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Encyclopedia > Benedict de Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza

Benedictus de Spinoza (November 24, 1632 _ February 21, 1677), named Baruch Spinoza by his synagogue elders and known as Bento de Spinoza or Bento d'Espiñoza in the community in which he grew up. Along with René Descartes and Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr von Leibniz, he was one of the great rationalists of 17th_century philosophy. He is considered the founder of modern Biblical criticism. His magnum opus was the Ethics.

Born in Amsterdam to Sephardic Jews, he gained fame for his positions of pantheism and neutral monism, as well as the fact that his Ethics was written in the form of postulates and definitions, as though it were a geometry treatise. In the summer of 1656, he was excommunicated from the Jewish community for his claims that God is the mechanism of nature and the universe, and the Bible is a metaphorical and allegorical work used to teach the nature of God, both of which were based on a form of Cartesianism. Following his excommunication, he adopted the first name Benedictus (the Latin equivalent of his given name, Baruch). Since the public reactions to the Theologico-Political Treatise were not favourable to Spinoza or his brand of Cartesianism, he abstained from publishing his works. The Ethics was published after his death, in the Opera postuma edited by his friends.

Known as both the "Greatest Jew" and the "Greatest Atheist", Spinoza contended that "God" and "Nature" were two names for the same reality, namely the single substance that underlies the universe and of which all lesser "entities" are actually modes or modifications. He contended that "Deus sive Natura" ("God or Nature") was a being of infinitely many attributes, of which extension and thought were two. His account of the nature of reality, then, seems to treat the physical and mental worlds as two different, parallel "subworlds" that neither overlap nor interact. This formulation is a historically significant panpsychist solution to the mind_body problem known as neutral monism.

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, 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.

Spinoza's philosophy has much in common with Stoicism, but he 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 be displaced or overcome only by a stronger emotion. For him, the crucial distinction was between active and passive emotions, the former being those that are rationally understood and the latter those that are not. He also held that knowledge of true causes of passive emotion can transform it to an active emotion, thus anticipating one of the key ideas of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis.


Spinoza Today

In the late twentieth century, there was a great increase in philosophical interest in Spinoza in Europe, particularly from a left-wing or Marxist perspective. Notable philosophers Gilles Deleuze, Antonio Negri and Étienne Balibar have each written books on Spinoza.

Spinoza's portrait featured prominently on the older series of the 1000 Guilder banknote, which was legal tender in the Netherlands until the euro (which does not bear images of people) was introduced in 2002.


  • Short Treatise on God, Man and His Well-Being
  • On the Improvement of the Understanding (1662) (Project Gutenberg Entry: [1] (http://gutenberg.net/etext/1016))
  • Principles of Cartesian Philosophy (1663)
  • A Theologico-Political Treatise (1670) (1677) (Project Gutenberg Entry: Part 1 (http://gutenberg.net/etext/989), Part 2 (http://gutenberg.net/etext/990), Part 3 (http://gutenberg.net/etext/991), Part 4 (http://gutenberg.net/etext/992))
  • Tractatus Politicus (1677)
  • The Ethics (Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata) (1677) (Project Gutenberg Entry: [2] (http://gutenberg.net/etext/3800))
  • Hebrew Grammar (1677)

See also

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
  • The Ethics (http://rwmeijer.ws/spinoza/) - Split-screen Latin/English or Latin/French
  • Vereniging Het Spinozahuis (http://cf.uba.uva.nl/en/digilib/philosophy/spinheng.html)
  • The Spinoza Net (http://www.spinoza.net)
  • Spinoza and Spinozism (http://bdsweb.tripod.com) - BDSweb
  • A Theologico-Political Treatise  (http://www.philosophyarchive.com/text.php?era=1600-1699&author=Spinoza&text=A%20Theologico-Political%20Treatise) -English Translation
  • HyperSpinoza (http://hyperspinoza.caute.lautre.net)

  Results from FactBites:
Baruch Spinoza: Definition and Much More from Answers.com (4229 words)
Spinoza was born to this family of Sephardic Jews, among the Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam.
Spinoza held a relativist's position, that nothing is good or bad, except to the extent that it is subjectively perceived to be by the individual.
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.
Baruch Spinoza (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) (11125 words)
Spinoza engages in such a detailed analysis of the composition of the human being because it is essential to his goal of showing how the human being is a part of Nature, existing within the same causal nexuses as other extended and mental beings.
Spinoza's aim in Parts Three and Four is, as he says in his Preface to Part Three, to restore the human being and his volitional and emotional life into their proper place in nature.
Spinoza, therefore, explains these emotions — as determined in their occurrence as are a body in motion and the properties of a mathematical figure — just as he would explain any other things in nature.
  More results at FactBites »



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