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Spinoza Paper

  • Submitted by: Daily007
  • on December 15, 2008
  • Category: History
  • Length: 5,526 words

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Spinoza’s Effect on Being Jewish
If you were to ask the average educated person to name the Enlightenment thinker who had the greatest influence on modern society you would probably hear the names Locke, Jefferson, Rousseau, Voltaire or Descartes.   But in fact many modern philosophers will point Baruch Spinoza as the most influential member of the Enlightenment movement .   Spinoza changed how people looked at God, nature and the universe.   Spinoza was a proponent of liberty and democracy, while at the same he had high criticisms of religion and the clergy, who he thought possessed too much power.   Because of his thoughts on religion, Spinoza was excommunicated in 1656, not by the Catholic Church where excommunication was common for so-called heretics, but by the Jewish community in Amsterdam.   Although his community abandoned him, Spinoza never renounced his Judaism, by doing this he changed the definition of being Jewish.   By still considering himself Jewish, Spinoza cleared the path for secular Judaism . For the first time, people could call themselves a Jew without practicing the religion; he started the shift of Judaism from an ethnicity based solely on religion to a unique culture that has many definitions.   Not only did the notable Jew affect the Enlightenment, but also the Enlightenment had a profound affect on being Jewish in Europe from its start in the 17th century until the foundation of the nation-state Israel in 1948.   I will argue that Baruch Spinoza and the Enlightenment as a whole, have both drastically affected the course of western civilization and Jewish history as well as changed what it means to be Jewish.   Both Jewish history and Jewish identity would not be what they are today if it had not been for Baruch Spinoza and the Enlightenment.
To fully appreciate and understand why Spinoza’s work had such a profound impact on both the Enlightenment and being Jewish, his work needs to be analyzed.   Spinoza was born in Amsterdam in 1632.   His family...

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