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BENEDICT SPINOZA

1632-1677
Dutch

"Those who are believed to be most abject and humble are usually most ambitious and envious. "

Baruch or Benedict de Spinoza was born on 24 November 1632 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death. Today, he is considered one of the great rationalists of seventeenth century philosophy, laying the groundwork for the eighteenth century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism. By virtue of his magnum opus, the posthumous Ethics, in which he opposed Descartes' mind - body dualism, Spinoza is considered to be one of Western philosophy's most important philosophers. Philosopher and historian Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said that of all modern philosophers, "You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all."

Though Spinoza was active in the Dutch - Jewish community and extremely well-versed in Jewish texts, some claim that his controversial ideas eventually led community leaders to issue a ‘cherem’ (Hebrew: a kind of excommunication) against him, effectively dismissing him from Jewish society at age 23. Some historians argue that the Roman Catholic Church forced them to do so. The philosopher Richard Popkin questions the historical veracity of the ‘cherem’, which Popkin claims only emerged close to 300 years after Spinoza's death.All of Spinoza's works were listed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books) by the Roman Catholic Church.

Spinoza lived quietly as a lens grinder, turning down rewards and honors, including prestigious teaching positions, throughout his life, and gave his family inheritance to his sister. Spinoza's moral character and philosophical accomplishments prompted twentieth century philosopher Gilles Deleuze to name him "the prince of philosophers”.

Spinoza died in 1677 at the age of 44, allegedly of a lung illness, possibly tuberculosis or silicosis exacerbated by fine glass dust inhaled while plying his trade. Spinoza is buried in the churchyard of the Christian Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague.

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