Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baruch Spinoza (November 24, 1632)

Spinoza, according to Rebecca Goldstein, was the first person to live without a religious affiliation – that is, to live openly in European society as neither a Catholic, a Protestant, nor a Jew. After he was excommunicated for life by the Jewish community, he did not convert to Christianity (which Goldstein points out, would have been a good career move for him). Instead, he lived on his own terms as a philosopher.

Goldstein’s book Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity presents a full portrait of Spinoza along with her reminiscences of how he was presented to her all-girls Orthodox Jewish school a generation ago. She betrays Spinoza, she says, because she wrote for a Jewish book series – and above all, Spinoza did not consider himself a Jew.

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