Baruch Spinoza

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Born November 24, 1632(1632-11-24)
Amsterdam, Dutch Republic
Died February 21, 1677(1677-02-21) (aged 44)
The Hague, Dutch Republic
Web Aaaaarg, Wikisource, Wikipedia, Academia.edu, Open Library

Baruch Spinoza (born Benedito de Espinosa; 1632–1677, later Benedict de Spinoza) was a Dutch philosopher of Sephardi Portuguese origin.

Life[edit]

This section is taken from Gilles Deleuze, "Life of Spinoza", ch 1 in Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, trans. Robert Hurley, 1988, pp 3-14.

Nietzsche understood, having lived it himself, what consti­tutes the mystery of a philosopher's life. The philosopher appro­priates the ascetic virtues–humility, poverty, chastity–and makes them serve ends completely his own, extraordinary ends that are not very ascetic at all; in fact.[1] He makes them the ex­pression of his singularity. They are not moral ends in his case, or religious means to another life, but rather the "effects" of philosophy itself. For there is absolutely no other life for the phi­losopher. Humility, poverty, and chastity become the effects of an especially rich and superabundant life, sufficiently powerful to have conquered thought and subordinated every other in­stinct to itself. This is what Spinoza calls Nature: a life no longer lived on the basis of need, in terms of means and ends, but ac­cording to a production, a productivity, a potency, in terms of causes and effects. Humility, poverty, chastity are his (the philos­opher's) way of being a grand vivant, of making a temple of his own body, for a cause that is all too proud, all too rich, all too sensual. So that by attacking the philosopher, people know the shame of attacking a modest, poor, and chaste appearance, which increases their impotent rage tenfold; and the philos­opher offers no purchase, although he takes every blow.

Here the full meaning of the philosopher's solitude becomes apparent. For he cannot integrate into any milieu; he is not suit­ed to any of them. Doubtless it is in democratic and liberal mi­lieus that he finds the best living conditions, or rather the best conditions for survival. But for him these milieus only guarantee that the malicious will not be able to poison or mutilate life, that they will not be able to separate it from the power of thinking that goes a little beyond the ends of the state, of a society, be­yond any milieu in general. In every society, Spinoza will show, it is a matter of obeying and of nothing else. This is why the no­tions of fault, of merit and demerit, of good and evil, are exclu­sively social, having to do with obedience and disobedience. The best society, then, will be one that exempts the power of think­ing from the obligation to obey, and takes care, in its own inter­est, not to subject thought to the rule of the state, which only applies to actions. As long as thought is free, hence vital, nothing is compromised. When it ceases being so, all the other oppres­sions are also possible, and already realized, so that any action becomes culpable, every life threatened. It is certain that the philosopher finds the most favorable conditions in the demo­cratic state and in liberal circles. But he never confuses his pur­poses with those of a state, or with the aims of a milieu, since he solicits forces in thought that elude obedience as well as blame, and fashions the image of a life beyond good and evil, a rigorous innocence without merit or culpability. The philosopher can re­side in various states, he can frequent various milieus, but he does so in the manner of a hermit, a shadow, a traveler or board­ing house lodger. That is why one should not imagine Spinoza breaking with a supposedly closed Jewish milieu in order to en­ter supposedly open liberal ones: liberal Christianity, Cartesian­ism, a bourgeoisie favorable to the De Witt brothers, and so on. For, wherever he goes he only asks, demands, with a greater or smaller chance of success, to be tolerated, himself and his un­common aims, and from this tolerance he judges concerning the degree of democracy, the degree of truth, which a society can bear, or on the contrary, concerning the danger that threatens all men.

Baruch Spinoza is born in 1632 in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, into a family of well-to-do merchants of Spanish or Portuguese extraction. At the Jewish school he studies theology and commerce. From the age of thirteen he works in his father's business firm while he pursues his studies (on the death of his father in 1654 he will manage the business with his brother, un­til 1656). How does the slow philosophical conversion come about that causes him to break with the Jewish community, with business, and brings him to the excommunication of 1656? We should not imagine that the Amsterdam community is homo­geneous during this period; it has as much diversity, as many in­terests and ideologies as the Christian milieus. For the most part it is made up of former "marranos," that is, of Jews who out­wardly practiced Catholicism in Spain and Portugal, and who were obliged to emigrate at the end of the sixteenth century. Even those sincerely attached to their Jewish faith are imbued with a philosophical, scientific, and medical culture that cannot easily be reconciled with the traditional rabbinical Judaism. Spi­noza's father is apparently a skeptic himself, who nevertheless plays an important role in the synagogue and the Jewish commu­nity. In Amsterdam some go so far as to question, not merely the role of the rabbis and tradition, but the meaning of the Scrip­ture itself: Uriel da Costa will be condemned in 1647 for deny­ing the immortality of the soul and revealed law, recognizing natural law alone; and, more important, Juan de Prado will be made to repent in 1656, then excommunicated, accused of hav­ing held that the soul dies with the body, that God only exists philosophically speaking, and that faith is unavailing.[2] Recently published documents testify to Spinoza's close ties with Prado; one may suppose that the two cases were linked together. If Spi­noza was judged more severely, excommunicated as early as 1656, this was because he refused to repent and sought the break himself. The rabbis, as in many other cases, seem to have hoped for an accommodation. But instead of repenting, Spinoza wrote an Apology to Justify His Leaving the Synagogue, or at least a rough draft of the future Theological-Political Treatise. The fact that Spinoza was born in Amsterdam itself, a child of the com­munity, must have made his case worse.

Life becomes difficult for him in Amsterdam. Perhaps following an assassination attempt by a fanatic, he goes to Leyden in order to continue his philosophical studies, and installs himself in the suburb of Rijnsburg. It is said that Spinoza kept his coat with a hole pierced by a knife thrust as a reminder that thought is not always loved by men. While it sometimes happens that a philosopher ends up on trial, rarely does a philosopher begin with an excommunication and an attempt on his life.

Hence one fails to consider the diversity of the Jewish commu­nity, and the destiny of a philosopher, when one believes that liberal Christian influences must be invoked to explain Spinoza's break, as if it were due to external causes. Already in Amster­dam no doubt, and while his father was alive, he had followed courses at the school of Van den Ende, which was attended by many young Jews who learned Latin in it, along with the rudi­ments of Cartesian philosophy and science, mathematics and physics. A former Jesuit, Francis Van den Ende quickly acquired the reputation of being not only a Cartesian but also a freethink­er and an atheist, and even a political agitator (he was to be ex­ecuted in France, in 1674, following the revolt of the chevalier de Rohan).[3] No doubt Spinoza also frequented liberal and anti­-clerical Christians, Collegiants and Mennonites, who were in­spired by a certain pantheism and a pacifist communism. He would encounter them again at Rijnsburg, which was one of their centers: he becomes friends with Jarig Jelles, Pieter Ball­ing, Simon de Vries, and the "progressive" bookseller and pub­lisher Jan Rieuwertz (a letter from Spinoza to Oldenburg, in 1655, evokes the pacifism, and the communitarian theme ap­pears in a letter to Jelles, in 1671). However, it seems that Van den Ende remained attached to a form of Catholicism, despite the difficulties of that religion in Holland. As for the philosophy of the Mennonites and Collegiants, it is completely surpassed by that of Spinoza, in religious criticism as well as ethical concep­tion and political concerns. Instead of thinking of an influence by the Mennonites or even the Cartesians, one can think that Spinoza was naturally drawn to the most tolerant circles, those most apt to welcome an excommunicated Jew who rejected Christianity no less than the Judaism into which he was born, and owed his break with the latter to himself alone.

Among its many meanings, Jewish excommunication had a meaning that was political and economic. It was a rather fre­quently applied, and often irreversible, measure. Deprived of the power of a state, the notables of the community had no other sanction for punishing those who refused financial contribu­tions or even political orthodoxies. The Jewish notables, like those of the Calvinist party, had kept intact a hatred of Spain and Portugal, were politically attached to the House of Orange, and had interests in the India companies (Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel, one of Spinoza's professors, himself came close to being excommunicated in 1640 for criticizing the East India Company; and the members of the council that judged Spinoza were Orangist, pro-Calvinist, anti-Hispanic, and for the most part, shareholders in the Company). Spinoza's ties with the liberals, his sympathies for the republican party of Jan de Witt, which called for the dissolution of the great monopolies–all this made Spinoza a rebel. In any case, Spinoza broke not only with the re­ligious milieu but with the economic milieu at the same time. Abandoning the family business, he learned lensmaking, he be­came a craftsman, a philosopher craftsman equipped with a manual trade, capable of grasping and working with the laws of optics. He also began to draw; his early biographer Colerus re­lates that he drew himself in the attitude and costume of the Neapolitan revolutionary Masaniello.[4]

At Rijnsburg, Spinoza gives his friends an exposition, in Latin, of the work that will become the Short Treatise. They take notes; Jelles translates into Dutch; perhaps Spinoza dictates certain texts that he has written previously. In about 1661, he composes the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, which opens with a kind of spiritual itinerary, in the Mennonite manner, centered on a denunciation of wealth. This treatise, a splendid exposition of Spinoza's method, will remain unfinished. Around 1663, for a young man who lived with him and who both gave him hopes and irritated him a good deal, he presents The Principles of Des­cartes' Philosophy, supplemented by a critical examination of scholastic notions (Metaphysical Thoughts). Rieuwertz publishes the book; Jelles finances it; Balling will translate it into Dutch. Lewis Meyer, physician, poet, organizer of a new theater in Am­sterdam, writes the preface. With the Principles, the "professori­al" work of Spinoza comes to an end. Few thinkers avoid the brief temptation to become professors of their own discoveries, the seminar temptation of a private spiritual training. But Spino­za's planning and.tommencement of the Ethics, as early as 1661, transport him to another dimension, a different element which, as we shall see, no longer can be that of an "exposition," even a methodological one. Perhaps it is for this reason that Spinoza leaves the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect unfinished, and despite his later intentions does not manage to resume it.[5] One should not think that in his quasi-professorial period Spinoza was ever a Cartesian. The Short Treatise already exhibits a way of thinking that uses Cartesianism as a means, not to eliminate, but to purify all of scholasticism, Jewish thought, and Renaissance philosophy, in order to extract from them something profound­ly new which belongs only to Spinoza. The complex relationship between the exposition of the Principles and the Metaphysical Thoughts gives evidence of this double game in which Cartesian­ism is handled like a sieve, but in such a way that a new and pro­digious scholasticism emerges which no longer has anything to do with the old philosophy, nor with Cartesianism either. Carte­sianism was never the thinking of Spinoza; it was more like his rhetoric; he uses it as the rhetoric he needs. But all this will re­ceive its definitive form only in the Ethics.

In 1663, Spinoza moves to Voorsburg, a suburb of The Hague. He will later establish himself in the capital. What de­fines Spinoza as a traveler is not the distances he covers but rather his inclination to stay in boarding houses, his lack of attach­ment, of possessions and property, after his renunciation of the paternal inheritance. He continues to work on the Ethics. As ear­ly as 1661 the letters of Spinoza and his friends show that the latter are acquainted with the themes of the first book, and in 1663 Simon de Vries mentions a study group whose members read and discuss the texts sent by Spinoza. But at the same time that he confides in a group of friends, he asks them to keep his ideas secret, to be careful of strangers, as he himself will be, even with respect to Leibniz in 1675. The reason for his settling near The Hague is probably political: nearness to the capital is neces­sary if he is to draw close to the active liberal circles and escape the political indifference of the Collegiant group. As to the two major parties, Calvinist and republican, the situation is as follows: the first remains committed to the themes of the struggle for independence, to a politics of war, to the ambitions of the House of Orange, to the formation of a centralized state; and the second, to a politics of peace, a provincial organization, and the development of a liberal economy. To the impassioned and bellicose behavior of the monarchy, Jan de Witt opposes the ra­tional behavior of a republic guided by a natural and geometric method. Now, the mystery seems to be this: the people remain faithful to Calvinism and the House of Orange, to intolerance and warmongering. Since 1653, Jan de Witt is the Grand Pen­sionary of Holland. But the republic nevertheless remains a re­public by surprise and by accident, more for the lack of a king than by preference, and it is poorly accepted by the people. When Spinoza speaks of the harmfulness of revolutions, one must bear in mind that revolution is thought of in terms of the disappointments that Cromwell's revolution inspired, or the anxieties caused by a possible coup d'état by the House of Or­ange. During this period "revolutionary" ideology is permeated with theology and is often, as with the Calvinist party, in the ser­vice of a politics of reaction.

So it is not surprising that Spinoza, in 1665, temporarily sus­pends work on the Ethics and starts writing the Theological-Politi­cal Treatise, which will be concerned with the questions: Why are the people so deeply irrational? Why are they proud of their own enslavement? Why do they fight "for" their bondage as if it were their freedom? Why is it so difficult not only to win but to bear freedom? Why does a religion that invokes love and joy inspire war, intolerance, hatred, malevolence, and remorse? In 1670 the Theological-Political Treatise appears, without an author's name and credited to a fictitious German publisher. But the au­thor is soon identified; few books occasioned as many refuta­tions, anathemas, insults, and maledictions: Jews, Catholics, Calvinists, and Lutherans–all the right-thinking circles, includ­ing the Cartesians themselves–competed with one another in denouncing it. It was then that the words "Spinozism" and "Spi­nozist" became insults and threats. And even the critics of Spi­noza who were suspected of not being harsh enough were denounced. Doubtless among these critics there were some em­barrassed liberals and Cartesians who nonetheless gave proof of their orthodoxy by participating in the attack. An explosive book always keeps its explosive charge: one still cannot read the Treatise without discovering in it philosophy's function as a radi­cal enterprise of demystification, or as a science of "effects." A recent commentator is able to say that the true originality of the Treatise is in its considering religion as an effect.[6] Not only in the causal sense but also in an optical sense, an effect whose process of production will be sought by connecting it to its necessary ra­tional causes as they affect men who do not understand them (for example, the way in which natural laws are necessarily per­ceived as "signs" by those who have a strong imagination and a weak understanding). Even when dealing with religion, Spinoza polishes glasses that reveal the effect produced and the laws of its production.

It is his ties with the republican party, and perhaps the protec­tion of De Witt, that save Spinoza from a more specific kind of worry. (As early as 1669, Koerbagh, the author of a philosophi­cal dictionary denounced for its Spinozist leanings, had been ar­rested and had died in prison.) But Spinoza has to leave the suburb, where his life is made difficult by the pastors, and take up residence in The Hague. And, above all, this is at the cost of silence. The Netherlands are at war. After the De Witt brothers are assassinated, in 1672, and the Orangist party has returned to power, there can no longer be any question for Spinoza of pub­lishing the Ethics; a brief attempt in Amsterdam, in 1675, easily convinces him to give up the idea. "Certain theologians took the occasion to complain of me before the prince and magistrates; moreover, the stupid Cartesians, being suspected of favoring me, endeavored to remove the aspersion by abusing everywhere my opinions and writings, a course which they still pursue."[7] For Spinoza, there is no question of leaving the country. But he is more and more alone and ill. The only milieu in which he might have lived in peace fails him. Yet he receives visits by enlightened men who want to know the Ethics, even if this means join­ing with its critics subsequently, or even denying that these visits were paid to him (as in the case of Leibniz in 1676). The profes­sorship of philosophy at Heidelberg, which the Elector Palatine offers him in 1673, does not tempt him: Spinoza belongs to that line of "private thinkers" who overturn values and construct their philosophy with hammer blows; he is not one of the "pub­lic professors" (who, according to Leibniz's approving words, do not disturb the established sentiments, the order of Morality and the Police). "Since it has never been my wish to teach in public, I have been unable to induce myself to accept this splendid oppor­tunity, though I have long deliberated about it."[8] Spinoza's thinking is now taken up with the most recent problems: What are the chances for a commercial aristocracy? Why has the liber­al republic foundered? Is it possible to change the multitude into a collectivity of free men instead of a gathering of slaves? All these questions animate the Political Treatise, which is left unfin­ished, symbolically, at the beginning of the chapter on democracy. In February of 1677, Spinoza dies, probably of a pulmo­nary disease, in the presence of his friend Meyer, who takes pos­session of the manuscripts. By the end of the year, the Opera posthuma are published at the expense of an anonymous donor.

This frugal, propertyless life, undermined by illness, this thin, frail body, this brown, oval face with its sparkling black eyes­–how does one explain the impression they give of being suffused with Life itself, of having a power identical to Life? In his whole way of living and of thinking, Spinoza projects an image of the positive, affirmative life, which stands in opposition to the sem­blances that men are content with. Not only are they content with the latter, they feel a hatred of life, they are ashamed of it; a humanity bent on self-destruction, multiplying the cults of death, bringing about the union of the tyrant and the slave, the priest, the judge, and the soldier, always busy running life into the ground, mutilating it, killing it outright or by degrees, over­laying it or suffocating it with laws, properties, duties, em­pires–this is what Spinoza diagnoses in the world, this betrayal of the universe and of mankind. His biographer Colerus reports that he was fond of spider fights: "He looked for some spiders, and made them fight together, or he threw some flies into the cobweb, and was so well-pleased with that battle, that he would sometimes break into laughter."[9] Animals at least teach us the irreducibly external character of death. They do not carry it within, although they necessarily bring it to each other: an inevi­table bad encounter in the order of natural existences. But they have not yet invented that internal death, the universal sadomasochism of the tyrant-slave. In the reproach that Hegel will make to Spinoza, that he ignored the negative and its power, lies the glory and innocence of Spinoza, his own discovery. In a world consumed by the negative, he has enough confidence in life, in the power of life, to challenge death, the murderous ap­petite of men, the rules of good and evil, of the just and the un­just. Enough confidence in life to denounce all the phantoms of the negative. Excommunication, war, tyranny, reaction, men who fight for their enslavement as if it were their freedom–this forms the world in which Spinoza lives. The assassination of the De Witt brothers is exemplary for him. Ultimi barbarorum. In his view, all the ways of humiliating and breaking life, all the forms of the negative have two sources, one turned outward and the other inward, resentment and bad conscience, hatred and guilt. "The two archenemies of the human race, Hatred and Re­morse."[10] He denounces these sources again and again as being linked to man's consciousness, as being inexhaustible until there is a new consciousness, a new vision, a new appetite for living. Spinoza feels, experiences, that he is eternal.

In Spinoza's thought, life is not an idea, a matter of theory. It is a way of being, one and the same eternal mode in all its attri­butes. And it is only from this perspective that the geometric method is fully comprehensible . In the Ethics, it is in opposition to what Spinoza calls satire; and satire is everything that takes pleasure in the powerlessness and distress of men, everything that feeds on accusations, on malice, on belittlement, on low in­terpretations, everything that breaks men's spirits (the tyrant needs broken spirits, just as broken spirits need a tyrant). The geometric method ceases to be a method of intellectual exposi­tion; it is no longer a means of professorial presentation but rather a method of invention. It becomes a method of vital and optical rectification. If man is somehow distorted, this torsion effect will be rectified by connecting it to its causes more geome­trico. This optical geometry traverses the entire Ethics. People have asked whether the Ethics should be read in terms of thought or in terms of power (for example, are the attributes powers or concepts?). Actually, there is only one term, Life, that encompasses thought, but conversely this term is encompassed only by thought. Not that life is in thinking, but only the thinker has a potent life, free of guilt and hatred; and only life explains the thinker. The geometric method, the profession of polishing lenses, and the life of Spinoza should be understood as constitut­ing a whole. For Spinoza is one of the vivants-voyants. He ex­presses this precisely when he says that demonstrations are "the eyes of the mind."[11] He is referring to the third eye, which en­ables one to see life beyond all false appearances, passions, and deaths. The virtues–humility, poverty, chastity, frugality–are required for this kind of vision, no longer as virtues that muti­late life, but as powers that penetrate it and become one with it. Spinoza did not believe in hope or even in courage; he believed only in joy, and in vision. He let others live, provided that others let him live. He wanted only to inspire, to waken, to reveal. The purpose of demonstration functioning as the third eye is not to command or even to convince, but only to shape the glass or po­lish the lens for this inspired free vision. "You see, to me it seems as though the artists, the scientists, the philosophers were grind­ing lenses. It' s all a grand preparation for something that never comes off. Someday the lens is going to be perfect and then we're all going to see clearly, see what a staggering, wonderful, beautiful world it is. ..." (Henry Miller).

Notes[edit]

  1. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, III.
  2. Cf. I. S. Révah, Spinoza et Juan de Prado, Mouton, 1959.
  3. The novel by Eugène Sue, Lautréamont, depicts Van den Ende in his activities as a democratic conspirator.
  4. An engraving preserved in Amsterdam (Print Collection of the Rijks­museum) is thought to be a reproduction of this portrait.
  5. The most precise reason for the abandonment of this treatise is to be sought in the theory of the "common notions" as it appears in the Ethics, a theory that makes some arguments of the Treatise inoperative or unnecessary.
  6. Cf. J.-P. Osier, preface to L'Essence du christianisme by Feuerbach, "Ou Spinoza ou Feuerbach," Maspero, Paris.
  7. Letter LXVIII, to Oldenburg.
  8. Letter XLVIII, to Fabritius. On the Spinozan conception of teaching, cf. the Political Treatise, chap. VIII, 49. "Everyone who asked permis­sion would be allowed to teach openly, at his own expense, and at the risk of his reputation. ..."
  9. This anecdote appears authentic because it has many Spinozan resonances. Spider fights, or spider-fly fights, could have fascinated Spino­za for several reasons: 1. from the standpoint of the exteriority of necessary death; 2. from the standpoint of the composition of relations in nature (how the web expresses a relationship of the spider with the world, one which appropriates, as such, relations peculiar to the fly); 3. from the standpoint of the relativity of perfections (how a state that marks an imperfection of man, e.g., warfare, can on the contrary testify to a perfection if it is related to a different essence such as that of in­ sects: cf. Letter XIX to Blyenbergh).
  10. Short Treatise, first dialogue.
  11. Theological-Political Treatise, chap. 13; Ethics, V, 23, scholium.

Works[edit]

Spinoza published the following two books: First and Second Parts of the Principles of the Philosophy of Rene Descartes, Demonstrat­ed in the Manner of the Geometers, Followed by Metaphysical Thoughts (1663, in Latin), and the Theological-Political Treatise (1670, in Latin).

Spinoza also wrote, without managing to publish for various reasons:

1650-1660: Short Treatise on God, Man and His Well-Being. This was originally an exposition in Latin, but we only know two Dutch manuscripts, resembling an author's notes, to which Spi­noza himself may have contributed in certain parts. The whole seems to be made up of texts from different dates, the "First Dialogue" no doubt being the oldest.
1661: Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, in Latin. This is an unfinished book. Spinoza also begins writing the Ethics; it is probable that certain theses of the Ethics, in particular those con­cerning the "common notions," cause him to regard the Treatise as already superceded.
1661-1675: The Ethics. A completed book, in Latin, which Spinoza considers publishing in 1675. He gives up the idea for reasons of prudence and safety.
1675-1677: Political Treatise. An unfinished book, in Latin.
At uncertain dates, Spinoza wrote two brief treatises in Dutch, Calculus of Probabilities and Treatise on the Rainbow. And, in Latin, an Outline of Hebrew Grammar, unfinished.
In 1677 the Opera posthuma are published. They contain the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, the Ethics, the Political Treatise, the Outline of Hebrew Grammar, and many of the letters.

(sourced from Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, 1988, p 15.)

The selection which follows is based on OBO.

Opera Posthuma, 1677. (Latin)
Opera, 1925. (Latin)

Editions[edit]

  • Opera Posthuma, [Amsterdam]: [Rieuwertsz], 1677, WDB, ONB. (Latin) The almost complete edition of Spinoza's works, published shortly after his death, prepared by members of his circle. Contains Ethica; Politica; De Emendatione Intellectus; Epistolae et ad eas responsiones; Compendium Grammatices Linguae Hebraeae. Does not include the Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being discovered in the mid-19th century.
  • De Nagelate Schriften van B. d. S, [Amsterdam]: [Rieuwertsz], 1677, IA. (Dutch) An early Dutch translation of Spinoza's works, published simultaneously with the Opera Posthuma.
  • Benedicti de Spinoza Opera Quae Supersunt Omnia, 2 vols., ed. H. E. G. Paulus, Jena, 1802-03, BSB/1, BSB/2, e-rara, Google/1. (Latin) An uncritical reprint of the 17th-c. editions of Spinoza; used by the German Idealists (Hegel is said to have played a minor role in its preparation).
  • Opera, 2 vols., eds. J. van Vloten and J. P. N. Land, The Hague, 1882-83; repr. 1895; 1914. The first edition of Spinoza’s works to include a critical apparatus, albeit slender.
  • Opera, 5 vols., ed. Carl Gebhardt, Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1925 (1-4), PDF/1, PDF/2, PDF/3, PDF/4, HTML, PDF; repr., 1972 (1-4) & 1987 (5), PDF/1. (Latin) The major critical edition of Spinoza's complete works, which introduced the standard pagination of Spinoza’s text (commonly designated by the schema "G Volume/Page/Line"); many editorial decisions have been questioned over the past century.
  • Œuvres, 5 vols., ed. Pierre-François Moreau, Paris: PUF, 1999ff. (Latin)/(French) A bilingual critical edition and French translation, with several contributing editors; expected to supersede Gebhardt's edition upon completion. Vols.: I (Premiers écrits), III (Traité théologico-politique), V (Traité politique).
  • The Vatican Manuscript of Spinoza's "Ethica", eds. Leen Spruit and Pina Totaro, Leiden: Brill, 2011, PDF. (Latin)/(English) A critical edition of the recently discovered manuscript of Spinoza’s Ethica, found in the archives of the Inquisition in Rome; the only known manuscript of this text, and is dated slightly earlier than the Opera Posthuma; the manuscript was accompanied by a detailed testimony on Spinoza and his circle, and is included here.
  • 370+ electronic editions listed in Post-Reformation Digital Library
A Spinoza Reader, trans. Curley, 1994, Log. (English)
Complete Works, trans. Shirley, et al., 2002, PDF. (English)

Translations[edit]

Czech
  • Traktát theologicko-politický, trans. Josef Hrůša, Prague: Tribuna, 1922, 364 pp. (Czech)
  • Rozprava politická, trans. Josef Hrůša, Prague: Česká akademie věd a umění, 1939, 94 pp. (Czech)
  • Etika, trans. Karel Hubka, Prague: Svoboda, 1977; 2nd ed., Prague: Dybbuk, 2004, 285 pp, PDF. (Czech)
English
  • The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol. 1, ed. & trans. Edwin Curley, Princeton University Press, 1985. Incl. Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, the Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being, the Ethics, and Epistles 1–29; also Glossary-Index. The second volume to be published. Reviews: Bennett (PR 1987), Hubbeling (JHP 1988). (English)
  • A Spinoza Reader: The "Ethics" and Other Works, ed. & trans. Edwin Curley, Princeton University Press, 1994, Log. A selection from Curley 1985, incorporating numerous corrections; and excerpts from Theological-Political Treatise and letters numbered 30+. (English)
  • Ethics, ed. & trans. G. H. R. Parkinson, Oxford University Press, 2000, ARG (part). (English)
  • Spinoza: Complete Works, trans. Samuel Shirley, et al., ed., intro. & notes Michael Morgan, Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002, PDF, PDF. Contains revised translations of Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and Ethics (trans. Shirley, 1992); Short Treatise (Wolf, 1910); Principles of Cartesian Philosophy and Metaphysical Thoughts (Shirley, 1998); Theological-Political Treatise (Shirley, 2nd ed., 2001); Hebrew Grammar (Bloom, 1964, not part of Curley's 2-volume trans.); Political Treatise (Shirley, 2000); The Letters (Shirley, 1995). Does not employ the Gebhardt pagination. Review: Sutcliffe (JQR 2005). (English)
  • Theological-Political Treatise, trans. Michael Silverthorne and Jonathan Israel, ed. Jonathan Israel, Cambridge University Press, 2007, ARG, PDF. (English)
French
  • Œuvres de Spinoza, 4 vols., trans. & annot. Charles Appuhn, Paris: Garnier, 1964. (French)
  • Œuvres, 5 vols., ed. Pierre-François Moreau, Paris: PUF, 1999ff. (French)
Hebrew
  • Torat ha-Midot [The Ethics], trans. Jakob Klatzkin, Ramat Gan: Masada, 1923; repr., 1967. Also traces the influence of medieval Hebrew philosophical vocabulary on Spinoza’s Latin terminology. (Hebrew)
Portuguese
  • Ética, trans. Tomaz Tadeu, Belo Horizonte: Autêntica, 2009, PDF. (Brazilian Portuguese)
  • Obra completa, 4 vols., eds. J. Guinsburg, Newton Cunha and Roberto Romano, São Paulo: Perspectiva, 2014. (Brazilian Portuguese)
Romanian
  • Etica, trans. Al. Posescu, intro. I. Firu, Bucharest: Ştiinţifică, 1957, PDF. (Romanian)
Spanish
  • Tratado teológico-político, trans. Julian de Vargas and Antonio Zozaya, Orbis, 1985, PDF. (Spanish)
  • Tratado teológico-político, trans., intro. & notes Atilano Domínguez, Madrid: Alianza, 1986; Barcelona: Altaya, 1997, PDF. (Spanish)
  • Tratado político, trans., intro. & notes Atilano Domínguez, 1986, Scribd, PDF. (Spanish)
  • Tratado político, intro., trans. & notes Humberto Giannini and María Isabel Flisfisch, Santiago de Chile: Universitaria, 1989. (Spanish)
  • Ética demostrada según el orden geométrico, intro., trans. & notes Vidal Peña, Madrid: Alianza, 1987. (Spanish)
  • Ética demostrada según el orden geométrico, ed. & trans. Atilano Domínguez, Madrid: Trotta, 2000, PDF. (Spanish)

Bibliography[edit]

Literature[edit]

Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, 1969/1992, PDF. (English)

General overviews[edit]

  • Fredrick Pollock, Spinoza: His Life and Philosophy, 2nd ed., New York: American Scholar Publications, 1899; repr., 1966. A comprehensive study of Spinoza’s philosophy. (English)
  • Henry Austryn Wolfson, The Philosophy of Spinoza: Unfolding the Latent Process of Reasoning, 2 vols. Harvard University Press, 1934, PDF/1, PDF/2. A study of Spinoza's philosophy that stresses its medieval background. (English)
  • Martial Guéroult, Spinoza, 2 vols., Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1968 & 1974. A monumental study of the first two parts of Spinoza's Ethics. Review: Brodeur (Dialogue 1971). (French)
  • Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza et le problème de l'expression, Paris: Minuit, 1968, 332 pp, ARG, PDF. (French)
    • Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. Martin Joughin, New York: Zone Books, 1990, 445 pp, PDF, DJV. An influential exposition of Spinoza's philosophy. (English)
    • more translations
  • Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza, Paris: PUF, 1970, 126 pp; 2nd ed., rev. & exp., as Spinoza. Philosophie pratique, Paris: Minuit, 1981, 177 pp; 2003, DJV. (French)
    • Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, trans. & pref. Robert Hurley, San Francisco: City Lights, 1988, 130 pp, PDF, PDF. Trans. of 1981 ed. (English)
    • more translations
  • Jonathan Bennett, A Study of Spinoza's "Ethics", Indianapolis: Hackett, 1984, ix+396 pp, PDF. A classic study of the Ethics. Reviews: Garber (Ethics 1985), Odegard (CJP 1986). (English)
  • Edwin Curley, Behind the Geometrical Method: A Reading of Spinoza’s "Ethics", Princeton University Press, 1988, xxi+175 pp, PDF. An introduction to Spinoza's philosophy. Reviews: Steinberg (JHP 1991), Garrett (PR 1991), Long (PhilRhet 2001). (English)
  • Steven Nadler, Spinoza's "Ethics": An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, 2006, xvii+281 pp, PDF. Reviews: LeBuffe (NDPR 2006), Melamed (Ethics 2007). (English)
  • Michael Della Rocca, Spinoza, London and New York: Routledge, 2008, PDF. A philosophical exposition of Spinoza’s philosophy; presents the Principle of Sufficient Reason as the key for understanding the entire system. Review: LeBuffe (NDPR 2009), Johannesson (n.d.). (English)
  • Yitzhak Y. Melamed, Spinoza's Metaphysics: Substance and Thought, Oxford University Press, 2013, xxii+232 pp, PDF. A study of the foundations of Spinoza’s philosophy. Reviews: Huenemann (NDPR 2013), Lin (LeibnizRev 2013), Martin (JHP 2014), Smith (EJP 2015). (English)
Steven Nadler, Spinoza: A Life, 1999, PDF. (English)

Biography[edit]

  • K.O. Meinsma, Spinoza en zijn kring. Historisch-kritische studiën over Hollandsche vrijgeesten, 's-Gravenhage, 1896. (Dutch)
    • Spinoza und sein Kreis: historisch-kritische Studien über holländische Freigeister, trans. Lina Schneider, Berlin: Schnabel, 1909. (German)
    • Spinoza et son cercle: Étude critique historique sur les hétérodoxes hollandais, trans. S. Roosenburg, Paris: J. Vrin, 1983. (French)
  • J. Freudenthal, Spinoza: sein Leben und seine Lehre, Bd. 1: Das Leben Spinozas, Stuttgart: Frommann, 1904, IA. The classic study of Spinoza’s life. (German)
  • Stanislaus von Dunin Borkowski, De junge de Spinoza. Leben und Werdegang im Lichte der Weltphilosophie, Münster: Aschendorfs, 1910, IA. A study of Spinoza’s early life and philosophical development. (Dutch)
  • I.S. Revah, Spinoza et Juan de Prado Paris: Mouton, 1959. A study of heresy and heretics in seventeenth-century Jewish Amsterdam. (French)
  • Henry Méchoulan, Amsterdam au temps de Spinoza, Paris: PUF, 1990. A study of Spinoza’s historical setting by a leading historian of Spanish and Portuguese Jews. (French)
  • Margaret Gullan-Whur, Within Reason: A Life of Spinoza, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. A biography that stresses the Hispanic background of Spinoza. (English)
  • Steven Nadler, Spinoza: A Life, Cambridge University Press, 1999, PDF. Synthesizes the achievements of twentieth-century scholarship on Spinoza’s life. Reviews: Gottlieb (NYT 1999), Goetschel (Shofar 2001). (English)
  • Yitzhak Y. Melamed (ed.), The Young Spinoza: A Metaphysician in the Making, Oxford University Press, 2015, PDF. Review: Steinberg (NDPR 2015). (English)

Philology[edit]

  • Fokke Akkerman, Studies in the Posthumous Works of Spinoza, University of Groningen, 1980. Ph.D. Thesis. The classic philological study of the Opera Posthuma. (English)
  • Piet Steenbakkers, Spinoza's "Ethica": From Manuscript to Print, Assen: Van Grocum, 1994. A dissertation on the style and early history of the Ethics. (English)
  • Fokke Akkerman, Piet Steenbakkers (eds.), Spinoza to the Letter: Studies in Words, Texts and Books, Leiden: Brill, 2005. A collection of studies on the language and transmission of Spinoza’s texts. (English)
  • Spinoza, Premiere Écrits, ed. Filippo Mignini, trans. Michelle Beyssade and Joël Ganault, Paris: PUF, 2009. The first volume of P.-F. Moreau's new critical edition (see above). (French)

Indexes and Dictionaries[edit]

  • Emilia Giancotti Boscherini, Lexicon Spinozanum, 2 vols., The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1970. A lexicon of Spinoza’s philosophical terms; useful for terms already recognized as having a specific technical meaning. Introduction in Italian and English. (Latin)
  • Michel Gueret, André Robinet, Paul Tombeur, Spinoza Ethica: Concordances, Index, Listes de fréquences, Tables comparatives, Louvain-la-Neuve: CETEDOC Université Catholique de Louvain, 1977, PDF. A tool for the study of the terminology of the Ethics, both for terms that are recognized as having a specific meaning, and for terms whose usage appears vague or colloquial. Introduction in French. Review: Parkinson (1978). (Latin)
  • Wiep van Bunge, Henri Krop, Piet Steenbakkers, Jeroen van de Ven (eds.), The Continuum Companion to Spinoza, London: Continuum, 2011, PDF. A volume containing a lexicon and introductory essays on Spinoza’s life, background works, and scholarship. (English)

Encyclopedic entries[edit]

  • Blake D. Dutton, "Benedict De Spinoza (1632—1677)", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d., HTML. (English)
  • Steven Nadler, "Baruch Spinoza", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2013, HTML. (English)
  • Michael LeBuffe, "Spinoza's Psychological Theory", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2015, HTML. (English)
  • Richard Manning, "Spinoza's Physical Theory", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2012, HTML. (English)
  • Justin Steinberg, "Spinoza's Political Philosophy", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2013, HTML. (English)
  • Samuel Newlands, "Spinoza's Modal Philosophy", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2013, HTML. (English)
  • Noa Shein, "Spinoza's Theory of Attributes", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2013, HTML. (English)
  • Amy M. Schmitter, "Spinoza on the Emotions", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010, HTML. (English)

Other[edit]

  • Warren Montag, Ted Stolze (eds.), The New Spinoza, University of Minnesota Press, 1998, ARG. (English)
  • A. Kiarina Kordela, $urplus: Spinoza, Lacan, SUNY Press, 2008, Log. Review: Kunkle (RethinkMarx 2010). (English)
  • Frédéric Lordon, Capitalisme, désir et servitude. Marx et Spinoza, Paris: La Fabrique, 2010, PDF. (French)
    • Willing Slaves of Capital: Marx and Spinoza on Desire, trans. Gabriel Ash, Verso, 2014, 224 pp, PDF. Reviews: Taylor (TNI 2014), Read (LRB 2014), Paul (CI c2015), Harris (RA 2015). (English)
  • Dimitris Vardoulakis (ed.), Spinoza Now, University of Minnesota Press, 2011, 384 pp, Log. Review: Grattan (Mediations 2011). (English)

Links[edit]