Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Sephardic origins, Baruch or Benedict Spinoza (Amsterdam, 1632-The Hague, 1677) belongs to the group of the most important rationalists of his time, along with René Descartes and Gottfried Leibniz.
Whereas educated within the Jewish orthodoxy, he studied mathematics and Cartesian philosophy, and he was steeped in the ideas of Hobbes, Lucretius, Giordano Bruno, the Dutch collegianten, Juan de Prado and Uriel da Costa, ultimately developing a critical attitude towards his doctrine. When his father died, in fact, because of his attitude against the Jewish dogma, he was expelled from the community and banished from the city.
While being in different cities and making a living as a cleaner of lenses for optical instruments, he wrote his major works for the Cartesian philosophy: ‘Principia Philosophiae Cartesianae’, ‘Tractatus De Emendatione Intellectus’ and ‘Ethica’, sometimes arousing such controversy that he was forced not to publish them. Only until after his death, his writings circulated subtly among his numerous followers. It is in the s.XIX when his legacy is recovered, thanks to the German Romantic philosophers.
One of the fundamental ideas of Spinoza is the “monism”, meaning that the person is an indivisible entity of body and soul. This is because there is a single “substance” which is God and everything created by him, nature. Within this view, physical objects are “modes” of this substance, God, and the person is a divine “extension”, being their thoughts more “modes” of God, the only reality.
To this, we must add the idea of determinism. The person does not have free will because they are governed by universal laws that guide the preservation of life. They are free when governed by this reason, beyond any religion. From this point of view, Spinoza is considered a follower of Galileo Galilei’s ideas and a precursor of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s thought, in pursuit of social freedom and democracy.
Here are some quotes his most defining quotes:
The most important thing a human being can attain is learning to understand, because understanding is to be free.
The same thing can be both good, bad, and indifferent. For example, the music is good for melancholy, bad for those who mourn, and neither good nor bad for the deaf.
If you do not want to repeat the past, study it.
All that men decide for their welfare does not follow that it is for the betterment of all nature, but rather, on the contrary, it may be for the destruction of many other things.
Maybe someone thinks, however, that thus become the subjects into slaves, believing that a slave is who works for an order, and free who lives at will. But this is far from true, because, in fact, he who is led by his appetites and is unable to see or do anything that is useful, is a slave to the fullest.
Understanding is the beginning of approving.
Peace is not the absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence and justice.
Democracy: it is thus defined as the general association of men who collegially has the supreme right to everything he can achieve.
I have been careful not to make fun of human actions, not to deplore or to hate them, but to understand them.
We cannot know anyone but for their actions.
Have a good week,
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