Spinoza: The Way to Wisdom

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Purdue University Press, 1996 - Philosophy - 291 pages
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The philosophy of Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) is an unusual,highly original, and influential reaction to the transition of Western cultureto the modern age. According to Spinoza, modern scientific thinking, if thoughtthrough, leads to a denial of humanity as the center of creation, willed by apersonal God. It is Spinoza who first formulated a philosophy which shows thatmodern scientific thinking, and the modern metaphysical view of humanity andthe world that it gives rise to, does not have to lead to despair. He understoodthat engaging seriously in detached philosophical thinking could lead to anunexpected form of intellectual salvation.

De Dijn's comprehensive introduction to Spinoza's philosophyis based on two key texts. He first provides an in-depth analysis of Spinoza's Treatise on the Improvement of theUnderstanding, which De Dijn characterizes as his introduction tophilosophy. This notoriously difficult text is here made accessible, even inits details. This analysis is followed by a comprehensive survey of Spinoza'smetaphysics as presented in his famous Ethics. De Dijn demonstrates howSpinoza's central philosophical project as introduced in the Treatise - thelinkage of knowledge and salvation - is perfectly realized in the Ethics. In thisway the unity of Spinoza's thought is shown to consist in his preoccupationwith the ethical question of salvation. The book also containsintroductory chapters on Spinoza's life and work, the original Latin text ofthe Treatise and its new English translation by Edwin Curley, and an annotatedbibliography on the secondary literature.

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About the author (1996)

Herman De Dijne is the president of the international philosophical association Vereniging Het Spinozahuis. He has written extensively on Spinoza and is the author of several books and articles on the philosophy of contemporary culture.

Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam, the son of Portuguese Jewish refugees who had fled from the persecution of the Spanish Inquisition. Although reared in the Jewish community, he rebelled against its religious views and practices, and in 1656 was formally excommunicated from the Portuguese-Spanish Synagogue of Amsterdam and was thus effectively cast out of the Jewish world. He joined a group of nonconfessional Christians (although he never became a Christian), the Collegiants, who professed no creeds or practices but shared a spiritual brotherhood. He was also apparently involved with the Quaker mission in Amsterdam. Spinoza eventually settled in The Hague, where he lived quietly, studying philosophy, science, and theology, discussing his ideas with a small circle of independent thinkers, and earning his living as a lens grinder. He corresponded with some of the leading philosophers and scientists of his time and was visited by Leibniz and many others. He is said to have refused offers to teach at Heidelberg or to be court philosopher for the Prince of Conde. During his lifetime he published only two works, The Principles of Descartes' Philosophy (1666) and the Theological Political Tractatus (1670). In the first his own theory began to emerge as the consistent consequence of that of Descartes (see also Vol. 5). In the second, he gave his reasons for rejecting the claims of religious knowledge and elaborated his theory of the independence of the state from all religious factions. After his death (probably caused by consumption resulting from glass dust), his major work, the Ethics, appeared in his Opera Posthuma, and presented the full metaphysical basis of his pantheistic view. Spinoza's influence on the Enlightenment, on the Romantic Age, and on modern secularism has been tremendous.

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