Spinoza, Benedict (16321677)

Spinoza, Benedict, great modern philosopher, born in Amsterdam, of Jews of Portuguese extraction in well-to-do circumstances, and had been trained as a scholar; began with the study of the Bible and the Talmud, but soon exchanged the study of theology in these for that of physics and the works of Descartes, in which study he drifted farther and farther from the Jewish creed, and at length openly abandoned it; this exposed him to a persecution which threatened his life, so that he left Amsterdam and finally settled at The Hague, where, absorbed in philosophic study, he lived in seclusion, earning a livelihood by polishing optical glasses, which his friends disposed of for him; his days were short; he suffered from ill-health, and died of consumption when he was only 44; he was a man of tranquil temper, moderate desires, purity of motive, and kindly in heart; his great work, his “Ethica,” was published a year after his death; he had held it back during his lifetime because he foresaw it would procure him the name of atheist, which he shrank from with horror; Spinoza's doctrine is summed up by Dr. Stirling thus, “Whatever is, is; and that is extension and thought. These two are all that is; and besides these there is nought. But these two are one; they are attributes of the single substance (that which, for its existence, stands in need of nothing else), very God, in whom, then, all individual things and all individual ideas (modes of extension those, of thought these) are comprehended and take place”; thus we see Spinoza includes under the term extension all individual objects, and under thought all individual ideas, and these two he includes in God, as He in whom they live and move and have their being,—a great conception and a pregnant, being the speculative ground of the being of all that lives and is; not without good reason does Novalis call him “Der Gott-getrunkene Mensch,” the God-intoxicated man (16321677).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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