Spinoza Jump Starting the Modern World


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Baruch Spinoza’s book promoting democracy as a system of government spread underground like wildfire throughout Europe while most governments were monarchies. Among Spinoza’s many seminal ideas were the foundations for Enlightenment thought, the first modern approach to Biblical interpretation, and a presage to psychoanalysis. A Dutch philosopher of Jewish parents, living in the 1600s soon after Galileo, Spinoza jump started the modern world. He was named Humanistic Jewish role model by the Society for Humanistic Judaism for 2009-2010.

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Spinoza Jump Starting the Modern World

  1. 1. Spinoza <ul><li>JUMP </li></ul><ul><li>STARTING </li></ul><ul><li>THE MODERN WORLD </li></ul>
  2. 2. Spinoza has been honored in modern times by: <ul><li>Albert Einstein </li></ul><ul><li>David Ben Gurion </li></ul><ul><li>Demographer Egon Mayer </li></ul><ul><li>IISHJ </li></ul><ul><li>Rabbi Sherwin Wine </li></ul><ul><li>(We’ll show how, later on) </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why Spinoza is Role Model <ul><li>Courageous ly stood up for what he believed </li></ul><ul><li>Was precursor to Humanistic Judaism , and to the Enlightenment </li></ul><ul><li>Laid out the case for interpreting Bible as literature </li></ul><ul><li>Developed method for rational criticism of religious texts </li></ul><ul><li>Contributed to the world as philosopher and lens maker </li></ul><ul><li>Studied by the world as one of its great philosophers </li></ul><ul><li>Book “Tractatus” laid out the case for freedom </li></ul><ul><li>Tractatus wildly successful in European underground </li></ul><ul><li>Led an exemplary constructive life </li></ul><ul><li>Put reason as the source of all knowledge </li></ul>
  4. 4. It was still a dangerous time in Europe <ul><li>1600 Giordano Bruno burned at the stake for declaring that the Earth revolved around the Sun </li></ul><ul><li>1632 Galileo forced to recant </li></ul><ul><li>1632 Baruch Spinoza born in Amsterdam to Jewish parents, becomes top student </li></ul><ul><li>1656 freethinking Spinoza ex-communicated by Jewish community </li></ul><ul><li>1670 Tractatus published </li></ul><ul><li>Other works published after his untimely death in 1677 </li></ul>
  5. 5. Life events <ul><li>Early acquired reputation of freethinker </li></ul><ul><li>Excommunicated by Jewish community in 1656 (age 24) </li></ul><ul><li>Earned living as lens grinder </li></ul><ul><li>Strong supporter of religious and political liberalism </li></ul><ul><li>Prized independence, rejecting government pension and rejecting university professorship </li></ul>
  6. 6. Spinoza excommunicated for <ul><li>Not believing in angels </li></ul><ul><li>Believing Bible written by many authors (i.e. not by God) </li></ul><ul><li>Believing that the soul dies with the body </li></ul><ul><li>Not believing in a person-like God with human features. </li></ul><ul><li>If you had to alter your beliefs to be part of your community, what would you do? </li></ul><ul><li>Jews were not citizens, and the Jewish community worried about the reaction of authorities to harboring an unrepentant freethinker. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Why didn’t Spinoza… <ul><li>Join Humanistic Jewish movement? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Didn’t exist. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reform and Conservative Judaism didn’t exist either. </li></ul><ul><li>Jewish community per Middle Ages regulated itself. Punishment for disobeying rules was ex-communication. (Other Jews not allowed to talk or write to the expelled.) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Three Routes to (Religious) Truth (1600s) <ul><li>Catholic: Revealed through the leaders of the Church </li></ul><ul><li>Calvinist Protestant: Revealed through the word of Scripture </li></ul><ul><li>Spinoza: From the human heart, which recognizes justice and charity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(and Spinoza demonstrated that this was recognized by personalities in Scripture) </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Key Works <ul><li>“ Tractatus Theologico-Politicus” (Theological Political Treatise) derived political freedom as the required consequence of human’s innate thought </li></ul><ul><li>“ Ethics” developed his grand philosophy in which Nature and God are the same thing </li></ul>
  10. 10. Purposes of Tractatus <ul><li>Bolster religious tolerance </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstrate new approach to Bible interpretation </li></ul><ul><li>Plea for freedom of thought and democracy </li></ul>
  11. 11. Spinoza wrote: <ul><li>“ Man’s true happiness lies solely in the enjoyment of good.” (not in being superior to others, all peoples can be “chosen”) </li></ul><ul><li>“ the laws of Moses were the civil laws of his country, and required civil authority to maintain them.” (Religious beliefs are different) </li></ul><ul><li>“ everyone has a perfect right to think freely, even about religion, and cannot conceivably surrender this right ” </li></ul>
  12. 12. And: <ul><li>“secretaries teach so many contradictory opinions as articles of faith , and can confirm them with so many scriptural illustrations” </li></ul><ul><li>“ the sacred books were not written by one man only…but by many men of different temperaments and periods” </li></ul><ul><li>“the object of Scripture (both testaments) was simply to inculcate obedience” </li></ul>
  13. 13. Spinoza wrote that the Bible must be evaluated with critical thinking <ul><li>“1. Understand the nature and properties of the (Hebrew) language . </li></ul><ul><li>2. Analyze each book and the arrangement of its contents (including inconsistencies and clashes with principles ) for fact vs. metaphor. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Understand the history and environment of each book.” </li></ul>
  14. 14. Conclusion on the Bible <ul><li>It contains the ethical precept “practice justice and charity” defined as “obeying God” (for benefit of 17 th century people) = “Divine Law” </li></ul><ul><li>All other Biblical laws are “Ceremonial Laws” i.e. civil laws applying to the state of ancient Israel, not contemporary states. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Spinoza: <ul><li>“everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits ; each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honored save justice and charity.” </li></ul>
  16. 16. Spinoza: <ul><li>“No one can be deprived of his natural rights absolutely, but that subjects, either by tacit agreement, or by social contract, retain a certain number, which cannot be taken from them without great danger to the state.” </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>“The ultimate purpose of the state is to free everyone from fear so that he may live in all possible security…not to change men from rational beings into brutes or puppets… Democracy…comes nearest to the natural condition ” </li></ul>
  18. 18. Therefore.. <ul><li>“ Democracy …to be the most natural form of state, and to come nearest to preserving the freedom which nature allows the individual…for in it no one transfers his natural right to another so completely that he is never consulted again, but each transfers it to a majority of the whole community of which he is a member. In this way all remain equal ” </li></ul>
  19. 19. Spinoza: <ul><li>“ Seeing..the rare happiness of living …where everyone’s judgment is free and unshakled… </li></ul><ul><li>… I should be … demonstrating that not only can such freedom be granted without prejudice to the public peace, </li></ul><ul><li>but also, that without such freedom, piety cannot flourish nor the public peace be secure. ” </li></ul>
  20. 20. These were radical, dangerous ideas in 1670. <ul><li>Adrian Koerbach, follower of Spinoza was threatened by court prosecutor with having his right thumb cut off and having his tongue pierced with a red-hot poker. Was heavily fined and sentenced to 10 years hard labor followed by exile. </li></ul><ul><li>Tractatus was banned by authorities. </li></ul><ul><li>Unlike other banned books, Tractatus spread like wildfire all over Europe. </li></ul><ul><li>Read by thinkers like John Locke who further advanced the political Enlightenment, leading to American and French revolutions. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Spinoza presaged modern psychoanalysis <ul><li>Spinoza said that people could replace “passive emotions” (unthinking) such as anger, hate, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>With “active emotions” (reflective) resulting in care and understanding. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Grand philosophic structure of “The Ethics” <ul><li>Unlike many prior philosophers, including Descartes, who believed in separate worlds of the mind and the body, Spinoza saw mind and matter as different attributes of the same world of nature . </li></ul><ul><li>He called this totality &quot; Deus sive Natura &quot; (&quot;God or Nature&quot;) </li></ul>
  23. 23. Einstein’s Take <ul><li>Albert Einstein, who discovered universal laws of physics, was challenged by a religious figure in the United States as to being an atheist. </li></ul><ul><li>He replied &quot;… I believe in Spinoza’s God , who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.” </li></ul>
  24. 24. Spinoza Street is in central Tel Aviv
  25. 25. Israeli Premier David Ben Gurion <ul><li>In 1954 called upon Judaism to rescind its excommunication of Spinoza . </li></ul><ul><li>Proposed that Hebrew University publish the philosopher's complete works two years hence on the 300th anniversary of the famous curse. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>--Time Magazine </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. IISHJ Anthology declares Spinoza to be THE PRECURSOR to Secular Humanistic Jewish Thought IISHJ = International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism
  27. 27. Rabbi Sherwin Wine on Spinoza <ul><li>“ Spinoza’s work (Tractatus) is the father and mother of personal freedom in our society, and all over the world” </li></ul><ul><li>(Listen to audio talk) </li></ul>
  28. 28. Egon Mayer, leading sociologist <ul><li>Egon Mayer, leading force behind the most comprehensive statistical study of American Jewry </li></ul><ul><li>At SHJ Colloquium said: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Spinoza is a world figure. His excommunication only served to stunt the growth of the Jewish population. We should be celebrating him today.” </li></ul>SHJ = Society for Humanistic Judaism
  29. 29. Reviewing Spinoza as Role Model <ul><li>Courageous ly stood up for what he believed </li></ul><ul><li>Was precursor to Humanistic Judaism , and to the Enlightenment </li></ul><ul><li>Laid out the case for interpreting Bible as literature </li></ul><ul><li>Developed method for rational criticism of religious texts </li></ul><ul><li>Contributed to the world as philosopher and lens maker </li></ul><ul><li>Studied by the world as one of its great philosophers </li></ul><ul><li>Book “Tractatus” laid out the case for freedom </li></ul><ul><li>Tractatus wildly successful in European underground </li></ul><ul><li>Led an exemplary constructive life </li></ul><ul><li>Put reason as the source of all knowledge </li></ul>
  30. 30. Spinoza, a man who jump started the modern world.