World View II
February 21, 2013
“I call him free who is led solely by reason.”
Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam, while the exact day is unknown, we know he was born sometime in 1632. He attended Talmud Torah School, where he was taught the fundamentals of how to be considered an upright Jewish man. His family were Marranos (forced converts to Christianity) who fled their original country of Portugal to escape the inquisition. (Honderich 545) His mother, Hannah Spinoza died when Baruch was six years old, she was the second of Michael Spinoza’s three wives. He remarried after she died. Michael, however, died when Baruch was twenty-two years old. The lack of fatherhood during this age could have caused Baruch Spinoza to, in the lack of scolding, be open with his newfound “heresies”. He ran the family business with his half-brother, Gabriel. He was mentored by Franciscus Van Den Enden at this age, who was an outspoken atheist. Van Den Enden taught him a little more than how to diagram a sentence. He was taught a more atheistic, scientific outlook based on facts and not faith. Van Den Enden was outspokenly heretical and taught Spinoza, through bully pulpit, to think the same way. Spinoza’s reorientation caused him to relax in his performance of the direction of the Jewish Law required of all citizens at this time. Spinoza was excommunicated for his new views in 1656, no one was allowed to talk to him, to do business with him, and if possible, not look at him. Excommunication made Spinoza an untouchable. This did not keep him from studying with Van Den Enden, he was dedicated to these new beliefs he had found. There is little information in the history books of what directly followed his excommunication. This excommunication certainly did not quell his appetite for knowledge, he was, if anything, stepping up his campaign to know what he could not know. He studied the works of Gersonides and Maimonides to a “religious” extent. He now could make no money in his family’s commerce business, he became a lens grinder and occasionally stayed with his mentor, and possibly his only friend left on this earth, Franciscus Van Den Enden. Spinoza traveled to Leiden to study at the university while launching his literary career. In 1658 he wrote Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, to spread the ideas that the mind must formulate if it is to reach its perfection. He wrote Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being which was quietly circulated among the most trusted of friends. These were all written on his theme of Ethics, which is what most of his writings circulated around. In Rijnsburg, Spinoza wrote his most well-known theses: The Identity of God and Nature in the late 1650’s. He left Rijnsburg in 1663 and traveled to Voorburg where he published many of his works. But the religious people in Voorburg and surrounding areas were not very tolerant of other views. He published his books under the name Benedictus Spinoza, the latinized version of his name. In Voorburg, he many treatise on a geometric approach to philosophy, relying on logic and reason to judge what is true, false, right, or wrong. He was reluctant to publish the Theological-Political Treatise for fear of persecution for his opinions. In 1670, he published it anonymously. He moved to The Haugue in 1670, where he lived for the rest of his life. During his stay in The Hague, his brother, Cornelius, was killed in the political revolt involving the murder of the Grand Pensionary in Holland. Jan De Witt, the Grand Pensionary of Holland, had parallel ideas to Spinoza, so Spinoza felt unrest for his own safety in these times. In his failing health, he wrote all of the ideas that could cause him to be hated, all of the “blasphemous” ideas that he would not dare express in ink while he was still at risk of losing something. He arranged for his works to be published after his death. Baruch...