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Baruch Spinoza

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Baruch Spinoza (24 November 1632 – 21 February 1677) — later Benedict de Spinoza — 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 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.

Spinoza's name in different languages is Hebrew: ברוך שפינוזה‎ Baruch Spinoza, 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 (Hebrew: חרם, 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.

Spinoza had a traditional Jewish upbringing, attending the Keter Torah yeshiva of the Amsterdam Talmud Torah congregation headed by the learned and traditional senior Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira. His teachers also included the less traditional Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel, "a man of wide learning and secular interests, a friend of Vossius, Grotius, and Rembrandt," whose home was a center for Jewish scholars in Amsterdam and who later took a leading part in promoting the readmission of Jews to England. While presumably a star pupil, and perhaps considered as a potential rabbi, Spinoza never reached the advanced study of the Torah in the upper levels of the curriculum. Instead, at the age of 17, after the death of his elder brother, Isaac, he cut short his formal studies in order to begin working in the family importing business.
In 1653, at age 20, Spinoza began studying Latin with Frances van den Enden (Franciscus van den Enden), a notorious free thinker, former Jesuit, and radical democrat who likely introduced Spinoza to scholastic and modern philosophy, including that of Descartes. (A decade later, in the early 1660s, Van den Enden was considered to be a Cartesian and atheist, and his books were put on the Catholic Index of banned books.)
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