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By Baruch Spinoza / George Bell and Sons / 1891
The first volume of The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza contains Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise and Political Treatise. In the Theologico-Political Treatise, Spinoza draws heavily on Moses Maimonides and offers a substantial critique on Judaism and organized religion, arguing for the necessary separation of faith and philosophy. He also offers a critique of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and lays out the methodology for biblical textual criticism. In the second part of the treatise he lays out a political philosophy, drawing heavily on the work of Thomas Hobbes. Spinoza deals with the nature of the state and the social contract as well as the necessary conditions for religious tolerance. While the Theological-Political Treatise was written for theologians, the Political Treatise is written for philosophers. It covers similar ground as the former book, filling it out and generalizing it a bit more.
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Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) was born in the Jodenbuurt in Amsterdam, Netherlands. His philosophy laid the foundation for the eighteenth century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism. Spinoza grew up in a Portuguese community of Sephardic Jews in Amsterdam. His father was a successful trader. He attended the Keter Torah Yeshiva until he was 17. Leaving the yeshiva early, Spinoza began studying with the freethinker, former Jesuit, and accused atheist Frances van den Enden. Spinoza adopted the Latin name Benedictus de Spinoza, moved in to van den Enden’s house, and began teaching at van den Enden’s school in Amsterdam. During this time, Spinoza associated with Mennonites and a group of anti-clerical Catholics, known as Remonstrants. Following his father’s death in 1654, Spinoza ran the family business with his brother Abraham, leaving after a few years to pursue philosophy. In 1656, Spinoza was expelled from the Jewish community for heresy. Following this expulsion, Spinoza focused on writing, studying and his work as a lens grinder. In 1676, Spinoza completed his primary philosophical work, Ethics. He died in 1677 of lung disease.