Biography[ edit ] Family and community origins[ edit ] Spinoza's ancestors were of Sephardic Jewish descent and were a part of the community of Portuguese Jews that had settled in the city of Amsterdam in the wake of the Portuguese Inquisition , which had resulted in forced conversions and expulsions from the Iberian peninsula. When Spinoza's father was still a child, Spinoza's grandfather, Isaac de Spinoza, who was from Lisbon , took his family to Nantes in France.
They were expelled in and moved to Rotterdam , where Isaac died in Spinoza's father, Miguel Michael , and his uncle, Manuel, then moved to Amsterdam where they resumed the practice of Judaism. Miguel was a successful merchant and became a warden of the synagogue and of the Amsterdam Jewish school. This flourishing commercial activity encouraged a culture relatively tolerant of the play of new ideas, to a considerable degree sheltered from the censorious hand of ecclesiastical authority though those considered to have gone "too far" might have gotten persecuted even in the Netherlands.
Not by chance were the philosophical works of both Descartes and Spinoza developed in the cultural and intellectual background of the Dutch Republic in the 17th century. He was the second son of Miguel de Espinoza, a successful, although not wealthy, Portuguese Sephardic Jewish merchant in Amsterdam. Spinoza had a traditional Jewish upbringing, attending the Keter Torah yeshiva of the Amsterdam Talmud Torah congregation headed by the learned and traditional senior Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira.
His teachers also included the less traditional Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel , "a man of wide learning and secular interests, a friend of Vossius , Grotius , and Rembrandt ". Spinoza's father, Miguel, died in when Spinoza was He duly recited Kaddish , the Jewish prayer of mourning, for eleven months as required by Jewish law. This story has been discounted on the basis that Clara Maria van den Enden was born in and would have been no more than about 18 years old when Spinoza left Amsterdam.
During this period Spinoza also became acquainted with the Collegiants , an anti-clerical sect of Remonstrants with tendencies towards rationalism , and with the Mennonites who had existed for a century but were close to the Remonstrants.
If he succeeds, I shall at once admit defeat, and he will be my mighty Apollo. For I confess that all my efforts over a long period have resulted in no such discovery. Indeed, I may add that I write nothing here that is not the fruit of lengthy reflection; and although I have been educated from boyhood in the accepted beliefs concerning Scripture, I have felt bound in the end to embrace the views I here express.
For example, questioned by two members of his synagogue, Spinoza apparently responded that God has a body and nothing in scripture says otherwise. The business ran into serious financial difficulties, however, perhaps as a result of the First Anglo-Dutch War. In March , Spinoza filed suit with the Amsterdam municipal authorities to be declared an orphan in order to escape his father's business debts and so that he could inherit his mother's estate which at first was incorporated into his father's estate without it being subject to his father's creditors.
Expulsion from the Jewish community[ edit ] On 27 July , the Talmud Torah congregation of Amsterdam issued a writ of cherem Hebrew: But having failed to make him mend his wicked ways, and, on the contrary, daily receiving more and more serious information about the abominable heresies which he practised and taught and about his monstrous deeds, and having for this numerous trustworthy witnesses who have deposed and borne witness to this effect in the presence of the said Espinoza, they became convinced of the truth of the matter; and after all of this has been investigated in the presence of the honourable chachamin [sages], they have decided, with their consent, that the said Espinoza should be excommunicated and expelled from the people of Israel.
By the decree of the angels, and by the command of the holy men, we excommunicate, expel, curse and damn Baruch de Espinoza, with the consent of God, Blessed be He, and with the consent of all the Holy Congregation, in front of these holy Scrolls with the six-hundred-and-thirteen precepts which are written therein, with the excommunication with which Joshua banned Jericho ,  with the curse with which Elisha cursed the boys  and with all the curses which are written in the Book of the Law.
Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down, and cursed be he when he rises up; cursed be he when he goes out, and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not spare him; the anger and wrath of the Lord will rage against this man, and bring upon him all the curses which are written in this book, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven, and the Lord will separate him to his injury from all the tribes of Israel with all the curses of the covenant, which are written in the Book of the Law.
But you who cleave unto the Lord God are all alive this day. We order that no one should communicate with him orally or in writing, or show him any favour, or stay with him under the same roof, or within four ells of him, or read anything composed or written by him.
Statue of Spinoza, near his house on the Paviljoensgracht in The Hague. The Talmud Torah congregation issued censure routinely, on matters great and small, so such an edict was not unusual. First, there were Spinoza's radical theological views that he was apparently expressing in public. As philosopher and Spinoza biographer Steven Nadler puts it: In those works, Spinoza denies the immortality of the soul; strongly rejects the notion of a providential God—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and claims that the Law was neither literally given by God nor any longer binding on Jews.
Can there be any mystery as to why one of history's boldest and most radical thinkers was sanctioned by an orthodox Jewish community? This community must have been concerned to protect its reputation from any association with Spinoza lest his controversial views provide the basis for their own possible persecution or expulsion.
But "in , the town council expressly ordered [the Portuguese Jewish community] to regulate their conduct and ensure that the members of the community kept to a strict observance of Jewish law. He had probably stopped attending services at the synagogue, either after the lawsuit with his sister or after the knife attack on its steps. He might already have been voicing the view expressed later in his Theological-Political Treatise that the civil authorities should suppress Judaism as harmful to the Jews themselves.
Either for financial or other reasons,   he had in any case effectively stopped contributing to the synagogue by March He had also committed the "monstrous deed," contrary to the regulations of the synagogue and the views of some rabbinical authorities including Maimonides , of filing suit in a civil court rather than with the synagogue authorities  —to renounce his father's heritage, no less. Upon being notified of the issuance of the censure, he is reported to have said: After the censure, Spinoza is said to have addressed an "Apology" defence , written in Spanish, to the elders of the synagogue, "in which he defended his views as orthodox, and condemned the rabbis for accusing him of 'horrible practices and other enormities' merely because he had neglected ceremonial observances.
Thus, by default, Baruch de Espinoza became the first secular Jew of modern Europe. However he declined to remove it, citing Spinoza's "preposterous ideas, where he was tearing apart the very fundamentals of our religion". He was criticized and ridiculed during his life and afterwards for his alleged atheism.
However, even those who were against him "had to admit he lived a saintly life". Two Dutch translations of it survive, discovered about In , he returned briefly to Amsterdam, where he finished and published Descartes' "Principles of Philosophy," the only work published in his lifetime under his own name, and then moved the same year to Voorburg.
He was said by anatomist Theodor Kerckring to have produced an "excellent" microscope, the quality of which was the foundation of Kerckring's anatomy claims. Later, a shrine was made of his home in The Hague. Anthony Gottlieb described him as living "a saintly life.
Stuart Phelps noted, "No one has ever come nearer to the ideal life of the philosopher than Spinoza. His way of living was exceedingly modest and retired; often he did not leave his room for many days together. He was likewise almost incredibly frugal; his expenses sometimes amounted only to a few pence a day. Serrarius was a patron to Spinoza after Spinoza left the Jewish community and even had letters sent and received for the philosopher to and from third parties.
Spinoza and Serrarius maintained their relationship until Serrarius' death in Spinoza has been associated with Leibniz and Descartes as "rationalists" in contrast to "empiricists. Later in , Spinoza notified Oldenburg that he had started to work on a new book, the Theologico-Political Treatise , published in Leibniz disagreed harshly with Spinoza in his own manuscript "Refutation of Spinoza,"  but he is also known to have met with Spinoza on at least one occasion   as mentioned above , and his own work bears some striking resemblances to specific important parts of Spinoza's philosophy see: When the public reactions to the anonymously published Theologico-Political Treatise were extremely unfavourable to his brand of Cartesianism, Spinoza was compelled to abstain from publishing more of his works.
Wary and independent, he wore a signet ring which he used to mark his letters and which was engraved with a rose and the word "caute" Latin for "cautiously". The Ethics contains many still-unresolved obscurities and is written with a forbidding mathematical structure modelled on Euclid's geometry  and has been described as a "superbly cryptic masterwork.