(Amsterdam, 1632 - the Hague, 1677) Dutch philosopher. Son of Spanish Jews who emigrated to the Netherlands, he studied Hebrew and the doctrine of the Talmud. He studied theology and trade; because of the strong influence that exerted upon the writings of Descartes and Hobbes, he moved away from Orthodox Judaism. His rationalist critique of the Bible caused that it was finally excommunicated by the rabbis in 1656. Withdrew to the outskirts of Amsterdam, as lens polisher.
During this period he wrote an brief treated about God, man and his happiness, and it seems that also the understanding reform and a controversial theologico-political treatise, but they would be published later. He gave up a professorship in Heidelberg (1673) to maintain their intellectual independence. In 1675 he completed his most important work, the ethics demonstrated in geometrical order, initiated fourteen years before and which was not published until his death in 1677. Also around this time he undertook the drafting of the political treaty, which remained unfinished.
Its philosophy is based on the identification of God with nature (Deus sive natura), and represents the most modern exponent of Pantheism. It took to the extreme the principles of rationalism, and deduced all his philosophy the definition of substance as 'that which is in itself and is intended for itself', so there could only be a substance, the divine.
The human mind knows only two «attributes» or forms appearing of God, thought and extension, although its attributes must be infinite. Individuals are at the same time, concrete determinations of attribute. This radical monism solves the problem of Cartesian of the relationship between thought and extension, because they are only ways to present the divine substance, as well as the conflict between freedom and necessity, are identified from the point of view of God, as it is free like natura naturans (insofar as cause) and determined in the natura naturata (in how much effect). From the point of view of the man, individual freedom is an illusion.
Spinoza stressed three genres of human knowledge: in the first, the man is the slave of the passions and only perceives the effects or signs and ignores the causes; the second reason elaborates general ideas or common notions that enable consciousness approach to the knowledge of the causes, and learns to control the passions; in the third gender, man access intuition totally disinterested, as known from the point of view of God (sub specie aeternitatis), oblivious to himself as an individual and therefore unless they interfere with the individual passions. In this contemplation the singular and the eternal are identified, and feels the presence of all-in-all, intuition which is encrypted only possible happiness.
In the political arena, Spinoza rejected the concept of morality, on the grounds that it implied a devaluation of the real in the name of a transcendent ideal. All beings are guided by the principle of self-preservation, which builds the State as consensual limitation of individual rights. However, what the individual sought in the State is own conservation, so it can stir against it in case that does not meet this function («God creates individuals, not Nations").
Insofar as the law limits the power of each using a system of rewards and punishments, the policy necessarily relies on sad passions (fear, security). The main policy concern of Spinoza was: why men fight for slavery as if it were their freedom? Although democracy is the best political regimes, as it tends to replace the sad passions by the love of freedom and promotes access to the rule of reason, you only reach the third genre of knowledge via individual and private.
The philosophy of Spinoza generated important rejected in his time, but a century later would be recovered and its influence was important not only in the field of metaphysics, but between romantic poets like Wordsworth and Shelley. Spinoza did not belong to any school, and it is difficult to highlight to the level they deserve the deep originality and independence of his thinking.