A great man who stayed true to his principles

SpinozaSpinoza was a Dutch Jew of Spanish descent, whose parents had come to Amsterdam to escape persecution from  the Catholic Church due to the plight of the Jews in 16th-century Spain. Yews were forced to become Catholics or flee the country. Spinoza as a youth, studied the Jewish philosophers , but the most abiding influence on his thinking was Descartes. Like Descartes, Spinoza believed that reason is how people make sense of the world. But whereas Descartes had said that the universe is made up of two things – mind and matter, Spinoza said that  there is only one substance – God. God and the universe and everything in it are one and the same.

In 1598 the Jews were given permission to build a synagogue. Holland’s Jews were anxious to safeguard their heritage. Spinoza’s beliefs were seen as a threat. To make matters worse, Spinoza said that people have no special place in the cosmos. The Jews were especially indignant about this. their faith taught them that they were God’s chosen people.

Spinoza was expelled from the Jewish community because of his belief. He was hauled in front of the synagogue elders and thrown out of the flock. His beliefs so outraged the Jewish community that an attempt was made on his life. He was attacked by a knife-wielding assassin on the synagogue steps. He kept the knife-slashed cloak as a memento.

BY all accounts Spinoza was a kind, gentle and considerate man. He was also a man of principle. He stayed true to his principles all his life and, although he made enemies. many people admired his integrity. Spinosa refused to dedicate his book to Louis XIV in return for a royal pension. He also refused a university post  because he did not wish to compromise his ideals, and he would not take money for his genius, preferring to earn his living as a humble lens grinder. At age 45, he died of consumption, made worse by glass dust from his lens grinding.