Baruch Spinoza

Eyridiki Sellou | Jul 2, 2023

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Baruch Spinoza (Dutch: ), born November 24, 1632 in Amsterdam and died February 21, 1677 in The Hague, was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Sephardic origin. He occupies an important place in the history of philosophy, his thought, belonging to the stream of modern rationalists, having had a considerable influence on his contemporaries and many later thinkers.

Spinoza came from a Marrano-Sephardic Portuguese Jewish family that fled the Iberian Inquisition to live in the more tolerant United Provinces. On July 27, 1656, he was hit by a herem (excommunication) from the Jewish community of Amsterdam. Living in Rijnsburg and then Voorburg before finally settling in The Hague, he earned his living by cutting optical lenses for spectacles and microscopes. He distanced himself from all religious practice, but not from theological reflection, thanks to his numerous interreligious contacts, nor from biblical studies, devoting himself to writing the Précis de grammaire de la langue hébraïque. He was frequently attacked because of his political and religious opinions, and his Theological-Political Treatise, in which he criticized the biblical text and defended the freedom to philosophize, was censored. He also had to give up publishing his magnum opus, the Ethics, during his lifetime. He died in 1677 of tuberculosis, his friends publishing his works.

In philosophy, Spinoza is, with René Descartes and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, one of the main representatives of rationalism. Critical heir of Cartesianism, Spinozism is characterized by an absolute rationalism leaving a place to intuitive knowledge, an equivalence of God with nature, and thus its existence, a definition of man by desire, for joy, a conception of freedom in necessity, a criticism of theological interpretations of the Bible leading to a secular conception of the relationship between politics and religion.

After his death, Spinozism had a lasting influence and was widely debated. Spinoza's work has a critical relationship with the traditional positions of the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Spinoza was often admired by his successors: Hegel made him "a crucial point in modern philosophy" - "The alternative is: Spinoza or no philosophy"; Nietzsche called him a "precursor", notably because of his refusal of teleology; Gilles Deleuze nicknamed him the "Prince of philosophers"; and Bergson added that "every philosopher has two philosophies: his own and Spinoza's".

Origins and beginnings

Baruch Spinoza was born on November 24, 1632 into a family belonging to the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam, at the time "the most beautiful and unique city in Europe". His maternal grandfather gave him his first name "Baruch", Bento in Portuguese, which he Latinized into Benedictus, "Benedict", and which means "blessed" in Hebrew.

At that time, the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam was composed of Jews expelled or refugees from the surrounding cities or countries, but mostly conversos, "new Christians" who were convinced but suspected, hesitant or forced - the latter being called marranos, i.e., Jews from the Iberian Peninsula who had been forcibly converted to Christianity, but who had for the most part secretly maintained some practice of Judaism (crypto-Judaism). Faced with the often fierce suspicion of the authorities, particularly the Inquisition, and a climate of intolerance towards converts, a certain number of them, voluntarily or by force, left the Iberian Peninsula and returned to Judaism when possible, as in the United Provinces (now the Netherlands) in the seventeenth century, a land reputed for its greater tolerance.

Spinoza's paternal lineage is likely to have been of Spanish origin, either from the area known in Castile and Leon as Espinosa de los Monteros, or from the area known as Espinosa de Cerrato, further south. The Spinosas were expelled from Spain in 1492, after Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile forced Muslims and Jews to become Christians or leave the kingdom, under the Alhambra Decree of March 31, 1492, a crucial year. The Spinozas decided to settle in Portugal, in exchange for payment on arrival by the Portuguese authorities, but they were soon forced to convert to Catholicism in order to remain in the country. Indeed, after the marriage of Manuel I of Portugal to Isabella of Aragon in 1497, the monarch also ordered the expulsion of the Jews from his country ("baptism or exile"). Nevertheless, in order not to deprive Portugal of the contribution of Jews who held important positions in society (doctors, bankers, merchants, etc.), he changed his mind and ordered forced baptisms on a Friday for the following Sunday: about one hundred and twenty thousand Jews were converted to Catholicism in a few days, and were now forbidden to emigrate. This decree was not relaxed until 1507, after the Lisbon massacre. The Spinozas and their co-religionists were able to live more or less peacefully in the country until the Inquisition really took hold on papal orders some forty years later.

Baruch's grandfather, Pedro, alias Isaac Rodrigues d'Espinoza, born in 1543, came from Lisbon and settled in Vidigueira, the birthplace of his wife, Mor Alvares, with whom he had three children, including Miguel Michael, the future father of the philosopher. Probably accompanied by his sister Sara and his own family, Pedro Isaac, "frightened by the inquisitorial arrests", left Portugal in 1587 to come to Nantes and join his brother Emanuel Abraham, the great-uncle of the future Baruch, who had already taken refuge there in 1593.) Pedro Isaac did not stay there, probably because Judaism was officially forbidden in Nantes and because there was a certain hostility towards the Marranos and frequently contrasting or even aggressive feelings towards the Portuguese (or the so-called Portuguese Jews). Apparently expelled from Nantes with his family and his brother Emanuel Abraham, at the same time as all the other Jews of the city, in 1615, Pedro Isaac went to Rotterdam in the United Provinces in what is now southern Holland, where part of the Portuguese Jewish diaspora was already living. He died there in 1627. At the time, the United Provinces were part of a group of places called "lands of freedom" or even "lands of Judaism", i.e. cities where Judaism was either unofficially tolerated or restricted (e.g., Amsterdam, Hamburg, Venice, Livorno or part of the Ottoman Empire (Smyrna, Salonika), where many Marranos and "new Christians", these upset Jews, took advantage of the situation to convert to their original religion.

Baruch's father, Miguel alias Michael, born in Vidigueira (Alentejo), Portugal, in 1588, was a well-known merchant in the import-export of dried fruit and olive oil, and an active member of the community (synagogue, charities and Jewish schools) which he helped to consolidate. Baruch's mother, Ana Debora Marques, married for the second time, also came from a Sephardic Jewish family of Spanish and Portuguese origin, and died when Baruch Spinoza was not yet six years old. As a teenager, he also lost his older half-brother, Isaac, and a little later his stepmother Ester who had raised him. Of his numerous siblings, Baruch will only keep his older sister Rebeca as an adult.

Their family home is located in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam (only two blocks from Rembrandt's house). It is a lovely merchant's house ("een vraay Koopmans huis" in Dutch) which adjoins the Portuguese synagogue of Neve Shalom, across from the Keter Torah synagogue, not far from the Beth Yakov synagogue, and overlooks the Houtgracht canal. This house is almost next to the house of Rembrandt, who must have met the young Baruch in the streets nearby and was inspired by the Jewish community for many of his paintings.

The Jews were fairly well tolerated for the time and integrated into Dutch society, which officially granted them the right to practice their religion privately in 1603 and, in 1614, by the Amsterdam authorities, the right to buy their first plot of land to build their cemetery, which had previously been relegated to Groet, 50 km from Amsterdam. This open social space was nicknamed "the New Jerusalem"; Jewish refugees flocked there from Antwerp, Germany and Poland.

Those of Portuguese origin speak Dutch with their fellow citizens, but use Portuguese as a vernacular and write in Spanish. As far as philosophical reflection is concerned, Spinoza wrote in Latin, as did almost all his European colleagues.


In addition to years of limited study, in order to quickly take care of the commercial affairs of the family home from the end of the 1640s, the young Spinoza attended the elementary Jewish school of his community, the Talmud Torah. There he acquired a good command of Hebrew (and some knowledge of Aramaic), from which he wrote his Précis de grammaire de la langue hébraïque at the end of his life. He then added to his knowledge of Portuguese, his mother tongue, that of "Castilian Spanish, a literary language, and Dutch, a language of commerce and law". Later, he also read German, French, Italian and ancient Greek.

His parents wanted him to become a rabbi, and it was under the guidance of Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira, a learned and haughty Venetian Talmudist, that, after the age of 10, Baruch deepened his knowledge of the written law and also gained access to medieval commentaries on the Torah (Rashi, Ibn Ezra) as well as to Jewish philosophy (Maimonides) within the Keter Torah Association, without, however, gaining access to the higher levels of Torah teaching programs.

Physically, he will be described later as a person with a harmonious body and a noble figure where his dark eyes and hair stand out.

When his father died in 1654, the young man was twenty-one years old; he fulfilled all the religious duties of the mourners in the synagogue, where he still made offerings, and took over the family business completely with his brother Gabriel under the name "Bento y Gabriel Despinoza", which would make him stop formal studies. After several legal disputes with his sister over his father's inheritance, he renounces it, except for his parents' bed, a large canopied ledikant (nl), which he will keep until his own end.

It was then that he decided to learn Latin from the former Jesuit and democrat Franciscus van den Enden, who opened him up to other knowledge such as theater, philosophy, medicine, physics, history or politics, and perhaps free love, which he advocated.

The exclusion (1656)

On July 27, 1656, Baruch Spinoza was 23 years old and was hit with a herem (he. חרם) - a term that can be translated as excommunication, banishment and anathema - that banished and cursed him for heresy, in a particularly violent and, rarely, final way, that is, for life. The document is signed by Rabbi Isaac Aboab da Fonseca.

Shortly before, a man even tried to stab Spinoza; wounded, he kept the coat with a hole in it, to remind himself that religious passion leads to madness. If the fact is not completely certain (there is no trace of the fact in the legal acts of the time), it is part of the legend of the philosopher.

Spinoza's exclusion was exceptionally severe, one of only two pronounced for life, but at that time, "exclusions" or "banishments" were commonplace in religious circles, even tolerant ones, and this exclusion was not the first crisis experienced by the Jewish community, which was affected by the heterodox and fragmented identity perceptions of these Jews who were frustrated within a somewhat liberal city. A few years earlier, his cousin, the convinced Uriel da Costa (a Portuguese philosopher who had taken refuge in Amsterdam) had circulated Proposals against Tradition in the community in 1616 and defied the authorities. Repentant, he had to undergo humiliating punishments (public flagellation) in order to be reinstated, punishments which the young Baruch attended. However, in 1624 he reaffirmed his ideas, which were again judged heretical by the Jewish and Christian communities, and committed suicide in 1640. The rationalist philosopher Juan de Prado, a friend of Spinoza's, was in turn expelled from the community in 1657 for having made similar remarks, and ended up in Antwerp.

It is difficult to know exactly what words or attitude sanctioned this exceptionally harsh herem against Spinoza, because no document mentions his thoughts at that precise moment; he was 23 years old and had not yet published anything. It is known, however, that at this time he attended the school of the republican philosopher and "libertine" Franciscus van den Enden, opened in 1652, where he learned Latin, discovered Antiquity, notably Terence, and the great thinkers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as Hobbes, Bacon, Grotius and Machiavelli. He then rubbed shoulders with heterodoxists of all denominations, notably collegians like Serrarius, and scholars who read Descartes, whose philosophy had a profound influence on him. It is probable that he professed, from that time on, that there is no God except "philosophically understood", that Jewish law is not of divine origin, and that it is necessary to seek a better one; such remarks were in fact reported to the Inquisition in 1659 by two Spaniards who had met Spinoza and Juan de Prado during a stay in Amsterdam. In any case, Spinoza seems to have welcomed this opportunity to free himself from a community whose beliefs he no longer really shared. There is no trace of any act of repentance aimed at reconnecting with it.

Construction of the work

After his expulsion from the Jewish community in 1656, Spinoza gave up his father's estate and business, and signed his letters as "Benedict" and "Benedictus Spinoza" or simply "B". It is likely that he studies philosophy at the University of Leiden and makes friendships there. He became a "philosopher-craftsman" and earned his living by cutting optical lenses for spectacles and microscopes, a field in which he acquired a certain fame but which only allowed him to live very humbly, in accordance with his character. Some of his friends, however, praised his generosity despite his great modesty.

Around 1660-1661, he moved to Rijnsburg in the Dutch municipality of Katwijk, an intellectual center for collegians, near the University of Leiden. There he was visited by Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society, with whom he later established a long and rich correspondence. In 1663, he left Rijnsburg for Voorburg in the suburbs of present-day The Hague, where he stayed with his Latin teacher and then with Daniel Tydeman, a painter and soldier, and tried his hand at painting himself. There he began to teach a student named Casearius the doctrine of Descartes. From these courses he drew The Principles of Descartes' Philosophy, the publication of which gave rise to a correspondence centered on the problem of evil with Willem van Blijenberg, a Calvinist merchant who would formulate objections to the Ethics and the Theological-Political Treatise. It is likely that the writing of two works preceded the publication of the Principles: the Treatise on the Reform of the Understanding (unfinished and published with the posthumous works) and the Short Treatise (published only in the 19th century).

In the 1660s, Spinoza was increasingly attacked as an atheist. If he was not sued, unlike some of his contemporaries, it was probably because he wrote in Latin and not in Dutch. In 1669, he was distressed by the death of his friend and disciple Adriaan Koerbagh, who was tried and condemned for having published a violent indictment of the Christian religion and who died in the jails of the Rasphuis. In this context of tension, he interrupted the writing of the Ethics to write the Theological-Political Treatise, in which he defended "the freedom to philosophize" and challenged the accusation of atheism. The work appeared in 1670, anonymously, and with a false place of publication. It provoked lively polemics, including from "open" minds like Leibniz, or from men whom Spinoza occasionally met privately, such as the members of the Calvinist entourage of Condé. For the latter, it is important to distinguish the new philosophy (Descartes, Hobbes) from Spinoza's more radical thinking. As for the Jewish religious authorities, they condemned the work - not very accessible because it was written in Latin and - refuted by the philosopher Balthazar (Isaac) Orobio de Castro.

From this time on, he wears a signet ring which he uses to mark his mail and which is engraved with the word "caute" (in Latin "prudently") placed Sub rosa.

In April 1671, at the request of the provincial synods, the Court of Holland ruled that an ordinance should be issued to prohibit the distribution of Spinoza's Treatise - which Christians continued to call "the Jew of Voorburg" - and other works deemed blasphemous, such as Hobbes' Leviathan. It also called for the prosecution of the authors and others responsible for the publication of these works. However, the states of Holland were reluctant to follow the court's decision and ban works written in Latin. It was not until 1674, after the fall of the regent de Witt, that the books in question were actually banned by the secular authorities.

The political context, with the French invasion, became even less favorable for Spinoza. The takeover of the United Provinces by William of Orange put a definitive end to a period of quasi-republican liberalism. After the assassination of the de Witt brothers (1672), Spinoza's indignation was such that he wanted to post a placard in the street against the murderers ("Ultimi Barbarorum" or "The Last of the Barbarians"), which his landlord would have dissuaded him from doing.

However, the philosopher, who left Voorburg for The Hague around 1670, did not leave the country; he only occasionally went to Utrecht or Amsterdam, which were less than forty kilometers from his home. Thus, in 1673, out of a concern for independence, he refused the invitation of the Elector Palatine who offered him a professorship at the University of Heidelberg in present-day Germany.

In 1675, Spinoza tried to publish the Ethics - but was reluctant to take the risks involved - and began to write the Political Treatise. His bold thinking earned him visits from admirers and personalities like Leibniz. Despite his image of an isolated ascetic, he always kept a network of friends and correspondents, including Lambert Van Velthuysen, who contradicted, at least partially, his reputation as a loner. It is for them, it seems, that he undertakes in these years the writing of a Precis of grammar of the Hebrew language, and it is them, in particular the doctor Lodewijk Meyer (en) and Jarig Jellesz, who publish his posthumous works: the Ethics, the most important one, and three unfinished treatises (the Treatise of the reform of understanding, the Political treatise and the Precis of grammar of the Hebrew language).

In poor health and despite a frugal lifestyle, he died at the age of 44 on February 21, 1677 in The Hague, where he had arrived alone at the age of 38.

When he died, his family was convinced that he had drawn his science from hell. He left a meager material legacy, but his library was rich in Latin works, and he took his manuscripts with him and had them published posthumously. His sister Rebeca kept only what she could not sell at the street market, from socks to curtains, and the sum of 160 pounds, the fruit of her work, which allowed her to settle a few debts left at the apothecary or the barber. Baruch Spinoza is buried in the Protestant section of the cemetery.

According to Conraad Van Beuningen, Spinoza's last words were: "I have served God according to the lights he gave me. I would have served him differently if he had given me others.

Theory of knowledge

Spinoza's speculative philosophy tries to be mostly deductive, and therefore also necessary. It is written more geometrico, i.e. "in the geometrical way": definitions, then axioms and postulates, and finally propositions including a statement, a demonstration and a possible scolie. It is developed according to logical sequences rigorously deduced from axioms and definitions that are not a priori but "constructive", and on a particular model of understanding of mathematics. Now, this choice is not at all "arbitrary" in the sense of "unmotivated": it is the result of a real reflection on the essence of knowledge, an essence linked with necessity. We must therefore begin by exposing the idea of knowledge in general in his philosophy, an idea of which we find elements above all in the Tractatus de intellectus emendatione (retranslated by Bernard Pautrat under the more literal title of Traité de l'amendement de l'intellect).

In his work, Spinoza uses a typology of modes of knowledge three times:

In the Treatise on the Reform of the Understanding, Spinoza distinguishes several species of perception:

By comparing certain forms of perception, we can get a better idea of what the fourth mode of perception is.

Hearsay perception (I) is the most uncertain form of perception: for example, we consider every day that we know our date of birth, even if we are not able to verify it.

Time and space are elements that are imprinted in the consciousness and remain there as long as they have not been contradicted by other experiences. Otherwise, we are in doubt. These experiences cannot offer us any certainty. This type of experience is called by Spinoza: experientia vaga. It is a simple enumeration of cases, an enumeration that has nothing rational about it, because it is neither a principle (and therefore cannot be seriously held to be true) nor an evidence.

These first two modes of perception have in common that they are "irrational", although they are useful for the conduct of the daily affairs of life. The mark of their irrationality is the uncertainty in which they plunge us, if we follow them. It is therefore necessary, as far as possible, that they do not play too decisive a role in the construction of knowledge. This is also why the Ethics will group these two first modes of perception into a single "kind of knowledge" which it will call "opinion" or "imagination".

Rational knowledge (III) has quite different procedures: far from isolating phenomena, it links them in a coherent sequence, according to the deductive order. This is what Descartes called "chains of reasons" (cf. Discourse on Method, II) or deduction. But, so to speak, what do we hang the first link of the chain of reasons on? If we leave it floating, it is then the door open to regress to infinity, which Spinoza refuses, like Aristotle in The Metaphysics ("We have to stop somewhere!"). If we attach it to another link of the chain already constructed, we form a logical loop (petitio principii), in other words, a contradiction. From then on, in order for the knowledge formed by the chain of reasons to be true (and not only coherent), it must depend on a given true idea, which will form its principle. The third mode of perception is thus a way to preserve and transmit the truth of a starting point (principle), but not to produce it.

This brings us to the necessity of the fourth mode.

It is an intuitive knowledge (IV). As Spinoza himself says: "habemus ideam veram" ("we have a true idea", Treatise on the Reform of the Understanding, §33). This true idea is that of God, who is "that which is in itself" (definition of substance in Ethics, I, Definition III). This is the absolute starting point necessary to all adequate knowledge, the original truth which is "the norm of itself and of the false" (Ethics, II, 43).

After the Treatise on the Reform of the Understanding, the degrees of knowledge, which became the "kinds of knowledge", were reduced from 4 to 3.

Gilles Deleuze gives these examples that illustrate the three kinds of knowledge present in the Ethics, each corresponding to a kind of life in its own right:

In the Short Treatise, this question is addressed in Book II, Chapter 1.

In the Ethics, it is also found in part II, proposition 40, schism 2.

Spinoza rejects the classical theory of truth according to which the truth of an idea is subordinated to the tangible. In this classical conception, truth is an extrinsic quality and is then defined by the adequacy of the idea with its ideat (its object) : truth is then adæquatio rei et intellectus. Spinoza will support his own conception of truth by a recourse to mathematics, a science in which truth is not subordinated to the existence of the object. Indeed, when a mathematician studies an object (a triangle, for example) and its properties (the sum of the angles of the triangle equals 180°), he does not ask himself if this object actually exists outside his mind which conceives it. Truth is thus no longer defined in relation to the object, but in relation to the understanding that produces knowledge.

For Spinoza, truth is an intrinsic quality of the idea and reveals itself of itself without any reference to its formal being: "Surely, as light makes itself known and darkness known, so truth is normative of itself and of the false" (Ethics II, Prop. 43, Scolia).

Spinoza is thus inspired by a part of the Cartesian theory of knowledge according to which the true idea has an intrinsic sign (the "clear and distinct" revealed by natural light, in Descartes), while breaking with the classical conception of the subordination of the idea to reality.

To simplify, we can identify three characteristics of the true idea in Spinoza:

Theory of being and beings

The first book of the Ethics, entitled "On God", opens with the definition of substance, God being reached only in the sixth definition. Substance is thus defined before God, but proposition 14 of the first part will show that there is only one substance in nature, and that it is God.

Substance is "that which is in itself and is conceived by itself, that is, that whose concept does not need the concept of another thing to be formed" (Ethics I, definition 3). Whereas Descartes conceived of an indefinite multiplicity of substances, Spinoza conceives of a single substance, absolutely infinite and made up of an infinity of attributes: God, that is, Nature (Deus sive natura). However, one should not think that the attributes are "effects" or "accidents" of the substance and that the latter expresses a certain transcendence with respect to them (Spinozism is an immanentism): the substance and the attributes are "the same thing" (Ethics I, Corollary 2, prop. 20), the attribute being the perception of the substance by the understanding. Man has access to only two attributes of substance : extent and thought, but there is an infinity of them.

Substance and attributes form what Spinoza calls naturating Nature, as opposed to naturated Nature, consisting of the infinite number of modes (modifications of substance) necessarily produced by God in himself (Ethics I, Schol. Prop. 29). Modes are thus ways of being of the substance, perceived under each of its attributes. A human being is for instance a body, i.e. a mode of extent, and a mind, i.e. a mode of thought, but for an infinite understanding, it is also something else than what a finite understanding can perceive. However, it is necessary to distinguish between infinite modes (immediate and mediate) and finite modes: immediate infinite modes are those which follow from the absolute nature of some attribute of God; mediate infinite modes are those which result mediately from the nature of an attribute of God, that is to say, from an attribute in so far as it is affected by an infinite modification. Motion is for example an immediate infinite mode of extent (Letter 64 to Schuller).

God is therefore Nature, the unique and infinite Substance. Only substance has (and also "is") the power to exist and act by itself. Everything that is finite, on the other hand, exists in and by something else, by which it is also conceived (definition of the mode). Substance has an infinite number of attributes (to a first approximation, an attribute is a mode of expression, a way of being perceived), of which only two are accessible to us: thought and extent. Every singular, finite thing is a mode, that is to say something that is at the same time "a part" of the whole and "an effect" of the substance. Every mode has therefore two aspects. On the one hand, the mode is only a determined part, engaged in external relations with all the other modes. But, on the other hand, every mode expresses in a precise and determined way the essence and absolute existence of God; it is in this sense that the mode is an affection of the substance. The difficulty is to understand that everything belongs simultaneously to all the (infinite) attributes of God.

For example, a stone is a physical body in space, but a stone is also an idea, the idea of this stone (and something else we do not know). An individual is a singular relation of movement and rest. For example, a cell, an organ, a living organism, a society, a solar system, etc. There are thus "imbricated" individuals. The supreme individual is the whole Nature, which does not change (its ratio of motion and rest is given by the laws of physics: these laws never change). To each individual, that is to say to each thing, corresponds therefore an idea. Now "the mind of a thing" is nothing else than "the idea of this thing". Socrates' mind is the idea of Socrates' body. So, everything has a spirit: this is Spinoza's animism. But there is a "hierarchy" between minds: a mind is all the richer for being the idea of a body that is "more composed" and more endowed with a large number of abilities to be affected and to act. This is why the mind of man is richer than the mind of a frog or a stone. Another consequence: having the idea of my body (being the idea of my body), I have "implicitly" or "virtually" also the idea of all the affections (modifications) of this body, and thus of the things that affect this body (for example the sun that I see), or more exactly of the modification that the sun causes in me. This is why our "sensation" of a thing reveals more the nature of our organism than that of the thing "in itself".

The essence of everything is an effort (conatus, desire) to persevere in its being, in the same way that the stone perseveres in its movement or the living being in life. This perseverance can be understood in a "static" sense (to persevere in one's state) or in a dynamic sense (to increase one's power or to decrease one's power), which is, undoubtedly, much more relevant. Each thing (mode, part) can be affected by the others. Among these affections, some modify our power to act: Spinoza then speaks of affect. If this affect increases our power, it manifests itself as joy, pleasure, love, gaiety, etc. If it decreases it, it is a form of power. If it decreases it, it is felt as sadness, pain, hatred, pity, etc. In other words, all joy is the feeling that accompanies the increase of our power, while all suffering is the feeling that accompanies its decline. Since everything strives to persevere in its being, there is no "death drive": death always comes from outside, by definition.

Although Spinoza's doctrine is based on a rationally constructed definition of God followed by a demonstration of his existence; although he also proposed a rational religion, Spinoza was commonly perceived as an atheist and irreligious author by his contemporaries, but he vigorously tried to oppose this perception, as can be seen in Letter 30 to Oldenburg, where he explains that one of the reasons for his plan to write the Theological-Political Treatise was to combat "the opinion of the vulgar" who saw him as an atheist, and Letter 43 to Jacob Osten, where, in response to the theologian Lambert van Velthuysen's criticism of this same Treatise once published (anonymously), he defends himself from the accusation of "surreptitiously teaching atheism through the back door" and where, concerning religion, he writes:

"To avoid falling into superstition, I would have overthrown the whole religion according to him. I don't know what he means by superstition and by religion. But I beg you, does it overthrow all religion to affirm that we must recognize God as the sovereign good, and love Him as such with a free soul? To believe that in this love consists our supreme happiness and our greatest freedom? That the reward of virtue is virtue itself, and that the punishment for folly and self-denial is precisely folly? All this I have not only said in express terms, but I have also demonstrated it with the most solid reasons.

However, Spinoza will remain reputed as an "atheist of system" by Pierre Bayle in his Dictionary, and Spinozism could be confused with libertinism. In the 18th century, the blasphemous work entitled Traité des trois imposteurs (Treatise of the three impostors) was even put back into circulation under the name of La Vie et l'esprit de M Benoit Spinoza (The life and mind of M Benoit Spinoza), in which Jean Maximilien Lucas, the supposed author of the work, apologized for Spinoza's exegetical method and considered this comparison between Spinoza's thought and the spirit of libertinism as a counter-sense.

From 1785 onwards, the debate was revived by the pantheism quarrel. The rationalism of the Enlightenment, considered by Jacobi as a heritage of Spinoza as well as of Leibniz and Wolff, was accused by the latter of necessarily leading to pantheism, doctrine affirming that "particular things are nothing if not affections of the attributes of God" and opposing, according to Jacobi, "the living God of biblical theism" while "the Spinozist substance, principle of death and not of life, which being everything, engulfing in itself all its determinations and leaving nothing outside of it, reduces itself to nothingness". For Jacobi, this would amount to a hidden atheism. After Mendelssohn, Herder intervenes in the controversy to defend Spinoza: "That he is not an atheist is clear from every page; the idea of God is for him the first of all and the last, one could say the only idea to which he attaches the knowledge of the world and of nature, the consciousness of himself and of everything around him". Hegel also refuted the qualification of Spinozism as atheism, considering that far from denying the existence of God, Spinoza would deny the existence of the world, which would make it an acosmism.

In the twentieth century, in France, atheism is no longer an accusation but a claim by commentators of Spinoza such as Althusser, Negri, Deleuze or Misrahi. These authors insist on the opposition between a transcendent conception of the divine and a naturalist or even materialist philosophy of immanence: God is not external to the world, but immanent to Nature, and is therefore nothing other than Nature. Similarly, man and society are not external to Nature: man should not be conceived as an "empire within an empire". In a 2017 exchange with Frédéric Lenoir, Robert Misrahi summarized his reasons for supporting Spinoza's "masked atheism": his motto was "Caute, méfie-toi," which was fully justified since he had already been the victim of an attempted murder with a dagger by a religious fanatic; then Spinoza did not respond to Velthuyssen's attacks criticizing in him the absence of a personal and creative god, he only replied that he could not be an atheist since he was not a libertine. Lenoir replies that if it is clear that Spinoza's God is neither personal nor creator of the world, as opposed to monotheistic religions, he would not have devoted the first part of his Ethics to God, this "absolutely infinite being" if he had wanted to hide his atheism. Lenoir reminds that the idea of God could not be reduced to the definition given by the Western monotheisms, nothing prevents to conceive an impersonal and immanent God to all things, "he does not believe in the representation that he judges infantile of the God to whom his fellow men give worship, but he thinks God as an infinite being, principle of reason and model of good life" what leads to "speak about "pantheism" rather than "theism"".

It should be noted that Martial Guéroult proposed the term panentheism to characterize Spinoza's position: "By the immanence of things to God is laid the first foundation of pantheism, or, more exactly, of a certain form of panentheism. It is not pantheism properly speaking, because not everything is God. Thus, the modes are in God, without being God at all, because, posterior to the substance, produced by it, and, as such, without common measure with it, they differ from it toto genere ". We can specify however that in Spinoza, God is as much "in" the modes as the modes are "in" God since according to Spinoza "the more we know the singular things, the more we know God."

In any case, Spinoza explicitly rejects any anthropomorphic conception of God, i.e. one that would conceive him in the image of a human "person". This rejection of anthropomorphism appears very early in his thought: it is explicit as soon as he writes the Appendix containing the metaphysical thoughts, which follows the exposition of Descartes' Principles of Philosophy: "It is improper that God is said to hate or love certain things."

The term parallelism is not found in Spinoza's own texts, but was imported retrospectively by his commentators (the term was first used by Leibniz in his Considerations on the doctrine of a universal mind).

We know that, for Spinoza, each individual is a body, mode of extension, and a mind, mode of thought; and this mind is the idea of the body. In virtue of the unity of the substance, there must be between each attribute an identity of order of modes (isomorphy) and an identity of connections (isonomy). There is thus correspondence between the affections of the body and the ideas in the mind. As a result, any body can be conceived under the mode of the extent and under the mode of the mind. For example, there must be a correspondence between the stone's mode of being extended and its mode of being in its mind. But Spinoza rejects any causality between these modes, since body and mind are one and the same thing perceived under two different attributes.

The term parallelism expresses this idea of correspondence without causal reciprocity, which allows Spinoza to confer equal dignity on the body and the mind: there is no devaluation of the body in favor of the mind.

This term of parallelism is nowadays criticized because of the dualism it induces and replaced by the term "proportion", which Spinoza uses. Maxime Rovere, in an article published in La Théorie spinoziste des rapports corps

Man and his passions

The conatus is the effort by which "each thing, as far as it is in itself, strives to persevere in its being" (Ethics III, Prop. 6). This effort "is nothing outside the actual essence of that thing" (Ethics III, Prop. 7).

The conatus is the expression of the power of a thing, or of an individual, insofar as the latter is conceived as being a finite mode, i.e. a part of the naturalized Nature. It is, therefore, necessarily confronted with an infinite number of external causes which will sometimes prevent its effort, sometimes allow it (Ethics IV, Prop. 4). In man, the conatus is nothing other than the desire that makes him naturally tend towards what seems good for him. Spinoza reverses a common conception of desire according to which man appeals to a thing because he judges it to be good: "what founds the effort, the will, the appetite, the desire, is not that one has judged a thing to be good; but, on the contrary, one judges a thing to be good by that very fact that one tends to it by the effort, the will, the appetite, the desire." (Ethics III, Prop. 9, scholia). What is primary for Spinoza is the idea and the desire - consciousness, for its part, contributes nothing to the appetite. Consciousness will not be, as in Descartes, the expression of the infinite will of man, but a simple reflection (which can be adequate but is not usually so) of the idea on itself. The body and the mind are only one and the same thing, perceived sometimes under the attribute "extent", sometimes under the attribute "thought". Each attribute being independent and self-conceived, the body can no more determine the mind to think than the mind can determine the body to move or to rest (consequence of parallelism, or of the unity of substance). The consciousness of effort is not an active reflection of the mind on the idea of effort, but a passive reflection of the idea of effort in the mind. Consciousness is often only an illusion, a dream forged with open eyes; the essence of man is his power (of body and mind, the mind being only the idea of the body).

The conatus translates into the maintenance and affirmation of being: maintaining the characteristic relationship of movement and rest between the parts of the body (maintenance of form) on the one hand, and increasing the number of ways in which the body can be affected by other bodies, and affect them in turn on the other (Ethics IV, Prop. 48 and 49).

Conatus plays a fundamental role in Spinoza's theory of affects. Desire is one of the three primary affects along with joy and sadness. When the effort, or appetite, is successful, the individual will move to a greater power, or perfection, and will be said to be affected by a feeling of joy; on the contrary, if his effort is prevented or thwarted, he will move from a greater to a lesser perfection and will be said to be affected by a feeling of sadness. The whole Spinozist theory of affects will thus be built on the principle of a continuous passage from a lesser perfection to a greater one, and vice versa, according to the success or failure of the conatus, itself determined by the encounter with the external finite modes and the resulting affections of the body.

Ethics and freedom

Spinoza's philosophy aims essentially at the constitution of a rational and intellectualist ethics. He describes it as the "way to freedom" (Ethics V, preface) but also to "beatitude" (idem). Described in particular in the Ethics, but also in the other works, Spinozism's ethics consists first of all in reconciling determinism and freedom. Such a conception goes against the belief in free will, which is, according to him, only based on the ignorance of the causes that determine us. It is demonstrated by a long path of thought.

For Spinoza, the natural right of each being is strictly correlative to the power of its nature. Natural laws" therefore only prevent what is impossible or contradictory, i.e. "unenforceable" or "undesirable" (Theological-Political Treatise, hereafter TTP, IV). Since everything strives to "persevere in its being" (conatus), it is a matter of becoming aware of this necessity in order to better strive to realize it. The means to achieve this is essentially reason and love of God, i.e. of Nature (Deus sive Natura). Freedom thus consists in the adequate knowledge of the causes of action. The more one knows the world, the more one knows God and consequently, the more one is joyful. Knowledge is thus not simply an introductory element to ethics: it is fully part of it.

By definition, any "effective" action is an adequate and complete idea which proceeds from the understanding, whereas any passion is an inadequate idea, because incompletely understood in the causes of its production, which proceeds from the imagination. This is why it is enough to take a thoughtful and adequate knowledge of a passion for it to become an action. Some passions can increase our power to act (for example, being cured by the action of a third party), but, on the other hand, all our actions increase our power to act. Now the goal of ethics is to become ever more active, i.e. to express the power of our understanding rather than that of the imagination. Moreover, our understanding is eternal, whereas the part of our mind that belongs to imagination and memory (incomplete ideas, linked to the empirical existence of things) perishes with the body.

In his famous letter to Schuller about freedom and determinism, where he uses the example of the movement of a stone, Spinoza writes "I do not locate freedom in a free decree, but in a free necessity". Freedom is thus opposed neither to necessity nor to natural determinism, as is the case for Kant who, in the Critique of Practical Reason, opposes "supra-sensible" or transcendental practical freedom to the empirical and natural chain of causes and effects.

Spinoza's ethical theory is in direct opposition to the idea that evil is the fruit of man's weakness or of a "defect in human nature", a weakness that is itself due to Adam's original sin and the Fall. Contrary to Saint Augustine (The City of God, book XXII), Spinoza does not consider that there are two states of human nature, one that precedes the Fall and the other that is post-fall. According to him, "it does not depend on us to be sane in mind as well as in body", since freedom is not opposed to determinism, and Adam had no more power to reason correctly than we do. The idea of "fall" is radically foreign to Spinozist ethics.

His conception of evil is developed in particular in the letters to Blyenbergh, or "letters of evil", which were commented on by Deleuze. Evil has no real ontological existence: just like error, from which it proceeds, it is nothing "positive". It is therefore a "negation" with respect to God, and only becomes a "privation" with respect to us. There is therefore no error, strictly speaking, there are only incomplete or inadequate ideas. Pure negativity, evil is lack of power and results from a hierarchy that we pose by imagination between the real being and an abstract ideal that we place on him. Thus, I say that the blind man is deprived of sight because I imagine him as having to be a seer (Letter XXI to Blyenbergh). In Letter XIX to Blyenbergh, Spinoza thus opposes head-on what some contemporary philosophers have called the divine command theory:

"But I do not agree that fault and evil are anything positive, much less that anything can be or happen against the will of God. Not content with affirming that fault is nothing positive, I also affirm that we speak improperly and anthropomorphically when we say that man commits a fault towards God or that he offends God."

Indeed, according to him, "everything in nature, considered in its essence and perfection, envelops and expresses the concept of God" (TTP, IV): thus, the fool who acts according to his passions is just as "perfect" as the wise man who acts in conformity with reason. One can therefore only speak of the imperfection of the foolish by comparing him with other realities, believed to be superior (for example the wise man). Evil is therefore only a deprivation from the point of view of "our understanding", but it is nothing from the point of view of the divine understanding. For example, we judge a man to be evil, or affirm that he is deprived of something (goodness, wisdom...) because we compare this man to a general concept of man, to which he seems to be lacking:

"Humans, in fact, have the habit of gathering all individuals of the same kind, for example, all those who have the external appearance of man; they give the same definition for all these individuals and judge that all of them are fit to realize the highest perfection, which can be deduced from this definition. On the other hand, God knows nothing abstractly, nor does he form general definitions."

This conception of freedom and evil was often misunderstood by his contemporaries who could not conceive that man's responsibility could be preserved if free will were taken away from him: thus, Blyenbergh wrote to him: "If man is such as you say, this is tantamount to declaring that the ungodly honor God by their works as much as the pious. If God, indeed, has no knowledge of evil, it is much less believable that he should punish evil. What reasons are there, then, to keep me from greedily committing any crime, as long as I escape the judge? Virtue, you will say, must be loved for its own sake. But how can I love virtue? I have not received such a great quantity of essence and perfection" (Letter XX). Spinoza has often defended himself against this objection: he thus answers Schuller's argument, who insinuates that such a theory would make "any crime" excusable, by referring him to the Appendices containing the metaphysical thoughts:

"It will be asked again: Why are the ungodly punished, since they act by their nature and according to divine decree? I answer that it is also by divine decree that they are punished, and if only those whom we imagine to be sinning in virtue of their own freedom are to be punished, why do men want to exterminate poisonous snakes? for they sin because of their own nature and cannot do otherwise."

Similarly, in letter 78 to Oldenburg, he writes:

"What I said in my previous letter, that we are inexcusable before God because we are in God's power like clay in the potter's hand, must be understood in the sense that no one can reproach God because God has given him a weak nature or a soul without vigor. For it would be absurd for the circle to complain because God has not given it the properties of the sphere. But, you insist, if men sin by a necessity of nature, they are therefore excusable. (...) Do you mean that God cannot be angry with them or that they are worthy of beatitude, that is, worthy of having the knowledge and love of God? If it is in the first sense I grant it entirely: God is not angry, everything happens according to his decree. But I do not see that this is a reason for all to attain to beatitude: men, in fact, can be excusable and yet deprived of beatitude and suffer torments of many kinds. A horse is excusable for being a horse and not a man. Whoever becomes enraged by the bite of a dog, must be excused in truth and yet has the right to strangle him. And who, finally, cannot govern his desires, nor restrain them by the fear of the laws, although he must be excused on account of his weakness, yet cannot enjoy peace of soul, knowledge and love of God, but necessarily perishes."

It is therefore not necessary to presuppose free will, moral responsibility conceived in the "judicial" sense, and consequently also guilt, in order to apply a punishment. But, and in this Kant will agree with Spinoza, whoever refrains from a crime for fear of punishment cannot be said to be "acting morally" (Letter XXI). On the other hand, the Ethics is indeed a path to wisdom, which is in principle addressed to all: nobody is, in principle, excluded from this possibility of "redemption". All these prejudices, according to Spinoza, come from an anthropomorphic conception of God, which considers him as a "person", who would hate or love this or that, or who would be there to judge us (or, like Moses, who represented him "as a ruler, a lawgiver, a king, although all these attributes belong only to human nature and are far removed from the divine" (TTP, IV). This is why Deleuze says that existence, for Spinoza, is not a judgment, but a test, an experiment.

Moreover, it should be noted that, if Nature is determined in a necessary way, Spinoza distinguishes between two meanings of the word "laws": on the one hand, there are natural laws, and on the other hand, positive law or civil laws, which men voluntarily give to themselves (TTP, IV). Now, insofar as natural law expresses the nature of each being, it does not disappear in civil society (see below: political theory).

Politics and religion

In the Theological-Political Treatise, the only substantial work published during his lifetime, Spinoza shows how many theological assertions of churches and religions are, in fact, political positions that have nothing to do with the biblical text. He relies on the writings of Abraham ibn Ezra and takes up the reading of the Bible in its entirety; he proposes a new method of reading it, which requires that the text be explained only by the text itself, without substituting more or less "free" interpretations. That is to say that, in case of incomprehension of the reader, or of obscurity of the text, or of contradiction of this one, it is necessary to go to seek in the remainder of the text, of other passages likely to throw light on that which one seeks to understand. In other words: the answer is in the text, and must not be sought in the reader's imagination. Any interpretation is forbidden. It is a matter of learning to read the text, respecting the entire text, which necessarily contains the answer sought.

Spinoza thus revolutionizes the understanding of sacred texts by directly opposing Maimonides (and Averroes). Indeed, the latter explain that if the Scriptures contradict reason, then they must be interpreted, that is to say, from the literal meaning to the figurative meaning. But Spinoza considers that Scripture is above all a historically dated account, intended for the Hebrews of the time. It is therefore essential to conduct a historical-critical investigation in order to find the original meaning of the text. To do this, it is necessary to know the ancient Hebrew, the historical context, and the psychology of the actors. Thus: "All knowledge of the scripture must therefore be drawn from it alone, and not from an anachronistic comparison with the results of science.

If the text of the Bible can only agree with reason, its obscurities and contradictions must be dissipated by a meticulous study and a careful reading of the text which will forbid its reader to transform it by interpreting it, a reader who will therefore forbid himself to reinvent it according to the needs of the moment.

Spinoza, like Hobbes before him, gives a critical demonstration of the evils of the use of religion, i.e. of men's beliefs, by political powers, which thus lead their subjects to obediently follow their decisions and accomplish their projects, even the worst ones. Religion - religious belief - is thus the surest and easiest way to make men do what suits the power, even if it means making them do what is most harmful to themselves, and most shameful. But they do not realize this, and believing that they are doing good and contributing to the salvation of their souls, they do exactly the opposite, deceived as they are by political speeches which take the form of religious injunctions and promises.

After this theory of religious illusion (for Spinoza it would not make sense to say that all religious belief is in essence illusory) and of the interest of any power in maintaining it, Spinoza completes the analysis of the theological with an analysis of the political, explaining the principles of good political organization and the relationship that religion and politics must have in order to allow peace. As Hobbes had already theorized before him, in Leviathan, religion must be subject to the common laws, which apply to it as to all, subject to the State and to political power, and it must concern itself only with the government of souls and with teaching goodness and morality, that is, the practice of justice and charity.

Then he can develop, which is the aim of the book, a political theory of freedom, showing how it is framed by laws; then Spinoza argues how freedom of thought and opinion is entirely good and must be fully recognized by the state. First, the recognition of the freedom to believe and think freely granted to everyone is the condition for the end of religious conflicts. Secondly, this freedom is entirely good and not likely to harm the state - if the right division of labor is realized between religious and political authorities - the freedom to believe and opine can be granted without any restriction, except for what is incitement to hatred and therefore likely to harm the state. Freedom of thought must be protected by the state as a condition of civil peace. The freedom "granted" cannot "really" harm the State under these conditions.

This constitutes a theory of democracy and a total invalidation of any form of dictatorship, that delusional power which claims to go beyond its power. Indeed, "no one has the power to command tongues" since men themselves cannot control what they say, so it is the same for power. If power cannot control tongues (which speak beyond the control of the speaking subject), it cannot control thoughts. The State, in fact, does not govern all areas of human life, as civil laws cannot be extended to all activities: "human nature cannot bear to be constrained absolutely" (chap. V), and "to want to govern everything by laws is to make men evil" (chap. XX).

That is why "no one can give up the freedom to judge and to think; each one is master of his own thoughts". It is a right that everyone has by nature.


Spinoza is the author of a Precis de grammaire de la langue hébraïque, unfinished and published by his executors in 1677. This text of about one hundred pages is an essay on the descriptive grammar of Hebrew, composed in Latin and published posthumously in 1677. It deals essentially with the phonology and morphology, especially verbal, of biblical Hebrew. The part on syntax, announced by Spinoza, is lost. This text, which has long baffled interpreters, has only appeared in a French edition of Spinoza's works since 2022, when it was added to the Spinoza volume of the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.

Biblical exegesis

Spinoza was, officially and financially, a polisher of astronomical glasses. But it is impossible for us today, or at least extremely complex, to know if he is the author of original glass polishing techniques or if he is responsible for any technological evolution in astronomy.

Spinoza was both a "cursed thinker", described as a "dead dog" by Moses Mendelssohn in a letter to Lessing, and an acclaimed thinker, especially by Hegel and Bergson. In the second half of the twentieth century, the revival of Spinozist studies was marked by works such as Alexandre Matheron's (Individu et communauté chez Spinoza, 1969), Gilles Deleuze's (Spinoza et le problème de l'expression in 1968, and the more accessible Spinoza: philosophie pratique of 1981), Pierre Macherey's (Hegel ou Spinoza, Maspero, 1977), and Toni Negri's (L'Anomalie sauvage: Puissance et pouvoir chez Spinoza, 1982), and more recently by the works of Franck Fischbach (La production des hommes: Marx avec Spinoza, 2005), André Tosel (Spinoza ou l'autre (in)finitude, 2008), Chantal Jaquet, Pascal Sévérac and Ariel Suhamy (La multitude libre, nouvelles readings du Traité politique, éditions d'Amsterdam 2008), Frédéric Lordon (Imperium - Structures et affects des corps politiques, La Fabrique, 2016). The question of Spinoza's anti-Judaism from his writings, especially in the Ethics, is still the subject of controversy. For authors like Henry Méchoulan, it is indeed the Old Testament, and thus Judaism, that is specifically targeted more than other religions.

Gilles Deleuze called him the "Prince of philosophers", while Nietzsche called him a "precursor", in particular because of his refusal of teleology. According to Hegel, "Spinoza is a crucial point in modern philosophy. The alternative is: Spinoza or no philosophy Spinoza establishes the great principle: "All determination is negation." The determinate is the finite; yet it can be shown that everything, including thought is a determinate, contains a negation; its essence rests on negation." Alain Billecoq, taking up Pierre Bayle's words, describes Spinoza as a "virtuous atheist".

In social and political sciences

The revival of Spinoza studies has often been marked by its cross-reading with Karl Marx and the insistence on his "materialism". The immanent character of his philosophy and his thinking of the social as trans-individual allow us to question the postulates of methodological individualism. Moreover, against the theory of the social contract still often put forward, the reference in the Political Treatise to the "organization of the free multitude united by common affects" offers new bases for thinking about the constitution of the State.

There have been discussions about the place of women in his thought. In the unfinished Political Treatise, Spinoza denies women access to political space. Yet, by separating power from power, Spinoza emphasized the appropriation of women by men and their exclusion from both domains. This theme remains ambiguous and only a few specialists speak about it.

In the humanities

Many books are now published to make Spinoza's philosophy a wisdom that brings joy and happiness, neglecting the fact that Spinoza was in favor of a deep knowledge of one's own affects, which distinguished him from the ancient philosophers and Descartes who advocated only the individual's mastery of his passions. In the preface to the fifth part of the Ethics, the philosopher shows irony towards his French colleague who described the functioning of the pineal gland in order to dominate the passions of the soul. Thus, psychoanalysis can be considered as the discipline that has most extended Spinoza's philosophy when it comes to the affects.

On the mind-body problem

Against dualism and the theory of psychophysical interaction, inherited from Cartesianism, Spinoza is invoked today as a model and a reference to shed light on the problem of the relationship between body and mind.

Rereadings of the Spinozist system

The recent reflection on the importance of scientific models of rationality in Spinoza's philosophy renews our understanding of his key ideas. The mathematical research of the 17th century, on the one hand, but also the theoretical principles of physics discussed in the 17th century, on the other hand, offer perspectives on what Spinoza expects from a renewal of ethics, revisited by the ideal of scientific rationality.

Maxime Rovere and David Rabouin have proposed new approaches to Spinoza's work, one through a new translation of his correspondence and a monograph where the notion of system is replaced by that of plural, heterogeneous and local methods; the other by adapting the system to a formalism that no longer borrows from Euclid, but from Riemann.

Spinoza in art and culture

Spinoza has been used as a fictional character in several novels, including: the Spinoza fucks Hegel trilogy (Spinoza fucks Hegel in 1983, A Sec! in 1998 and Avec une Poignée de Sable in 2006) by Jean-Bernard Pouy; Le Plus Grand Philosophe de France (2014) by Joann Sfar. He is also featured in Irvin Yalom's The Spinoza Problem (2012, transl. fr. 2014). In 2017, he is still the main character in the historical novel Le Clan Spinoza (Paris, Flammarion), by Maxime Rovère.

Spinoza's portrait appeared on the Dutch 1000 guilder (duizend gulden) banknotes from 1972 to 2002. The Spinoza Prize has been awarded annually since 1995 to outstanding scientists who conduct their research activities on Dutch soil. It is the highest Dutch award in terms of scientific prizes or "Dutch Nobel Prize".

Many streets or avenues bear his name: rue Spinoza in Paris (XIth), in Choisy-le-Roi (94600), in Ivry-sur-Seine (94200), in Émerainville (77184), in Vernouillet (28500) or in Limoges (87100), and among others in Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Utrecht (Netherlands), in Dublin (Ireland), in Berlin or Hanover (Germany), Rua Bento Espinoza in Vidigueira! in Vienna (Austria), in Rome, Milan or Syracuse (Italy), in Tel Aviv, Richon LeTsion, Ra'anana or Herzliya (Israel), in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana or Virginia (USA), in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), in Mount Lawley (Australia).

The asteroid (7142) Spinoza is named in honor of Baruch Spinoza.


  1. Baruch Spinoza
  2. Baruch Spinoza
  3. On retrouve pour son prénom les formes Baruch, Bento et Benedictus, et pour son nom les formes Spinoza, Spinosa, de Spinoza, de Espinosa ou d'Espinoza (cette dernière forme se trouve par exemple sur sa signature : voir signature de Spinoza (1671)).
  4. Prononciation en français de France standardisé retranscrite selon la norme API
  5. Prononciation en néerlandais standard retranscrite selon la norme API
  6. a et b « Les juifs du Portugal étaient à plus de 80 % des juifs espagnols expulsés en 1492, dont la majorité crut trouver refuge au Portugal », Lionel Levy, La Nation juive portugaise, Livourne, Amsterdam, Tunis, 1591-1951, L'Harmattan, 2000.[1]
  7. Marianne Schaub (1985). Η Φιλοσοφία, από τον Γαλιλαίο ως τον Ζ.Ζ.Ρουσσώ, τόμος Β'. Γνώση. σελίδες 137–138.
  8. Spinoza, 1955, Μέρος 3, Πρότ. 2
  9. Μολύβας, 2000, 42
  10. ^ However, Spinoza has also been interpreted as a defender of the coherence theory of truth.[3]
  11. ^ Baruch Spinoza is pronounced, in English, /bəˈruːk spɪˈnoʊzə/;[15][16][17] in Dutch, [baːˈrux spɪˈnoːzaː]; and, in Portuguese, [ðɨ ʃpiˈnɔzɐ]. He was born Baruch Espinosa.[9] His given name, Baruch, which means "Blessed", varies among different languages. In most of the documents and records contemporary with Spinoza's years within the Jewish community, his name is given as the Portuguese Bento.[18][19][20] In Hebrew, his full name is written ברוך שפינוזה‎. Later, as an author and correspondent, he was known both in Latin and in Dutch, the languages of his writings, as Benedictus de Spinoza, his preferred name also of his signature, with the first name sometimes anglicized as Benedict.
  12. ^ Portugees-Israëlietische Gemeente te Amsterdam (Portuguese-Israelite commune of Amsterdam)
  13. En su «Introducción» a B. Spinoza, Correspondencia, Madrid, 1988. ISBN 84-206-0305-8, pp. 24-26, el especialista en Spinoza Atilano Domínguez informa sobre las diferentes teorías sobre el origen del filósofo y de su familia; entre otras, menciona (p. 25 y siguientes) de la de Salvador de Madariaga, que sostuvo en 1977 la tesis aludida del origen burgalés de la familia de Spinoza: «aunque vio la luz en Ámsterdam..., Benito Espinosa era oriundo de Espinosa de los Monteros... El disfraz que se le ha echado sobre su preclaro nombre –supresión de la E inicial, sustitución de la S por la Z y hasta ese “Baruch”, hebreo de Benito– no parece haberse debido a iniciativas suyas, sino al celo de los eruditos que en todas partes han procurado des-hispanizar a los prohombres que llevaban su nombre con garbo de Castilla. Su familia, que siempre se da como portuguesa, era española: tan española, que lo hizo educar en la escuela judeo-española de Ámsterdam, cuyo vehículo para la enseñanza era el español. Su lengua y su biblioteca españolas eran». Salvador de Madariaga, «Benito de Espinosa», en Museo Judío, núm. 132, p. 137, 1977.
  14. a b La transcripción del original es como sigue: 5416Notta do Ḥerem que se publicou de Theba em 6 de Ab, contra Baruch espinoza.Os SSres. Do Mahamad fazem saber a V[ossas] M[erce]s como a diaz q[ue], tendo noticia das mâs opinioins e obras de Baruch de Espinoza, procurarão p[or] differentes caminhos e promessas reira-lo de seus máos caminhos, e não podendo remedia-lo, antes pello contrario, tendo cada dia mayores noticias das horrendas heregias que practicava e ensinava, e ynormes obras q[eu] obrava, tendo disto m[ui]tas testemunhas fidedignas que depugerão e testemunharão tudo em prezensa de ditto Espinoza, de q[ue] ficou convensido; o qual tudo examinado em prezensa dos Ssres. Hahamim, deliberarão com seu parecer que ditto Espinoza seja enhermado e apartado da nação de Israel, como actualmente o poin em herem, com o herem seguinte: “Com sentença dos Anjos, com ditto dos Santos, nos enhermamos, apartamos e maldisoamos e praguejamos a Baruch de Espinoza, com consentim[en]to de todos esta K[ahal] K[adoš], diante dos santos Sepharim estes, com os seis centos e treze preceitos que estão escrittos nelles, com o herem que enheremou Jahosuah a Yeriho, com a maldissão q[eu] maldixe Elisah aos mossos, e com todas al maldis[s]õis que estão escrittas na Ley. Malditto seja de dia e malditto seja de noute, malditto seja em seu deytar e malditto seja em seu levantar, malditto elle em seu sayr e malditto elle em seu entrar; não quererá A[donai] perdoar a elle, que entonces fumeará o furor de A[donai] e seu zelo neste homem, e yazerá nelle todas as maldis[s]õis as escrittas no libro desta Ley, e arrematará A[donai] a seu nome debaixo dos ceos e apartalo-a A[donai] para mal de todos os tribus de Ysrael, com todas as maldis[s]õis do firmamento as escritas no libro da Ley esta. E vos os apegados com A[donai], vos[s]o D[eu]s, vivos todos vos oje”. Advirtindo que ning[u]em lhe pode fallar bocalm[en]te nem p[or] escritto, nem dar-lhe nenhum favor, nem debaixo de tecto estar com elle, nem junto de quatro covados. Nem leer papel algum feito ou escritto p[or] elle.[…] E para que conste a todos o que a pas[s]ado sobre isto, hordenarão os S[eño]res do Mahamad, por todos sete botos, se fize[s]e termo deste cazo neste livro, firmado de todos: Joseph de los Rios, J. Slomo Abrabanel, Ishac Belmonte, Jaacob Barzilay, Abraam Pereyra, Abraham Pharar, Abraham Nunes Henriques, Saul Levy Mortera, Ischac Abuab, Binjamin Mussaphia, Semuel Salom, Dor Efraim Bueno, Immanuel Israel Dias, Izak Bueno, David Osorio, Abraham Telles.
  15. a b c d e f g h i j k Las siglas comunes que se usan para referirse a los libros de Spinoza, fueron señaladas por Atilano Domínguez en su traducción del Tratado de la reforma del entendimiento y otros textos (2006, Alianza Editorial, p. 7), donde las explica de la siguiente manera: «CM = Cogitata metaphysica; E = Ethica; Ep = Epistolae; TIE = T. de Intellectus Emendatione; KV = Korte Verhandeling (Tratado breve); PPC = Principia philosophiae cartesianae. Igualmente, para las dos versiones de sus obras póstumas: OP = Opera posthuma […]; NS = Nagelate schriften […]. Finalmente, […] TTP [ = T. theologico-politicus]».
  16. El 25 de febrero de 1677, sus restos fueron llevados al sitio, donde fueron enterrados cerca de la tumba de Johan de Witt. No podía darse en el cementerio judío de La Haya, por el cherem que se le había impuesto. En el verano de 1956, doscientos setenta y nueve años después, sus seguidores erigieron una lápida sepulcral detrás de la iglesia con un retrato de Spinoza. Debajo del mismo se esculpieron dos palabras, una en latín («caute») y otra en hebreo («עַמך», amcha). Esta última significa «tu gente», término dispuesto por Georg Herz-Shikmoni ―representante de la comunidad judía de Ámsterdam―, una señal de que el filósofo era reconocido, nuevamente, como parte de dicho pueblo. La inscripción latina en la losa de piedra dispuesta enfrente de la lápida dice lo siguiente: «Terra hic Benedicti de Spinoza in Ecclesia Nova olim sepulti ossa tegit». Lo que se puede traducir así: «La tierra alberga en este lugar los restos de Benedicto Spinoza, sepultado con anterioridad en la Iglesia Nueva».
  17. «Poder no existir es impotencia, y, por contra, poder existir es potencia» (E, I, p11, dem.)

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