, that they count a far greater number of martyrs than any other nation, a number which is daily increased by those who suffer with singular constancy for the faith they profess; nor is their boasting false. I myself knew among others of a certain Judah called the faithful, who in the midst of the flames, when he was already thought to be dead, lifted his voice to sing the hymn beginning, "To Thee, O God, I offer up my soul," and so singing perished.
  • Nature is satisfied with little; and if she is, I am also.
    • As quoted in The Story of Philosophy (1933) by Will Durant, p. 176

On the Improvement of the Understanding (1662)

Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione [On the Improvement of the Understanding] (1662) Full text online
The properties of things are not understood so long as their essences are unknown.
  • The ordinary surroundings of life which are esteemed by men (as their actions testify) to be the highest good, may be classed under the three heads — Riches, Fame, and the Pleasures of Sense: with these three the mind is so absorbed that it has little power to reflect on any different good.
    • Pt. I, 3
    • Variant translation: The things which ... are esteemed as the greatest good of all ... can be reduced to these three headings: to wit, Riches, Fame, and Pleasure. With these three the mind is so engrossed that it cannot scarcely think of any other good.
  • A definition, if it is to be called perfect, must explain the inmost essence of a thing, and must take care not to substitute for this any of its properties. In order to illustrate my meaning, without taking an example which would seem to show a desire to expose other people's errors, I will choose the case of something abstract, the definition of which is of little moment. Such is a circle. If a circle be defined as a figure, such that all straight lines drawn from the center to the circumference are equal, every one can see that such a definition does not in the least explain the essence of a circle, but solely one of its properties. Though, as I have said, this is of no importance in the case of figures and other abstractions, it is of great importance in the case of physical beings and realities: for the properties of things are not understood so long as their essences are unknown. If the latter be passed over, there is necessarily a perversion of the succession of ideas which should reflect the succession of nature, and we go far astray from our object.

Theological-Political Treatise (1670)

Full text online
Everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits...
  • (1) Men would never be superstitious, if they could govern all their circumstances by set rules, or if they were always favoured by fortune: but being frequently driven into straits where rules are useless, and being often kept fluctuating pitiably between hope and fear by the uncertainty of fortune's greedily coveted favours, they are consequently, for the most part, very prone to credulity.
    (2) The human mind is readily swayed this way or that in times of doubt, especially when hope and fear are struggling for the mastery, though usually it is boastful, over-confident, and vain.
    (3) This as a general fact I suppose everyone knows, though few, I believe, know their own nature; no one can have lived in the world without observing that most people, when in prosperity, are so over-brimming with wisdom (however inexperienced they may be), that they take every offer of advice as a personal insult, whereas in adversity they know not where to turn, but beg and pray for counsel from every passer-by.
    (4) No plan is then too futile, too absurd, or too fatuous for their adoption; the most frivolous causes will raise them to hope, or plunge them into despair — if anything happens during their fright which reminds them of some past good or ill, they think it portends a happy or unhappy issue, and therefore (though it may have proved abortive a hundred times before) style it a lucky or unlucky omen.
    (5) Anything which excites their astonishment they believe to be a portent signifying the anger of the gods or of the Supreme Being, and, mistaking superstition for religion, account it impious not to avert the evil with prayer and sacrifice.
    (6) Signs and wonders of this sort they conjure up perpetually, till one might think Nature as mad as themselves, they interpret her so fantastically.
    (7) Thus it is brought prominently before us, that superstition's chief victims are those persons who greedily covet temporal advantages; they it is, who (especially when they are in danger, and cannot help themselves) are wont with Prayers and womanish tears to implore help from God: upbraiding Reason as blind, because she cannot show a sure path to the shadows they pursue, and rejecting human wisdom as vain; but believing the phantoms of imagination, dreams, and other childish absurdities, to be the very oracles of Heaven.
    (8) As though God had turned away from the wise, and written His decrees, not in the mind of man but in the entrails of beasts, or left them to be proclaimed by the inspiration and instinct of fools, madmen, and birds. Such is the unreason to which terror can drive mankind!
    (9) Superstition, then, is engendered, preserved, and fostered by fear.
    • Preface
The multitude always strains after rarities and exceptions, and thinks little of the gifts of nature; so that, when prophecy is talked of, ordinary knowledge is not supposed to be included...
  • As men's habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude ... that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits; each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honoured save justice and charity.
    • Preface
  • Prophecy really includes ordinary knowledge; for the knowledge which we acquire by our natural faculties depends on knowledge of God and His eternal laws; but ordinary knowledge is common to all men as men, and rests on foundations which all share, whereas the multitude always strains after rarities and exceptions, and thinks little of the gifts of nature; so that, when prophecy is talked of, ordinary knowledge is not supposed to be included.
    Nevertheless it has as much right as any other to be called Divine, for God's nature, in so far as we share therein, and God's laws, dictate it to us; nor does it suffer from that to which we give the preeminence, except in so far as the latter transcends its limits and cannot be accounted for by natural laws taken in themselves.
    • Ch. 1, Of Prophecy
In regard to intellect and true virtue, every nation is on a par with the rest, and God has not in these respects chosen one people rather than another.
  • When, the prophets, in speaking of this election which regards only true virtue, mixed up much concerning sacrifices and ceremonies, and the rebuilding of the temple and city, they wished by such figurative expressions, after the manner and nature of prophecy, to expound matters spiritual, so as at the same time to show to the Jews, whose prophets they were, the true restoration of the state and of the temple to be expected about the time of Cyrus.
    At the present time, therefore, there is absolutely nothing which the Jews can arrogate to themselves beyond other people.
    As to their continuance so long after dispersion and the loss of empire, there is nothing marvellous in it, for they so separated themselves from every other nation as to draw down upon themselves universal hate, not only by their outward rites, rites conflicting with those of other nations, but also by the sign of circumcision which they most scrupulously observe.
    That they have been preserved in great measure by Gentile hatred, experience demonstrates.
    • Ch. 3, Of the Vocation of the Hebrews, and Whether the Gift of Prophecy Was Peculiar to Them
    • Variant translation: Therefore at the present time there is nothing whatsoever that the Jews can arrogate to themselves above other nations. As to their continued existence for so many years when scattered and stateless, this is in no way surprising, since they have separated themselves from other nations to such a degree as to incur the hatred of all, and this not only through external rites alien to the rites of other nations but also through the mark of circumcision, which they most religiously observe. That they are preserved largely through the hatred of other nations is demonstrated by historical fact.
      • As translated by Samuel Shirley
  • In regard to intellect and true virtue, every nation is on a par with the rest, and God has not in these respects chosen one people rather than another.
    • Ch. 3, Of the Vocation of the Hebrews, and Whether the Gift of Prophecy Was Peculiar to Them
The true aim of government is liberty.
  • The ultimate aim of government is not to rule, or restrain, by fear, nor to exact obedience, but contrariwise, to free every man from fear, that he may live in all possible security; in other words, to strengthen his natural right to exist and work without injury to himself or others.
    No, the object of government is not to change men from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develope their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled; neither showing hatred, anger, or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice. In fact, the true aim of government is liberty.
    • Ch. 20, That In a Free State Every Man May Think What He Likes, and Say What He Thinks
    • Variant translation: The last end of the state is not to dominate men, nor to restrain them by fear; rather it is so to free each man from fear that he may live and act with full security and without injury to himself or his neighbor. The end of the state, I repeat, is not to make rational beings into brute beasts and machines. It is to enable their bodies and their minds to function safely. It is to lead men to live by, and to exercise, a free reason; that they may not waste their strength in hatred, anger and guile, nor act unfairly toward one another. Thus the end of the state is really liberty.
  • If men's minds were as easily controlled as their tongues, every king would sit safely on his throne, and government by compulsion would cease; for every subject would shape his life according to the intentions of his rulers, and would esteem a thing true or false, good or evil, just or unjust, in obedience to their dictates.
    • Ch. 20
  • The more a government strives to curtail freedom of speech, the more obstinately is it resisted; not indeed by the avaricious, ... but by those whom good education, sound morality, and virtue have rendered more free. Men in general are so constituted that there is nothing they will endure with so little patience as that views which they believe to be true should be counted crimes against the laws. ... Under such circumstances they do not think it disgraceful, but most honorable, to hold the laws in abhorrence, and to refrain from no action against the government.
    • Ch. 20, That In a Free State Every Man May Think What He Likes, and Say What He Thinks
The real disturbers of the peace are those who, in a free state, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they are unable to tyrannize over.
  • Schisms do not originate in a love of truth, which is a source of courtesy and gentleness, but rather in an inordinate desire for supremacy. From all these considerations it is clearer than the sun at noonday, that the true schismatics are those who condemn other men's writings, and seditiously stir up the quarrelsome masses against their authors, rather than those authors themselves, who generally write only for the learned, and appeal solely to reason. In fact, the real disturbers of the peace are those who, in a free state, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they are unable to tyrannize over.
    • Ch. 20, That In a Free State Every Man May Think What He Likes, and Say What He Thinks
  • The safest way for a state is to lay down the rule that religion is comprised solely in the exercise of charity and justice, and that the rights of rulers in sacred, no less than in secular matters, should merely have to do with actions, but that every man should think what he likes and say what he thinks.
    • Ch. 20, That In a Free State Every Man May Think What He Likes, and Say What He Thinks

Not yet placed by chapter:

  • Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
    • This sentence has been cited as from the Theological-Political Treatise since at least the 1970s, but without indication of either chapter or translator.

Political Treatise (1677)

I have resolved to demonstrate by a certain and undoubted course of argument, or to deduce from the very condition of human nature, not what is new and unheard of, but only such things as agree best with practice.
Tractatus Politicus as translated by A. H. Gosset (1883) Full text online - Alternate site (this is an unfinished work, left incomplete by Spinoza's death)
  • Philosophers conceive of the passions which harass us as vices into which men fall by their own fault, and, therefore, generally deride, bewail, or blame them, or execrate them, if they wish to seem unusually pious. And so they think they are doing something wonderful, and reaching the pinnacle of learning, when they are clever enough to bestow manifold praise on such human nature, as is nowhere to be found, and to make verbal attacks on that which, in fact, exists. For they conceive of men, not as they are, but as they themselves would like them to be. Whence it has come to pass that, instead of ethics, they have generally written satire, and that they have never conceived a theory of politics, which could be turned to use, but such as might be taken for a chimera, or might have been formed in Utopia, or in that golden age of the poets when, to be sure, there was least need of it. Accordingly, as in all sciences, which have a useful application, so especially in that of politics, theory is supposed to be at variance with practice; and no men are esteemed less fit to direct public affairs than theorists or philosophers
    • Ch. 1, Introduction
Nothing is forbidden by the law of nature, except what is beyond everyone's power.
  • I have resolved to demonstrate by a certain and undoubted course of argument, or to deduce from the very condition of human nature, not what is new and unheard of, but only such things as agree best with practice.
    • Ch. 1, Introduction
  • I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate, but to understand human actions; and to this end I have looked upon passions, such as love, hatred, anger, envy, ambition, pity, and the other perturbations of the mind, not in the light of vices of human nature, but as properties, just as pertinent to it, as are heat, cold, storm, thunder, and the like to the nature of the atmosphere, which phenomena, though inconvenient, are yet necessary, and have fixed causes, by means of which we endeavour to understand their nature, and the mind has just as much pleasure in viewing them aright, as in knowing such things as flatter the senses
    • Ch. 1, Introduction
    • Variant translation: I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate human actions, but to understand them.
Nature offers nothing that can be called this man's rather than another's; but under nature everything belongs to all...
  • Speaking generally, he holds dominion, to whom are entrusted by common consent affairs of state — such as the laying down, interpretation, and abrogation of laws, the fortification of cities, deciding on war and peace, &c. But if this charge belong to a council, composed of the general multitude, then the dominion is called a democracy; if the council be composed of certain chosen persons, then it is an aristocracy; and if, lastly, the care of affairs of state and, consequently, the dominion rest with one man, then it has the name of monarchy.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
He is called just who has a constant will to render to every man his own...
  • Man can, indeed, act contrarily to the decrees of God, as far as they have been written like laws in the minds of ourselves or the prophets, but against that eternal decree of God, which is written in universal nature, and has regard to the course of nature as a whole, he can do nothing.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
  • In the state of nature, wrong-doing is impossible; or, if anyone does wrong, it is to himself, not to another. For no one by the law of nature is bound to please another, unless he chooses, nor to hold anything to be good or evil, but what he himself, according to his own temperament, pronounces to be so; and, to speak generally, nothing is forbidden by the law of nature, except what is beyond everyone's power.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
  • Nature offers nothing that can be called this man's rather than another's; but under nature everything belongs to all — that is, they have authority to claim it for themselves. But under dominion, where it is by common law determined what belongs to this man, and what to that, he is called just who has a constant will to render to every man his own, but he unjust who strives, on the contrary, to make his own that which belongs to another.
    • Ch. 2, Of Natural Right
All laws which can be broken without any injury to another, are counted but a laughing-stock, and are so far from bridling the desires and lusts of men, that on the contrary they stimulate them.
  • If slavery, barbarism and desolation are to be called peace, men can have no worse misfortune. No doubt there are usually more and sharper quarrels between parents and children, than between masters and slaves; yet it advances not the art of household management to change a father's right into a right of property, and count children but as slaves. Slavery, then, and not peace, is furthered by handing, over the whole authority to one man.
    • Ch. 6, On Monarchy
  • He who seeks equality between unequals, seeks an absurdity.
    • Ch. 9, Of Aristocracy, Continuation
  • All laws which can be broken without any injury to another, are counted but a laughing-stock, and are so far from bridling the desires and lusts of men, that on the contrary they stimulate them.
    • Ch. 10, Of Aristocracy, Conclusion
    • Variant translation: Laws which can be broken without any wrong to one's neighbor are but a laughing-stoke; and so far from such laws restraining the appetites and lusts of mankind, they rather heighten them.
    • Variant: "All laws which can be violated without doing any one any injury are laughed at. Nay, so far are they from doing anything to control the desires and passions of men that, on the contrary, they direct and incite men's thoughts the more toward those very objects, for we always strive toward what is forbidden and desire the things we are not allowed to have. And men of leisure are never deficient in the ingenuity needed to enable them to outwit laws framed to regulate things which cannot be entirely forbidden... He who tries to determine everything by law will foment crime rather than lessen it."
  • I pass, at length, to the third and perfectly absolute dominion, which we call democracy.
    • Ch. 11, Of Democracy
  • We can conceive of various kinds of democracy. But my intention is not to treat of every kind, but of that only, "wherein all, without exception, who owe allegiance to the laws of the country only, and are further independent and of respectable life, have the right of voting in the supreme council and of filling the offices of the dominion."
    • Ch. 11, Of Democracy

Ethics (1677)

Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata [Ethics Geometrically Demonstrtated] - Full text online

Part I : Concerning God

Full text online
By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite — that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality.
God and all attributes of God are eternal.
Individual things are nothing but modifications of the attributes of God, or modes by which the attributes of God are expressed in a fixed and definite manner.
  • By that which is self-caused, I mean that of which the essence involves existence, or that of which the nature is only conceivable as existent.
    • Definition 1
  • A body is called finite because we always conceive another greater body. So, also, a thought is limited by another thought, but a body is not limited by thought, nor a thought by body.
    • Definition 2
  • By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite — that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality.
    Explanation — I say absolutely infinite, not infinite after its kind: for, of a thing infinite only after its kind, infinite attributes may be denied; but that which is absolutely infinite, contains in its essence whatever expresses reality, and involves no negation.
    • Definition 6
  • That thing is called free, which exists solely by the necessity of its own nature, and of which the action is determined by itself alone. On the other hand, that thing is necessary, or rather constrained, which is determined by something external to itself to a fixed and definite method of existence or action.
    • Definition 7
  • By eternity, I mean existence itself, in so far as it is conceived necessarily to follow solely from the definition of that which is eternal.
    Explanation — Existence of this kind is conceived as an eternal truth, like the essence of a thing, and, therefore, cannot be explained by means of continuance or time, though continuance may be conceived without a beginning or end.
    • Definition 8
  • The more reality or being a thing has, the greater the number of its attributes.
    • Prop. 9
  • God, or substance, consisting of infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality, necessarily exists.
    • Prop. 11
  • Nature abhors a vacuum.
    • Prop. 15: note
  • Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived.
    • Prop. 15
  • God and all attributes of God are eternal.
    • Prop. 19
  • Individual things are nothing but modifications of the attributes of God, or modes by which the attributes of God are expressed in a fixed and definite manner.
    • Prop. 25
  • Nothing in the universe is contingent, but all things are conditioned to exist and operate in a particular manner by the necessity of the divine nature.
    • Prop. 29
  • Things could not have been brought into being by God in any manner or in any order different from that which has in fact obtained.
    • Prop. 33
  • Nothing exists from whose nature some effect does not follow.
    • Prop. 36

Part II : On the Nature and Origin of the Mind

Full text online
He, who knows how to distinguish between true and false, must have an adequate idea of true and false.
  • The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things.
    • Prop. 7
  • Mind and body are one and the same individual which is conceived now under the attribute of thought, and now under the attribute of extension.
    • Prop. 21
  • He, who knows how to distinguish between true and false, must have an adequate idea of true and false.
    • Prop. 42: proof
    • Variant translation: He who would distinguish the true from the false must have an adequate idea of what is true and false.
  • He, who has a true idea, simultaneously knows that he has a true idea, and cannot doubt of the truth of the thing perceived.
    • Prop. 43
  • Will and Intellect are one and the same thing.
    • Prop. 49: corollary

Part III : On the Origin and Nature of the Emotions

Full text online
Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear.
  • They seem to have conceived man in nature as a kingdom within a kingdom. For they believe that man disturbs rather than follows the course of nature, and that he has absolute power in his actions, and is not determined in the by anything else than himself. They attribute the cause of human weakness and inconstancy not to the ordinary power of nature, but to some defect or other in human nature, wherefore they deplore, ridicule, despise, or what is most common of all, abuse it: and he that can carp in the most eloquent or acute manner at the weakness of the human mind is held by his fellows as almost divine.
    • Preface
  • Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear.
    • Definition 13: explanation
  • Surely human affairs would be far happier if the power in men to be silent were the same as that to speak. But experience more than sufficiently teaches that men govern nothing with more difficulty than their tongues.
    • Prop. 2: note
  • Pride is therefore pleasure arising from a man's thinking too highly of himself.
    • Prop. 26: note
Hatred which is completely vanquished by love passes into love: and love is thereupon greater than if hatred had not preceded it...
  • So long as a man imagines that he cannot do this or that, so long is he determined not to do it: and consequently, so long it is impossible to him that he should do it.
    • Prop. 28: explanation
  • It may easily come to pass that a vain man may become proud and imagine himself pleasing to all when he is in reality a universal nuisance.
    • Prop. 30: note
  • Hatred which is completely vanquished by love passes into love: and love is thereupon greater than if hatred had not preceded it.
    • Prop. 44
  • Self-complacency is pleasure accompanied by the idea of oneself as cause.
    • Prop. 51: note
  • It therefore comes to pass that everyone is fond of relating his own exploits and displaying the strength both of his body and his mind, and that men are on this account a nuisance one to the other.
    • Prop. 54: note
  • I refer those actions which work out the good of the agent to courage, and those which work out the good of others to nobility. Therefore temperance, sobriety, and presence of mind in danger, etc., are species of courage; but modesty, clemency, etc., are species of nobility.
    • Prop. 59: note

Part IV : Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of the Emotions

Full text online
One and the same thing can be at the same time good, bad, and indifferent.
  • As for the terms good and bad, they indicate no positive quality in things regarded in themselves, but are merely modes of thinking, or notions which we form from the comparison of things with one another. Thus one and the same thing can be at the same time good, bad, and indifferent. For instance music is good to the melancholy, bad to those who mourn, and neither good nor bad to the deaf.
    • Preface
  • Man is a social animal.
    • Prop. 35: note
  • Men will find that they can prepare with mutual aid far more easily what they need, and avoid far more easily the perils which beset them on all sides, by united force.
    • Prop. 35: note
  • Although men, as a rule, are a prey to many emotions — and very few are found who are always assailed by one and the same — yet there are cases, where one and the same emotion remains obstinately fixed. We sometimes see men so absorbed in one object, that, although it be not present, they think they have it before them; when this is the case with a man who is not asleep, we say he is delirious or mad; nor are those persons who are inflamed with love, and who dream all night and all day about nothing but their mistress, or some woman, considered as less mad, for they are made objects of ridicule. But when a miser thinks of nothing but gain or money, or when an ambitious man thinks of nothing but glory, they are not reckoned to be mad, because they are generally harmful, and are thought worthy of being hated. But, in reality, Avarice, Ambition, Lust, &c., are species of madness, though they may not be reckoned among diseases.
    • Prop. 44: note
    • Variant translation: Avarice, ambition, lust, etc., are nothing but species of madness.
Minds are not conquered by force, but by love and high-mindedness.
  • Hatred can never be good. ... Here, and in what follows, I mean by hatred only hatred towards men.
    • Prop. 45
  • He whose honour is rooted in popular approval must, day by day, anxiously strive, act, and scheme in order to retain his reputation. For the populace is variable and inconstant, so that, if a reputation be not kept up, it quickly withers away. Everyone wishes to catch popular applause for himself, and readily represses the fame of others. The object of the strife being estimated as the greatest of all goods, each combatant is seized with a fierce desire to put down his rivals in every possible way, till he who at last comes out victorious is more proud of having done harm to others than of having done good to himself. This sort of honour, then, is really empty, being nothing.
    • Prop. 58: note
    • Variant translation: He whose honor depends on the opinion of the mob must day by day strive with the greatest anxiety, act and scheme in order to retain his reputation. For the mob is varied and inconstant, and therefore if a reputation is not carefully preserved it dies quickly.
  • A free man thinks of death least of all things; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but of life.
    • Prop. 67
    • Variant translation: A free man thinks of nothing less than of death; and his wisdom is a meditation not on death but on life.
It is before all things useful to men to associate their ways of life, to bind themselves together with such bonds as they think most fitted to gather them all into unity, and generally to do whatsoever serves to strengthen friendship.
  • In refusing benefits caution must be used lest we seem to despise or to refuse them for fear of having to repay them in kind.
    • Prop. 70: note
  • All our endeavours or desires so follow from the necessity of our nature, that they can be understood either through it alone, as their proximate cause, or by virtue of our being a part of nature, which cannot be adequately conceived through itself without other individuals.
    • Appendix, 1
  • In so far as men are influenced by envy or any kind of hatred, one towards another, they are at variance, and are therefore to be feared in proportion, as they are more powerful than their fellows.
    Yet minds are not conquered by force, but by love and high-mindedness.
    • Appendix, 10 - 11
  • It is before all things useful to men to associate their ways of life, to bind themselves together with such bonds as they think most fitted to gather them all into unity, and generally to do whatsoever serves to strengthen friendship.
    But for this there is need of skill and watchfulness. For men are diverse (seeing that those who live under the guidance of reason are few), yet are they generally envious and more prone to revenge than to sympathy. No small force of character is therefore required to take everyone as he is, and to restrain one's self from imitating the emotions of others. But those who carp at mankind, and are more skilled in railing at vice than in instilling virtue, and who break rather than strengthen men's dispositions, are hurtful both to themselves and others.
    • Appendix, 12 - 13
In so far as we are intelligent beings, we cannot desire anything save that which is necessary, nor yield absolute acquiescence to anything, save to that which is true...
  • To give aid to every poor man is far beyond the power and the advantage of any private person. For the riches of any private person are wholly inadequate to meet such a call. Again, an individual man's resources of character are too limited for him to be able to make all men his friends. Hence providing for the poor is a duty, which falls on the State as a whole, and has regard only to the general advantage.
    • Appendix, 17
    • Variant translation: To give aid to every poor man is far beyond the reach and power of every man ... Care of the poor is incumbent on society as a whole.
  • Flattery begets harmony; but only by means of the vile offence of slavishness or treachery. None are more readily taken with flattery than the proud, who wish to be first, but are not.
    • Appendix, 21
  • In so far as we are intelligent beings, we cannot desire anything save that which is necessary, nor yield absolute acquiescence to anything, save to that which is true: wherefore, in so far as we have a right understanding of these things, the endeavour of the better part of ourselves is in harmony with the order of nature as a whole.

Part V: Of the Power of the Understanding, or of Human Freedom

Full text online
The mind has greater power over the emotions and is less subject thereto, in so far as it understands all things as necessary.
The human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the body, but there remains of it something which is eternal.
How would it be possible, if salvation were ready to our hand, and could without great labour be found, that it should be by almost all men neglected? But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.
  • An emotion, which is a passion, ceases to be a passion, as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea thereof.
    • Prop. 3,
    • Variant translation: Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.
      • As translated in From Death-camp to Existentialism : A Psychiatrist's Path to a New Therapy (1959) by Viktor Emil Frankl, p. 74
  • The mind has greater power over the emotions and is less subject thereto, in so far as it understands all things as necessary.
    • Prop. 6
  • Those are most desirous of honor and glory who cry out the loudest of its abuse and the vanity of the world.
    • Prop. 10: note
  • He who clearly and distinctly understands himself and his emotions loves God, and so much the more in proportion as he more understands himself and his emotions.
    • Prop. 15
  • God is without passions, neither is he affected by any emotion of pleasure or pain. ... Strictly speaking, God does not love or hate anyone.
    • Prop. 17 and corollary
  • The human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the body, but there remains of it something which is eternal.
    • Prop. 23
  • It is not possible that we should remember that we existed before our body, for our body can bear no trace of such existence, neither can eternity be defined in terms of time, or have any relation to time. But, notwithstanding, we feel and know that we are eternal. For the mind feels those things that it conceives by understanding, no less than those things that it remembers.
    • Prop. 23, note
  • The more we understand particular things, the more do we understand God.
    • Prop. 24
  • Whatsoever the mind understands under the form of eternity, it does not understand by virtue of conceiving the present actual existence of the body, but by virtue of conceiving the essence of the body under the form of eternity.
    • Prop 29
  • He, who possesses a body capable of the greatest number of activities, possesses a mind whereof the greatest part is eternal.
    • Prop. 39
  • Most people seem to believe that they are free, in so far as they may obey their lusts, and that they cede their rights, in so far as they are bound to live according to the commandments of the divine law. They therefore believe that piety, religion, and, generally, all things attributable to firmness of mind, are burdens, which, after death, they hope to lay aside, and to receive the reward for their bondage, that is, for their piety and religion ; it is not only by this hope, but also, and chiefly, by the fear of being horribly punished after death, that they are induced to live according to the divine commandments, so far as their feeble and infirm spirit will carry them.
    If men had not this hope and this fear, but believed that the mind perishes with the body, and that no hope of prolonged life remains for the wretches who are broken down with the burden of piety, they would return to their own inclinations, controlling everything in accordance with their lusts, and desiring to obey fortune rather than themselves. Such a course appears to me not less absurd than if a man, because he does not believe that he can by wholesome food sustain his body for ever, should wish to cram himself with poisons and deadly fare ; or if, because he sees that the mind is not eternal or immortal, he should prefer to be out of his mind altogether, and to live without the use of reason; these ideas are so absurd as to be scarcely worth refuting.
    • Prop. 41, note
  • Blessedness is not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself; neither do we rejoice therein, because we control our lusts, but, contrariwise, because we rejoice therein, we are able to control our lusts.
    • Prop. 42
  • Since human power in controlling the emotions consists solely in the understanding, it follows that no one rejoices in blessedness, because he has controlled his lusts, but, contrariwise, his power of controlling his lusts arises from this blessedness itself.
    • Prop. 42, proof
  • The ignorant man is not only distracted in various ways by external causes without ever gaining the true acquiescence of his spirit, but moreover lives, as it were unwitting of himself, and of God, and of things, and as soon as he ceases to suffer, ceases also to be.
    Whereas the wise man, in so far as he is regarded as such, is scarcely at all disturbed in spirit, but, being conscious of himself, and of God, and of things, by a certain eternal necessity, never ceases to be, but always possesses true acquiescence of his spirit.
    If the way which I have pointed out as leading to this result seems exceedingly hard, it may nevertheless be discovered. Needs must it be hard, since it is so seldom found. How would it be possible, if salvation were ready to our hand, and could without great labour be found, that it should be by almost all men neglected? But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.
    • Prop. 42, note

Quotes about Spinoza

The mightiest love was granted him
Love that does not expect to be loved. ~ Jorge Luis Borges
  • I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza: that I should have turned to him just now, was inspired by "instinct." Not only is his overtendency like mine—namely to make all knowledge the most powerful affect—but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize myself; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me precisely in these matters: he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world-order, the unegoistic, and evil. Even though the divergencies are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science. In summa: my lonesomeness, which, as on very high mountains, often made it hard for me to breathe and make my blood rush out, is now at least a twosomeness. Strange! Incidentally, I am not at all as well as I had hoped. Exceptional weather here too! Eternal change of atmospheric conditions!—that will yet drive me out of Europe! I must have clear skies for months, else I get nowhere. Already six severe attacks of two or three days each!! — With affectionate love, Your friend.
  • Time carries him as the river carries
    A leaf in the downstream water.
    No matter. The enchanted one insists
    And shapes God with delicate geometry.

    Since his illness, since his birth,
    He goes on constructing God with the word.
    The mightiest love was granted him
    Love that does not expect to be loved.
    • "Baruch Spinoza" by Jorge Luis Borges, as translated in Spinoza and Other Heretics: The Marrano of Reason (1989) by Yirmiyahu Yovel
  • Of Bruno, as of Spinoza, it may be said that he was "God-intoxicated." He felt that the Divine Excellence had its abode in the very heart of Nature and within his own body and spirit. Indwelling in every dewdrop as in the innumerable host of heaven, in the humblest flower and in the mind of man, he found the living spirit of God, setting forth the Divine glory, making the Divine perfection and inspiring with the Divine love.
    • William Boulting, in Giordano Bruno: His Life, Thought, and Martyrdom (1916) online excerpt
  • "Spinoza did not seek to found a sect, and he founded none"; yet all philosophy after him is permeated with his thought.
How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though he'll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own. ~ Albert Einstein
  • The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.
  • I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
  • These distinctions make sense only when AR [absolute perfection in some respects, relative perfection in all others] is assumed (hence Spinoza's failure, who assumed mere A). Just as AR is the whole positive content of perfection, so CW, or the conception of the Creator-and-the-Whole-of-what-he-has-created as constituting one life, the super-whole which in its everlasting essence is uncreated (and does not necessitate just the parts which the whole has) but in its de facto concreteness is created — this panentheistic doctrine contains all of deism and pandeism except their arbitrary negations. Thus ARCW, or absolute-relative panentheism, is the one doctrine that really states the whole of what all theists, if not all atheists as/well, are implicitly talking about.
    • Charles Hartshorne, in Man's Vision of God and the Logic of Theism (1964) ISBN 020800498X p. 348
  • Thought must begin by placing itself at the standpoint of Spinozism; to be a follower of Spinoza is the essential commencement of all Philosophy.
  • Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Bruno's ideas were widely imparted, borrowed, sounded; almost never, though, with the name Giordano Bruno attached to them. Kepler once chided Galileo for omitting his debt to Bruno; yet we can discern Kepler's own indifference... Later generations would evoke Bruno's writings to the phrase, without quoting or acknowledging him. Recent scholarship on Spinoza, for example, cites Bruno's powerful exertion on his thought about infinity and on his style. Never does Spinoza cite Bruno by name.
  • Ein Gottbetrunkener Mensch
  • Woe to him who in passing should hurl an insult at this gentle and pensive head. He would be punished, as all vulgar souls are punished, by his very vulgarity, and by his incapacity to conceive what is divine. This man, from his granite pedestal, will point out to all men the way of blessedness which he found; and ages hence, the cultivated traveler, passing by this spot, will say in his heart, "The truest vision ever had of God came, perhaps, here."
  • My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety toward the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image, to be servants of their human interests.
  • With the judgment of the angels and the sentence of the saints, we anathematize, execrate, curse and cast out Baruch de Espinoza, the whole of the sacred community assenting, in presence of the sacred books with the six-hundred-and-thirteen precepts written therein, pronouncing against him the malediction wherewith Elisha cursed the children, and all the maledictions written in the Book of the Law. Let him be accursed by day, and accursed by night; let him be accursed in his lying down, and accursed in his rising up; accursed in going out and accursed in coming in. May the Lord never more pardon or acknowledge him; may the wrath and displeasure of the Lord burn henceforth against this man, load him with all the curses written in the Book of the Law, and blot out his name from under the sky; may the Lord sever him from all the tribes of Israel, weight him with all the maledictions of the firmament contained in the Book of Law; and may all ye who are obedient to the Lord your God be saved this day.
    Hereby then are all admonished that none hold converse with him by word of mouth, none hold communication with him by writing; that no one do him any service, no one abide under the same roof with him, no one approach within four cubits length of him, and no one read any document dictated by him, or written by his hand.
    • Rite of expulsion from the Jewish community, as translated in Benedict de Spinoza : His Life, Correspondence, and Ethics (1870) by Robert Willis

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original text related to:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BARUCH SPINOZA (1632-1677), or, as he afterwards signed himself, Benedict de Spinoza, Dutch philosopher, was born at Amsterdam on the 24th of November 1632. His parents belonged to the community of Jewish emigrants from Portugal and Spain who, fleeing from Catholic persecution in the Peninsula, had sought refuge in the nearly emancipated Netherlands. The name, variously written Espinoza, De Spinoza, D'Espinoza and Despinoza, probably points to the province of Leon as the previous home of the family; there are no fewer than five townships so called in the neighbourhood of Burgos. The philosopher's grandfather appears to have been the recognized head of the Jewish community in Amsterdam in 1628, and his father, Michael Espinoza, was repeatedly warden of the synagogue between 1630 and 1650. The father was a merchant in fair circumstances. He was thrice married and had six children, all of whom predeceased him save a daughter Rebekah, born of the first marriage, and Baruch, the son of his second wife. Spinoza's mother died in 1638 when the boy was barely six years old, and his father in 1654 when he was in his twentysecond year. Spinoza received his first training under the senior rabbi, Saul Levi Morteira, and Manasseh ben Israel, a theological writer of some eminence whose works show considerable knowledge of philosophical authors. Under these teachers he became familiar with the Talmud and, what was probably more important for his own development, with the philosophical writings of Ibn Ezra and Maimonides, Levi ben Gerson, Hasdai Crescas, and other representatives of Jewish medieval thought, who aim at combining the traditional theology with ideas got from Aristotle and his Neoplatonic commentators. Latin, still the universal language of learning, formed no part of Jewish education; and Spinoza, after learning the elements from a German master, resorted for further instruction to a physician named Franz van den Ende, who eked out an income by taking pupils. Van den Ende appears to have been distinctly a man of parts, though of a somewhat indiscreet and erratic character. He was eventually hanged in Paris as a conspirator in 1674. His enthusiasm for the natural sciences may have been the only ground for the reputation he had acquired of instilling atheistic notions into the minds of his pupils along with the Latin which he taught them. But it is quite possible that his scientific studies had bred in him, as in many others at that time, a materialistic, or at least a naturalistic, turn of mind; indeed, we should expect as much in a man of Van den Ende's somewhat rebellious temperament. We do not know whether his influence was brought to bear in this sense upon Spinoza; but it has been suggested that the writings of Bruno, whose spirit of enthusiastic naturalism and fervid revolt against the Church would be especially dear to a man of Van den Ende's leanings, may have been put into the pupil's hand by the master. Latin, at all events, Spinoza learned to use with correctness, freedom and force, though his language does not, of course, conform to classical canons.

A romance has woven itself round Spinoza's connexion with Van den Ende's household. The physician had an only daughter, Clara Maria by name, who, besides being proficient in music, understood Latin, it is said, so perfectly that she was able to teach her father's pupils in his absence. Spinoza, the story goes, fell in love with his fair instructress; but a fellow-student, called Kerkering, supplanted him in his mistress's affections by the help of a valuable necklace of pearls which he presented to the young lady. Chronology unfortunately forbids us to accept this little episode as true. Recent investigation has proved that, while the marriage with Kerkering, or rather Kerckkrink, is a fact, it did not take place till 1671, in which year the bride, as appears by the register, was twenty-seven years of age. She cannot, therefore, have been more than eleven, or twelve in 1656, the year in which Spinoza left Amsterdam; and as Kerckkrink was seven years younger than Spinoza, they cannot well have been simultaneous pupils of Van den Ende's and simultaneous suitors for his daughter's hand. But, though the details of the story thus fall to pieces, it is still possible that in the five years which followed his retirement from Amsterdam Spinoza, who was living within easy distance and paid visits to the city from time to time, may have kept up his connexion with Van den Ende, and that the attachment may have dated from this later period. This would at least be some explanation for the existence of the story; for Colerus expressly says that Spinoza "often confessed that he meant to marry her." But there is no mention of the Van den Endes in Spinoza's correspondence; and in the whole tenor of his life and character there is nothing on which to fasten the probability of a romantic attachment.

The mastery of Latin which he acquired from Van den Ende opened up to Spinoza the whole world of modern philosophy and science, both represented at that time by the writings of Descartes. He read him greedily, says Colerus, and afterwards often declared that he had all his philosophical knowledge from him. The impulse towards natural science which he had received from Van den Ende would be strengthened by the reading of Descartes; he gave over divinity, we are told, to devote himself entirely to these new studies. His inward break with Jewish orthodoxy dated, no doubt, further back - from his acquaintance with the philosophical theologians and commentators of the middle ages; but these new interests combined to estrange him still further from the traditions of the synagogue. He was seldomer seen at its services - soon not at all. The jealousy of the heads of the synagogue was easily roused. An attempt seems to have been made to draw from him his real opinions on certain prominent points of divinity. Two so-called friends endeavoured, on the plea of doubts of their own, to lead him into a theological discussion; and, some of Spinoza's expressions being repeated to the Jewish authorities, he was summoned to give an account of himself. Anxious to retain so promising an adherent, and probably desirous at the same time to avoid public scandal, the chiefs of the community offered him a yearly pension of r000 florins if he would outwardly conform and appear now and then in the synagogue. But such deliberate hypocrisy was abhorrent to Spinoza's nature. Threats were equally unavailing, and accordingly on the 27th of July 1656 Spinoza was solemnly cut off from the commonwealth of Israel. The curses pronounced against him may be read in most of the biographies. While negotiations were still pending, he had been set upon one evening by a fanatical ruffian, who thought to expedite matters with the dagger. Warned by this that Amsterdam was hardly a safe place of residence for him any longer, Spinoza had already left the city before the sentence of excommunication was pronounced. He did not go far, but took up his abode with a friend who lived some miles out on the Old Church road. His host belonged to the Collegiants or Rhijnsburgers, a religious society which had sprung up among the proscribed Arminians of Holland. The pure morality and simple-minded piety of this community seem early to have attracted Spinoza, and to have won his unfeigned respect. Several of his friends were Collegiants, or belonged to the similarly minded community of the Mennonites, in which the Collegiants were afterwards merged. In this quiet retreat Spinoza spent nearly five years. He drew up a protest against the decree of excommunication, but otherwise it left him unmoved. From this time forward he disused his Hebrew name of Baruch, adopting instead the Latin equivalent, Benedictus. Like every Jew, Spinoza had learned a handicraft; he was a grinder of lenses for optical instruments, and was thus enabled to earn an income sufficient for his modest wants. His skill, indeed, was such that lenses of his making were much sought after, and those found in his cabinet after his death fetched a high price. It was as an optician that he was first brought into connexion with Huygens and Leibnitz; and an optical Treatise on the .Rainbow, written by him and long supposed to be lost, was discovered and reprinted by Dr Van Vloten in 1862. He was also fond of drawing as an amusement in his leisure hours; and Colerus had seen a sketch-book full of such drawings representing persons of Spinoza's acquaintance, one of them being a likeness of himself in the character of Masaniello.

The five years which followed the excommunication must have been devoted to concentrated thought and study. Before their conclusion Spinoza had parted company from Descartes, and the leading positions of his own system were already clearly determined in his mind. A number of the younger men in Amsterdam - many of them students of medicine or medical practitioners - had also come to regard him as their intellectual leader. A kind of philosophical club had been formed, including among its members Simon de Vries, John Bresser, Louis Meyer, and others who appear in Spinoza's correspondence. Originally meeting in all probability for more thoroughgoing study of the Cartesian philosophy, they looked naturally to Spinoza for guidance, and by and by we find him communicating systematic drafts of his own views to the little band of friends and students. The manuscript was read aloud and discussed at their meetings, and any points remaining obscure were referred to Spinoza for further explanation. An interesting specimen of such difficulties propounded by Simon de Vries and resolved by Spinoza in accordance with his own principles, is preserved for us in Spinoza's correspondence. This Simon de Vries was a youth of generous impulses and of much promise. Being in good circumstances, he was anxious to show his gratitude to Spinoza by a gift of 2000 florins, which the philosopher half-jestingly excused himself from accepting. De Vries died young, and would fain have left his fortune to Spinoza; but the latter refused to stand in the way of his brother, the natural heir, to whom the property was accordingly left, with the condition that he should pay to Spinoza an annuity sufficient for his maintenance. The heir offered to fix the amount at 500 florins, but Spinoza accepted only 300, a sum which was regularly paid till his death. The written communications of his own doctrine referred to above belong to a period after Spinoza had removed from the neighbourhood of Amsterdam; but it has been conjectured that the Short Treatise on God, on Man, and his Wellbeing, which represents his thoughts in their earliest systematic form, was left by him as a parting legacy to this group of friends. It is at least certain, from a reference in Spinoza's first letter to Oldenburg, that such a systematic exposition was in existence before September 1661.1 There are two dialogues somewhat loosely incorporated with the work which probably belong to a still earlier period. The short appendix, in which the attempt is made to present the chief points of the argument in geometrical form, is a forerunner of the Ethics, and was probably written somewhat later than the rest of the book. The term "Nature" is put more into the foreground in the Treatise, a point which might be urged as evidence of Bruno's influence - the dialogues, moreover, being specially concerned to establish the unity, infinity and selfcontainedness of Nature 2; but the two opposed Cartesian attributes, thought and extension, and the absolutely infinite substance whose attributes they are - substance constituted by infinite attributes - appear here as in the Ethics. The latter notion - of substance - is said to correspond exactly to "the essence of the only glorious and blessed God." The earlier differs from the later exposition in allowing an objective causal relation between thought and extension, for which there is substituted in the Ethics the idea of a thoroughgoing parallelism. The Short Treatise is of much interest to the student of Spinoza's philosophical development, for it represents, as Martineau says, "the first landing-place of his mind in its independent advance." Although the systematic framework of the thought and the terminology used are both derived from the Cartesian philosophy, the intellectual milieu of the time, the early work enables us, better than the Ethics to realize that the inspiration and starting-point of his thinking is to be found in the religious speculations of his Jewish predecessors. The histories of philosophy may quite correctly describe his theory as the logical development of Descartes's doctrines of the one Infinite and the two finite substances, but Spinoza himself was never a Cartesian. He brought his pantheism and his determinism with him to the study of Descartes from the mystical theologians of his race.

Early in 1661 Spinoza's host removed to Rhijnsburg near Leiden, the headquarters of the Collegiant brotherhood, and Spinoza removed with him. The house where they lived at Rhijnsburg is still standing, and the road bears the name of Spinoza Lane. Very soon after his settlement in his new quarters he was sought out by Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society. 8 Oldenburg became Spinoza's most 1 Various manuscript copies were apparently made of the treatise in question, but it was not printed, and dropped entirely out of knowledge till 1852, when Edward Balmer of Halle lighted upon an abstract of it attached to a copy of Colerus's Life, and shortly afterwards upon a Dutch MS. purporting to be a translation of the treatise from the Latin original. This was published in 1862 by Van Vloten with a retranslation into Latin. Since then a superior Dutch translation has been discovered, which has been edited by Professor Schaarschmidt and translated into German. Another German version with introduction and notes has been published by Sigwart based on a comparison of the two Dutch MSS. A scholarly English translation similarly equipped was published by A. Wolf in 1910.

2 The fact that Spinoza nowhere mentions Bruno would not imply, according to the literary habits of those days, that he was not acquainted with his speculations and even indebted to them. There is no mention, for example, of Hobbes throughout Spinoza's political writing, and only one casual reference to him in a letter, although the obligation of the Dutch to the English thinker lies on the surface. Accordingly, full weight must be allowed to the internal evidence brought forward by Sigwart, Avernarius and others to prove Spinoza's acquaintance with Bruno's writings. But the point remains quite doubtful and is in any case of little importance.

s Heinrich Oldenburg (c. 1626-1678) was a native of Bremen, but had settled in England in the time of the commonwealth. Though hardly a scientific man himself, he had a genuine interest in science, and must have possessed social gifts. He was the friend of regular correspondent - a third of the letters preserved to us are to or from him; and it appears from his first letter that their talk on this occasion was "on God, on infinite extension and thought, on the difference and the agreement of these attributes, on the nature of the union of the human soul with the body, as well as concerning the principles of the Cartesian and Baconian philosophies." Spinoza must, therefore, have unbosomed himself pretty freely to his visitor on the main points of his system. Oldenburg, however, was a man of no speculative capacity, and, to judge from his subsequent correspondence, must have quite failed to grasp the real import and scope of the thoughts communicated to him. From one of Oldenburg's early letters we learn that the treatise De intellectus emendation was probably Spinoza's first occupation at Rhijnsburg. The nature of the work also bears out the supposition that it was first undertaken. It is, in a manner, Spinoza's "organon" - the doctrine of method which he would substitute for the corresponding doctrines of Bacon and Descartes as alone consonant with the thoughts which were shaping themselves or had shaped themselves in his mind. It is a theory of philosophical truth and error, involving an account of the course of philosophical inquiry and of the supreme object of knowledge. It was apparently intended by the author as an analytical introduction to the constructive exposition of his system, which he presently essayed in the Ethics. But he must have found as he proceeded that the two treatises would cover to a large extent the same ground, the account of the true method merging almost inevitably in a statement of the truth reached by its means. The Improvement of the Understanding was therefore put aside unfinished, and was first published in the Opera posthuma. Spinoza meanwhile concentrated his attention upon the Ethics, and we learn from the correspondence with his Amsterdam friends that a considerable part of book i. had been communicated to the philosophical club there before February 1663. It formed his main occupation for two or three years after this date. Though thus giving his friends freely of his best, Spinoza did not cast his thoughts broadcast upon any soil. He had a pupil living with him at Rhijnsburg whose character seemed to him lacking in solidity and discretion. This pupil (probably Albert Burgh, who afterwards joined the Church of Rome and penned a foolishly insolent epistle to his former teacher) was the occasion of Spinoza's first publication - the only publication indeed to which his name was attached. Not deeming it prudent to initiate the young man into his own system, he took for a textbook the second and third parts of Descartes's Principles, which deal in the main with natural philosophy. As he proceeded he put Descartes's matter in his own language and cast the whole argument into a geometric form. At the request of his friends he devoted a fortnight to applying the same method to the first or metaphysical part of Descartes's philosophy, and the sketch was published in 1663, with an appendix entitled Cogitata metaphysica, still written from a Cartesian standpoint (defending, for example, the freedom of the will), but containing hints of his own doctrine. The book was revised by Dr Meyer for publication and furnished by him, at Spinoza's request, with a preface in which it is expressly stated that the author speaks throughout not in his own person but simply as the exponent of Descartes. A Dutch translation appeared in the following year.4 In 1663 Spinoza removed from Rhijnsburg to Voorburg, a suburban village about 2 m. from the Hague. His reputation had continued to spread. From Rhijnsburg he had paid frequent visits to the Hague, and it was probably the desire Boyle, and acquainted with most of the leaders of science in England as well as with many on the Continent. He delighted to keep himself in this way au courant with the latest developments, and lost no opportunity of establishing relations with men of scientific reputation. It was probably at the suggestion of Huygens that he bent his steps towards Spinoza's lodging.

4 The title of the Latin original ran - Renati des Cartes principiorum philosophiae pars i. et ii. more geometrico demonstratae per Benedictum de Spinoza Amstelodamensem. Accesserunt ejusdem cogitata metaphysica. to be within reach of some of the friends he had made in these visits - among others the De Witts - that prompted his changed residence. He had works in hand, moreover, which he wished in due time to publish; and in that connexion the friendly patronage of the De Witts might be of essential service to him. The first years at Voorburg continued to be occupied by the composition of the Ethics, which was probably finished,. however, by the summer of 1665. A journey made to Amsterdam in that year is conjectured to have had reference to its publication. But, finding that it would be impossible to keep the authorship secret, owing to the numerous hands through which parts of the book had already passed, Spinoza determined to keep his manuscript in his desk for the present. In September 1665 we find Oldenburg twitting him with having turned from philosophy to theology and busying himself with angels, prophecy and miracles. This is the first reference to the Tractatus theologicopoliticus, which formed his chief occupation for the next four years. The aim of this treatise may be best understood from the full title with which it was furnished - Tractatus theologicopoliticus, continens dissertationes aliquot, quibus ostenditur libertatem philosophandi non tantum salva pietate et reipublicae pace posse concedi sed eandem nisi cum pace reipublicae ipsaque pietate tolli non posse. It is, in fact, an eloquently reasoned defence of liberty of thought and speech in speculative matters. The external side of religion - its rites and observances - must of necessity be subject to a certain control on the part of the state, whose business it is to see to the preservation of decency and order. But, with such obvious exceptions, Spinoza claims complete freedom of expression for thought and belief; and he claims it in the interests alike of true piety and of the state itself. The thesis is less interesting to a modern reader - because now generally acknowledged - than the argument by which it is supported. Spinoza's position is based upon the thoroughgoing distinction drawn in the book between philosophy, which has to do with knowledge and opinion, and theology, or, as we should now say, religion, which has to do exclusively with obedience and conduct. The aegis of religion, therefore, cannot be employed to cover with its authority any speculative doctrine; nor, on the other hand, can any speculative or scientific investigation be regarded as putting religion in jeopardy. Spinoza undertakes to prove his case by the instance of the Hebrew Scriptures. Scripture deals, he maintains, in none but the simplest precepts, nor does it aim at anything beyond the obedient mind; it tells nought of the divine nature but what men may profitably apply to their lives. The greater part of the treatise is devoted to working out this line of thought; and in so doing Spinoza consistently applies to the interpretation of the Old Testament those canons of historical exegesis which are often regarded as of comparatively recent growth. The treatise thus constitutes the first document in the modern science of Biblical criticism. It was published in 1670, anonymously, printer and place of publication being likewise disguised (Hamburgi apud Heinricum Kiinraht). The storm of opposition which it encountered showed that these precautions were not out of place. It was synodically condemned along with Hobbes's Leviathan and other books as early as April 1671, and was consequently interdicted by the states-general of Holland in 1674; before long it was also placed on the Index by the Catholic authorities. But that it was widely read appears from its frequent reissue with false title-pages, representing it now as an historical work and again as a medical treatise. Controversialists also crowded into the lists against it. A translation into Dutch appears to have been proposed; but Spinoza, who foresaw that sucha step would only increase the commotion which was so distasteful to him, steadily set his face against it. No Dutch translation appeared till 1693.

The same year in which the Tractatus was published Spinoza removed from his suburban lodging at Voorburg into the Hague itself. He took rooms first on the Veerkay with the widow Van de Velde, who in her youth had assisted Grotius to escape from his captivity at Loewenstein. This was the house afterwards occupied by Colerus, the worthy Lutheran minister who became Spinoza's biographer. But the widow insisted on boarding her lodger, and Spinoza presently found the expense too great for his slender purse. He accordingly removed to a house on the Pavelioen Gracht near at hand, occupied by a painter called Van der Spijck. Here he spent the remaining years of his life in the frugal independence which he prized. Colerus gives particulars which enable us to realize the almost incredible simplicity and economy of his mode of life. He would say sometimes to the people of the house that he was like the serpent which forms a circle with its tail in its mouth, meaning thereby that he had nothing left at the year's end. His friends came to visit him in his lodgings, as well as others attracted by his reputation - Leibnitz among the rest - and were courteously entertained, but Spinoza preferred not to accept their offers of hospitality. He spent the greater part of his time quietly in his own chamber, often having his meals brought there and sometimes not leaving it for two or three days together when absorbed in his studies. On one occasion he did not leave the house for three months. "When he happened to be tired by having applied himself too much to his philosophical meditations, he would go downstairs to refresh himself, and discoursed with the Van der Spijcks about anything that might afford matter for an ordinary conversation, and even about trifles. He also took pleasure in smoking a pipe of tobacco; or, when he had a mind to divert himself somewhat longer, he looked for some spiders and made them fight together, or he threw some flies into the cobweb, and was so well pleased with the result of that battle that he would sometimes break into laughter" (Colerus). He also conversed at times on more serious topics with the simple people with whom he lodged, often, for example, talking over the sermon with them when they came from church. He occasionally went himself to hear the Lutheran pastor preach - the predecessor of Colerus - and would advise the Van der Spijcks not to miss any sermon of so excellent a preacher. The children, too, he put in mind of going often to church, and taught them to be obedient and dutiful to their parents. One day his landlady, who may have heard strange stories of her solitary lodger, came to him in some trouble to ask him whether he believed she could be saved in the religion she professed. "Your religion is a good one," said Spinoza; "you need not look for another, nor doubt that you will be saved in it, provided that, while you apply yourself to piety, you live at the same time a peaceable and quiet life." Only once, it is recorded, did Spinoza's admirable self-control give way, and that was when he received the news of the murder of the De Witts by a frantic mob in the streets of the Hague. It was in the year 1672, when the sudden invasion of the Low Countries by Louis XIV. raised an irresistible clamour for a military leader and overthrew the republican constitution for which the De Witts had struggled. John De Witt had been Spinoza's friend, and had bestowed a small pension upon him; he had Spinoza's full sympathy in his political aims. On receiving the news of the brutal murder of the two brothers, Spinoza burst into tears, and his indignation was so roused that he was bent upon publicly denouncing the crime upon the spot where it had been committed. But the timely caution of his host prevented his issuing forth to almost certain death. Not long after Spinoza was himself in danger from the mob, in consequence of a visit which he paid to the French camp. He had been in correspondence with one Colonel Stoupe, a Swiss theologian and soldier, then serving with the prince of Conde, the commander of the French army at Utrecht. From him Spinoza received a communication enclosing a passport from the French commander, who wished to make his acquaintance and promised him a pension from the French king at the easy price of a dedication to his majesty. Spinoza went to Utrecht, but returned without seeing Conde, who had in the meantime been called elsewhere; the pension he civilly declined. There may have been nothing more in the visit than is contained in this narrative; but on his return Spinoza found that the populace of the Hague regarded him as no better than a spy. The town was full of angry murmurs, and the landlord feared that the mob would storm his house and drag Spinoza out. Spinoza quieted his fears as well as he could, assuring him that as soon as the crowd made any threatening movement he would go out to meet them, "though they should serve me as they did the poor De Witts. I am a good republican and have never had any aim but the honour and welfare of the state." Happily the danger passed off without calling for such an ordeal.

In 1673 Spinoza received an invitation from the elector palatine to quit his retirement and become professor of philosophy in the university of Heidelberg. The offer was couched in flattering terms, and conveyed an express assurance of "the largest freedom of speech in philosophy, which the prince is confident that you will not misuse to disturb the established religion." But Spinoza's experience of theological sensitiveness led him to doubt the possibility of keeping on friendly terms with the established religion, if he were placed in a public capacity. Moreover, he was not strong; he had had no experience of public teaching; and he foresaw that the duties of a chair would put an end to private research. For all these reasons he courteously declined the offer made to him. There is little more to tell of his life of solitary meditation. In 1675 we learn from his correspondence that he entertained the idea of publishing the Ethics, and made a journey to Amsterdam to arrange matters with the printer. "But, whilst I was busy with this," he writes, "the report was spread everywhere that a certain book of mine was in the press, wherein I endeavoured to show that there was no God; and this report found credence with many. Whereupon certain theologians (themselves perhaps the authors of it) took occasion to complain of me to the prince and the magistrates; moreover, the stupid Cartesians, because they are commonly supposed to side with me, desiring to free themselves from that suspicion, were diligent without ceasing in their execrations of my doctrines and writings, and are as diligent still." As the commotion seemed to grow worse instead of subsiding, Spinoza consigned the manuscript once more to his desk, from which it was not to issue till after his death. His last literary work was the unfinished Tractatus politicus and the preparation of notes for a new edition of the Tractatus theologicopoliticus, in which he hoped to remove some of the misunderstandings which the book had met with. The Tractatus politicus develops his philosophy of law and government on the lines indicated in his other works, and connects itself closely with the theory enunciated by Hobbes a generation before. Consumption had been making its insidious inroads upon Spinoza for many years, and early in 1677 he must have been conscious that he was seriously ill. On Saturday, the 20th of February, he sent to Amsterdam for his friend Dr Meyer. On the following day, the Van der Spijcks, having no thought of immediate danger, went to the afternoon service. When they came back Spinoza was no more; he had died about three in the afternoon with Meyer as the only witness of his last moments. Spinoza was buried on the 25th of February "in the new church upon the Spuy, being attended," Colerus tells us, "by many illustrious persons and followed by six coaches." He was little more than forty-four years of age.

Spinoza's effects were few and realized little more than was required for the payment of charges and outstanding debts. "One need only cast one's eyes upon the account," says his biographer, "to perceive that it was the inventory of a true philosopher. It contains only some small books, some engravings, a few lenses and the instruments to polish them." His desk, containing his letters and his unpublished works, Spinoza had previously charged his landlord to convey to Jan Rieuwertz, a publisher in Amsterdam. This was done, and the Opera posthuma appeared in the same year, without the author's name, but with his initials upon the titlepage. They were furnished with a preface written in Dutch by Jarig Jellis, a Mennonite friend of Spinoza's, and translated into Latin by Dr Meyer. Next year the book was proscribed in a violently worded edict by the states of Holland and West Friesland. The obloquy which thus gathered round Spinoza in the later years of his life remained settled upon his memory for a full hundred years after his death. Hume's casual allusion to "this famous atheist" and his "hideous hypothesis" is a fair specimen of the tone in which he is usually referred to; people talked about Spinoza, Lessing said, "as if he were a dead dog." The change of opinion in this respect may be dated from Lessing's famous conversation with Jacobi in 1780. Lessing, Goethe, Herder, Novalis and Schleiermacher, not to mention philosophers like Schelling and Hegel, united in recognizing the unique strength and sincerity of Spinoza's thought, and in setting him in his rightful place among the speculative leaders of mankind. Transfused into their writings, his spirit has had a large share in moulding the philosophic thought of the 19th century, and it has also been widely influential beyond the schools. Instead of his atheism Hegel speaks of his acosmism, and Novalis dubs him a God-intoxicated man. Schleiermacher's fine apostrophe is well known, in which he calls upon us to "offer a lock of hair to the manes of the holy and excommunicated Spinoza." Spinoza's personal appearance is described by Colerus from the accounts given him by many people at the Hague who knew him familiarly. "He was of a middle size, and had good features in his face, the skin somewhat dark, black curled hair, and the long eyebrows of the same colour, so that one might easily know from his looks that he was descended from the Portuguese Jews." Leibnitz also gives a similar description: "The celebrated Jew Spinoza had an olive complexion and something Spanish in his face." These characteristics are preserved in a portrait in oil in the Wolfenbiittel library, which was probably the original of the (in that case unsuccessfully rendered) engraving prefixed to the Opera posthuma of 1677. This portrait was photographed for Dr Martineau's Study of Spinoza. In 1880 a statue was erected to Spinoza at the Hague by international subscription among his admirers, and more recently the cottage in which he lived at Rhijnsburg has been restored and furnished with all the discoverable Spinoza relics.

Spinoza's philosophy is a thoroughgoing pantheism, which has both a naturalistic and a mystical side. The foundation of the system is the doctrine of one infinite substance, of which all finite existences are modes or limitations (modes of thought or modes of extension). God is thus the immanent cause of the universe; but of creation or will there can be no question in Spinoza's system. God is used throughout as equivalent to Nature (Deus sive natura). The philosophical standpoint comprehends the necessity of all that is - a necessity that is none other than the necessity of the divine nature itself. To view things thus is to view them, according to Spinoza's favourite phrase, sub specie aeternitatis. Spinoza's philosophy is fully considered in the article Cartesianism.

Literature. - The contents of the Opera posthuma included the Ethics, the Tractatus politicos and the De intellectus emendatione (the last two unfinished), a selection from Spinoza's correspondence, and a Compendium of Hebrew Grammar. The Treatise on the Rainbow, supposed to be lost, was published anonymously in Dutch in 1687. The first collected edition of Spinoza's works was made by Paulus in 1802; there is another by Gfrorer (1830), and a third by Bruder (1843-1846) in three volumes. Van Vloten's volume, published in 1862, Ad Benedicti de Spinoza opera quae supersunt omnia supplementum, is uniform with Bruder's edition, and contains the early treatise De deo et homine, the Treatise on the Rainbow, and several fresh letters. A complete edition undertaken by Dr Van Vloten and Professor J. P. N. Land for the Spinoza Memorial Committee formed in Holland to celebrate the bicentenary of the philosopher's death appeared in 1882 and was reissued in three volumes in 1895. An English translation of The Chief Works of Spinoza, by R. H. M. Elwes, appeared in 1883, and translations of the Ethics and the De intellectus emendatione were published in 1883 and 1895 by W. Hale White; A. Wolf's translation of the Short Treatise appeared in 1910; previous translations were unscholarly in execution.

The main authority for Spinoza's life is the sketch published in 1705, in Dutch, with a controversial sermon against Spinozism, by Johannes Colerus. The French version of this Life (1706) has been several times reprinted as well as translated into English and German. The English version, also dating from 1706, was reprinted by Sir Frederick Pollock at the end of his Spinoza, his Life and Philosophy (1880). This book, Dr Martineau's Study of Spinoza (1882) and Dr John Caird's Spinoza (1888), are all admirable pieces of work, and, as regards the philosophical estimate, complement one another. H. H. Joachim's Study of the Ethics of Spinoza (1901) and R. A. Duff's Spinoza's Political and Ethical Philosophy (1903) are important contributions of more recent date. Careful research by Professor Freudenthal, Dr W. Meyer and Dr K. O. Meinsma has recently brought to light a number of fresh details connected with Spinoza's life and increased our knowledge of his Jewish and Dutch environment. The earliest lives and all the available documents have been edited by Freudenthal in a single volume, Die Lebensgeschichte Spinozas (1899), on the basis of which he has since rewritten the Life, Spinozas Leben and Lehre, vol. i., Das Leben (1904). Meinsma's Spinoza and en zijn Kring (1896) appeared in a German translation in 1909. The new material has been judicially used by A. Wolf in the "Life" prefixed to his translation of the Short Treatise (1910), and the greater part of it also in the second edition of Sir Frederick Pollock's Spinoza (1899). (A. S. P.-P.)

<< Cristoval Rojas De Spinola

Spiny Squirrel >>

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki


Dutch philospher and Biblical critic; born at Amsterdam Nov. 24, 1632; died at The Hague Feb. 21, 1677. The family name is derived from the town of Espinosa, in Leon, not far from the city of Burgos. Baruch's grandfather, Abraham Michael de Spinoza, was one of the leaders of the Sephardic community of Amsterdam, being president thereof in 1639. His father, Michael de Spinoza, was a merchant who married twice, and had three children—two daughters, Miriam and Rebekah, by his first wife, who died in 1627, and a son, the philosopher, by his second wife, Hannah Deborah, who died in 1638. Miriam married a brother of Simon de Caceres.

Spinoza was trained at the communal school, and at the Pereira yeshibah, over which Isaac de Fonseca Aboab, Manasseh ben Israel, and Saul Morteira presided. There he studied, from eight to eleven in the morning and from two to five in the afternoon, Hebrew, Bible, Talmudic literature, and, toward the end of his course, some of the Jewish philosophers, certainly Maimonides, Gersonides, and Ḥasdai Crescas. It was probably during this period that he studied also Abraham ibn Ezra's commentaries. The amount of his cabalistic knowledge is somewhat doubtful, but both Manasseh ben Israel and Morteira were adepts in Cabala. Spinoza was attracted by the atmosphere of free thought characteristic of the Dutch capital. He learned Latin, immediately after leaving school, from Franz van den Ende, an adventurer and polyhistor who had established himself in Amsterdam; under him he studied as well mathematics, physics, mechanics, astronomy, chemistry, and the medicine of the day. Spinoza likewise acquired a knowledge of the scholasticism developed in the school of Thomas Aquinas.

Epoch-making for the development of Spinoza's thought was his acquaintance with the works of Descartes, who led Europe in the attempt to found a philosophy based upon reason, not tradition. But the application of such an idea to Judaism could only be disastrous, and shortly after leaving the Pereira yeshibah rumors became persistent that young Spinoza had given utterance to heretical views, such as had led Uriel Acosta and Orobio de Castro into trouble. It would appear that no action was taken during the life of Spinoza's father, who died March 28, 1654, and there is evidence that Baruch was "called up to the Law" in synagogue on Dec. 5, 1654, offering a small sum as a "mi sheberak."It is recorded that his relatives disputed his claim to any share in his father's estate, and that he found it necessary to resort to legal proceedings, or the threat of them, to secure his rights; but, having obtained them, he took possession only of the best bed as a kind of heirloom.

This was probably after his heretical views had been formally ascertained, according to rabbinical law, by two of his companions, who put questions to him which elicited his opinion that, according to the Scripture, angels were merely fantoms, that the soul is identified in the Bible with life and is regarded as mortal, and that in calling God "great" the Scripture attributes to Him extension, that is, body. This last statement is of considerable interest in view of Spinoza's later philosophic doctrines on this point. He was summoned before the bet din, and seems to have made no concealment, of his views; it is claimed that his teacher Morteira offered him, on behalf of the congregation, a pension of 1,000 florins a year provided he would not give public utterance to his heretical views. This Marano expedient was refused, and the congregation proceeded to his formal excommunication on July 27, 1656, which was regularly reported to the Amsterdam magistrates. This latter action shows that the main object of the excommunication was to disa vow on the part of the community any participation in Spinoza's pernicious views, and was a natural precaution on the part of a set of men only recently released from persecution on account of their opinions and only half trusting in the toleration of the authorities of the land. At the same time there is no doubt that considerable feeling was aroused by Spinoza's views, and it is reported that a fanatical Jew even raised a dagger against him as he was leaving either the synagogue or the theater. Freudenthal suggests that this happened during an altercation with Spinoza himself.


Friends and Disciples.

Spinoza was thus cast out at the age of twenty-three from all communion with men of his own faith and race, and there is no evidence of his coming into communication with a single Jewish soul from that time to his death (the "I. O." among his correspondents, formerly assumed to be Isaac Orobio, turned out to be Jacob Oosten). It is clear that Spinoza had already formed a circle of friends and disciples, mainly of the Mennonite sect known as Collegiants, whoso doctrines were similar to those of the Quakers; and that he had attended a philosophical club composed mainly of these sectaries, one of whom, Simon de Vries, acted as secretary. After his excommunication Spinoza found it desirable to take up his abode with a Collegiant friend who lived two or three miles outside of Amsterdam on the Ouderkerk road, near the old Jewish cemetery. There he communicated with his friends in Amsterdam by letter, and they seem to have submitted to him their difficulties in the same way, leading to a regular philosphical correspondence. As a means of living Spinoza resorted to the calling of a practical optician, in which his mathematical knowledge was valuable, and he also appears to have taken pupils in philosophy, and even in Latin and Hebrew. He remained in his new abode five years, during which he wrote a defense of his position, afterward extended into the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus," and a short tractate on "God, Man, and Happiness," afterward developed into his "Ethics."

In 1661 Spinoza removed to Rhijnsburg, near Leyden, then the center of the Collegiants activity Here he spent the two most fruitful years of his life, during which he prepared for a pupil a résumé of the Cartesian philosophy, presenting it in a geometric form; composed his treatise on philosphical method, "De Intellectus Emendatione," which, however, remained unfinished; and wrote at least the beginning of his "Ethics," adopting the same geometric form. He finished the "Ethics" in Aug.,1665, at Voorburg, a suburb of The Hague, to which he had removed in April, 1663, probably to be near the De Witt brothers, then at the height of their power. John de Witt had become acquainted with Spinoza, and either at this time, or a little later, gave him a small pension. From Voorburg Spinoza used to send portions of his "Ethics," written in Dutch, to his band of disciples in Amsterdam, who translated them into Latin and wrote him letters in the same language dealing with the difficulties of his theories. Before publishing this work, however, so subversive of the ordinary views of theology and philosophy, Spinoza determined to pave the way by an animated plea for liberty of thought and expression in the commonwealth. To this he devoted the next-four years, the result being the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus." This was published in 1670, without the author's name, and it brought such a storm of opprobrium that it was formally proscribed by the Synod of Dort and by the States General of Holland, Zealand, and West Friesland. It was found necessary, in order to evade this censure, to publish the work under false titles, representing it sometimes as a medical, sometimes as a historical, work.

This reception somewhat alarmed Spinoza, who, hearing in the following year (1671) that a Dutch translation was contemplated, urged his friends to prevent its appearance. Spinoza's reputation as a thinker, however, had by this time been fully established by his two published works, and he was consulted both personally and by letter by many important scientific men of the day, including Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society, London; Huygens, the optician; Louis Meyer, the physician; and Count von Tschirnhausen, afterward the discoverer of a new method of obtaining phosphorus and the rediscoverer of the method of producing procelain. Through von Tschirnhausen, Spinoza came into correspondence with Leibnitz, then (1672) in Paris. He appears to have had some suspicions of Leibnitz's trustworthiness, and it was not till four years later, when the brilliant young diplomat visited him at The Hague, that Spinoza exposed his full mind to Leibnitz and produced that epoch-making effect upon the latter which dominated European thought in the eighteenth century.

At The Hague (1670-77).

Spinoza settled at The Hague in 1670, possibly to be near his patron John de Witt, who was soon to fall under the assassin's dagger (1672). Spinoza was so aroused from his ordinary calmness by this act that he was with difficulty prevented from publicly denouncing it. The following year he received and refused an offer of a professorship in philosophy at Heidelberg University from the elector palatine. A somewhat mysterious visit to the French invading army in 1674 is the only remaining incident in Spinoza's life, which was drawing to a close. He had a hereditary tendency to consumption derived from his mother, and this can not have failed to be intensified by the inhalation of particles of crystal incidental to his means of livelihood. He died, while his landlady was at church, in the presence of his physician, Louis Meyer.

Spinoza left a considerable library, for the purchase of which, in all probability, the pensions he received from his patron John de Witt, and from his friend Simon de Vries were spent; a number of finished glasses which, owing to his reputation as an optician, brought high prices; and a few engravings and articles of furniture. The sum realized from the auction of his effects was so small that his sister Rebekah did not find it worth while to make application therefor. His funeral was attended by a number of his disciples and friends, who filled six coaches. He was buried in the cemetery of the new church on the Spuy, in a grave which can no longer be identified. His biographer, Colerus, however, asserts that he was never received into any Christian community, and Spinoza in one of his letters (lxxiii., ed. Land) expressly declared that to him the notion that God took upon Himself the nature of man seemed as self-contradictory as would be the statement that "the circle has taken on the nature of the square." He thus lived and died apart from either Jewish or Christian prepossessions, in the greatest spiritual isolation, which enabled him to regard human affairs with complete detachment; at the same time, however, his calm, prudent, and kindly nature was not estranged from the simple pleasures of the ordinary life of the citizen.


As has been mentioned above, only two of Spinoza's works were published during his lifetime: "Renati Des Cartes Principiorum Philosophiæ Pars i. et. ii. More Geometrico Demonstratæ per Benedictum de Spinoza Amstelodamensem. Accesserunt Ejusdem Cogitata Metaphysica," Amsterdam, 1663, and "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus," published without the author's name and printed professedly at Hamburg, though really at Amsterdam, 1670. The latter work was published two years later as the "Opera Chirurgica" of Franciscus Villa corta, or as the "Operum Historicorum Collectio" of Daniel Heinsius. The remainder of Spinoza's works appeared in the year of his death (1677) at Amsterdam under the title "B. d. S. Opera Posthuma." They included the "Ethica," the "Tractatus Politicus," the "Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione," the "Epistolæ," both from and to Spinoza, and the "Compendium Grammatices Linguæ Hebreæ." The same works appeared simultaneously in Dutch under the title "De Nagelate Schriften van B. d. S."; as it seems that Spinoza sent his "Ethics" in the first place in Dutch to his disciples at Amsterdam, it is probable that this edition contains the original draft of the work. About 1852 traces were found of the short tractate ("Korte Verhandeling") which was the basis of the "Ethics," and likewise, in the Collegiant archives at Amsterdam, a number of letters; these were published by Van Vloten as "Ad Benedicti de Spinoza Opera Quæ Supersunt Omnia Supplementum," Amsterdam, 1862, including a tractate on the rainbow which was thought to have been lost, but which appeared at The Hague in 1687. Apart from the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus," none of his works has been reproduced in the original in a separate edition, but they have always appearedas his "Opera Omnia," of which editions have been prepared by E. G. Paulus (Jena, 1802), A. Gfrörer (Stuttgart, 1830), C. H. Bruder (Leipsic, 1843), H. Ginzberg (ib. 1874-78), and Van Vloten and Land (2 vols., The Hague, 1883; 3 vols., ib. 1895), the last being at present the standard edition. Translations have been made into German by B. Auerbach (Stuttgart, 1841), into English by R. Willis (1862-70) and R. H. M. Elwes (1883), into French by E. Saisset (Paris, 1842); of the "Ethics" alone there have been published English versions by R. Willis, 1870, and Hale White, 1883, and a Hebrew version by S. Rubin (Vienna, 1887). An edition and translation of the "Korte Verhandeling" were produced by C. Schaarschmidt (Leipsic, 1874), as well as a translation by C. Sigwart (Tübingen, 1870).

There are four portraits extant of Spinoza, one an engraving attached to the "Opera Posthuma"; a second one at Wolfenbüttel; a third one at the beginning of Schaarschmidt's edition of the "Korte Verhandeling," from a miniature formerly in the possession of the late Queen of Holland; and, finally, one in the possession of the Hon. Mayer Sulzberger. The last can be traced to the possession of Cardinal de Rohan, to whom it is stated to have been given by Jewish tenants of his. It is signed "W. V., 1672" (or 1673), which would correspond to the initials of the painter W. Vaillant, who was living at Amsterdam in that year; Vaillant painted the portrait of the elector Karl Ludwig, who, in the following year, invited Spinoza to Heidelberg. This portrait has clearly Jewish features, thus agreeing with the Queen of Holland miniature, whereas the Wolfenüttel portrait is entirely without Jewish traits. Colerus declares that Spinoza was of marked Jewish type, which would confirm the authenticity of the Vaillant picture, though this has, unfortunately, been "restored." It has hitherto remained unpublished, but is given in facsimile as the frontispiece to this volume of The Jewish Encyclopedia.


It has been both asserted and denied that the thoughts developed in Spinoza's short life of forty-four years, and put forth anonymously after his death with such remarkable influence on the history of European speculation for at least the last one hundred and fifty years, were derived in large measure from his Jewish training and reading. The question is a very difficult one to decide, owing to the close-linked chain of Spinoza's thought, which he designedly made in his "Ethics" a continuous course of reasoning, each proposition being dependent upon the preceding, exactly after the manner of Euclid. In order to determine the extent of his Jewish indebtedness it is necessary, therefore, to attempt some slight sketch of his whole system. Apart from this object it deserves such exposition as the most influential body of doctrine ever produced by a Jew since Philo.

The key to Spinoza's philosophic system is to be found in his method of investigation as indicated in the fragmentary "De Intellectus Emendatione." Finding that none of the ordinary objects of man's desire—wealth, power, and the like—affords permanent satisfaction, Spinoza came to the conclusion that only the attainment of truth gives that increase of power and accompanying joy which can be described as true happiness or sal vation. Turning to the search for truth, he found the powers of the mind to be of a treble nature, each particular function yielding knowledge of various degrees of adequacy: (1) imagination, yielding only confused and inadequate ideas; (2) reason, giving the essences of things, and (3) intuition, disclosing the fundamental principles uniting those essences into a system and connecting individual things with those principles. The logical foundation of his whole system lies in the denial of the validity of all relative propositions, leaving the Absolute as the sole reality of the universe. On this see B. Russell, "Principles of Mathematics" (p. 448, Cambridge, 1903), which work is so far a justification of Spinoza's method in that it proves the possibility of deducing all the principles of pure mathematics and physics from a certain number of indefinables and indemonstrables. All turns with Spinoza, as with Descartes and the scholastics, on getting true and adequate knowledge of the essences of things. All the essences, when presented to the mind, carry with them a conviction of their own truth, and, as they can not contradict one another, they form a system of truths deduced from one principle as their primary cause. Such a principle can only be God, from whose qualities all the essences of things must flow as a matter of necessity, or, in other words, be "caused," since Spinoza does not distinguish between logical dependence anddynamic causation. In this way his logic passes over into his metaphysics, and in attempting to determine the cause of things, from the contemplation of which he is to obtain salvation, Spinoza has to determine the essences of things and their relation to the Highest Reality.


This Highest Reality is called by Spinoza, at the beginning of his "Ethics," to which attention may now be directed, either (a) substance, that by which all things subsist, (b) the self-caused ("causa sui"), that which is not dependent for its existence on that of another, or, finally, (c) God. The problem of Spinoza's philosophy is to connect this being, or principle, which is rigidly one, or rather unique, since there is none other, with the multiplicity of things and persons constituting the world of imagination. This he does by positing intermediate states of being which present different aspects of the One. God, being self-caused and, therefore, infinite, must have infinite aspects, or attributes. Two only of these are known to man, extension and thought, which sum up the world as humanly known. These attributes are perfectly parallel one to the other, all portions of extension or space, having attached to them, as it were, corresponding ideas or thoughts, though these in Spinoza's curious psychology are not necessarily conscious, and certainly not self-conscious. But these attributes being infinite, like their substance, can not constitute finite beings, which are due to modifications of these attributes, called by Spinoza modes. Some of these modes are immediate, infinite, and eternal, as "motion" in the attribute of extension, and "infinite intellect" in the attribute of thought. Others, again, are mediate, though still infinite and eternal, and these constitute in the sphere of extension the material universe ("facies totius universi"), and in the attribute of thought the infinite idea of God. Finally, it would seem—though Spinoza's thought is by no means clear and consistent on this point—that the modifications of Deity in these modes, being part of a system, conflict and struggle for existence in their claims to reality, and in this conflict give rise to individual things and persons, each of which has a tendency to self-preservation ("conatus sese conservandi"). In addition, God regarded as a substance with infinite attributes and yielding the essences of things is termed "natura naturans," whereas God in His relation to the modes of existence is termed "natura naturata." The whole scheme of things thus sketched out by Spinoza may possibly be indicated in the accompanying diagram.

Among the individual things, those constituted by the modifications of the modes, the chief one of interest to the philosopher is man in his dual nature as a mode of extension, in his body, and as a mode of thought, in his mind. Neither of these can directly influence the other, though all changes in each are represented by parallel changes in the other. From this point of view the human mind is regarded by Spinoza as the idea of the body, a conception which is a commonplace in modern psychology, but which immensely shocked Spinoza's contemporaries. The unity of the individual soul is thus made to depend on the unity of the organism, though Spinoza makes a half-hearted attempt to explain the self as the idea of the idea of the body. Spinoza combines this view of mind with his theory of knowledge by supposing that external things, so far as they come in contact with the body, impress their character upon the latter, while their "soul side" makes corresponding changes in the mind. But owing to ignorance as to the mechanism by which these effects are produced by external objects, the changes in the mind are attributed to the external bodies themselves, and thus arise errors of imagination which, so far as they affect the tendency to self-preservation, give rise to passions or emotions that in turn divert the strivings after the true nature of man.


Spinoza's views of the nature and the classification of the emotions are a remarkable instance of scientific simplification. Taking the conatus, or tendency to self-preservation, as the key to human activity, he defines pleasure as everything tendingto increase the conatus, pain as everything lowering the vitality. There is, therefore, a desire ("cupiditas") to obtain things giving pleasure, and to repel things giving pain. But man is not impelled to act by pleasure or pain alone. The idea with which pleasure or pain is associated produces the desire to act. Hence, Spinoza is enabled to define the various classes of emotions according to the ideas which give rise to them; for example, he defines love as simply pleasure accompanied by the idea of an external cause, and hate as pain accompanied also by the idea of an external cause. Pity, again, is pain felt at another's misfortune, while benevolence is the idea of doing good for another whom we pity, and so on through a list of about fifty emotions, all associated with pain or pleasure through some idea. Spinoza is thus enabled to put aside entirely all free will, since the desire that determines this action is itself determined by the idea giving rise to it, beside which, in the scheme of parallelism, the volition of the mind is simply the soul side of a certain determination of the body derived from the laws of motion and rest (see "Ethics," iii. 2, schol.). Spinoza claims for this rigid determinism a number of advantages—the attainment of happiness through realizing one's intimate union with the nature of things; the distinction between things in one's power and things not in one's power; the avoidance of all disturbing passions; and the performance of social duties from a rational desire for the common good.

Reason as Freedom.

The only freedom Spinoza recognizes is the freedom of acting in accordance with one's own nature and not being influenced by ideas derived from external things. These, as has been seen, form the emotions, and it is bondage to them which Spinoza calls "man's slavery." Accordingly, the only relief from this bondage lies in acting according to reason, the second of the two forms of knowledge, rather than from imagination, which gives rise to the disturbing emotions. By so doing man acts as himself, and at the same time, since reasoning gives him adequate ideas of the essences of things, or, in other words, of God's real nature, he acts in harmony with the divine character. By acting according to adequate ideas the mind has free play, and its conatus can only result in pleasure; hence the happiness of the sage who in acting from reason has power, virtue, knowledge, and freedom that is also necessity. The ethical side of this quality is fortitude or firmness to stand free of the passive affections, which is accompanied by courage ("animositas") in self-regarding actions, and generosity in action toward others. Not even the idea of death will deter the free man from acting according to these principles. His thoughts will dwell on anything rather than death.

"Intellectual Love of God."

But there still remains the third form of knowledge, the intuitive idea of the whole plan of theuniverse; this idea, when kindled into emotion, becomes the mysterious quality known by Spinoza as the "intellectual love of God," which he further qualifies as part of the love with which God loves Himself, though here God is taken as synonymous with natura naturata. This is eternal, or, in other words, not subject to the changeable characteristics of the time and space order, and so far as man has the intuitive knowledge and love of God, his mind is, according to Spinoza, eternal, though he carefully avoids using the term "immortal." It is somewhat difficult to find a definite meaning in this mystical view, but Pollock suggests that Spinoza intends nothing other than that "work done for reason is done for eternity," to use Renan's words. It is somewhat remarkable that the most recent meta-physical views regard personal love as the most adequate expression of the union of insight and interest involved in the knowledge by the Absolute Being of the individual experiences of the universe (A. E. Taylor, "Elements of Metaphysics," pp. 61-62, London, 1903). But there is probably discernible here a direct influence of Spinoza's thought.

Sources: Descartes.

As regards the sources from which the main elements of Spinoza's system were derived, they are mainly two, Descartes and the Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages. There is some evidence of influence also by Bacon, Hobbes, Giordano Bruno, and, to some extent, the scholastic philosophy, but it is somewhat doubtful, and its extent and importance are not very great, except possibly in the case of Bruno, as will be seen from the following analysis. There is no doubt that Spinoza derived his method from Descartes, who even gives an example of the geometrical method. The conception of God as the Supreme Being and as substance is common to all medieval philosophy, Spinoza's originality consisting in recognizing extension as one of His attributes: this, it will be remembered, was one of the test questions which led to his excommunication. Here he is approached very nearly by the views of Ḥasdai Crescas, who in his "Or Adonai" (I. ii. 1) points to the use of the word "maḳom" (locality) for the Deity, and concludes that "as the dimensions of the vacuum are included in the dimensions of the corporeal and its contents, so is God in all parts of the world. He is their place that supports and holds them." Crescas goes on to disprove the Aristotelian claim that an infinite material magnitude is impossible. Spinoza was without doubt acquainted with Crescas' writings, as he quotes him under the name of "Rab Gasdai" in his twenty-ninth letter (ed. Bruder). On the other hand, the doctrine of the parallelism of thought and extension is original with Spinoza, and is due to his desire to evade the difficulties of the Cartesian doctrine. At first sight the importance given to the attributes in Spinoza's system would seem to affiliate him with the whole line of Jewish thought which was centered around the doctrine of the attributes (see D. Kaufmann, "Gesch. der Attributenlehre." Berlin, 1877; and Attributes). In reality Spinoza uses the term "attributes" in a slightly different signification, calling the "attributes" of the Jewish philosophers "properties," and using the distinction first made by Crescas ("Or Adonai," I. iii. 3), who, for example, regarded God's perfection and infinity as His properties rather than His attributes (see Joël, "Don Chisdai Creskas," pp. 19 et seq., Breslau, 1866).

Giordano Bruno.

At the same time, the modes as parts of attributes seem to be derived from Bruno, who also makes the distinction between natura naturans and natura naturata. Bruno regards all nature as animated—a close approach to Spinoza's parallelism of the attributes. On the other hand, Bruno may have taken this notion from some of the cabalists, and in arguing that God is the immanent and not the transient cause of the universe, Spinoza himself claims that he agrees with the Hebrew masters, so far as he could conjecture from certain adulterated views ("Epistolæ," lxxiii.). The plan of the universe, as indicated above, though this is not given by Spinoza himself, resembles in large measure that of the Sefirot, and suggests that, much as he derided them, Spinoza obtained much general suggestion from the cabalists. He even appears to quote, in the "Ethics" (II. vii., note), Moses Cordovero on the identity of the thinker, thought, and the object thought of; this, however, is a general Aristotelian principle (see Jew. Encyc. x. 370, s.v. Remaḳ). In Spinoza's view the doctrine of immanence bears a remarkable resemblance to that of emanation.

With regard to Spinoza's psychology and ethics, the idea of the conatus and even the term "conato de conservarsi" itself are derived from or influenced by Bruno. The doctrine of the emotions is partly influenced by Hobbes, but is mainly a development of and improvement on Descartes. On the other hand, the connection of the conatus with the divine activity may have been influenced by Crescas' view that the creation and conservation of the world imply the same activity of God (comp. Spinoza, "Cogitata Metaphysica," II. x. 6). The view of Spinoza with regard to the relativity of good and evil may possibly be derived from Maimonides' conception of them as belonging to the region of probable opinion ("Moreh," i. 11).

Ḥasdai Crescas.

The determinism of Spinoza was certainly derived from that of Crescas, who explains the difficulty of rewards and punishments from the same standpoint ("Or Adonai," II. v. 2) and on the same lines as Spinoza ("Cogitata Metaphysica," II. ix. 4), though it must be observed that Spinoza when he wrote the "Cogitata Metaphysica" was nominally at least a libertarian. So, too, in his denial of final causes Spinoza agrees with Crescas (l.c. II. vi. 1); therefore Spinoza may have obtained from Crescas, who identifies the divine will and understanding (l.c. III. i. 5), also the doctrine that the will and the understanding are the same faculty of the mind. The insistence of Spinoza upon the love of God as the highest quality of human reason is undoubtedly influenced by Crescas' original view that love rather than knowledge was the divine essence (ib.). The view, however, that the terms "wisdom" and "will" as applied to the Divine Being are not identical, but are merely homonymous, with the same terms as applied to man, is derived from Maimonides ("Moreh,"i. 52 et seq.). In speaking of the "intellectual love of God," Joël remarks, Spinoza took the "love" from Crescas, the "intellect" from Maimonides. Finally, the somewhat mystical views as to the eternity of the intellectual love, Sir Frederick Pollock suggests, were derived from the Averroism of Gersonides, who considered that contemplative knowledge was the only proper function of the eternal mind, and, therefore, that the individual soul was immortal as regards the knowledge possessed by it at the time of death, though, being then deprived of an organism, it could not in any way extend it after death (see Pollock, "Spinoza, His Life and Philosophy," 2d ed., pp. 270-271, London, 1899). With regard to his views on eternity, and his remarkable conception that truth must be viewed "sub specie eternitatis," it is worthy of remark that Spinoza in the "Cogitata Metaphysica" (II. x. 5) adopts the view of Maimonides that Creation did not arise in time, but time in Creation ("Moreh," II. ii. 13). It should perhaps be added that besides these specific instances of indebtedness Spinoza is characteristically Jewish in two main aspects of his thought: the stress laid upon knowledge as an ideal (though this is common to all the Aristotelian schools), and his conception of cheerfulness as one of the highest virtues (see Joy).

It has been suggested by Joël that the development of Spinoza's thought was somewhat as follows: His early training was entirely from Jewish philosophers, but he was withdrawn from them by the attraction of Descartes, who freed his mind from the principle of authority in philosophy, and, as it appears, in religion; but he was never a pure Cartesian, not even when he wrote his account of the philosophy of Descartes, and he came back to the Jewish philosophers to solve the conflicting elements of Descartes' thought, with the important difference, however, that he did not attempt to reconcile the conclusions to which they led him with the statements of Scripture. His thought is thus Jewish, cast in a Cartesian mold, the chief difference being with regard to the authority of Scripture, and it is, accordingly, in his "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus" that his views are found most opposed to Jewish views.

"Tractatus Theologico-Politicus."

Spinoza's arguments in the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus" are almost throughout connected either by way of agreement or opposition with those of Maimonides on the same topics. One of the main objects of the book is to show the contradictory nature of statements in the Scriptures, and Spinoza speaks with contempt of the efforts of the Rabbis to reconcile them. He is no doubt here referring to the most important work of his teacher Manasseh b. Israel the "Conciliador." In his chapter on prophecy Spinoza differs from Maimonides in regarding the work of a prophet as being due almost entirely to imagination, which can not, like reason, give rise to truth. Spinoza does an injustice in stating that Maimonides regards angels as existing only in dreams, which was partly due to a misreading in the edition of Maimonides used by him; this again is one of the test questions leading to his excommunication. The criterion of a true revelation selected by Spinoza—the vividness of the prophetic vision—is that used by Crescas ("Or Adonai," II. iv. 3), and both thinkers used the same example, that of Hananiah. Spinoza's view of the selection of the Israelites, that they exceeded other nations neither in learning nor in piety, but in political and social salvation, places him in opposition to both Maimonides and Crescas. He here attributes the preservation of the Jews to their rites ("Tractatus Theologico-Politicus," iii. 53), but sees no reason why they should not once again become an independent nation (ib. iii. 55). In his discussion of ceremonies Spinoza declares that they are no longer binding on Jews or others, and were put into force only through the influence of the Rabbis and other ecclesiastical authorities. In opposing belief in miracles, as he does in the sixth chapter of the "Tractatus," Spinoza has in mind the examples and arguments of both Maimonides and Gersonides; in the remaining part Spinoza outlines what was later known as the "higher criticism," and anticipates in a somewhat remarkable manner some of the results of the school of Kuenen and Wellhausen, declaring, for example, that the Law was introduced, if not written, by Ezra. Many of the examples of inconsistency in the Pentateuch here cited were those familiar to Spinoza from Abraham ibn Ezra (see Pentateuch). Spinoza throughout argued against the connection of creed with citizenship, claiming liberty of thought, and to that extent pleading the cause of his own people; but in reality the book is an expansion in Latin of his former apologia written in Spanish for withdrawing from Jewish communion, and is opposed to ecclesiasticism of all Kinds. Hence the violence of the opposition which it found in the age of ecclesiasticism.


With regard to Spinoza's influence, one must distinguish between the effect of his views and life upon the general progress of free thought in Europe, and that of his special doctrines. The former first drew down upon him the execration of all the ecclesiastics and authoritarians whom he had opposed by his views, and the respect of a few freethinkers like Bayle, Edelmann, Goethe, Shelley, and Byron, who proposed to translate the "Ethics" jointly, and Marian Evans (George Eliot), who actually produced a translation, which, however, was never published. The spread of his special views began with the small circle of disciples which surrounded him at Amsterdam, and to which the world is probably indebted for the Latin translation of his "Ethics." The chief of these were B. Becker and Louis Meyer; but the publication of his works in Dutch had a considerable influence on Dutch theology in the persons of Fredrick van Leenhoff (1647-1712), Wilhelm Deurhoff (1650-1717), and especially Pontiaan van Hattem (1641-1706), who created quite a school, of which Jacob Brill (1639-1700) was, after Hattem, the chief representative (see A. van der Linde, "Spinoza, Seine Lehre und Deren Erste Nachwirkungen in Holland," Göttingen, 1862).

Spinoza and Leibnitz.

But the principal person upon whom Spinoza's thought and personality had a decisive effect was Leibnitz (1646-1716), whose system of philosophy, as developed by Wolff, dominated the continent of Europe throughout the whole of the eighteenth century up to Kant, and whose views, developed by Herbart and Lotze, have again come to the fore in recent times. Those of Leibnitz's works that have been published give little evidence of any connection with Spinoza other than in the latter's calling as optician, and his public utterances on Spinozism were in every case hostile and derogatory; but more recent evidence shows that during the critical period of his development, from 1676 to 1686, he took a more favorable attitude toward both Spinoza and Spinozism, and this has been traced to an intimate personal association of the two philosophers during a whole month in 1676, not long before Spinoza's death. It was during this period that Leibnitz developed from a pure Cartesian into an opponent of Descartes, chiefly as regards the definition of body and the principles of motion, both of which subjects it is known that Leibnitz discussed with Spinoza. On reading the "Opera Posthuma," Leibnitz declared that the absence of teleology was the only thing with which he did not agree. When, however, a strong outcry broke out against Spinoza's "atheism," Leibnitz devoted himself to finding an escape from Spinozism, and it took him nearly ten years before he arrived at his theory of the monads, which he declared to be the only solution of the difficulty (see L. Stein, "Leibniz und Spinoza," Berlin, 1890). The most recent investigator of the philosophy of Leibnitz declares that in his views on soul and body, on God and ethics, he "tends with slight alterations of phraseology to adopt (without acknowledgment) the views of the derided Spinoza" (B. Russell," Philosophy of Leibniz," p. 5, Cambridge, 1900).

Mendelssohn and Jacobi.

This opposition of Leibnitz practically ruined any chance of influence by Spinoza on the Germany of the early part of the eighteenth century, where the philosophy of the former and his follower Wolff was all-powerful. A revival of interest, however, was brought about by Jacobi's declaration that Lessing was a professed Spinozist and had declared that "there is but one philosophy, the philosophy of Spinoza." Mendelssohn, who in philosophy was a Wolffian, devoted some of his "Morgenstunden" to defending the memory of his friend Lessing from what he considered to be an aspersion, and this again tended to discourage any active adherence to Spinoza in Germany. Kant, by making the problem of metaphysics how man knows instead of what he knows, changed the course of metaphysical thought for a time; but renewed attention was drawn to Spinoza by his followers, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, the last-named of whom declared that to be a philosopher one must first be a Spinozist. Schleiermacher expressed himself in the highest terms of Spinoza, and Novalis called the so-called "atheist" a "God-intoxicated Jew." This revival of interest in Spinoza was due possibly to the influence of Herder and Goethe, who had both given utterance to great admiration for Spinoza's life and thought. The wide influence of Goethe, whose philosophical views were entirely Spinozistic and were expressed in some of the profoundest of his poems, was perhaps the chief influence which drew to Spinoza the attention of such men as Coleridge, Auerbach, Matthew Arnold, Froude, and Renan.

Science and Spinozism.

It was mainly the spread and influence of science in its more dogmatic aspects that, toward the end of the nineteenth century, caused especial interest to be taken in Spinoza's thought. By a sort of instinct Spinoza seems to have anticipated, by deductions from first principles, many of the most fundamental principles of modern science; e.g., the conservation of energy (in his belief that the total quantity of motion in the universe is constant); the non-existence of a vacuum; and the existence of nothing real in the universe but configurations and motions (expressly stated in the "Ethics" I., Appendix). Even the infinity of attributes, which occupy such an otiose position in Spinoza's system, may be regarded as a premonition of the recognition by modern mathematicians of the infinity of non-Euclidean spaces. Especially as regards the connection of body and mind the Spinozistic view of parallelism has been growing in favor among psychologists, though just at present there is somewhat of a reaction against it. The positing of the conatus as the central force of mind is in full agreement with the most recent insistence upon conation as the key to mental activities, while the tendency of the conatus to maintain things pleasant seems to be an anticipation of Bain's law of conservation. The conatus has been regarded as anticipating even the theory of evolution, but this is due to mistaking the statical nature of Spinoza's thought. Nevertheless, the two great exponents of philosophical evolution Herbert Spencer and Haeckel have adopted many, if notmost, of Spinoza's views, which have thus become representative of science as opposed to religion. Meanwhile there has been a recent tendency to resort once more to Leibnitz for a defense of the faith, as shown in the Gifford lectures of Professors Ward and Royce, so that at the present day, at any rate in the English-speaking world, the problem of philosophy is once more resolved into the opposition of Spinoza and Leibnitz. Thus, of the chief contemporary English philosophers, F. H. Bradley, with his follower A. E. Taylor, may be regarded as representing Spinoza, while G. E. Moore and his disciple B. Russell are adherents of the school of Leibnitz.

Position Among Jews.

With his excommunication all communion between Spinoza and his own people ceased, and among Jews little notice was taken of his thought for nearly a century, except by a few philosophical thinkers, who dealt with his views as they would with those of other philosophers. Thus David Nieto was accused before Ḥakam Ẓebi in 1705 of having identified God and nature after the manner of Spinoza, but defended himself satisfactorily by distinguishing between the individual things of nature and nature in general; in other words, between natura naturans and natura naturata. Mendelssohn, as before mentioned, was, owing to his Leibnitzian tendencies, strongly opposed to Spinoza as a philosopher, but made use in his "Jerusalem" of some of the arguments of the "Tractatus." Solomon Maimon, like Wachter before him and A. Krochmal after him, tried to prove the identity of Spinozism and cabalism (see Krochmal's "Eben ha-Roshah," Vienna, 1871). Heine accords the life of Spinoza respectful treatment, but does not appear to have made any particular study of his thought. On the other hand, Berthold Auerbach did much to spread the knowledge of Spinozism in Germany by his excellent translation of the works as well as by his novelistic account of the career of the philosopher ("Spinoza, cin Denkerleben," Leipsic, 1847). M. Joël has contributed more, perhaps, than any other investigator to the study of the sources from which Spinoza derived his main conceptions. L. Stein has elucidated the relations of Spinoza and Leibnitz, while M. Grunwald has traced Spinoza's influence in Germany, and I. Elbogen has made a study of the "De Intellectus Emendatione." One of the best recent monographs on the philosopher is that of L. Brunschvieg, and the best account of the "Ethics" in English is by H. H. Joachim. Jacob Freudenthal's work on his life and his system of thought is the result of a life's work on the subject. Altogether, it may be said that Spinoza has at last come to his own among his own people.

But it would be misleading to regard Spinoza as specifically or characteristically Jewish in his thought. His antagonistic attitude toward the authority of the Scriptures differentiates him from all thinkers recognized to be Jewish, and S. D. Luzzatto was, after all, in the right in protesting violently against regarding the philosophy of Spinoza as especially Jewish while in such opposition to the Judaism of the Rabbis and the mass of the Jews. Whether any reconciliation can be made between Spinozism and Judaism on the higher plane of philosophic thought is another question, to which S. Rubin has devoted his life. In any case, Spinoza's thought is so definitely connected either by derivation or by opposition with that of the Jewish medieval thinkers that it must be regarded either as the consummation or as the evisceration of Jewish philosophy.

Bibliography: A whole literature has collected around the name of Spinoza and is summed up in A. van der Linde, Benedictus Spinoza, The Hague, 1871, which contains 441 entries. This may be supplemented by the bibliography given in M. Grunwald, Spinoza in Deutschland, pp. 361-370, Berlin, 1897, containing 226 entries of the literature between 1870 and 1897. The chief editions of the works have been referred to above, but it may be added that a portfolio of facsimiles of the recently recovered letters of Spinoza was published in Leyden in 1904. The standard life of Spinoza is that of Jacob Freudenthal, Spinoza, Sein Leben und Scine Lehre, Stuttgart, 1904, founded on a collection of sources (including the contemporary life by Colerus) issued by the same author under the title Lebensgeschichte Spinoza's, Berlin, 1899. Spinoza's relations to his Dutch contemporaries are best given in Meinsma, Spinoza en Zijn Kring, The Hague, 1896. The best accounts of Spinoza's system are those of Camerer, Die Lehre Spinoza's, Stuttgart, 1877; James Martineau, A Study of Spinoza, 3d ed., London, 1895; and Sir Frederick Pollock, Spinoza, His Life and Philosophy, 2d ed., London, 1899. Though written from a hostile standpoint, partly based upon Trendelenburg, Historische Beiträge zur Philosophie, Berlin, 1867, Martineau's study is by far the clearest with relation to Spinoza's system. Studies of the "Ethics" have been written by Kirschmann, 2d ed., Berlin, 1871 (with notes on the other works), and by H. H. Joachim, Oxford, 1901. The literature which followed the discovery of the Korte Verhandeling is summarized by Van der Linde, Nos. 342-353; noteworthy is the study by Avenarius, Ueber die Beiden Ersten Phosen des Spinozischen Pantheismus, Leipsic, 1868. A. Chajes has written Ueber die Hebräische Grammatik Spinoza's, Breslau, 1869, and C. Siegfried, Spinoza als Kritiker und Ausleger des Alten Testaments, Berlin, 1867. On the relation of Spinoza to his Jewish predecessors see Joël, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie, Breslau, 1876, and J. Jacobs, Jewish Ideals, pp. 49-56. Rubin in his Teshubah Niẓẓaḥat, Vienna, 1857, discussed Luzzatto's attacks on Spinoza. The latest histories of Jewish philosophy as a matter of course contain sections on Spinoza; e.g., J. S. Spiegler, Gesch. der Philosophie des Judenthums, xli.-xliii. Berlin, 1900; and S. Bernfeld, Da'at Elohim, pp. 521-530, Wilna, 1898.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
Facts about Baruch SpinozaRDF feed

Simple English

Baruch de Spinoza
Full name Baruch de Spinoza
Era 17th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Rationalism, founder of Spinozism
Main interests Ethics, Epistemology, Metaphysics
Notable ideas Pantheism, Deism, neutral monism, intellectual and religious freedom / separation of church and state, Criticism of Mosaic authorship of certain books of the Hebrew Bible, Political society derived from power, not contract

Baruch Spinoza (November 24, 1632February 21, 1677) was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin. He is considered to be one of the great Rationalist philosophers of the 17th century. Other famous rationalists include Gottfried Leibniz and René Descartes.


Spinoza's ideas were not cherished by the Jewish community of the time, and Spinoza was excommunicated in 1656.

Key ideas

An important idea in Spinoza's philosophy is God and Nature (everything that exists) are the same thing. Opposing Dualism, Spinoza said that the body and the mind (soul) are two of God's infinite attributes.

There is no good or evil in Nature, and that these words only have meanings for human beings. For a person, an event that leads to happiness is good, and an event that leads to suffering is bad.

Spinoza describes two types of thoughts, or emotions:

  • When a person acts from his own nature, he is said to be Active. The more you understand your actions, the more active you become. Active emotions lead to happiness and an understanding of God, as well as to Freedom.
  • When a person is being influenced by another person, or a thing, he is said to be Passive.

The goal of every person is to intellectually love God (that is, understand Nature as much as humanly possible).


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address