A Brill Calendar: November 2
In Praise of Spinoza
Few philosophers will have commanded more love and admiration ever than Baruch de Espinoza, or to give him his Latin name, ‘Benedictus Spinoza’ (Amsterdam, 1632 – The Hague, 1677).
Recently the British historian Jonathan Israel has formulated the proposition that this 17th century Dutchman is the ultimate founding father of the European Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. During his short life however, Baruch or Benedictus – ‘the blessed one’ twice; in Hebrew and Latin respectively– survived only in margins of Dutch society.
Just a fraction of his prodigious output went to print while he lived: namely ‘Tractatus Theologico-politicus’ (1670), a critical interpretation of the oeuvre of the French philosopher René Descartes, who had died when Spinoza was eighteen. Expelled from Amsterdam’s Sephardic community because of his controversial views of religious matters – both in Jewish and Christian dogma & doctrine – Spinoza became victim of censorship, a censorship which increased sharply in the final four years of his life. ‘Tractatus Theologico-politicus’ was, of course, promptly forbidden.
In Leyden, the Luchtmans book-empire had to sell copies of a Dutch translation from under the table in 1694; in order to avoid trouble and repercussions. However it is seldom that the path from virtual oblivion to ageless status took such a surprising course.
The modest cottage where Spinoza lived for a while in Rijnsburg village, Holland, became a shrine in honour of the old philosopher centuries later, in 1897. In November 2, 1920, two Professors from nearby Leyden piously visited the house: Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and Albert Einstein, not only author of the Relativity Theory, but also a home-spun poet, writing a rhyme on Spinoza: ‘Wie lieb ich diesen edlen Mann. Mehr als ich mit Worten sagen kann.’
2013, May 17
2013, April 11
2013, April 11