Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Baruch Spinoza (Posts 1, 2, and 3 on Spinoza’s life, beliefs, and works) Lane Folger Sec 8 Gr 2

Baruch Spinoza (Post 1 of 3 on Spinoza’s life, beliefs, and works) Lane Folger Sec 8 Gr 2

Early Life

                    Baruch Spinoza was born on the 24th of November in 1632 in Amsterdam, Netherlands to Miguel de Espinoza and Ana Debora de Espinoza. The family was part of a community of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who had fled religious prosecution under the Inquisition. Spinoza’s father was a merchant while his mother died when he was only six years old. He was given a traditional Jewish upbringing and education, pursuing the study of the Torah at a yeshiva, or traditional Jewish learning institution. Spinoza was considered to be a star pupil and may have been studying to become a rabbi. 
            At the age of 17, Spinoza cut short his formal studies to work in the family business after his older brother’s death. When he was 20, Spinoza began to study Latin under Francis Van den Eden, a radical freethinker who most likely introduced Spinoza to modern philosophers and their works such as Rene Descartes and Thomas Hobbes. Spinoza’s father died when Spinoza was 21. Instead of accepting his inheritance, he allowed it to pass to his sister. As he continued with his studies of modern philosophy, Spinoza began to lean towards and develop progressive and radical ideas of rationalism that clashed with the traditional Jewish views up his early upbringing. He was soon branded as a heretic within his own synagogue. He was once even attacked on the steps of the synagogue by a man wielding a knife and shouting accusations of heresy.
             Spinoza soon fully relinquished the responsibility of running the family business to his younger brother and continued to devote his time to the study of philosophy. In July of 1656, when he was 24 years old, Spinoza was officially excommunicated from his congregation and community for his heretical ideas on theology. Soon after this and his move to Rijnsburg, Spinoza would began to write down his ideas and philosophies and develop what would become to be considered his some of his greatest works.

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Baruch Spinoza (Post 2 of 3 on Spinoza’s life, beliefs, and works) Lane Folger Sec 8 Gr 2

Beliefs on God 

            As stated in my first post, Baruch Spinoza was excommunicated from his Jewish synagogue in 1656 and shunned by his Amsterdam community for his radical views on God and religion that differed greatly from the views he was taught during his traditional Jewish upbringing. These views he developed after being introduced to and heavily studying modern philosophers such as Rene Descartes.

            Spinoza had what can be described as a classical pantheist view on God. That is, that he believed God and Nature were one inseparable entity. That meant that he believed everything around, all that you can see or imagine is God, even you and I. This was a very different view from the one placed on God by traditional Judeo-Christian religions where God is depicted as a man with a beard and robes that cares about every single action you make. Spinoza believed that that was wishful thinking. His God was completely impersonal just as nature is when you walk go on a hike in the woods. He did not believe though that this should mean you shouldn't love God, you just shouldn't expect any love in return. This is just like how a mountain climber can love a mountain but shouldn't expect it to love him back. Because Spinoza's idea of God was so indifferent to humans and so different from traditional Western, many at the time speculated that Spinoza was an atheist. 
Beliefs on Free Will
            Baruch Spinoza's thoughts on God weren't his only radical ideas. He believed that human Free Will was an illusion. He believed that the actions we perceived to be of our own doing were simply the result of an extremely long chain of events preceding us going back to the start of time. The example he used while explaining this to a friend was that of a rock being thrown through the air. After the rock leaves the hand by which it was thrown, it perceives that it is flying of its own coalition although it flying is simply an effect of an earlier cause. This belief classified Spinoza as a determinist. Although Spinoza held this belief, he did think that humans had some small amount of control over themselves. He believed that humans could control whether on not they were slaves to their emotions by controlling themselves and their actions whenever an emotional event occurred. 
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Spinoza's Works
             Some of Baruch Spinoza's most important works include On the Improvement of the Understanding, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, and Ethics. Many of these works, although written earlier in Spinoza's life, were not published until after his death by a group of close friends, in order to avoid the wrath of his peers, the church, or the government. 

             On the Improvement of Understanding is a book where Spinoza had the ultimate goal of developing a scientific procedure to produce clear thoughts and ideas that would continue to lead the human brain down the road for perfection. Along with this, Spinoza also discusses themes such as nature, different forms of knowledge, and having memories versus forgetting memories. 

             Tractatus Theologico Politicus was a piece that was very controversial at the time of its publishing due to its subject matter on religion and politics. It was  here that Spinoza gave his critique on Judaism and other organized religion. He argued such things as theology and philosophy should be two separate worlds of thought as well as rejecting the idea that God had any particular objective or end goal. Spinoza was greatly influenced by the works of Thomas Hobbes and this influence can be seen within the politics section of his work. Here Spinoza agrees with the idea that the existence of man is impossible without the help of a State. He believed that this state was needed in to assure safety for the common man so that he may succeed in pursuing higher education and development. 

              Spinoza's magnum opus was the work Ethics. The work is made up of five different sections discussing different issues. These are the relationship between God and the universe, human mind and body, human striving (such as striving to maintain existence), human emotions, and human freedom. Immediately upon its release, the book and its author were accused of being atheistic due to Spinoza's continued declaration that God and nature are one and the same. He famously equated the two when he wrote in his book, "God or Nature" four times. This work also greatly influenced many philosophers that came after Spinoza including Leibniz, Kant, Goethe, Hegel, and Schopenhauer. 

Later Life
             After his excommunication and shunning from his church and community, Spinoza moved around a great deal usually moving somewhere, working on and publishing writings, and then moving back to Amsterdam. Spinoza eventually moved to Voorburg where he picked up Lens Grinding, his eventual fatal profession, and continued to work on his writings. After this he moved to the Hague where he worked on his Ethics as well as his Political Treatise. Spinoza died in 1677 at the age of 44 from a chest infection. It is believed that his profession as a lens grinder, which had him breathing in microscopic pieces of glass, was what lead to his demise. Despite his premature death, Spinoza was still a large inspiration to philosophers of the day as well as to philosophers of this day. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice report. If you're looking for a good read about the great lens-grinder, check out Rebecca Goldstein's "Betraying Spinoza".