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Bento d'Espinosa

Hebrew: ברוך שפינוזה
Also Known As: "Benedict Spinoza"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands
Death: Died in The Hague, South Holland, The Netherlands
Cause of death: Lung illness, tuberculosis, or silicosis or probably FMF, Familial Mediteranean Fever
Place of Burial: Cemetery of the Christian Niewe Kerk, The Hague, Netherland
Immediate Family:

Son of Miguel d'Epinosa and Hana Debora d'Espinoza
Brother of Miriam Spinoza and Gabriel de Spinoza
Half brother of Isaac de Spinoza and Rebecca de Spinoza

Occupation: Philosopher, optician - lens maker
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Baruch Spinoza

  • Baruch de Spinoza , XVII Century Philosopher
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Founder of Spinozism

Main interests: Ethics, Epistemology, Metaphysics

Notable ideas: Panentheism, Pantheism, Determinism, Deism, neutral monism, intellectual and religious freedom / separation of church and state, Criticism of Mosaic authorship of some books of the Hebrew Bible, Political society derived from power.

Influenced by: Hobbes, Descartes, Stoics, Avicenna, Maimonides, Nicholas of Cusa, Aristotle, Bacon, Plato, Niccolò Machiavelli

Influenced: Hegel, Næss, Marx, Davidson, Schopenhauer, Deleuze, George Eliot, Einstein, Fichte, Novalis, Leibniz, Goethe, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Althusser, Hardt, Negri, Fromm, Santayana, Schelling, Bookchin, Kant, Butler, Kook, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Kaplan, Ben-Gurion, Levinas, Coleridge, Leo Strauss

Spinoza or Baruch Spinoza (Hebrew: ברוך שפינוזה‎ Baruch Shpinoza, Portuguese: Bento de Espinosa, Latin: Benedictus de Spinoza) (November 24, 1632 – February 21, 1677) was a Jewish Philosopher of Dutch 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 the 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's mind–body dualism, Spinoza is considered to be one of Western philosophy's most important philosophers. Philosopher and historian Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said of all contemporary philosophers, "You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all." Spinoza attended the Keter Torah yeshiva headed by Rabbi Shaul Levi Morteira, and maintained a connection with Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel, whose home was a center for Jewish scholars in Amsterdam.

Though Spinoza was active in the Dutch Jewish community and extremely well-versed in Jewish texts, some claim that his controversial ideas eventually led community leaders to issue a cherem (Hebrew: חרם, a kind of excommunication) against him, effectively dismissing him from that Jewish society at age 23, though most of his friends were Marranos.

Prior to any action by the Dutch Jewish community, however, his books were put on the Catholic Index of banned books, and were burned by Dutch Protestants, for their humanistic take on the Bible. Some historians argue that the Roman Catholic Church influenced the nascent Jewish community of Marranos to enact this rare excommunication law. Historian Adri Offenberg and others argue that the Amsterdam Jewish Community, at the time in its infancy and struggling to secure its position in the Dutch republic, was placed under aggressive external pressure by the Dutch Reform and Roman Catholic Churches to unwillingly quell what was perceived as heresy in dominant Christian circles (Die Lebensgeschichte Spinozas). Philosopher and historian of ideas Richard Popkin questions the historical veracity of the documents claiming Spinoza was issued a cherem, which emerged close to 300 years after Spinoza's death. All of Spinoza's works were listed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books) by the Roman Catholic Church.

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 moral character and philosophical accomplishments 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 plying his trade. Spinoza is buried in the churchyard of the Christian Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague.

Biography'

Family origins

Spinoza's ancestors were of Sephardic Jewish descent, and were a part of the community of Portuguese Jews that grew in the city of Amsterdam after the Alhambra Decree in Spain (1492) and the Portuguese Inquisition (1536) had led to forced conversions and expulsions from the Iberian peninsula.

Some historians argue the Spinoza family ("Espinosa" in Portuguese) had its origins in Espinosa de los Monteros, near Burgos, Spain. Others claim they were Portuguese Jews who had moved to Spain and then expelled back to their home country in 1492, only to be forcibly converted to Catholicism in 1498. Spinoza's father was born roughly a century after this forced conversion in the small Portuguese city of Vidigueira, near Beja in Alentejo. When Spinoza's father was still a child, Spinoza's grandfather, Isaac de Spinoza (who was from Lisbon), took his family to Nantes in France. They were expelled in 1615 and moved to Rotterdam, where Isaac died in 1627. Spinoza's father, Miguel, and his uncle, Manuel, then moved to Amsterdam where they reassumed their Judaism. Manuel changed his name to Abraão de Spinoza, though his "commercial" name was still the same.

Early life and career

Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. His mother Ana Débora, Miguel's second wife, died when Baruch was only six years old. Miguel was a successful importer/merchant and Baruch had a traditional Jewish upbringing; however, his critical, curious nature would soon come into conflict with the Jewish community. Wars with England and France[vague] took the life of his father and decimated his family's fortune but he was eventually able to relinquish responsibility for the business and its debts to his brother, Gabriel, and devote himself to philosophy and optics.

Controversial ideas and Jewish reaction

Some claim that on 27 July 1656, the Jewish community issued to him the writ of cherem (Hebrew: חרם, a kind of excommunication), although the veracity of the document from which this historical claim is extrapolated is widely disputed. While the language of the supposed cherem was unusually harsh, the exact reason for expelling Spinoza is not stated. It has been argued that, in view of Christian opposition to Spinoza's opinions, the Jewish community had little option but to dissociate itself from Spinoza's "heresies". After his cherem, it is reported that Spinoza lived and worked in the school of Franciscus van den Enden, who taught him Latin in his youth and may have introduced him to modern philosophy, although Spinoza never mentions Van den Enden anywhere in his books or letters. Van den Enden was a Cartesian and atheist who was forbidden by the city government to propagate his doctrines publicly. His books were put on the Catholic Index of banned books, and were burned by Dutch Protestants, for their humanistic take on the Bible.

During this period Spinoza also became acquainted with several Collegiants, members of an eclectic sect with tendencies towards rationalism. Many of his friends belonged to dissident Christian groups which met regularly as discussion groups and which typically rejected the authority of established churches as well as traditional dogmas. Textbooks and encyclopedias often depict Spinoza as a solitary soul who eked out a living as a lens grinder; in reality, he had many friends but kept his needs to a minimum.

The reviewer M. Stuart Phelps noted "No one has ever come nearer to the ideal life of the philosopher than Spinoza." Another reviewer, Harold Bloom, wrote: "As a teacher of reality, he practiced his own wisdom, and was surely one of the most exemplary human beings ever to have lived." According to the New York Times "In outward appearance he was unpretending, but not careless. His way of living was exceedingly modest and retired; often he did not leave his room for many days together.

He was likewise almost incredibly frugal; his expenses sometimes amounted only to a few pence a day." According to Harold Bloom and the Chicago Tribune "He appears to have had no sexual life." Spinoza also corresponded with Peter Serrarius, a radical Protestant and millennarian merchant. Serrarius is believed to have been a patron of Spinoza at some point after his conversion. By the beginning of the 1660s, Spinoza's name became more widely known, and eventually Gottfried Leibniz and Henry Oldenburg paid him visits, as stated in Matthew Stewart's The Courtier and the Heretic. Spinoza corresponded with Oldenburg for the rest of his short life.

The writings of Rene Descartes have been described as "Spinoza's starting point." Spinoza's first publication was his geometric exposition (formal math proofs) of Descartes, Parts I and II of Descartes' Principles of Philosophy (1663). Spinoza has been associated with Leibniz and Descartes as "rationalists" in contrast to "empiricists". From December 1664 to June 1665, Spinoza engaged in correspondence with Blyenbergh, an amateur Calvinist theologian, who questioned Spinoza on the definition of evil. Later in 1665, Spinoza notified Oldenburg that he had started to work on a new book, the Theologico-Political Treatise, published in 1670. Leibniz disagreed harshly with Spinoza in Leibniz's own published Refutation of Spinoza, but he is also known to have met with Spinoza on at least one occasion (as mentioned above), and his own work bears some striking resemblances to specific important parts of Spinoza's philosophy (see: Monadology).

When the public reactions to the anonymously published Theologico-Political Treatise were extremely unfavourable to his brand of Cartesianism, Spinoza was compelled to abstain from publishing more of his works. Wary and independent, he wore a signet ring engraved with his initials, a rose, and the word "caute" (Latin for "cautiously"). The Ethics and all other works, apart from the Descartes' Principles of Philosophy and the Theologico-Political Treatise, were published after his death, in the Opera Posthuma edited by his friends in secrecy to avoid confiscation and destruction of manuscripts. The Ethics contains many still-unresolved obscurities and is written with a forbidding mathematical structure modeled on Euclid's geometry and has been described as a "superbly cryptic masterwork."

Later life and career

Spinoza spent his remaining 21 years writing and studying as a private scholar. He preached a philosophy of tolerance and benevolence. Anthony Gottlieb described him as living "a saintly life."

Spinoza relocated from Amsterdam to Rijnsburg (near Leiden) around 1661. He stayed until 1663 at the house of the family mr. Herman Homan and his wife Geertje Verruijt. Spinozahuis Rijnsburg. Later lived in Voorburg and The Hague respectively. He earned a comfortable living from lens-grinding. While the lens-grinding aspect of Spinoza's work is uncontested, the type of lenses he made is in question. Many have said he produced excellent magnifying glasses, and some historians credit him with being an optician (in the sense of making lenses for eyeglasses). He was also supported by small, but regular, donations from close friends.

He died in 1677 while still working on a political thesis. His premature death was said to be due to lung illness, possibly the result of breathing in glass dust from the lenses he ground. Or also possibly due to a syndrome, known as Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF) which is a hereditary inflammatory disorder that affects groups of people originating from around the Mediterranean Sea. Both explanations are however doubtful, since there are no reports of a special affliction amongst glass grinders and FMF is a benign disorder. Later, a shrine was made of his home in The Hague.

Only a year earlier, Spinoza had met with Leibniz at The Hague for a discussion of his principal philosophical work, Ethics, which had been completed in 1676. This meeting was described in Matthew Stewart's The Courtier and the Heretic. Spinoza never married, nor did he father any children. When he died, he was considered a saint by the general Christian population, and was buried in holy ground.

Dutch Port cities as sites of free thought

Amsterdam and Rotterdam were important cosmopolitan centers where merchant ships from many parts of the world brought people of various customs and beliefs. It was this hustle and bustle which ensured, as in the Mediterranean region during the Renaissance, some possibility of free thought and shelter from the crushing hand of ecclesiastical authority. Thus, Spinoza no doubt had access to a circle of friends who were basically heretics in the eyes of tradition. One of the people he must have known was Niels Stensen, a brilliant Danish student in Leiden; others were Coenraad van Beuningen and his cousin Albert Burgh, with whom Spinoza is known to have corresponded.

Philosophy

“These are the fundamental concepts with which Spinoza sets forth a vision of Being, illuminated by his awareness of God. They may seem strange at first sight. To the question "What is?" he replies: "Substance, its attributes, and modes". ” — Karl Jaspers

Spinoza believed God exists only philosophically and that God was abstract and impersonal. Spinoza's system imparted order and unity to the tradition of radical thought, offering powerful weapons for prevailing against "received authority." As a youth he first subscribed to Descartes's dualistic belief that body and mind are two separate substances, but later changed his view and asserted that they were not separate, being a single identity. He contended that everything that exists in Nature (i.e., everything in the Universe) is one Reality (substance) and there is only one set of rules governing the whole of the reality which surrounds us and of which we are part.

Spinoza viewed God and Nature as two names for the same reality, namely the single substance (meaning "that which stands beneath" rather than "matter") that is the basis of the universe and of which all lesser "entities" are actually modes or modifications, that all things are determined by Nature to exist and cause effects, and that the complex chain of cause and effect is understood only in part. His identification of God with nature was more fully explained in his posthumously published Ethics. That humans presume themselves to have free will, he argues, is a result of their awareness of appetites while being unable to understand the reasons why they want and act as they do. Spinoza has been described by one writer as an "Epicurean materialist."

Spinoza contends that "Deus sive Natura" ("God or Nature") is a being of infinitely many attributes, of which thought and extension are two. His account of the nature of reality, then, seems to treat the physical and mental worlds as one and the same. The universal substance consists of both body and mind, there being no difference between these aspects. This formulation is a historically significant solution to the mind-body problem known as neutral monism. Spinoza's system also envisages a God that does not rule over the universe by providence, but a God which itself is the deterministic system of which everything in nature is a part. Thus, according to this understanding of Spinoza's system, God would be the natural world and have no personality.

In addition to substance, the other two fundamental concepts Spinoza presents and develops in the Ethics are attribute – that which the intellect perceives as constituting the essence of substance, and mode – the modifications of substance, or that which exists in, and is conceived through, something other than itself.

Spinoza was a thoroughgoing determinist who held that absolutely everything that happens occurs through the operation of necessity. For him, even human behaviour is fully determined, with freedom being our capacity to know we are determined and to understand why we act as we do. So freedom is not the possibility to say "no" to what happens to us but the possibility to say "yes" and fully understand why things should necessarily happen that way. By forming more "adequate" ideas about what we do and our emotions or affections, we become the adequate cause of our effects (internal or external), which entails an increase in activity (versus passivity). This means that we become both more free and more like God, as Spinoza argues in the Scholium to Prop. 49, Part II. However, Spinoza also held that everything must necessarily happen the way that it does. Therefore, humans have no free will. They believe, however, that their will is free. In his letter to G. H. Schaller (Letter 62), he wrote: "men are conscious of their own desire, but are ignorant of the causes whereby that desire has been determined."

Spinoza's philosophy has much in common with Stoicism inasmuch as both philosophies sought to fulfill a therapeutic role by instructing people how to attain happiness (or eudaimonia, for the Stoics). However, Spinoza differed sharply from the Stoics in one important respect: he utterly rejected their contention that reason could defeat emotion. On the contrary, he contended, an emotion can only be displaced or overcome by a stronger emotion. For him, the crucial distinction was between active and passive emotions, the former being those that are rationally understood and the latter those that are not. He also held that knowledge of true causes of passive emotion can transform it to an active emotion, thus anticipating one of the key ideas of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis.

Some of Spinoza's philosophical positions are:

  • The natural world is infinite.
  • Good and evil are related to human pleasure and pain.
  • Everything done by humans and other animals is excellent and divine.
  • All rights are derived from the State.
  • Animals can be used in any way by people for the benefit of the human race, according to a rational consideration of the benefit as well as the animal's status in nature.

Ethical philosophy

Encapsulated at the start in his Treatise on the Improvement of the Understanding (Tractatus de intellectus emendatione) is the core of Spinoza's ethical philosophy, what he held to be the true and final good. Spinoza held good and evil to be relative concepts, claiming that nothing is intrinsically good or bad except relative to a particular individual. Things that had classically been seen as good or evil, Spinoza argued, were simply good or bad for humans. Spinoza believes in a deterministic universe in which "All things in nature proceed from certain [definite] necessity and with the utmost perfection." Nothing happens by chance in Spinoza's world, and nothing is contingent.

In the universe anything that happens comes from the essential nature of objects, or of God/Nature. According to Spinoza, reality is perfection. If circumstances are seen as unfortunate it is only because of our inadequate conception of reality. While components of the chain of cause and effect are not beyond the understanding of human reason, human grasp of the infinitely complex whole is limited because of the limits of science to empirically take account of the whole sequence. Spinoza also asserted that sense perception, though practical and useful for rhetoric, is inadequate for discovering universal truth; Spinoza's mathematical and logical approach to metaphysics, and therefore ethics, concluded that emotion is formed from inadequate understanding. His concept of "conatus" states that human beings' natural inclination is to strive toward preserving an essential being and an assertion that virtue/human power is defined by success in this preservation of being by the guidance of reason as one's central ethical doctrine. According to Spinoza, the highest virtue is the intellectual love or knowledge of God/Nature/Universe.

In the final part of the "Ethics", his concern with the meaning of "true blessedness", and his explanation of how emotions must be detached from external cause and so master them, give some prediction of psychological techniques developed in the 1900s. His concept of three types of knowledge – opinion, reason, intuition – and his assertion that intuitive knowledge provides the greatest satisfaction of mind, lead to his proposition that the more we are conscious of ourselves and Nature/Universe, the more perfect and blessed we are (in reality) and that only intuitive knowledge is eternal. His unique contribution to understanding the workings of mind is extraordinary, even during this time of radical philosophical developments, in that his views provide a bridge between religions' mystical past and psychology of the present day.

Given Spinoza's insistence on a completely ordered world where "necessity" reigns, Good and Evil have no absolute meaning. Human catastrophes, social injustices, etc., are merely apparent. The world as it exists looks imperfect only because of our limited perception.

History of reception

Panentheist, pantheist, or atheist?

It is a widespread belief that Spinoza equated God with the material universe. However, in a letter to Henry Oldenburg he states that: "as to the view of certain people that I identify god with nature (taken as a kind of mass or corporeal matter), they are quite mistaken". For Spinoza, our universe (cosmos) is a mode under two attributes of Thought and Extension. God has infinitely many other attributes which are not present in our world. According to German philosopher Karl Jaspers, when Spinoza wrote "Deus sive Natura" (God or Nature) Spinoza meant God was Natura naturans not Natura naturata, and Jaspers believed that Spinoza, in his philosophical system, did not mean to say that God and Nature are interchangeable terms, but rather that God's transcendence was attested by his infinitely many attributes, and that two attributes known by humans, namely Thought and Extension, signified God's immanence. Even God under the attributes of thought and extension cannot be identified strictly with our world. That world is of course "divisible"; it has parts. But Spinoza insists that "no attribute of a substance can be truly conceived from which it follows that the substance can be divided" (Which means that one cannot conceive an attribute in a way that leads to division of substance), and that "a substance which is absolutely infinite is indivisible" (Ethics, Part I, Propositions 12 and 13). Following this logic, our world should be considered as a mode under two attributes of thought and extension. Therefore the pantheist formula "One and All" would apply to Spinoza only if the "One" preserves its transcendence and the "All" were not interpreted as the totality of finite things.

Martial Guéroult suggested the term "Panentheism", rather than "Pantheism" to describe Spinoza’s view of the relation between God and the world. The world is not God, but it is, in a strong sense, "in" God. Not only do finite things have God as their cause; they cannot be conceived without God. In other words, the world is a subset of God.

In 1785, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi published a condemnation of Spinoza's pantheism, after Lessing was thought to have confessed on his deathbed to being a "Spinozist", which was the equivalent in his time of being called an atheist. Jacobi claimed that Spinoza's doctrine was pure materialism, because all Nature and God are said to be nothing but extended substance. This, for Jacobi, was the result of Enlightenment rationalism and it would finally end in absolute atheism. Moses Mendelssohn disagreed with Jacobi, saying that there is no actual difference between theism and pantheism. The entire issue became a major intellectual and religious concern for European civilization at the time, which Immanuel Kant rejected, as he thought that attempts to conceive of transcendent reality would lead to antinomies (statements that could be proven both right and wrong) in thought.

The attraction of Spinoza's philosophy to late eighteenth-century Europeans was that it provided an alternative to materialism, atheism, and deism. Three of Spinoza's ideas strongly appealed to them:

  • the unity of all that exists;
  • the regularity of all that happens; and
  • the identity of spirit and nature.

Spinoza's "God or Nature" [Deus sive Natura] provided a living, natural God, in contrast to the Newtonian mechanical "First Cause" or the dead mechanism of the French "Man Machine." Coleridge and Shelley saw in Spinoza's philosophy a religion of nature and called him the "God-intoxicated Man." Spinoza inspired the poet Shelley to write his essay "The Necessity of Atheism."

Spinoza was considered to be an atheist because he used the word "God" [Deus] to signify a concept that was different from that of traditional Judeo–Christian monotheism. "Spinoza expressly denies personality and consciousness to God; he has neither intelligence, feeling, nor will; he does not act according to purpose, but everything follows necessarily from his nature, according to law...." Thus, Spinoza's cold, indifferent God is the antithesis to the concept of an anthropomorphic, fatherly God who cares about humanity.

Spinoza's political theory

Late 20th century Europe demonstrated a greater philosophical interest in Spinoza, often from a left-wing or Marxist perspective. Karl Marx liked his materialistic account of the universe. Notable philosophers Louis Althusser, Gilles Deleuze, Antonio Negri, Étienne Balibar and Marilena Chauí have each drawn upon Spinoza's philosophy. Deleuze's doctoral thesis, published in 1968, refers to him as "the prince of philosophers." Other philosophers heavily influenced by Spinoza include Constantin Brunner and John David Garcia. Stuart Hampshire wrote a major English language study of Spinoza, though H. H. Joachim's work is equally valuable. Unlike most philosophers, Spinoza and his work were highly regarded by Nietzsche.

Spinoza was an important philosophical inspiration for George Santayana. When Santayana graduated from college, he published an essay, “The Ethical Doctrine of Spinoza,” in The Harvard Monthly. Later, he wrote an introduction to Spinoza’s Ethics and ‘De intellectus emendatione’. In 1932, Santayana was invited to present an essay (published as "Ultimate Religion,") at a meeting at The Hague celebrating the tricentennial of Spinoza's birth. In Santayana's autobiography, he characterized Spinoza as his “master and model” in understanding the naturalistic basis of morality.

Spinoza's religious criticism and its effect on the philosophy of language

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein evoked Spinoza with the title (suggested to him by G. E. Moore) of the English translation of his first definitive philosophical work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, an allusion to Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Elsewhere, Wittgenstein deliberately borrowed the expression sub specie aeternitatis from Spinoza (Notebooks, 1914-16, p. 83). The structure of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus does have some structural affinities with Spinoza's Ethics (though, admittedly, not with the latter's own Tractatus) in erecting complex philosophical arguments upon basic logical assertions and principles. Furthermore, in propositions 6.4311 and 6.45 he alludes to a Spinozian understanding of eternity and interpretation of the religious concept of eternal life, stating that "If by eternity is understood not eternal temporal duration, but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present." (6.4311) "The contemplation of the world sub specie aeterni is its contemplation as a limited whole." (6.45) Furthermore, Wittgenstein's interpretation of religious language, in both his early and later career, may be said to bear a family resemblance to Spinoza's pantheism.

Leo Strauss dedicated his first book ("Spinoza's Critique of Religion") to an examination of the latter's ideas. In the book, Strauss identified Spinoza as part of the tradition of Enlightenment rationalism that eventually produced Modernity. Moreover, he identifies Spinoza and his works as the beginning of Jewish Modernity.

The events leading to Spinoza's excommunication are the basis for a 2010 play by David Ives. The play "New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656" was first performed at Theater J in Washington, D.C.

Spinoza's Ethics

Spinoza has had influence beyond the confines of philosophy. The nineteenth century novelist, George Eliot, produced her own translation of the Ethics, the first known English translation of it. Eliot liked Spinoza's vehement attacks on superstition. Goethe could not say exactly what he liked in the Ethics, but was profoundly moved by it nevertheless (Goethe admitted he could not understand much of Spinoza). The twentieth century novelist, W. Somerset Maugham, alluded to one of Spinoza's central concepts with the title of his novel, Of Human Bondage. Albert Einstein named Spinoza as the philosopher who exerted the most influence on his world view (Weltanschauung). Spinoza equated God (infinite substance) with Nature, consistent with Einstein's belief in an impersonal deity. In 1929, Einstein was asked in a telegram by Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein whether he believed in God. Einstein responded by telegram: "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings." Spinoza's pantheism has also influenced environmental theory; Arne Næss, the father of the deep ecology movement, acknowledged Spinoza as an important inspiration.

Moreover, the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges was greatly influenced by Spinoza's world view. Borges makes allusions to the philosopher's work in many of his poems and short stories, as does Isaac Bashevis Singer in his short story The Spinoza of Market Street. Spinoza has been the subject of numerous biographies and scholarly treatises.

Spinoza is an important historical figure in the Netherlands, where his portrait was featured prominently on the Dutch 1000-guilder banknote, legal tender until the euro was introduced in 2002. The highest and most prestigious scientific award of the Netherlands is named the Spinoza prijs (Spinoza prize). Spinoza was included in a 50 theme canon that attempts to summarize the history of the Netherlands.

Spinoza's work is also mentioned as the favorite reading material for Bertie Wooster's valet Jeeves in the P. G. Wodehouse novels. Spinoza's life has been the subject of plays and has been honored by educators.

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Baruch Spinoza's Timeline

1632
November 24, 1632
Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands
1656
July 27, 1656
Age 23
Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands
1677
February 21, 1677
Age 44
The Hague, South Holland, The Netherlands
November 1677
Age 44
The Hague, Netherland