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SPINOZA, BARUCH (Benedict) (1632-1677).

Philosopher. He was born in Amsterdam to a family of Marrano refugees from the Portuguese Inquisition. Spinoza received a thorough education in Bible and Talmud, and wrote a grammar of the Hebrew language. After studying the philosophy of Descartes and Giordano Bruno, he developed views for which he was excommunicated (1655) from the Jewish community. He left Amsterdam, settled in The Hague, and became an optician, grinding lenses for a living. It was dangerous for him to publish his books, since his philosophy was unacceptable to Christian dogma. To keep his freedom of thought, he lived a lonely life, refusing a professorship at the University of Heidelberg, as well as a pension from Louis XIV of France.

In his first work, A Theological Political Treatise, Spinoza held that “in a free commonwealth it shall be lawful for every man to think and to speak what he thinks.” He completed his masterpiece, The Ethics, in 1675, but it was not published until after his death. His philosophy, very important in Western thought, is based on the pantheistic idea: the idea that God is the universe, and everything in it is a manifestation of Him.

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