By Benedictus De Spinoza (Benedict Spinoza) (Author), W.H. White (Translator), A.H. Stirling(Translator), Don Garrett (Introduction)
Benedict de Spinoza lived a life of blameless simplicity as a lens-grinder in Holland. And yet in his lifetime he was expelled from the Jewish community in Amsterdam as a heretic, and after his death his works were first banned by the Christian authorities as atheistic, then hailed by humanists as the gospel of Pantheism. His Ethics Demonstrated in Geometrical Order shows us the reality behind this enigmatic figure. First published by his friends after his premature death at the age of forty-four, the Ethics uses the methods of Euclid to describe a single entity, properly called both 'God' and 'Nature', of which mind and matter are two manifestations. From this follow, in ways that are strikingly modern, the identity of mind and body, the necessary causation of events and actions, and the illusory nature of free will.
A philosopher of Jewish background born in Amsterdam, Spinoza was expelled from the synagogue for his unorthodox views and lived most of his life as a recluse. He was deeply attracted to the philosophy of Descartes and wrote an account of that philosophy in order to propagate it. His most famous work, entitled Ethics, was published after his death and is considered to be one of the major works of modem philosophy. Spinoza was in search of the supreme good which for him meant the possession of a human nature which would be perfectly aware of its position in the universe and within the total scheme of things. He believed that the part can only be understood in reference to the whole, the first whole being what he called "God-nature." For that reason he was accused of pantheism and in fact he is, technically speaking, a pan- theist for he identifies God with the totality of the universe.
He was a critic of both Cartesian dualism, which he rejected through his emphasis upon the wholeness of reality, and of Hobbsian empiricism. Spinoza is not technically speaking a Jewish philosopher. Rather, he belongs to the mainstream of modern European philosophy but at the same time there are certain elements of his thought which go back to classical Jewish philosophy which, of course, had very close relations with classical Islamic philosophy throughout the earlier centuries, some of its major figures such as Ibn Gabirol and Maimonides having even written works in Arabic.
(Seyyed Hossein Nasr)