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Benedictus de Spinoza

Abstract

FIFTY years ago a memorable gathering of distinguished men assembled at The Hague, under the presidency of Prince Alexander of the Netherlands, on the occasion of the two-hundredth anniversary of Spinoza's death. They met in a building which was only a few yards away from the house in the Paviljonensgracht where the philosopher had spent the last few years of his life, and where on Feb. 21, 1677, he died. The principal speaker at that gathering was Ernest Renan; and, having in mind the monument about to be erected, and referring to the humble dwelling hard by, Renan exclaimed: "From his granite pedestal Spinoza will teach us all to follow the way which he found to happiness, and, centuries hence, men of learning, crossing the Paviljonensgracht, will say to themselves, ‘It is perhaps from this spotthat God was most nearly seen.’ “The statue was finished in 1880; and now, on the two-hundredand-fiftieth anniversary of Spinoza's death, it is proposed to complete the memorial by acquiring the house, to be called the Domus Spinoza na, and equipping it as a home for research and as a meeting-place for scientific workers of various nationalities. It will be a fitting tribute to one of the world's greatest minds. The story of this lonely thinker's life has frequently been told. Born at Amsterdam, whither his father had migrated from Portugal about thirty years previously, on Nov. 24, 1632, he spent the whole of his days in Holland. His mother died when he was barely six years old, and his father when he was twenty-two. Two years after his father's death he was excommunicated by the Rabbis; and from that period onwards he lived in modest lodgings, supporting himself at first partly by teaching and partly by grinding lenses for spectacles and optical instruments, in which latter occupation he persevered to the end. Until 1660 he remained in Amsterdam, where he became the leading spirit of a small circle of friends, who after his departure met periodically to discuss philosophical papers which he sent to them. From 1660 until 1663 he resided in Rhynsberg, near Leyden, and there he wrote the "De Intellectus Emendatione,"part of his exposition of Descartes' "Principia "with the appendix, "Cogitata Metaphysica,"and perhaps a portion of the "Ethics."In 1663 he removed to Voorburg, near The Hague, and stayed there until 1670. At Voorburg he was at first occupied with the "Ethics,"but laid it aside in order to devote himself to the "Tractatus Theologico-Politicus,"which seemed to him to be the more urgently needed, and which was published anonymously in 1670. In 1670 he removed to The Hague, where he remained until his death in 1677. Here he finished the "Ethics "and wrote the unfinished "Tractatus Politicus,"both of which were published in the "Opera Posthuma,"that appeared before the end of the year 1677. Nearly two centuries later there was discovered and published the Dutch text of a work of Spinoza's which appears to have been called "Tractatus de Deo et homine ejusque felicitate,"written about the year 1660.

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