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Baruch Spinoza
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Baruch Spinoza

Benedictus de Spinoza (November 24, 1632 - February 21, 1677), named Baruch Spinoza by his synagogue elders and known as Bento de Spinoza or Bento d'Espiñoza in the community in which he grew up, was one of the great rationalists of 17th Century Philosophy, along with René Descartes; and Gottfried Leibniz. He is considered the founder of modern Biblical criticism.

Born in Amsterdam to Spanish-Portuguese Jews, he gained fame for his positions of pantheism and neutral monism, as well as the fact that his Ethics was written in the form of postulates and definitions, as though it were a geometry treatise. In the summer of 1656, he was excommunicated from the Jewish community for his claims that God is the mechanism of nature and the universe, and the Bible is a metaphorical and allegorical work used to teach the nature of God, both of which were based on a form of Cartesianism. Following his excommunication, he adopted the first name Benedictus (the Latin equivalent of his given name, Baruch). Since the public reactions to the Theologico-Political Treatise were not favourable to Spinoza or his brand of Cartesianism, he abstained from publishing his works. The Ethics was published after his death, in the Opera postuma edited by his friends.

Known as both the "Greatest Christian" and the "Greatest Atheist", Spinoza contended that "God" and "Nature" were two names for the same reality, namely the single substance that underlies the universe and of which all lesser "entities" are actually modes or modifications. He contended that "Deus sive Natura" ("God or Nature") was a being of infinitely many attributes, of which extension and thought were two. His account of the nature of reality, then, seems to treat the physical and mental worlds as two different, parallel "subworlds" that neither overlap nor interact. This formulation is a historically significant panpsychist solution to the Mind-body problem known as neutral monism.

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, 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.

Spinoza's philosophy has much in common with Stoicism, but he 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 be displaced or overcome only 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.

Spinoza's portrait featured prominently on the older series of the 1000 Guilder banknote, which was legal tender in the Netherlands until the euro was introduced in 2002.

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This article is part of the Influential Western Philosophers series
Presocratics | Socrates | Plato | Aristotle | Epicureans | Stoics | Plotinus | Augustine of Hippo | Boethius | Al-Farabi | Anselm | Peter Abelard | Averroës | Maimonides | Thomas Aquinas | Albertus Magnus | Duns Scotus | Ramón Llull | Occam | Giovanni Pico della Mirandola | Marsilio Ficino | Michel de Montaigne | René Descartes | Thomas Hobbes | Blaise Pascal | Baruch Spinoza | John Locke | Nicolas Malebranche | Gottfried Leibniz | Giambattista Vico | Julien Offray de la Mettrie | George Berkeley | Baron de Montesquieu | David Hume | Voltaire | Jean-Jacques Rousseau | Denis Diderot | Johann Herder | Immanuel Kant | Jeremy Bentham | Friedrich Schleiermacher | Johann Gottlieb Fichte | G. W. F. Hegel | Friedrich von Schelling | Friedrich von Schlegel | Arthur Schopenhauer | Søren Kierkegaard | Henry David Thoreau | Ralph Waldo Emerson | John Stuart Mill | Karl Marx | Mikhail Bakunin | Friedrich Nietzsche | Vladimir Soloviev | William James | Wilhelm Dilthey | C. S. Peirce | Gottlob Frege | Edmund Husserl | Henri Bergson | Ernst Cassirer | John Dewey | Benedetto Croce | José Ortega y Gasset | Alfred North Whitehead | Bertrand Russell | Ludwig Wittgenstein | Ernst Bloch | Georg Lukács | Martin Heidegger | Rudolf Carnap | Simone Weil | Maurice Merleau-Ponty | Jean-Paul Sartre | Simone de Beauvoir | Georges Bataille | Theodor Adorno | Max Horkheimer | Hannah Arendt

This text is part of the Liberalism series (IV): Liberal thinkers
Liberalism I - Liberalism in countries II - Liberal parties III - Liberal thinkers IV Introduction article

These thinkers had an important influence on the development of liberal thinking:
Baruch Spinoza | John Locke | Voltaire | Benjamin Franklin | David Hume | Jean-Jacques Rousseau | Denis Diderot | Adam Smith | Charles de Montesquieu | Immanuel Kant | Thomas Paine | Thomas Jefferson | Marquis de Condorcet | Jeremy Bentham | Benjamin Constant | Wilhelm von Humboldt | James Mill | Johan Rudolf Thorbecke | Frédéric Bastiat | Alexis de Tocqueville | John Stuart Mill | Herbert Spencer | Thomas Hill Green | Ludwig Joseph Brentano | Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk; | Émile Durkheim | Friedrich Naumann | Max Weber | Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse | Benedetto Croce | Walther Rathenau | William Beveridge | Ludwig von Mises | John Maynard Keynes | José Ortega y Gasset | Salvador de Madariaga | Wilhelm Röpke | Bertil Ohlin | Friedrich August von Hayek | Karl Raimund Popper | John Hicks | Raymond Aron | John Kenneth Galbraith | Isaiah Berlin | James M. Buchanan | John Rawls | Ralf Dahrendorf | Karl-Hermann Flach | Ronald Dworkin | Richard Rorty | Amartya Sen | Hernando de Soto | William Kymlicka | Dirk Verhofstadt

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