Baruch (Benedict de) Spinoza (1632-1677) is considered the earliest modern philosopher. He was born in Amsterdam to a Portuguese Jewish family who had fled to the Netherlands, escaping the persecutions of the Catholic Inquisition. He was excommunicated from the Jewish community of Amsterdam at age twenty-four probably for holding radical views on the immortality of the soul.
Ethics and On the Improvement of the Understanding (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)by Benedict de Spinoza
Spinoza's commitment to the search for a comprehensive understanding of all things inspired
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Baruch Spinoza places freedom as the ultimate aim and central value of the life well lived. His philosophy is marked by the most thorough going naturalism of any of its period, so much so that a number of its central tenets remain a matter of lively debate today.
Spinoza's commitment to the search for a comprehensive understanding of all things inspired Einstein. Furthermore, discoveries in the neurosciences in the early twenty-first century provide evidence that Spinoza's biological understanding of the emotions may also have been essentially on target. It was upon this prescient naturalistic scientific foundation that Spinoza developed a new approach to ethics. Perhaps the most important heirs to Spinoza's thought are Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, but the Radical Enlightenment has recently been laid largely at his feet.
Nevertheless, Spinoza's last words in the Ethics sound a note of caution and perhaps even of warning: "All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare." Time, however, is finally catching up with Spinoza and the journey through his philosophy is well worth the effort, as his views now more than ever capture the contemporary scientific imagination and ethical sensibility.
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