The Dutch Maimonides

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The Dutch Maimonides” Consider This Description Of Baruch Spinoza Essay, Research Paper The Dutch Maimonides: how ironic that this epithet, a name `synonomous with virtue, respect and religious devotion, should be `directed at a man villified and ostracized by the Dutch Jewish `community for heretical tendencies, and left to die in `circumstances bordering on the ignominious, among Gentiles. In `this essay we will give a brief overview of Spinoza’s life and `character then go on to examine his conception of God and then `evaluate whether a comparison with Maimonides is justified, or `indeed, warranted. `Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) grew up in Amsterdam at a `time when scientific discovery, religious division and profound `political change, were coursing through the very

fabric of Dutch `society. His antecedents, wealthy and respected merchants in `Portugal, had finally fled from the oppressive tyranny of the `Inquisition and gravitated naturally towards the secular and `tolerant Northern Provinces of the Netherlands. His father, warden `of the synagogue and pillar of the Jewish the community, gave his `only son a fine education in Hebraic Law and orthodoxy, in `preparation for becoming a Rabbi. However, Jewish orthodoxy, like `Christian orthodoxy, had been deeply shaken by the new ideas of `the Renaissance, and such luminaries as Galileo, Bacon and `Descartes. In was in this atmosphere of revisionism and fierce `debate that Spinoza found himself increasingly dissatisfied with `the biblical interpretations he received from the Rabbis. His

`contacts with the unorthodox Christian intellectual community grew `and he found himself attracted towards the natural science’s and `teachings of Descartes. At the age of twenty four, three years `after his father’s death, Spinoza’s scepticism of the `compatibility of Biblical doctrine with natural science and logic, `led to the Rabbinacal authorities excommunicating him in 1656. As `might be expected, the young Spinoza took this philosophically and `set about earning his living in the highly skilled field of lens `grinding. Spinoza chose to live a quiet ascetic life, and was, by `all accounts, a dignified and tranquil man of great personal charm `and kindness. Spinoza’s perceived atheism, however, ensured his `notoriety; he had the reputation in Europe of being a

mysteriously `subversive thinker, with whom it was dangerous to associate. These `perceptions were compounded in 1670 with the publication of his `’Theologico-Political Treatise’ in which Spinoza advocated `tolerance, secularism and the ways of peace. The Treatise was `described as being “forged in Hell by a renegade Jew and the `Devil” (Scruton:P.12) and was condemned by various religious `authorities and formally banned in 1674. After this, despite the `promptings of his close circle of friends and admirer’s, Spinoza `gave up the idea of publishing his seminal work ‘Ethics’ believing `that the hostility engendered by its publication would cloud its `real meaning: the possibility of freedom of thought in a secular `state. Spinoza died at the age of fourty four,

peacefully and `without public notice. The subsequent publication of his `manuscripts by his philosophical friends, was met with `incomprehension and abuse, and were generally neglected until the `end of the eighteenth century. In this secular age it is `difficult to even come close to comprehending the furore that the `perceived heresy of Spinoza stirred up. It these notions and `hypotheses that will we will now examine. `Spinoza embraced the new learning of the age with all `the customary zeal of the converted. Revelation had to be `displaced by Reason and Science. In his determination to `construct a complete picture of life and the world, subjected to `the scientifuc principles of ordered law and reasoned analysis, `he went further than any philosopher or theologian before