Benedict Baruch Spinoza

Benedict Baruch Spinoza

Benedictus de Spinoza (November 24, 1632 – February 21, 1677), was named Baruch Spinoza by his synagogue elders and known as Bento de Espinosa or Bento d'Espiñoza in his native Amsterdam. He is considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy and, by virtue of his magnum opus the Ethics, one of the definitive ethicists. His writings, like those of his fellow rationalists, reveal considerable mathematical training and facility. Spinoza was a lens crafter by trade, an exciting engineering field at the time because of great discoveries being made by telescopes. The full impact of his work only took effect sometime after his death and after the publication of his Opera Posthuma. He is now seen as having prepared the way for the 18th century Enlightenment, and as a founder of modern biblical criticism.

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Spinoza Quotes

Ambition is the immoderate desire for power.

Desire is the essence of a man.

Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand.

Fame has also this great drawback, that if we pursue it, we must direct our lives so as to please the fancy of men.

Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear.

He alone is free who lives with free consent under the entire guidance of reason.

I would warn you that I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused.

If men were born free, they would, so long as they remained free, form no conception of good and evil.

None are more taken in by flattery than the proud, who wish to be the first and are not.

One and the same thing can at the same time be good, bad, and indifferent, e.g., music is good to the melancholy, bad to those who mourn, and neither good nor bad to the deaf.

Only that thing is free which exists by the necessities of its own nature, and is determined in its actions by itself alone.

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.

The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue.

The greatest pride, or the greatest despondency, is the greatest ignorance of one's self.

There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.

Those who are believed to be most abject and humble are usually most ambitious and envious.

We feel and know that we are eternal.

Whatsoever is contrary to nature is contrary to reason, and whatsoever is contrary to reason is absurd.

Quotes originally compiled by

Spinoza Biography


1632 November 24, Born in Amsterdam to Michael de Spinoza, a prosperous merchant and Warden of both the synagogue and the Amsterdam Jewish school who had come to Holland from Spain as a child to seek refuge in the Jewish colony there.

Little is known of Spinoza's early years except that he studied at the Amsterdam Jewish school where he learned Hebrew and was instructed in Jewish Orthodoxy as it was his father's wish for him to become a Rabbi.

1652 Approximate date for his tutelage under Frances Van den Enden from whom he learns Latin, is instructed in scholastic philosophy and is introduced to the philosophy of Descartes.

1654 Upon his father's death his sister Rebekah tries to block his inheritance but he takes her to court, wins the case and then renounces the inheritance. His growing frustration with the Jewish community compels him to leave and move in with Van den Enden and he begins teaching in Van den Enden's school which is known as a institution of free enquiry.

1656 July 27, Spinoza is excommunicated from the Jewish faith for his unorthodox speculations and association with free thinkers. The declaration against him read as follows:

1656-60 After his return to Amsterdam, supports himself by giving lessons on Cartesian philosophy and grinding lenses. Writes the Short Treatise on God, Man and his Well-being, a crude expression of his later philosophy.

1660 Moves to Rijnsburg and enjoys the company of Cartesian scholars from the nearby University of Leyden and his reputation as a philosopher grows. Perhaps he studies at the University as well. Composes first part of Principles in Cartesian Philosophy and begins work on the Ethics.

1663 Moves to Voorburg but on the way stops in Amsterdam where his friends persuade him to complete and publish Principles in Cartesian Philosophy. It is the only work published in his lifetime in his own name and was highly praised among the learned increasing his reputation as one of the foremost philosophers of his generation. While in Voorburg he carries on correspondence with many of the most important intellectuals of Europe including Henry Oldenburg, Leibniz, and Ludwig von Tschirnhausen.

1670 Moves to the Hague where he is supported by a small pension from his close friend Jan de Witt, the Grand Pensionary of the Netherlands. Publishes anonymously Theologico-Political Treatise which is banned four years later because its advocacy of toleration threatens the current political and religious authorities.

1672 August 20, Jan de Witt and his brother are beaten to death by an angry crowd incited by accusations that de Witt is at fault for the current occupation by the French military. Spinoza was so outraged that his friends had to lock him in his house to keep him from running out into the crowd with a sign declaring them the ultimate barbarians which would have surely brought about his own death.

1673 Is offered a professorship at Heidelberg but declines it due to concerns over his academic freedom.

1675 Finishes the Ethics and prepares to have it published when a rumor began spreading that he was about to publish a book which sought to show there was no God. The reaction to this rumor forces Spinoza to put off publication.

1677 February 21, dies of a lung ailment complicated by the glass dust from his lens grinding. A few months later his friends publish the Ethics, a collection Of his correspondence, and three other works: Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, Political Treatise, and a Hebrew Grammar.

Chronological biography originally compiled by

(For more information see Wikipedia)


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