Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was a Jewish philosopher of Spanish-Portuguese parentage who was barred from his synagogue in 1656 on the charge of expounding “atheism.”
This prohibition compelled Spinoza to delve even deeper into philosophy, in which he devised a metaphysical system that envisions God as one substance with a kind of dual nature.
- The first nature is called natura naturata (“nature natured”), this being the whole of reality that necessarily comes from God’s nature
- The second nature is called natura naturans (“nature naturing”), an infinite and eternal essence out of which God freely creates
Spinoza’s popular metaphysic is something of a Western parallel to the Hindu notion of an manifest and unmanifest aspect of Brahman. It also has affinities with the Taoist idea of the named and unnamed aspects of the Tao. Some might also say that there is also a parallel with Immanuel Kant’s distinction between the phenomenon (that which can be apprehended by the senses) and the noumenon (the unknowable thing in itself).
However, we would be unwise to generalize beyond this hasty comparison because each religious and philosophical system contains elaborations that differentiate them from one another in important ways. By way of analogy, we can say that Coke and Orange Crush are both soft drinks largely based on water. But anyone who has actually tasted these drinks know that they are very different from one another. This might not be a perfect analogy but I think it suffices to make the point.
On the question of free will, Spinoza argues that mankind’s thoughts and actions are determined by myriad causes—we only believe we’re free to make choices when, in fact, we’re not.
In 1673 Spinoza declined an offer for a teaching position in philosophy at Heidelberg. He is often upheld as a forerunner to the Enlightenment, and his approach influenced several modern disciplines, ranging from deep ecology, postmodernism,¹ and biblical criticism.
Wikipedia notes: His philosophical accomplishments and moral character prompted 20th-century philosopher Gilles Deleuze to name him “the ‘prince’ of philosophers”. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Spinoza
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