Betraying Spinoza (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
Of the major figures in Western philosophy, Baruch Spinoza may well be the most admirable as well as the most remote. Both physicist Albert Einstein and philosopher Bertrand Russell openly admired his thinking and his integrity. While few scientific thinkers would be willing to endorse Spinoza’s claim that the universe can be understood by reason alone, his ideas resonate with those of some modern cosmologists. At the same time Spinoza’s theories of the emotions and the mind-body relationship have a certain appeal for modern neuroscientists. Though Spinoza could not accept revealed religion in its Jewish or any other form, he championed religious liberty. Later in life, his Tractatus theologico-politicus (1670; A Theologico-Political Treatise, 1862) would argue that the Pentateuch could not have been the work of the historical Moses but combined the writing of other, later writersinitiating the so-called higher criticism of Scripture now accepted by many scholars and seminary professors.
Spinoza was born in 1632 to a family of MarranosPortuguese Jews who had nominally converted to Catholicism under duress but continued to practice their religion in secret before migrating to the Netherlands where they could resume their Jewish identity and outward observance. Spinoza received a traditional Jewish education and was soon recognized as an exceptional scholar. In 1656, however, he was placed in kherem (excommunicated) by the...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
Commentary 122, no. 5 (December, 2006): 25-30.
Harper’s Magazine 312 (May, 2006): 80.
Library Journal 131, no. 7 (April 15, 2006): 79.
London Review of Books, July 20, 2006, p. 19.
The New York Review of Books 53 (May 25, 2006): 41.
The New York Times Book Review 155 (June 18, 2006): 7.
Publishers Weekly 253, no. 12 (March 20, 2006): 47.
Weekly Standard 11, no. 48 (September 11, 2006): 33-34.
(The entire section is 41 words.)