Baruch Spinoza

[Benedict de Spinoza]

Biography of Baruch Spinoza

Baruch Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza (24 November 1632 – 21 February 1677) was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death. By laying the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism, he came to be considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy. His magnum opus, the posthumous Ethics, in which he opposed Descartes's mind–body dualism, has earned him recognition as one of Western philosophy's most important contributors. In the Ethics, "Spinoza wrote the last indisputable Latin masterpiece, and one in which the refined conceptions of medieval philosophy are finally turned against themselves and destroyed entirely." Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said of all contemporary philosophers, "You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all."

Spinoza's name in different languages is Portuguese: Benedito or Bento de Espinosa and Latin: Benedictus de Spinoza; in all these languages, the given name means "the Blessed". Spinoza was raised in the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam. He developed highly controversial ideas regarding the authenticity of the Hebrew Bible and the nature of the Divine. The Jewish religious authorities issued a cherem (a kind of ban, shunning, ostracism, expulsion, or excommunication) against him, effectively excluding him from Jewish society at age 23. His books were also later put on the Catholic Church's Index of Forbidden Books.

Spinoza lived quietly as a lens grinder, turning down rewards and honors throughout his life, including prestigious teaching positions, and gave his family inheritance to his sister. Spinoza's philosophical accomplishments and moral character prompted 20th century philosopher Gilles Deleuze to name him "the 'prince' of philosophers".
Spinoza died at the age of 44 allegedly of a lung illness, perhaps tuberculosis or silicosis exacerbated by fine glass dust inhaled while grinding optical lenses. Spinoza is buried in the churchyard of the Christian Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague.

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