Thursday, August 03, 2006


The 350th anniversary of Spinoza's excumunication occured a week ago. There was little coverage: a polemical piece by Cornel West in the Boston Globe and a good piece in the New York Times by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, who has a recent book on him (Betraying Spinoza - See Michael Dirda's review in the Washington Post.) Spinoza was Dutch so I checked Google News in the Netherlands, but came up dry.

Too bad. He's an intellectual hero of mine. Also, he figures in research I've been doing on the flowering of mathematics in late 17th-century England. A lens grinder, a philosopher, a renegade author, correspondent of Leibniz and Oldenburg, and also a mathematician who never got around to writing a projected book on algebra.

He was vilified as an atheist and forced to publish his works clandestinely (and for the most part postumously), but his religious views appear now only to have been ahead of their time. Search Spinoza in the Dictionary of the History of Ideas and look at the number and variety of articles in which his thoughts are discussed. The Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy has an excellent article on him. The article in the Catholic Encyclopedia is also good, partly because it takes a critical point of view.

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