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27. Spinoza and Leibniz


Subject Philosophy

People Leibniz, Gottfried , Spinoza, Baruch

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631219088.2002.00032.x


If D escartes (chapter 26) was the leading light of the modernist movement, Baruch Spinoza (Benedict de Spinoza) was its most perfect expression. By developing Descartes's vision of a new, scientific understanding of things to its ultimate conclusion, he produced an account of God, the universe and humanity's place in it which was of unparalleled breadth, consistency and beauty. As a result he was excommunicated from his Jewish community, his books were publicly burned, and his name became a byword for wickedness and atheism until a hundred years after his death, when he was rediscovered-and misinterpreted-by the Romantics. In contrast to Descartes, who was constantly trying out new ways of re-presenting and re-expressing different aspects of his message, Spinoza worked for years to polish and perfect a single, comprehensive and definitive account of how things are. His work is therefore very brief, very dense and deeply obscure. Our survey of Spinoza's thought will use the same three headings of Nature, God and Humanity; but in talking of Spinoza, we must begin with God. The simplest summary of Spinoza's metaphysics is that he takes Descartes's outline of a mechanistic science of non-human nature and develops it into a unified theory of the whole of being, which he calls ‘God or Nature’. For Descartes, as we saw, God was the one true substance, which underlies and supports all ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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