Called "the noblest and most lovable" by English philosopher Bertrand Russell, writer and philosopher Benedict (Baruch) de Spinoza (1632-1677) was born on this day in Amsterdam. His given name, Baruch, is Hebrew for "blessed."
"Desire is the very essence of man," he once said.
An Orthodox Jew of Portuguese-Jewish decent, he was excommunicated in 1656 for publicly questioning the Talmud, the heart of Jewish law. "Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand," he said.
Convinced that politics and religion did not mix, he led the philosophy of Pantheism, those who saw God as philosophical and in everything. "The wise man does not meditate on death," he said, "but on how to live."
Influenced by the philosophy of Hobbes and Descartes, Spinoza believed in the power of knowledge, that thought and matter are the basic categories of reality. His arguments were made like geometry proofs.
His major work, Ethics was published after his death and written in geometrical order, modeled after Euclid's Elements. His rational careful examination of ideas of the state of Nature influenced the works of Kant, Freud, and others.
"We feel and know that we are eternal," said the 17th century philosopher who made his living grinding lenses for glasses and telescopes.
For Spinoza, God was "the creative, absolutely perfect power of the Universe." He believed that individuals were free to question and that all of Nature was one and everything in the Universe was part of God. His rational philosophy cleared the way for the Enlightenment and modern Biblical criticism.
"Happiness, pure happiness, is a virtue in itself," he said.
More SPINOZA Quotations
Look for God everywhere, in everything.