Monday, March 10, 2003

Baruch Spinoza 1632-77

An excomminucated dutch Jew who fled portugal fearing the inquisition, an excellent lens grinder , he had a great influence on Germal philosophy.

Most of his works were published after his death as he advocated pantheism.

His works include A Treatise on Religious and Political Philosophy , Ethics,Political Treatise, Treatise on the Improvement of Understanding, Letters, and Hebrew Grammar.


Spinoza’s brings to philosophy the rigor of mathematical proof. Spinoza believes the mind and body are two different aspects of a single substance, which he called alternately God and Nature.

The universe is a single substance, capable of an infinity of attributes, but known through two of them: physical extension( body ?) and thought( mind ?). God is not the creator of a Nature beyond himself; God is Nature in its fullness.

What is 'Good?" " whatever gives us pleasure"

All of Nature, share a common drive for self-preservation. So anything which helps us to survive is virtuous.

What is free?
To be free is to be guided by the law of one’s own nature.

What is bondage ?
It is in being moved by causes of which we are unaware because our ideas are confused.

He carries on the body-Mind thought further by proposing All thinking is action, and all action has its accompaniment in thought. What accounts for action is not an agency (the will) beyond the intellect, but ideas. Ideas are active and move us to act; an absence of action may be accounted an absence of insight: knowledge, virtue, and power are one.

Political Philosophy

Spinoza shares a lot of beliefs with Hobbes, but differs in some key areas.

Right derives from power, and the contract binds only as long as it is to one’s advantage. Hobbes believes advantage lies in satisfying as many desires as possible, for Spinoza advantage lies in an escape from those desires through understanding.

Hobbes does not imagine a community of individuals whose desires can be consistently satisfied, so repression is always necessary; Spinoza can imagine such a community and such consistent satisfaction, so in his political and religious thought the notion of freedom, especially freedom of inquiry, is basic.


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