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glossary:baruch_spinoza

Baruch Spinoza

Snippet from Wikipedia: Baruch Spinoza

Baruch (de) Spinoza (24 November 1632 – 21 February 1677), also known under his Latinized pen name Benedictus de Spinoza, was a philosopher of Portuguese-Jewish origin. As a forerunner of the Age of Reason, Spinoza significantly influenced modern biblical criticism, 17th-century Rationalism, and contemporary conceptions of the self and the universe, establishing himself as one of the most important and radical philosophers of the early modern period. He was influenced by Stoicism, Maimonides, Niccolò Machiavelli, René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, and a variety of heterodox Christian thinkers of his day.

Spinoza was born in Amsterdam to a marrano family that had left Portugal for a more tolerant Amsterdam. He had a traditional education for a Jewish boy, learning Hebrew and studying the sacred texts. He was part of the wealthy Portuguese Jewish community, where his merchant immigrant father was a prominent member. As a young man, Spinoza was permanently expelled from the Jewish community for defying rabbinic authorities and disputing Jewish beliefs. After his expulsion in 1656, he did not affiliate with any religion, instead focusing on philosophical study. He had a dedicated following, or philosophical sect, who met to discuss his writings.

Spinoza challenged the divine origin of the Hebrew Bible, the nature of God, and the earthly power wielded by religious authorities, Jewish and Christian alike. He was frequently called an atheist by contemporaries, although nowhere in his work does Spinoza argue against the existence of God. This can be explained by the fact that, unlike contemporary 21st-century scholars, “when seventeenth-century readers accused Spinoza of atheism, they usually meant that he challenged doctrinal orthodoxy, particularly on moral issues, and not that he denied God’s existence." His theological studies were inseparable from his thinking on politics; he is grouped with Hobbes, John Locke, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Immanuel Kant, who "helped establish the genre of political writing called secular theology."

Spinoza's philosophy encompasses nearly every area of philosophical discourse, including metaphysics, epistemology, political philosophy, ethics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. With an enduring reputation as one of the most original and influential thinkers of the seventeenth century, Rebecca Goldstein dubbed him "the renegade Jew who gave us modernity."

glossary/baruch_spinoza.txt · Last modified: 2010/12/28 14:29 by selfthinker