Isidore Singer.

The Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 11) online

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extension, that is,
body. This last
statement is of
considerable in-
terest in view of
Spinoza's later
pliilosophic doc-
trines on this
point. He was
summoned before
the bet din, and
seems t o h a v e
made no conceal-
ment of his views;
it is claimed tiiat
his teaciier Mor-
teira offered him,
on beiialf of the
congregation, a
pension of 1,000
florins a year pro-
vided he would
not give public
utterance to his
heretical views.
This Marano ex-
pedient was re-
fused, and the
congregation i)ro-
ceeded to his
formal excommu-
nication on July
27, 1656, which
was regularly re-
ported to the Am-
sterdam magis-
trates. This latter action shows that the main ob-
ject of the excommunication was to disavow on the
part of the community any participation in Spino-
za's pernicious views, and was a natural pre-
caution on the part of a set of men only recently
released from persecution on account of their opin-
ions 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. Freu-
denthal suggests that this happened during an alter-
cation with Spinoza himself.

Spinoza was thus cast out at the age of ^wenty-

Baruch Spinoza.

(From a ininiatiire in possessiou of the Queen of Holland.)

three from all communion with men of his own faith
and race, and there is no evidence of his coming into
conununieatiou with a single Jewish soul from that
time to Ids death (the "I. O." among
Friends his correspondents, formerly assumed
and to be Isaac Orobio, turned out to be

Disciples. Jacob Oosten). It is clear that Spi-
noza had already formed a circle of
friends and di.sciples, mainly of the Mennonite sect
known as Collegiants, whose doctrines were similar
to those of the C^uakers; and that he had attended a
philosophical club composed mainly of these sect-
aries, one of whom, Simon de Vries, acted as secre-
tary. After his
Spinoza found it
desirable to take
up his abode witii
a Collegiant
friend who lived
two or three miles
outside of Am-
sterdam on the
Ouderkerk road,
near the old Jew-
ish cemetery.
There he conunu-
nicated with his
friends in Amster-
dam by letter, and
thev seem to have
subnntted to him
their ditRcultics
in the same way,
leading to a regu-
lar philosophical
As a means of liv-
ing Spinoza re-
sorted to the call-
ing 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 re-
mained in his new
abode five years, during wliich he wrote a defense
of his position, afterward extended into the "Trac-
tatus Theologico-Politicus," and a short tractate on
"God, Man, and Happiness," afterward developed
into his "Ethics."

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 resume of
the Cartesian philosophy, presenting it in a geomet-
ric form; composed his treatise on philosophical
method, " De Intellectus Emendatione," which,
however, remained unfinished; and wrote at least
the beginning of his "Ethics," adopting the same
geometric form. lie finished the "Ethics" in Aug.,




1665, at Voorburg, a suburb of The Hague, to
which lie liad removed iu 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 Amster-
dam, who translated them into Latin and wrote liim
letters iu the same language dealing with the diffi-
culties of his theories. Before publishing this work,
however, so subversive of the ordinary views of
theology and philosoph}', 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 iu 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 estab-
lished by his two published works, and he was con-
sulted both personally and by letter by many impor-
tant scientific men of the day, including Oldenburg,
secretary of the Royal Societ}-, London ; Huygens,
the optician ; Louis Meyer, the physician ; and Count
von Tschirnhausen, afterward tlie discoverer of a
new method of obtaining phosphorus and the redis-
coverer of the method of producing porcelain.
Through von Tschirnhausen, Spinoza came into
correspondence with Leibnitz, then (1672) in Paris.
He appears to have had some suspicions of Leib-
nitz'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.

Spinoza settled at The Hague in 1670, possibly to
be near his patron Joim 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 pub-
licly denouncing it. The following

At The j'ear he received and refused an offer of

Hague a professorsliip in philosophy at Hei-
(1670-77). delberg 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 liveli-
hood. He died, while his landlady was at church,
in the presence of his physician, Louis Meyer.

Spinoza left a considerable library, for the pur-
XL— 33

Seal ol Spinoza.

chase 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
Kebekah did not find it worth while to make appli-
cation therefor. His funeral was attended by a num-
ber of his disciples and friends, who filled six coaches
He was buried iu the cemeter}' of the new church on
the Spuy, in a grave which can no longer be identi-
fied. His biographer, Colerus, however, asserts that
he was never received into any Christian commu-
nity, and Spinoza in one of his letters (Ixxiii., 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 tiie 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

As has been mentioned above, only two of Spi-
noza's works were published during his lifetime;
"Renati Des Cartes Principiorum Philosophiae Pars
i. et ii. More Geometrico Demonstratae per Bene-
dictum de Spinoza Amstelodamensem. Acces-
serunt Ejusdem Cogitata Metaphysica," Amster-
dam, 1663, and "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus,"
published without the author's name and printed
professedly at Hamburg, though really at Amster-
dam, 1670. The latter work was published two j'ears
later as the " Opera Chirurgica " of Fraucisci Villa-
corta, or asthe"Operum Historicorum CoUectio"
of Daniel Heinsius. The remainder of Spinoza's
w(n-ks appeared iu the year of his death (1677) at
Amsterdam under the title "B. d. S. Opera Pos-
thuma." They included the"Ethica,"
Works. tlie " Tractatus Politicus," the " Trac-
tatus de Intellectus Emendatione," the
"Epistol*," both from and to Spinoza, and the
"Compendium GrammaticesLinguajHebrea?." 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 Yerhandcling ") which was
the basis of the "Ethics," and likewise, in tlieCoUe-
giant archives at Amsterdam, a number of letters;
these were published by V"an Vloten as "Ad Bene-
dicti de Spinoza Opera Qu;e Supersvmt Omnia Sup-
plementum," 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 repT)duced in the orig-
inal in a separate edition, but they have always ap-




peared as liis "Opera Omnia," of which editions
liave been prepared b}^ E. G. Paulus (Jena, 1802),

A. Gfrorer (Stuttgart, 1830), C. 11. Bruder (Lcipsic,
1843), H. Gin/.berg {lb. 1874-78), and Van Vloten
and Land (2 vols., Tlie Hague, 1883; 3 vols., ib.
1895), the last being at present the standard edi-
tion. Translations have been made into German by

B. Auerbach (Stuttgart, 1841), into Englisli by K.
Willis (1862-70) and R. H. M. Elvves (1883), into
French by E. Saisset (Paris, 1842); of tlie "Ethics"
alone there have been i)ublished English versions by
R. Willis, 1870, and Hale Wiiite, 1883, and a Hebrew
version by S. Rubin (Vienna, 1887). An edition
and translation of the " Kortc Verhandeling " were
produced by C. Schaarschmidt (Leipsic, 1874), as
well as a translation by C. Sigwart (Tubingen, 1870).

Tliere are four portraits extant of Spinoza, one
an engraving attached to the "Opera Posthuma"; a
second one at
Wol fen battel ;
a third one at
the beginning of
edition of the
" Korte Verhan-
<leliug," from a
miniature for-
merly 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 ten-
ants of his. It is
signed " W. V., 1672" (or 1673), which would corre-
spond to the initials of the painter W. Vaillant, who
was living at Amsterdam in that j'ear; Vaillant
painted the portrait of the elector Karl Lud-
wig, 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 Wolfenbiittel portrait is en-
tirely 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 ExcvcLorEDiA.

It has been both asserted and denied that the
thoughts developed in Spinoza's short life of forty-
four j-ears, and put forth anonymously
Philoso- after his death witli such remarkable
phy. 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.

Spinoza's Residence at RlaijusbuiK-

(From a photograph.)

The (pu'stion is a very ditllcult one to decide,
owing to the close-linked chain of Spinoza's thought,
which he designedly made in his " Ethics" a contin-
uous course of reasoning, each proposition being de-
pendent upon the preceding, exactly after the man-
ner 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.

The key to Spinoza's philosophic system is to be
found in his method of investigation as indicated iu
the fragmentary " De Intellectus Emendatione."
Finding that none of the ordinary objects of man's
desire — wealth, power, and the like — aftords perma-
nent satisfaction, Spinoza came to the conclusion that
only the attainment of truth gives that increase of

power and ac-
companying joy
which can be de-
scribed 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 j'ield-
ing knowledge
of various de-
grees of adequa-
cy : (1) imagina-
1 ion, yielding
only confused
and inadequate
ideas; (2) reason,
giving the es-
sences of things,
and ( 3 ) intui-
tion, 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 possibilitj' of deducing all the principles of pure
mathematics and physics from a certain number of
indefinables and indemouslrables. 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 es-
sences of things must flow as a matter of necessity,
or, in other words, be "caused," since Spinoza does
not distinguish between logical dependence and






and Rest



dynamic causation. In this way his logic passes
over into his metaphysics, and in attempting to de-
termine the cause of tilings, 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 («) substance.
Ontology, that by which all things s\ibsist, (A) the

self-caused (" causa sui "), that which is
not dependent for its existence on that of anotner,
or, finally, (c) God. The problem of Spinoza's phi-
losophy is to
connect this be-
ing, or principle,
which is rigidly
one, or rather
unique, since
there is none
other, with the
multiplicity of
things and per-
sons constitu-
ting the world of
Tills he does by
positing inter-
mediate states of
being which
present different
aspects of the
One. God, be-
ing self-caused
and, therefore,
infinite, must
have infinite as-
pects, or attri-
butes. Two only
of these are
known to man,
extensioji and
thought, which
sum up the world
as h u m a n 1 y
known. These

attributes are perfectly parallel one to the other, all
poptions 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 sub-
stance, can not constitute finite beings, which are
due to modifications of these attributes, called by
Spinoza modes. Some of these modes ai'e 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 tins conflict give rise to individual things and
persons, each of which has a tendency to self-preser-
vation ("conatus sese conservandi "). In addition,
God regarded as a substance witli infinite attril)ute3
and yielding the essences of things is termed "na-
tura 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 accom-
panying diagram.

Among the individual things, those constituted
by the modifications of the modes, the chief one of in-
terest to the philosopher is man in his dual nature as

a mode of extcn-











dea of God

Diagram Illustrating Spinoza's Metaphysical System.

sion, in his body,
and as a mode
of thought, ia
his mind. Nei-
ther of these can
directly influ-
ence the other,
though all
changes in each
are represented
by parallel
changes in the
other. From
tills point of
view the human
mind is regarded
by Spinoza as
the idea of the
body, a concep-
tion which is a
commonplace in
ni o d e r n p s y -
c h o 1 o g y, but
which immense-
ly shocked Spi-
noza's contem-
poraries. The
unit}' of the in-
dividual soul is
thus made to
depend on the
unity of the or-
ganism, though Spinoza makes a half-hearted at-
tempt 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 eifects are jiroduced
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 jiassions or emotions that in turn divert the
strivings after the true nature of man.

Spinoza's views of the nature and the classifica-
tion 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 tending




to increase tlje conatus, pain as everything lower-
ing the vitality. There is, therefore, a desire ("cu-

piditas ") to obtain things giving pleas-
Emotions, ure, and to repel things giving pain.

But man is not impelled to act by
pleasure or pain alone. The idea v?ith vphich pleas-
ure or pain is associated produces the desire to act.
Hence, Spinoza is enabled to define tlie 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 ex-
ternal cause, and liate 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,

social duties from a rational desire for the common
good. The only freedom Spinoza recognizes is the
freedom of acting in accordance with one's own na-
ture 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 re-
lief from this bondage lies in acting according to
reason, the second of the two forms of knowledge,

rather than from imagination, which

Heason as gives rise to the disturbing emotions.

Freedom. 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 har-

Spinoza's Workroom at Rhijnsburg.

(From a photograph.)

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 deter-
mination of the body derived from the laws of mo-
tion and rest (see "Ethics," iii. 2, schol.). Spinoza
claims for this rigid determinism a number of ad-
vantages — 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

mony with the divine character. By acting accord-
ing to adequate ideas the mind has free play, and its
conatus can only result in pleasure; hence the hap-
piness 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 forti-
tude or firmness to stand free of the passive affec-
tions, which is accompanied by courage ("animosi-
tas") 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 any-
thing rather than death.

But there still remains the third form of knowl-
edge, the intuitive idea of the whole plan of the




universe ; this idea, when kindled into emotion, be-
comes the mysterious quality known by Spinoza as
the "intellectual love of God," which
*' Intellec- he further qualifies as part of the love
tual Love with which God loves Himself, though
of God." here God is taken as synonymous with
uatura naturata. This is eternal, or,
in other words, not subject to the changeable char-
acteristics 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 in-
tends nothing other than that " work done for rea-
son is done for eternity," to use Kenan's words. It
is somewhat remarkable that the most recent meta-
ii physical views regard personal love as the most ade-
quate 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, Lon-
don, 1903). But there is probably discernible here a
direct influence of Spinoza's thought.

As regards the sources from which the main ele-
ments of Spinoza's system were derived, they are
mainly two, Descartes and the Jewish philosophers
of the Middle Ages. There is some evidence of in-
fluence 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 ex-

Online LibraryIsidore SingerThe Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 11) → online text (page 124 of 160)