Baruch Spinoza: biography of this Sephardic philosopher and thinker

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was a modern philosopher, now recognized as one of the main representatives of rationalism. Among his works is to problematize and provide a different understanding of nature in relation to divinity, as well as to have importantly discussed moral, political and religious concepts.

In the next article we will see the biography of Baruch Spinoza, As well as a brief description of his main contributions to modern philosophy.

    Biography of Baruch Spinoza: rationalist philosopher

    Baruch Spinoza, originally called Benedictus (Latin) or Bento de Spinoza (Portuguese), was born on November 24, 1632 in Amsterdam. His parents were Jews who had emigrated to Spain and later to Portugal. There they were forced to convert to Christianity, although they continued to practice Judaism in secret. After being stopped by the Inquisition, they eventually fled to Amsterdam.

    In this city, Baruch’s father developed as an important merchant and later as the director of the city synagogue. For her part, Baruch Spinoza’s mother died when he was only six years old.

    Before arriving in Amsterdam, Spinoza had already trained in Catholic and Roman institutes. In the same period he was trained in Hebrew and Jewish philosophy. Already in Amsterdam, at the age of 19, Spinoza was practicing as a small trader, while continuing to study in schools with an Orthodox Jewish approach.

    At this moment, Spinoza he was particularly interested in Cartesian philosophy, mathematics and the philosophy of Hobbes; which led him to move further and further away from Judaism. He gradually became very critical of the accuracy and interpretation of the Bible, especially with regard to the idea of ​​the immortality of the soul, the notion of transcendence and the laws dictated by God, as well as its connection to the Jewish community. . The latter earned him excommunication.

    In fact, it was during this time that Spinoza began changing his name from Hebrew to Latin, possibly due to the possibility of retaliation and censorship. In reality, refuse to work as a lecturer at the University of Heidelberg because they asked him not to modify the dominant religious slogans.

    Baruch Spinoza spent his last years in The Hague, where he died of tuberculosis on February 21, 1677, at the age of 44 and without having concluded one of his last works, called the Political Treaty.


    One of the themes Spinoza’s work focused on was ethics. In fact, the Ethics demonstrated in geometric order is the name of his more representative work. In this, Spinoza discussed the traditional philosophical conception of God and the human being, On the universe and the moral beliefs underlying religion and theology. Among other things, the philosopher wanted to show that God really exists, as well as nature and ourselves.

    Heir to Cartesian thought, which suggested the possibility of finding a rational and algebraic explanation of the existence of God, but also faithful to his Jewish, Stoic and scholastic training, Baruch held the existence of a single infinite substance.

    The difference with the thought of Descartes is that, for Spinoza, this substance is unique (Descartes spoke of two), and can be equivalent to nature and at the same time to God. From here discusses the relationship between nature and the divine. And since God is not caused by anything, that is, nothing precedes him, then he exists. In other words, God, as a unique and divine substance, is what is designed here. It is one of the ontological arguments most representative of its existence in various works of modern rationalism.

    Not only that, but Spinoza maintains that, therefore, the human mind can know either by thought or by its extension. This takes Descartes as a model, but at the same time raises a difference, because the latter said that knowledge was given only by thought, and that extension (nature) made an error of reason.

    Spinoza maintains that there are three types of human knowledge: One derived from the slavery of passions, another related to reason and awareness of causes (value is the control of passions), and the third is disinterested intuition which is assimilated to the point of view of Ten. The latter is the only one capable of providing the only possible human happiness.

      Treatise on political theology

      The Tractatus, a work that earned Spinoza significant recognition, combines biblical criticism, political philosophy, and the philosophy of religion with the development of metaphysics. One thing that is represented in an important way is the distance and Spinoza’s critique of the Bible.

      For Spinoza, the themes that this book presents are full of inconsistencies that can be explained through the scientific study of language, history and past beliefs. This is why it is believed to be one of the works that also earned Spinoza the excommunication.

      Thus, Spinoza sets out to reveal the truth about Scripture and religion, and thus sabotage or question the political power exercised in modern states by religious authorities. It also defends, at least as a political ideal, a tolerant, secular and democratic policy. Among other things, Spinoza rejected the term and conceptions of morality, because he considers them to be only ideals.

      Other of his most representative works are Brief Treatise on God, Man and Happiness and On the Reform of Understanding.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Nadler, S. (2016). Baruch Spinoza. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed October 30, 2018.Available at
      • Popkin, R. (2018). Benoît de Spinoza. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed October 30, 2018.Available at

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