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Spinoza, Baruch (1632-1677)

Dutch rationalist philosopher and religious thinker. Born of Spanish-Portuguese Jewish parents in Amsterdam, Spinoza became alienated from established Judaism after studying physical science and the writings of English philosopher Thomas Hobbes and French philosopher René Descartes. Rabbis soon excommunicated him and secured his banishment from Amsterdam. For five years he remained on the city's outskirts, writing. In the mid-1660s he moved to The Hague.

Spinoza's work Ethics Demonstrated with Geometrical Order (1674) asserts that the universe is identical with God, who is the uncaused "substance" of all things. Substance for Spinoza was not a material reality but a metaphysical entity, the comprehensive and self-sufficient basis for all reality. Spinoza conceded the possible existence of infinite attributes of substance, but he held that only two are accessible to the human mind: extension (the world of material things) and conscious thought, both of which depend on and exist in an ultimate reality.

Spinoza explained the individuality of things, whether physical objects or ideas, as particular modes of substance: natura naturata (nature begotten), or nature in the multiplicity of its manifestations; and natura naturans (nature begetting), or nature in its creative unity, acting as the determiner of its own modes. The modes are transitory, and their existence assumes temporal form. In this scheme, God is eternal, transcending all modal changes. An indestructible world does exist; however, it is not to be found in the realm of existent things but in that of essence.

Existences have their being in time, while essences are outside of time. Because mortality can pertain only to things subject to the law of time, the realm of essences must consequently be eternal. Every existence has a universal, or essential, character, although to realize this character the existent thing must free itself from the boundaries of its own structure.

For more information see Joseph Yesselman's site

For note from a CSU class, see here

For an funny picture of the essential question, click here