Wednesday, February 17, 2010

God and The "Ethics" of Baruch Spinoza

Baruch or Benedict de Spinoza (Hebrew: ברוך שפינוזה‎, Portuguese: Bento de Espinosa, Latin: Benedictus de Spinoza) (November 24, 1632 – February 21, 1677) was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death. Today, he is considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy, laying the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism. By virtue of his magnum opus, the posthumous Ethics, in which he opposed Descartes' mind–body dualism, Spinoza is considered to be one of Western philosophy's most important philosophers.

Samuel Shirley, who translated Spinoza's complete works into English, summed up the significance of Spinoza's philosophy as follows: “To my mind, although Spinoza lived and thought long before Darwin, Freud, Einstein, and the startling implications of quantum theory, he had a vision of truth beyond what is normally granted to human beings.”

Spinoza's philosophy is largely contained in two books: the Theologico-Political Treatise, and The Ethics. The former was published during his lifetime, but the latter, which contains the entirety of his philosophical system in its most rigorous form, was not published until after his death in 1677. The rest of the writings we have from Spinoza are either earlier, or incomplete, works expressing thoughts which were crystalized in the two aforementioned books (e.g., the Short Treatise and the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect), or else they are not directly concerned with Spinoza's own philosophy (e.g., The Principles of Cartesian Philosophy and The Hebrew Grammar). He also left behind many letters which help to illuminate his ideas and provide some insight into what may have been motivating his views. (Wiki)