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Dutch philospher and Biblical critic; born at Amsterdam Nov. 24, 1632; died at The Hague Feb. 21, 1677. The family name is derived from the town of Espinosa, in Leon, not far from the city of Burgos. Baruch's grandfather, Abraham Michael de Spinoza, was one of the leaders of the Sephardic community of Amsterdam, being president thereof in 1639. His father, Michael de Spinoza, was a merchant who married twice, and had three children—two daughters, Miriam and Rebekah, by his first wife, who died in 1627, and a son, the philosopher, by his second wife, Hannah Deborah, who died in 1638. Miriam married a brother of Simon de Caceres.

Spinoza was trained at the communal school, and at the Pereira yeshibah, over which Isaac de Fonseca Aboab, Manasseh ben Israel, and Saul Morteira presided. There he studied, from eight to eleven in the morning and from two to five in the afternoon, Hebrew, Bible, Talmudic literature, and, toward the end of his course, some of the Jewish philosophers, certainly Maimonides, Gersonides, and Ḥasdai Crescas. It was probably during this period that he studied also Abraham ibn Ezra's commentaries. The amount of his cabalistic knowledge is somewhat doubtful, but both Manasseh ben Israel and Morteira were adepts in Cabala. Spinoza was attracted by the atmosphere of free thought characteristic of the Dutch capital. He learned Latin, immediately after leaving school, from Franz van den Ende, an adventurer and polyhistor who had established himself in Amsterdam; under him he studied as well mathematics, physics, mechanics, astronomy, chemistry, and the medicine of the day. Spinoza likewise acquired a knowledge of the scholasticism developed in the school of Thomas Aquinas.

Epoch-making for the development of Spinoza's thought was his acquaintance with the works of Descartes, who led Europe in the attempt to found a philosophy based upon reason, not tradition. But the application of such an idea to Judaism could only be disastrous, and shortly after leaving the Pereira yeshibah rumors became persistent that young Spinoza had given utterance to heretical views, such as had led Uriel Acosta and Orobio de Castro into trouble. It would appear that no action was taken during the life of Spinoza's father, who died March 28, 1654, and there is evidence that Baruch was "called up to the Law" in synagogue on Dec. 5, 1654, offering a small sum as a "mi sheberak."It is recorded that his relatives disputed his claim to any share in his father's estate, and that he found it necessary to resort to legal proceedings, or the threat of them, to secure his rights; but, having obtained them, he took possession only of the best bed as a kind of heirloom.

This was probably after his heretical views had been formally ascertained, according to rabbinical law, by two of his companions, who put questions to him which elicited his opinion that, according to the Scripture, angels were merely fantoms, that the soul is identified in the Bible with life and is regarded as mortal, and that in calling God "great" the Scripture attributes to Him extension, that is, body. This last statement is of considerable interest in view of Spinoza's later philosophic doctrines on this point. He was summoned before the bet din, and seems to have made no concealment, of his views; it is claimed that his teacher Morteira offered him, on behalf of the congregation, a pension of 1,000 florins a year provided he would not give public utterance to his heretical views. This Marano expedient was refused, and the congregation proceeded to his formal excommunication on July 27, 1656, which was regularly reported to the Amsterdam magistrates. This latter action shows that the main object of the excommunication was to disa vow on the part of the community any participation in Spinoza's pernicious views, and was a natural precaution on the part of a set of men only recently released from persecution on account of their opinions and only half trusting in the toleration of the authorities of the land. At the same time there is no doubt that considerable feeling was aroused by Spinoza's views, and it is reported that a fanatical Jew even raised a dagger against him as he was leaving either the synagogue or the theater. Freudenthal suggests that this happened during an altercation with Spinoza himself.

Friends and Disciples.

Spinoza was thus cast out at the age of twenty-three from all communion with men of his own faith and race, and there is no evidence of his coming into communication with a single Jewish soul from that time to his death (the "I. O." among his correspondents, formerly assumed to be Isaac Orobio, turned out to be Jacob Oosten). It is clear that Spinoza had already formed a circle of friends and disciples, mainly of the Mennonite sect known as Collegiants, whoso doctrines were similar to those of the Quakers; and that he had attended a philosophical club composed mainly of these sectaries, one of whom, Simon de Vries, acted as secretary. After his excommunication Spinoza found it desirable to take up his abode with a Collegiant friend who lived two or three miles outside of Amsterdam on the Ouderkerk road, near the old Jewish cemetery. There he communicated with his friends in Amsterdam by letter, and they seem to have submitted to him their difficulties in the same way, leading to a regular philosphical correspondence. As a means of living Spinoza resorted to the calling of a practical optician, in which his mathematical knowledge was valuable, and he also appears to have taken pupils in philosophy, and even in Latin and Hebrew. He remained in his new abode five years, during which he wrote a defense of his position, afterward extended into the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus," and a short tractate on "God, Man, and Happiness," afterward developed into his "Ethics."

Baruch Spinoza.(From a miniature in possession of the Queen of Holland.)

In 1661 Spinoza removed to Rhijnsburg, near Leyden, then the center of the Collegiants activity Here he spent the two most fruitful years of his life, during which he prepared for a pupil a résumé of the Cartesian philosophy, presenting it in a geometric form; composed his treatise on philosphical method, "De Intellectus Emendatione," which, however, remained unfinished; and wrote at least the beginning of his "Ethics," adopting the same geometric form. He finished the "Ethics" in Aug.,1665, at Voorburg, a suburb of The Hague, to which he had removed in April, 1663, probably to be near the De Witt brothers, then at the height of their power. John de Witt had become acquainted with Spinoza, and either at this time, or a little later, gave him a small pension. From Voorburg Spinoza used to send portions of his "Ethics," written in Dutch, to his band of disciples in Amsterdam, who translated them into Latin and wrote him letters in the same language dealing with the difficulties of his theories. Before publishing this work, however, so subversive of the ordinary views of theology and philosophy, Spinoza determined to pave the way by an animated plea for liberty of thought and expression in the commonwealth. To this he devoted the next-four years, the result being the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus." This was published in 1670, without the author's name, and it brought such a storm of opprobrium that it was formally proscribed by the Synod of Dort and by the States General of Holland, Zealand, and West Friesland. It was found necessary, in order to evade this censure, to publish the work under false titles, representing it sometimes as a medical, sometimes as a historical, work.

This reception somewhat alarmed Spinoza, who, hearing in the following year (1671) that a Dutch translation was contemplated, urged his friends to prevent its appearance. Spinoza's reputation as a thinker, however, had by this time been fully established by his two published works, and he was consulted both personally and by letter by many important scientific men of the day, including Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society, London; Huygens, the optician; Louis Meyer, the physician; and Count von Tschirnhausen, afterward the discoverer of a new method of obtaining phosphorus and the rediscoverer of the method of producing procelain. Through von Tschirnhausen, Spinoza came into correspondence with Leibnitz, then (1672) in Paris. He appears to have had some suspicions of Leibnitz's trustworthiness, and it was not till four years later, when the brilliant young diplomat visited him at The Hague, that Spinoza exposed his full mind to Leibnitz and produced that epoch-making effect upon the latter which dominated European thought in the eighteenth century.

At The Hague (1670-77).

Spinoza settled at The Hague in 1670, possibly to be near his patron John de Witt, who was soon to fall under the assassin's dagger (1672). Spinoza was so aroused from his ordinary calmness by this act that he was with difficulty prevented from publicly denouncing it. The following year he received and refused an offer of a professorship in philosophy at Heidelberg University from the elector palatine. A somewhat mysterious visit to the French invading army in 1674 is the only remaining incident in Spinoza's life, which was drawing to a close. He had a hereditary tendency to consumption derived from his mother, and this can not have failed to be intensified by the inhalation of particles of crystal incidental to his means of livelihood. He died, while his landlady was at church, in the presence of his physician, Louis Meyer.

Spinoza left a considerable library, for the purchase of which, in all probability, the pensions he received from his patron John de Witt, and from his friend Simon de Vries were spent; a number of finished glasses which, owing to his reputation as an optician, brought high prices; and a few engravings and articles of furniture. The sum realized from the auction of his effects was so small that his sister Rebekah did not find it worth while to make application therefor. His funeral was attended by a number of his disciples and friends, who filled six coaches. He was buried in the cemetery of the new church on the Spuy, in a grave which can no longer be identified. His biographer, Colerus, however, asserts that he was never received into any Christian community, and Spinoza in one of his letters (lxxiii., ed. Land) expressly declared that to him the notion that God took upon Himself the nature of man seemed as self-contradictory as would be the statement that "the circle has taken on the nature of the square." He thus lived and died apart from either Jewish or Christian prepossessions, in the greatest spiritual isolation, which enabled him to regard human affairs with complete detachment; at the same time, however, his calm, prudent, and kindly nature was not estranged from the simple pleasures of the ordinary life of the citizen.

Seal of Spinoza.Works.

As has been mentioned above, only two of Spinoza's works were published during his lifetime: "Renati Des Cartes Principiorum Philosophiæ Pars i. et. ii. More Geometrico Demonstratæ per Benedictum de Spinoza Amstelodamensem. Accesserunt Ejusdem Cogitata Metaphysica," Amsterdam, 1663, and "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus," published without the author's name and printed professedly at Hamburg, though really at Amsterdam, 1670. The latter work was published two years later as the "Opera Chirurgica" of Franciscus Villa corta, or as the "Operum Historicorum Collectio" of Daniel Heinsius. The remainder of Spinoza's works appeared in the year of his death (1677) at Amsterdam under the title "B. d. S. Opera Posthuma." They included the "Ethica," the "Tractatus Politicus," the "Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione," the "Epistolæ," both from and to Spinoza, and the "Compendium Grammatices Linguæ Hebreæ." The same works appeared simultaneously in Dutch under the title "De Nagelate Schriften van B. d. S."; as it seems that Spinoza sent his "Ethics" in the first place in Dutch to his disciples at Amsterdam, it is probable that this edition contains the original draft of the work. About 1852 traces were found of the short tractate ("Korte Verhandeling") which was the basis of the "Ethics," and likewise, in the Collegiant archives at Amsterdam, a number of letters; these were published by Van Vloten as "Ad Benedicti de Spinoza Opera Quæ Supersunt Omnia Supplementum," Amsterdam, 1862, including a tractate on the rainbow which was thought to have been lost, but which appeared at The Hague in 1687. Apart from the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus," none of his works has been reproduced in the original in a separate edition, but they have always appearedas his "Opera Omnia," of which editions have been prepared by E. G. Paulus (Jena, 1802), A. Gfrörer (Stuttgart, 1830), C. H. Bruder (Leipsic, 1843), H. Ginzberg (ib. 1874-78), and Van Vloten and Land (2 vols., The Hague, 1883; 3 vols., ib. 1895), the last being at present the standard edition. Translations have been made into German by B. Auerbach (Stuttgart, 1841), into English by R. Willis (1862-70) and R. H. M. Elwes (1883), into French by E. Saisset (Paris, 1842); of the "Ethics" alone there have been published English versions by R. Willis, 1870, and Hale White, 1883, and a Hebrew version by S. Rubin (Vienna, 1887). An edition and translation of the "Korte Verhandeling" were produced by C. Schaarschmidt (Leipsic, 1874), as well as a translation by C. Sigwart (Tübingen, 1870).

There are four portraits extant of Spinoza, one an engraving attached to the "Opera Posthuma"; a second one at Wolfenbüttel; a third one at the beginning of Schaarschmidt's edition of the "Korte Verhandeling," from a miniature formerly in the possession of the late Queen of Holland; and, finally, one in the possession of the Hon. Mayer Sulzberger. The last can be traced to the possession of Cardinal de Rohan, to whom it is stated to have been given by Jewish tenants of his. It is signed "W. V., 1672" (or 1673), which would correspond to the initials of the painter W. Vaillant, who was living at Amsterdam in that year; Vaillant painted the portrait of the elector Karl Ludwig, who, in the following year, invited Spinoza to Heidelberg. This portrait has clearly Jewish features, thus agreeing with the Queen of Holland miniature, whereas the Wolfenüttel portrait is entirely without Jewish traits. Colerus declares that Spinoza was of marked Jewish type, which would confirm the authenticity of the Vaillant picture, though this has, unfortunately, been "restored." It has hitherto remained unpublished, but is given in facsimile as the frontispiece to this volume of The Jewish Encyclopedia.


It has been both asserted and denied that the thoughts developed in Spinoza's short life of forty-four years, and put forth anonymously after his death with such remarkable influence on the history of European speculation for at least the last one hundred and fifty years, were derived in large measure from his Jewish training and reading. The question is a very difficult one to decide, owing to the close-linked chain of Spinoza's thought, which he designedly made in his "Ethics" a continuous course of reasoning, each proposition being dependent upon the preceding, exactly after the manner of Euclid. In order to determine the extent of his Jewish indebtedness it is necessary, therefore, to attempt some slight sketch of his whole system. Apart from this object it deserves such exposition as the most influential body of doctrine ever produced by a Jew since Philo.

Spinoza's Residence at Rhijnsburg.(From a photograph.)

The key to Spinoza's philosophic system is to be found in his method of investigation as indicated in the fragmentary "De Intellectus Emendatione." Finding that none of the ordinary objects of man's desire—wealth, power, and the like—affords permanent satisfaction, Spinoza came to the conclusion that only the attainment of truth gives that increase of power and accompanying joy which can be described as true happiness or sal vation. Turning to the search for truth, he found the powers of the mind to be of a treble nature, each particular function yielding knowledge of various degrees of adequacy: (1) imagination, yielding only confused and inadequate ideas; (2) reason, giving the essences of things, and (3) intuition, disclosing the fundamental principles uniting those essences into a system and connecting individual things with those principles. The logical foundation of his whole system lies in the denial of the validity of all relative propositions, leaving the Absolute as the sole reality of the universe. On this see B. Russell, "Principles of Mathematics" (p. 448, Cambridge, 1903), which work is so far a justification of Spinoza's method in that it proves the possibility of deducing all the principles of pure mathematics and physics from a certain number of indefinables and indemonstrables. All turns with Spinoza, as with Descartes and the scholastics, on getting true and adequate knowledge of the essences of things. All the essences, when presented to the mind, carry with them a conviction of their own truth, and, as they can not contradict one another, they form a system of truths deduced from one principle as their primary cause. Such a principle can only be God, from whose qualities all the essences of things must flow as a matter of necessity, or, in other words, be "caused," since Spinoza does not distinguish between logical dependence anddynamic causation. In this way his logic passes over into his metaphysics, and in attempting to determine the cause of things, from the contemplation of which he is to obtain salvation, Spinoza has to determine the essences of things and their relation to the Highest Reality.


This Highest Reality is called by Spinoza, at the beginning of his "Ethics," to which attention may now be directed, either (a) substance, that by which all things subsist, (b) the self-caused ("causa sui"), that which is not dependent for its existence on that of another, or, finally, (c) God. The problem of Spinoza's philosophy is to connect this being, or principle, which is rigidly one, or rather unique, since there is none other, with the multiplicity of things and persons constituting the world of imagination. This he does by positing intermediate states of being which present different aspects of the One. God, being self-caused and, therefore, infinite, must have infinite aspects, or attributes. Two only of these are known to man, extension and thought, which sum up the world as humanly known. These attributes are perfectly parallel one to the other, all portions of extension or space, having attached to them, as it were, corresponding ideas or thoughts, though these in Spinoza's curious psychology are not necessarily conscious, and certainly not self-conscious. But these attributes being infinite, like their substance, can not constitute finite beings, which are due to modifications of these attributes, called by Spinoza modes. Some of these modes are immediate, infinite, and eternal, as "motion" in the attribute of extension, and "infinite intellect" in the attribute of thought. Others, again, are mediate, though still infinite and eternal, and these constitute in the sphere of extension the material universe ("facies totius universi"), and in the attribute of thought the infinite idea of God. Finally, it would seem—though Spinoza's thought is by no means clear and consistent on this point—that the modifications of Deity in these modes, being part of a system, conflict and struggle for existence in their claims to reality, and in this conflict give rise to individual things and persons, each of which has a tendency to self-preservation ("conatus sese conservandi"). In addition, God regarded as a substance with infinite attributes and yielding the essences of things is termed "natura naturans," whereas God in His relation to the modes of existence is termed "natura naturata." The whole scheme of things thus sketched out by Spinoza may possibly be indicated in the accompanying diagram.

Among the individual things, those constituted by the modifications of the modes, the chief one of interest to the philosopher is man in his dual nature as a mode of extension, in his body, and as a mode of thought, in his mind. Neither of these can directly influence the other, though all changes in each are represented by parallel changes in the other. From this point of view the human mind is regarded by Spinoza as the idea of the body, a conception which is a commonplace in modern psychology, but which immensely shocked Spinoza's contemporaries. The unity of the individual soul is thus made to depend on the unity of the organism, though Spinoza makes a half-hearted attempt to explain the self as the idea of the idea of the body. Spinoza combines this view of mind with his theory of knowledge by supposing that external things, so far as they come in contact with the body, impress their character upon the latter, while their "soul side" makes corresponding changes in the mind. But owing to ignorance as to the mechanism by which these effects are produced by external objects, the changes in the mind are attributed to the external bodies themselves, and thus arise errors of imagination which, so far as they affect the tendency to self-preservation, give rise to passions or emotions that in turn divert the strivings after the true nature of man.

Diagram Illustrating Spinoza's Metaphysical System.Emotions.

Spinoza's views of the nature and the classification of the emotions are a remarkable instance of scientific simplification. Taking the conatus, or tendency to self-preservation, as the key to human activity, he defines pleasure as everything tendingto increase the conatus, pain as everything lowering the vitality. There is, therefore, a desire ("cupiditas") to obtain things giving pleasure, and to repel things giving pain. But man is not impelled to act by pleasure or pain alone. The idea with which pleasure or pain is associated produces the desire to act. Hence, Spinoza is enabled to define the various classes of emotions according to the ideas which give rise to them; for example, he defines love as simply pleasure accompanied by the idea of an external cause, and hate as pain accompanied also by the idea of an external cause. Pity, again, is pain felt at another's misfortune, while benevolence is the idea of doing good for another whom we pity, and so on through a list of about fifty emotions, all associated with pain or pleasure through some idea. Spinoza is thus enabled to put aside entirely all free will, since the desire that determines this action is itself determined by the idea giving rise to it, beside which, in the scheme of parallelism, the volition of the mind is simply the soul side of a certain determination of the body derived from the laws of motion and rest (see "Ethics," iii. 2, schol.). Spinoza claims for this rigid determinism a number of advantages—the attainment of happiness through realizing one's intimate union with the nature of things; the distinction between things in one's power and things not in one's power; the avoidance of all disturbing passions; and the performance of social duties from a rational desire for the common good.

Reason as Freedom.

The only freedom Spinoza recognizes is the freedom of acting in accordance with one's own nature and not being influenced by ideas derived from external things. These, as has been seen, form the emotions, and it is bondage to them which Spinoza calls "man's slavery." Accordingly, the only relief from this bondage lies in acting according to reason, the second of the two forms of knowledge, rather than from imagination, which gives rise to the disturbing emotions. By so doing man acts as himself, and at the same time, since reasoning gives him adequate ideas of the essences of things, or, in other words, of God's real nature, he acts in harmony with the divine character. By acting according to adequate ideas the mind has free play, and its conatus can only result in pleasure; hence the happiness of the sage who in acting from reason has power, virtue, knowledge, and freedom that is also necessity. The ethical side of this quality is fortitude or firmness to stand free of the passive affections, which is accompanied by courage ("animositas") in self-regarding actions, and generosity in action toward others. Not even the idea of death will deter the free man from acting according to these principles. His thoughts will dwell on anything rather than death.

Spinoza's Workroom at Rhijnsburg.(From a photograph.)"Intellectual Love of God."

But there still remains the third form of knowledge, the intuitive idea of the whole plan of theuniverse; this idea, when kindled into emotion, becomes the mysterious quality known by Spinoza as the "intellectual love of God," which he further qualifies as part of the love with which God loves Himself, though here God is taken as synonymous with natura naturata. This is eternal, or, in other words, not subject to the changeable characteristics of the time and space order, and so far as man has the intuitive knowledge and love of God, his mind is, according to Spinoza, eternal, though he carefully avoids using the term "immortal." It is somewhat difficult to find a definite meaning in this mystical view, but Pollock suggests that Spinoza intends nothing other than that "work done for reason is done for eternity," to use Renan's words. It is somewhat remarkable that the most recent meta-physical views regard personal love as the most adequate expression of the union of insight and interest involved in the knowledge by the Absolute Being of the individual experiences of the universe (A. E. Taylor, "Elements of Metaphysics," pp. 61-62, London, 1903). But there is probably discernible here a direct influence of Spinoza's thought.

Sources: Descartes.

As regards the sources from which the main elements of Spinoza's system were derived, they are mainly two, Descartes and the Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages. There is some evidence of influence also by Bacon, Hobbes, Giordano Bruno, and, to some extent, the scholastic philosophy, but it is somewhat doubtful, and its extent and importance are not very great, except possibly in the case of Bruno, as will be seen from the following analysis. There is no doubt that Spinoza derived his method from Descartes, who even gives an example of the geometrical method. The conception of God as the Supreme Being and as substance is common to all medieval philosophy, Spinoza's originality consisting in recognizing extension as one of His attributes: this, it will be remembered, was one of the test questions which led to his excommunication. Here he is approached very nearly by the views of Ḥasdai Crescas, who in his "Or Adonai" (I. ii. 1) points to the use of the word "maḳom" (locality) for the Deity, and concludes that "as the dimensions of the vacuum are included in the dimensions of the corporeal and its contents, so is God in all parts of the world. He is their place that supports and holds them." Crescas goes on to disprove the Aristotelian claim that an infinite material magnitude is impossible. Spinoza was without doubt acquainted with Crescas' writings, as he quotes him under the name of "Rab Gasdai" in his twenty-ninth letter (ed. Bruder). On the other hand, the doctrine of the parallelism of thought and extension is original with Spinoza, and is due to his desire to evade the difficulties of the Cartesian doctrine. At first sight the importance given to the attributes in Spinoza's system would seem to affiliate him with the whole line of Jewish thought which was centered around the doctrine of the attributes (see D. Kaufmann, "Gesch. der Attributenlehre." Berlin, 1877; and Attributes). In reality Spinoza uses the term "attributes" in a slightly different signification, calling the "attributes" of the Jewish philosophers "properties," and using the distinction first made by Crescas ("Or Adonai," I. iii. 3), who, for example, regarded God's perfection and infinity as His properties rather than His attributes (see Joël, "Don Chisdai Creskas," pp. 19 et seq., Breslau, 1866).

Giordano Bruno.

At the same time, the modes as parts of attributes seem to be derived from Bruno, who also makes the distinction between natura naturans and natura naturata. Bruno regards all nature as animated—a close approach to Spinoza's parallelism of the attributes. On the other hand, Bruno may have taken this notion from some of the cabalists, and in arguing that God is the immanent and not the transient cause of the universe, Spinoza himself claims that he agrees with the Hebrew masters, so far as he could conjecture from certain adulterated views ("Epistolæ," lxxiii.). The plan of the universe, as indicated above, though this is not given by Spinoza himself, resembles in large measure that of the Sefirot, and suggests that, much as he derided them, Spinoza obtained much general suggestion from the cabalists. He even appears to quote, in the "Ethics" (II. vii., note), Moses Cordovero on the identity of the thinker, thought, and the object thought of; this, however, is a general Aristotelian principle (see Jew. Encyc. x. 370, s.v. Remaḳ). In Spinoza's view the doctrine of immanence bears a remarkable resemblance to that of emanation.

With regard to Spinoza's psychology and ethics, the idea of the conatus and even the term "conato de conservarsi" itself are derived from or influenced by Bruno. The doctrine of the emotions is partly influenced by Hobbes, but is mainly a development of and improvement on Descartes. On the other hand, the connection of the conatus with the divine activity may have been influenced by Crescas' view that the creation and conservation of the world imply the same activity of God (comp. Spinoza, "Cogitata Metaphysica," II. x. 6). The view of Spinoza with regard to the relativity of good and evil may possibly be derived from Maimonides' conception of them as belonging to the region of probable opinion ("Moreh," i. 11).

Ḥasdai Crescas.

The determinism of Spinoza was certainly derived from that of Crescas, who explains the difficulty of rewards and punishments from the same standpoint ("Or Adonai," II. v. 2) and on the same lines as Spinoza ("Cogitata Metaphysica," II. ix. 4), though it must be observed that Spinoza when he wrote the "Cogitata Metaphysica" was nominally at least a libertarian. So, too, in his denial of final causes Spinoza agrees with Crescas (l.c. II. vi. 1); therefore Spinoza may have obtained from Crescas, who identifies the divine will and understanding (l.c. III. i. 5), also the doctrine that the will and the understanding are the same faculty of the mind. The insistence of Spinoza upon the love of God as the highest quality of human reason is undoubtedly influenced by Crescas' original view that love rather than knowledge was the divine essence (ib.). The view, however, that the terms "wisdom" and "will" as applied to the Divine Being are not identical, but are merely homonymous, with the same terms as applied to man, is derived from Maimonides ("Moreh,"i. 52 et seq.). In speaking of the "intellectual love of God," Joël remarks, Spinoza took the "love" from Crescas, the "intellect" from Maimonides. Finally, the somewhat mystical views as to the eternity of the intellectual love, Sir Frederick Pollock suggests, were derived from the Averroism of Gersonides, who considered that contemplative knowledge was the only proper function of the eternal mind, and, therefore, that the individual soul was immortal as regards the knowledge possessed by it at the time of death, though, being then deprived of an organism, it could not in any way extend it after death (see Pollock, "Spinoza, His Life and Philosophy," 2d ed., pp. 270-271, London, 1899). With regard to his views on eternity, and his remarkable conception that truth must be viewed "sub specie eternitatis," it is worthy of remark that Spinoza in the "Cogitata Metaphysica" (II. x. 5) adopts the view of Maimonides that Creation did not arise in time, but time in Creation ("Moreh," II. ii. 13). It should perhaps be added that besides these specific instances of indebtedness Spinoza is characteristically Jewish in two main aspects of his thought: the stress laid upon knowledge as an ideal (though this is common to all the Aristotelian schools), and his conception of cheerfulness as one of the highest virtues (see Joy).

Baruch Spinoza.(From a statue by Mark Antokolski.)

It has been suggested by Joël that the development of Spinoza's thought was somewhat as follows: His early training was entirely from Jewish philosophers, but he was withdrawn from them by the attraction of Descartes, who freed his mind from the principle of authority in philosophy, and, as it appears, in religion; but he was never a pure Cartesian, not even when he wrote his account of the philosophy of Descartes, and he came back to the Jewish philosophers to solve the conflicting elements of Descartes' thought, with the important difference, however, that he did not attempt to reconcile the conclusions to which they led him with the statements of Scripture. His thought is thus Jewish, cast in a Cartesian mold, the chief difference being with regard to the authority of Scripture, and it is, accordingly, in his "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus" that his views are found most opposed to Jewish views.

"Tractatus Theologico-Politicus."

Spinoza's arguments in the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus" are almost throughout connected either by way of agreement or opposition with those of Maimonides on the same topics. One of the main objects of the book is to show the contradictory nature of statements in the Scriptures, and Spinoza speaks with contempt of the efforts of the Rabbis to reconcile them. He is no doubt here referring to the most important work of his teacher Manasseh b. Israel the "Conciliador." In his chapter on prophecy Spinoza differs from Maimonides in regarding the work of a prophet as being due almost entirely to imagination, which can not, like reason, give rise to truth. Spinoza does an injustice in stating that Maimonides regards angels as existing only in dreams, which was partly due to a misreading in the edition of Maimonides used by him; this again is one of the test questions leading to his excommunication. The criterion of a true revelation selected by Spinoza—the vividness of the prophetic vision—is that used by Crescas ("Or Adonai," II. iv. 3), and both thinkers used the same example, that of Hananiah. Spinoza's view of the selection of the Israelites, that they exceeded other nations neither in learning nor in piety, but in political and social salvation, places him in opposition to both Maimonides and Crescas. He here attributes the preservation of the Jews to their rites ("Tractatus Theologico-Politicus," iii. 53), but sees no reason why they should not once again become an independent nation (ib. iii. 55). In his discussion of ceremonies Spinoza declares that they are no longer binding on Jews or others, and were put into force only through the influence of the Rabbis and other ecclesiastical authorities. In opposing belief in miracles, as he does in the sixth chapter of the "Tractatus," Spinoza has in mind the examples and arguments of both Maimonides and Gersonides; in the remaining part Spinoza outlines what was later known as the "higher criticism," and anticipates in a somewhat remarkable manner some of the results of the school of Kuenen and Wellhausen, declaring, for example, that the Law was introduced, if not written, by Ezra. Many of the examples of inconsistency in the Pentateuch here cited were those familiar to Spinoza from Abraham ibn Ezra (see Pentateuch). Spinoza throughout argued against the connection of creed with citizenship, claiming liberty of thought, and to that extent pleading the cause of his own people; but in reality the book is an expansion in Latin of his former apologia written in Spanish for withdrawing from Jewish communion, and is opposed to ecclesiasticism of all Kinds. Hence the violence of the opposition which it found in the age of ecclesiasticism.


With regard to Spinoza's influence, one must distinguish between the effect of his views and life upon the general progress of free thought in Europe, and that of his special doctrines. The former first drew down upon him the execration of all the ecclesiastics and authoritarians whom he had opposed by his views, and the respect of a few freethinkers like Bayle, Edelmann, Goethe, Shelley, and Byron, who proposed to translate the "Ethics" jointly, and Marian Evans (George Eliot), who actually produced a translation, which, however, was never published. The spread of his special views began with the small circle of disciples which surrounded him at Amsterdam, and to which the world is probably indebted for the Latin translation of his "Ethics." The chief of these were B. Becker and Louis Meyer; but the publication of his works in Dutch had a considerable influence on Dutch theology in the persons of Fredrick van Leenhoff (1647-1712), Wilhelm Deurhoff (1650-1717), and especially Pontiaan van Hattem (1641-1706), who created quite a school, of which Jacob Brill (1639-1700) was, after Hattem, the chief representative (see A. van der Linde, "Spinoza, Seine Lehre und Deren Erste Nachwirkungen in Holland," Göttingen, 1862).

Spinoza and Leibnitz.

But the principal person upon whom Spinoza's thought and personality had a decisive effect was Leibnitz (1646-1716), whose system of philosophy, as developed by Wolff, dominated the continent of Europe throughout the whole of the eighteenth century up to Kant, and whose views, developed by Herbart and Lotze, have again come to the fore in recent times. Those of Leibnitz's works that have been published give little evidence of any connection with Spinoza other than in the latter's calling as optician, and his public utterances on Spinozism were in every case hostile and derogatory; but more recent evidence shows that during the critical period of his development, from 1676 to 1686, he took a more favorable attitude toward both Spinoza and Spinozism, and this has been traced to an intimate personal association of the two philosophers during a whole month in 1676, not long before Spinoza's death. It was during this period that Leibnitz developed from a pure Cartesian into an opponent of Descartes, chiefly as regards the definition of body and the principles of motion, both of which subjects it is known that Leibnitz discussed with Spinoza. On reading the "Opera Posthuma," Leibnitz declared that the absence of teleology was the only thing with which he did not agree. When, however, a strong outcry broke out against Spinoza's "atheism," Leibnitz devoted himself to finding an escape from Spinozism, and it took him nearly ten years before he arrived at his theory of the monads, which he declared to be the only solution of the difficulty (see L. Stein, "Leibniz und Spinoza," Berlin, 1890). The most recent investigator of the philosophy of Leibnitz declares that in his views on soul and body, on God and ethics, he "tends with slight alterations of phraseology to adopt (without acknowledgment) the views of the derided Spinoza" (B. Russell," Philosophy of Leibniz," p. 5, Cambridge, 1900).

Mendelssohn and Jacobi.

This opposition of Leibnitz practically ruined any chance of influence by Spinoza on the Germany of the early part of the eighteenth century, where the philosophy of the former and his follower Wolff was all-powerful. A revival of interest, however, was brought about by Jacobi's declaration that Lessing was a professed Spinozist and had declared that "there is but one philosophy, the philosophy of Spinoza." Mendelssohn, who in philosophy was a Wolffian, devoted some of his "Morgenstunden" to defending the memory of his friend Lessing from what he considered to be an aspersion, and this again tended to discourage any active adherence to Spinoza in Germany. Kant, by making the problem of metaphysics how man knows instead of what he knows, changed the course of metaphysical thought for a time; but renewed attention was drawn to Spinoza by his followers, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, the last-named of whom declared that to be a philosopher one must first be a Spinozist. Schleiermacher expressed himself in the highest terms of Spinoza, and Novalis called the so-called "atheist" a "God-intoxicated Jew." This revival of interest in Spinoza was due possibly to the influence of Herder and Goethe, who had both given utterance to great admiration for Spinoza's life and thought. The wide influence of Goethe, whose philosophical views were entirely Spinozistic and were expressed in some of the profoundest of his poems, was perhaps the chief influence which drew to Spinoza the attention of such men as Coleridge, Auerbach, Matthew Arnold, Froude, and Renan.

Science and Spinozism.

It was mainly the spread and influence of science in its more dogmatic aspects that, toward the end of the nineteenth century, caused especial interest to be taken in Spinoza's thought. By a sort of instinct Spinoza seems to have anticipated, by deductions from first principles, many of the most fundamental principles of modern science; e.g., the conservation of energy (in his belief that the total quantity of motion in the universe is constant); the non-existence of a vacuum; and the existence of nothing real in the universe but configurations and motions (expressly stated in the "Ethics" I., Appendix). Even the infinity of attributes, which occupy such an otiose position in Spinoza's system, may be regarded as a premonition of the recognition by modern mathematicians of the infinity of non-Euclidean spaces. Especially as regards the connection of body and mind the Spinozistic view of parallelism has been growing in favor among psychologists, though just at present there is somewhat of a reaction against it. The positing of the conatus as the central force of mind is in full agreement with the most recent insistence upon conation as the key to mental activities, while the tendency of the conatus to maintain things pleasant seems to be an anticipation of Bain's law of conservation. The conatus has been regarded as anticipating even the theory of evolution, but this is due to mistaking the statical nature of Spinoza's thought. Nevertheless, the two great exponents of philosophical evolution Herbert Spencer and Haeckel have adopted many, if notmost, of Spinoza's views, which have thus become representative of science as opposed to religion. Meanwhile there has been a recent tendency to resort once more to Leibnitz for a defense of the faith, as shown in the Gifford lectures of Professors Ward and Royce, so that at the present day, at any rate in the English-speaking world, the problem of philosophy is once more resolved into the opposition of Spinoza and Leibnitz. Thus, of the chief contemporary English philosophers, F. H. Bradley, with his follower A. E. Taylor, may be regarded as representing Spinoza, while G. E. Moore and his disciple B. Russell are adherents of the school of Leibnitz.

Position Among Jews.

With his excommunication all communion between Spinoza and his own people ceased, and among Jews little notice was taken of his thought for nearly a century, except by a few philosophical thinkers, who dealt with his views as they would with those of other philosophers. Thus David Nieto was accused before Ḥakam Ẓebi in 1705 of having identified God and nature after the manner of Spinoza, but defended himself satisfactorily by distinguishing between the individual things of nature and nature in general; in other words, between natura naturans and natura naturata. Mendelssohn, as before mentioned, was, owing to his Leibnitzian tendencies, strongly opposed to Spinoza as a philosopher, but made use in his "Jerusalem" of some of the arguments of the "Tractatus." Solomon Maimon, like Wachter before him and A. Krochmal after him, tried to prove the identity of Spinozism and cabalism (see Krochmal's "Eben ha-Roshah," Vienna, 1871). Heine accords the life of Spinoza respectful treatment, but does not appear to have made any particular study of his thought. On the other hand, Berthold Auerbach did much to spread the knowledge of Spinozism in Germany by his excellent translation of the works as well as by his novelistic account of the career of the philosopher ("Spinoza, cin Denkerleben," Leipsic, 1847). M. Joël has contributed more, perhaps, than any other investigator to the study of the sources from which Spinoza derived his main conceptions. L. Stein has elucidated the relations of Spinoza and Leibnitz, while M. Grunwald has traced Spinoza's influence in Germany, and I. Elbogen has made a study of the "De Intellectus Emendatione." One of the best recent monographs on the philosopher is that of L. Brunschvieg, and the best account of the "Ethics" in English is by H. H. Joachim. Jacob Freudenthal's work on his life and his system of thought is the result of a life's work on the subject. Altogether, it may be said that Spinoza has at last come to his own among his own people.

But it would be misleading to regard Spinoza as specifically or characteristically Jewish in his thought. His antagonistic attitude toward the authority of the Scriptures differentiates him from all thinkers recognized to be Jewish, and S. D. Luzzatto was, after all, in the right in protesting violently against regarding the philosophy of Spinoza as especially Jewish while in such opposition to the Judaism of the Rabbis and the mass of the Jews. Whether any reconciliation can be made between Spinozism and Judaism on the higher plane of philosophic thought is another question, to which S. Rubin has devoted his life. In any case, Spinoza's thought is so definitely connected either by derivation or by opposition with that of the Jewish medieval thinkers that it must be regarded either as the consummation or as the evisceration of Jewish philosophy.

  • A whole literature has collected around the name of Spinoza and is summed up in A. van der Linde, Benedictus Spinoza, The Hague, 1871, which contains 441 entries. This may be supplemented by the bibliography given in M. Grunwald, Spinoza in Deutschland, pp. 361-370, Berlin, 1897, containing 226 entries of the literature between 1870 and 1897. The chief editions of the works have been referred to above, but it may be added that a portfolio of facsimiles of the recently recovered letters of Spinoza was published in Leyden in 1904. The standard life of Spinoza is that of Jacob Freudenthal, Spinoza, Sein Leben und Scine Lehre, Stuttgart, 1904, founded on a collection of sources (including the contemporary life by Colerus) issued by the same author under the title Lebensgeschichte Spinoza's, Berlin, 1899. Spinoza's relations to his Dutch contemporaries are best given in Meinsma, Spinoza en Zijn Kring, The Hague, 1896. The best accounts of Spinoza's system are those of Camerer, Die Lehre Spinoza's, Stuttgart, 1877;
  • James Martineau, A Study of Spinoza, 3d ed., London, 1895;
  • and Sir Frederick Pollock, Spinoza, His Life and Philosophy, 2d ed., London, 1899. Though written from a hostile standpoint, partly based upon Trendelenburg, Historische Beiträge zur Philosophie, Berlin, 1867, Martineau's study is by far the clearest with relation to Spinoza's system. Studies of the "Ethics" have been written by Kirschmann, 2d ed., Berlin, 1871 (with notes on the other works), and by H. H. Joachim, Oxford, 1901. The literature which followed the discovery of the Korte Verhandeling is summarized by Van der Linde, Nos. 342-353;
  • noteworthy is the study by Avenarius, Ueber die Beiden Ersten Phosen des Spinozischen Pantheismus, Leipsic, 1868. A. Chajes has written Ueber die Hebräische Grammatik Spinoza's, Breslau, 1869, and C. Siegfried, Spinoza als Kritiker und Ausleger des Alten Testaments, Berlin, 1867. On the relation of Spinoza to his Jewish predecessors see Joël, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie, Breslau, 1876, and J. Jacobs, Jewish Ideals, pp. 49-56. Rubin in his Teshubah Niẓẓaḥat, Vienna, 1857, discussed Luzzatto's attacks on Spinoza. The latest histories of Jewish philosophy as a matter of course contain sections on Spinoza;
  • e.g., J. S. Spiegler, Gesch. der Philosophie des Judenthums, xli.-xliii. Berlin, 1900;
  • and S. Bernfeld, Da'at Elohim, pp. 521-530, Wilna, 1898.