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Baruch de Spinoza's 'Tractatus Theologico-Politicus' Explained by Will DurantAdd to Queue

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  • Date posted : Jan 01, 1970

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Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, AKA Theologico-Political Treatise Written by the philosopher Baruch Spinoza, the Theologico-Political Treatise or Tractatus Theologico-Politicus was published anonymously in 1670. It is an early criticism of religious intolerance and a defense of secular government. In particular, it was a preemptive defense of his later work, Ethics (published posthumously in 1677), for which Spinoza anticipated harsh criticism. It was written in New Latin. In the treatise, Spinoza put forth his most systematic critique of Judaism, and all organized religion in general. To Spinoza, all "revealed" religion had to be analyzed on the basis of reason, not simply blind faith. Baruch Spinoza (Hebrew: ברוך שפינוזה‎ Baruch Shpinoza, Portuguese: Bento de Espinosa, Latin: Benedictus de Spinoza) and later Benedict Spinoza (November 24, 1632 -- February 21, 1677) was a Portuguese descendant Dutch Jewish philosopher. 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' 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 was raised in the Dutch Jewish community, where he received an excellent Jewish education from a number of leading contemporary rabbis. He emerged extremely well-versed in the Hebrew Bible and other Jewish texts. In time, however, he developed highly controversial ideas regarding the authenticity of the Hebrew Bible and the nature of the Divine, which it is believed led Jewish community leaders to issue a cherem (Hebrew: חרם, a kind of excommunication) against him, effectively dismissing him from Jewish society at age 23. His books were put on the Catholic Index of banned books, and were burned by Dutch Protestants. 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 plying his trade. Spinoza is buried in the churchyard of the Christian Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague. The Story of Philosophy: the Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosophers is a book by Will Durant that profiles several prominent Western philosophers and their ideas, beginning with Plato and on through Friedrich Nietzsche. Durant attempts to show the interconnection of their ideas and how one philosopher's ideas informed the next. Philosophers profiled are, in order: Plato, Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza, Voltaire (with a section on Rousseau), Immanuel Kant (with a section on Hegel), Arthur Schopenhauer, Herbert Spencer, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The final two chapters are devoted to European and then American philosophers. Henri Bergson, Benedetto Croce, and Bertrand Russell are covered in the tenth, and George Santayana, William James, and John Dewey are covered in the eleventh.

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