« Philosophize This!

Episode #033 ... Spinoza pt. 1 - From Baruch to Benedicto

2014-08-25 | 🔗

On this episode of the podcast, we learn about Baruch De Spinoza. We find out why it was not only life-threatening to have an unpopular opinion during the time Spinoza lived, but also potentially very profitable. We also question whether religion is really to blame for the violent acts that are committed on its behalf, and find out why Spinoza was exiled from his community and forced to live a life of solitude. Finally, we read excerpts from Spinoza’s correspondence with his ex-friend Albert Burgh regarding Christianity and find out whose arguments hold the most water (spoiler alert: Spinoza wins). All this and more on the latest episode of Philosophize This!

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
For more information about this or any episode of the podcast The website at philosophize this org, we have additional content further reading, and scripts of every show all three, of course But if you value the shows an educational resource and you want to help keep it going, you can find out more about how to do that at patriarch, dot com, slash philosophize this or alter if you're buying something from Amazon this week anyway clicking through our banner. It's at the bottom centre of the landing page, a philosophize, this dot, org Small percentage goes back to the show. It may just be a click for you, but every little bit adds up key for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday, and I hope you have the show ass to truly understand who Baruch de Spinoza was. We need to put our I was in her. She was a little bit one thing It's really easy to do when you're trying to learn stuff about history is to just look at these people, What was, though, there some guy that you just met, you know some the amended the mall on Saturday see if you like,
you learn things about people we syrian sir Personality- and then we judge them on, look I was killed, this for a long time myself. Sometimes we don't fold I consider the fact that these people really some cases might as well be from another planet than us, alright right what frame of reference. Do we have when looking at somebody like Spinoza. Like me, look at primitive man, at least when you look at primitive man when you wonder what it must have been like to live as a hunter gatherer back then at least we can look at Modern Hunter gatherers right. We still have remnants of them Papa New Guinea, the Kalahari Bushman people like that we coexist with hunter gatherers. But there is nowhere on earth today, the mimic the sort of political or religious uncertainty that pervades this time period for talking about it that same note, there aren't many places it can mimic the sort of ruthless Gruesome acts were being committed in the name of these competing interests entire,
early complicate because there's so much going on in the world at this time. At such a rapid pace, there isn't just One war going on this time period can't be Characterized by something as simple as saying you know, two religious viewpoints for butting heads for a while or then reason or budding heads at this time. This intellectual war, spread across the entire com. Of Europe. There are dozens of battles taking place simultaneously in this. Shark, NATO of change that was happening. You know it's crazy. This rapid change, though, is what makes us one of the most fascinating points in history to me, and it really is impossible to list or describe all of the different areas that were experiencing change and but, even if it was, I wouldn't do it here. It's not what the shows about But what I can do,
talk about one of these scenes that took place during Spinoza's life that illustrates the sort of world that he would have found himself living in this event that I'm about to describe crushed It can give us some insight into how he was forced to act during his lifetime. It'll all make sense soon. This is the story of your hand, de Witt,. So one of these battles that was going on in this larger intellectual war zone had to do with government right. We ve talked about little pieces of it. Forming the show is gonna eventually become a lot of political discussion because indicative of the time period you know things like What is the role of government in a civilised society house the government implemented strategy. How coercive is just pride in being to meet its goals. Lots of questions like that. And just like in modern times where there are fights going on between special interest groups and one
special interest group may higher lobbyists to try to influence legislation or them it started organization, that's dedicated to pushing forward their agenda just like that specific political special. Went risk back in the time Espinosa organised in a very similar way now Everybody wanted their government to be a republic. Is becoming an increasingly popular thing around there at the time. One of these people article special interest groups was called Orange ISM. Now. First, glance Orange oranges and sounds pretty good what's wrong with oranges, really when he got against oranges. Well, it had nothing to do with the fruit. They were supporters, what was known as the House of Orange NASA and its essentially just a big group of people that wanted a monarchist form of government whose sole purpose, the sole purpose of the group, was to oppose the her big political group. At the time who was trying to erect a republic the fanaticism of these people. Dies. The idea of a mob of people, organ
together and Willie to conspire and lie and commit tariffs acts of violence against someone for not agreeing with them about something it's mind. Numbing, to think about your Honda wit. Was the recently deposed leader of that Pro republic, political group at the time- and he was seen by some as one of the most brilliant political minds in the world and by where's, he was seen as an enormous threat to there was this wave of change going throughout Europe, but just like many points in history where there are changes going on of this magnitude. What inevitably happens is that not. Everybody wants to change. Number how bad things used to be. There were people during, it's bad times that highly benefited from the way it used to be, and though, people usually fight pretty hard to keep things the same. They're gonna rally people They're going to organise they're gonna, do whatever they have to do to return things back to normal to the place where they benefited from it,
so on August, a twentieth. Sixteen seventy two they did. What they had to do, The story goes, Joanda wit was visiting his brother in prison, who was being held on a charge of attempted murder and it's almost unanimously seen as false, but the import part of that there was a mob of people working on behalf of the House of Orange who were way for him when he exited the prison with his brother there Our stories of how the ring leader of this mob told the guard that was supposed to be guarding the area that too few Farmers were stealing stuff over in this region, and that needs to go check it out to make sure that they weren't but really he was just doing it, to get him out of the area so that yonder wit, had zero chance of survival. What happened next is one of the most horrific scenes you'll ever read about quote the miscreants, all of them emboldened by Johan, fall, wanted to fire his gun at him or strike him the blows of the sledge hammer or staff with a knife or swords
each one wanted to draw a drop of blood from the fallen hero and tear off a shred from his garments. Dinner after having mangled and torn and completely strip the two brothers, the mob dragged their naked and bloody bodies to an extemporized gibbet, where amateur executioners hung them up by the feet, then came the most dastardly scoundrels of all who not having dared to strike the living flesh, cut the dead in pieces and then what About the town selling small slices of the bodies of John Cornelius at ten Sousa peace, end quote this mob of people first beat and stabbed them Then they strip them down naked. Hung their bodies upside down by their feet and cut them in the pieces and then sold them around the town sold the peace. Of their body around the tat there are other accounts that you can read where they cut out their hearts and they either at the hearts
it's not entirely clear what they did with the hearts, but once they cut them out, they either ate them or they put on display at one of the ringleaders houses on his mantle, like, like souvenir baseball, said he caught a baseball game. This is horrific stuff I mean, but keep this in perspective. They did all of this stuff simply because they didn't agree with someone This is something that we should talk about when thinking about this time period. You know there are a lot of people that I've read that oversimplify what causes groups Violence like this to occur, you know they'll, say Stuff, like you, know, I should be abolished because look at all terrible atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. You know nine eleven. The crusades. Bloodshed of the reformation, you know, but with these people fail to realize, is that religion is not the problem This example that we're talking about with Johan de Witt, this guy was torn apart in
by a mob of people for a political cause, not a religious cos. Did we abolish all forms of government because of that dictators invaded countries and killed millions of people in the name of some nationalistic sentiment. You know we did this for the good of just just like it's possible have a country that doesn't commit genocide in the name of nationalism. It possible to have a religion that doesn't subjugate enslave or kill people in the name of religion. Theres many in religion that has its own genes way back in the seventh century BC. It's called Jainism now, if you're fired organism you. If by a strict principle of non violence towards all living creatures. That's these central tenet of the religion, that's the ultimate good if you're a follower of Jainism, then you promote company. Equality among all living things and he would never even think of mopping together and disempowering someone, let alone flying a plane, and
a building in the name of Jainism, now my point not to find an exception to a rule and say that people are wrong. That's not the point this. My point is it's possible to have a religion like Jainism. And by the way, many other religions that dont have violent extremists attached to them. If it's possible for those two exist, then maybe there's something that underlies religion, that's the real problem. Maybe religion isn't the problem maybe that thing whatever it is, can also we found in all of these. Other things that people commit atrocities in the name of like the oranges from the story we just hold, or the people that commit violence in the name of their country, maybe the The problem is made the ability to attach themselves to a tribe and marginalized other groups of people that don't agree with them and, if you're. So, on the truly wants the violence to stop and not someone that just has an axe to grind with religion.
I think you can see that abolishing religion does not solve the problem. It just delays. It. We can see this in the example of your Honda, Wit Spinoza. When he heard the news he was absolutely devastated when it happened, light nets you a the third of the Great continental rationalist remembered Descartes. Spinoza Leibnitz live It was a contemporary and a friend of Spinoza in Rights later about Spinoza telling him about the day when the mob attacked them, he describes it here quote. I spent several hours with Spinoza after dinner, he said: that, on the day of the massacres of the debates here, to go go out at night and post a placard. The side of the massacres, reading Ultima Barbarian, but his host locked, the house, to keep him from going out for he would be exposed. Green, torn to pieces. End quote. So Spinoza was so angry at these people, so mad For massacring what he called reason itself that he painted
what amounted to a giant peace, a poster board and wanted to post? at the murder site, calling the mob the most ruthless the barbarians imaginable. And the only reason he didn't do it, because his landlord locked him in his house and wouldn't let him out because he didn't want to get killed doing it. That landlord? Maybe this the sole reason I'm recording this episode right now, it's crazy to think about, but this story the story really encapsulates the character Spinoza throughout his entire life, dedicated to reason strong by his beliefs, no matter the cost living in a world full of people who were not his intellectual equal. You know there are groups of people willing to commit terrible acts of violence against people that only disagreed with them and Spinoza believes that disagreed with almost everybody. But more than that Spinoza embodies, but this whole time period was about. I mean wait, he made his living
like grinding lenses for microscopes and telescopes, that's how he made his living throughout his life. It would eventually kill him we'll talk about later, but There is no job that is more science, revolutionary than that. If you were making a movie about someone from the scientific revolution and his occupation, was Linz grinder The writers of that movie would tell you know now tat. Not believable at all to over the top you're trying too hard to make this guy scientific revolution stop Spinoza, grew up jewish, as a proud card carrying member of a community of portuguese juice living in Amsterdam at the time and then at the age of twenty, to his father died and things changed for Spinoza for a long time he kept his opinions. Quiet gives you didn't want to embarrass his dead, but now that he was dead I'll Seraph, coupled with the fact that it was living during the time of the spanish inquisition, which really created a pretty
interesting and come black situation for you, if you were either jewish or a member of any Jewish communities, communities, religious authority mean above all else they wanted to keep Spinosa quiet that was the main go see, Spinoza and this long up bringing this would be about the equivalent of going to catholic school in modern times He talks about it being this long. Not a slob through the Jew? religious texts in the old testament. What eventually happens is Spinoza thing. The story is a little bit. Childish knows not buying it. He said that this guy That's portrayed in the old testament. How can anybody honestly believe that this is true and if it, It's true is this: the guy that you really want to exist under no to Spinoza. God is nothing like this. What, some guys wrote about in this really old book that you guys are all following spent. The thought that whoever wrote the Torah really wasn't a bad person. They understandably
Had no idea about science or cosmology as they did in his time, so it's not pretend like they did. He say: that these miracles that are written about our most like all just natural events that were misunderstood by humans and then recorded to be supernatural acts to give credence to the set of behaviors that are attached to them. He laughs about the fact that how could God ever be relegated to a human, for you know very well listen of my monitors and they're, both jewish thinkers. So there's no doubt he read. Oh God didn't say: let there be light, he doesn't have a Linux, he doesn't have vocal cords. He can't say anything he doesn't have a hand that reaches down and touches you in your life, Oh God is much much more than that to Spinoza. God is an infinite being there Never be described in these sorts of human terms. Now we're gonna do whole episode on Spinoza's God, because it's we fascinating and useful worldview, but the signal
and so this right now is that with views like this he obviously wasn't fitting into his community very well. Specially one that has the spanish inquisition going on and they love. It You just keep his mouth shut,. You know he's saying all this stuff and the authority today at the synagogue would say just come on. Spinoza can keep it down a bit, please just don't say anything, but gonna keep it down anymore. Spinoza was Spinoza, was a man of his. What that's what I love about want for them to be quiet so badly that in his twenties they offered him a thousand florins a month to just now make his opinions known about stuff, is to stay quiet, but just for some perspective, Most people were living back then off of about twenty five hunt Florence a year so far, in Florence a month, a similar to being paid like us, salary in salary in today's world, just to keep your mouth shut Spinoza. Earned it down? No, instead What he decided to do.
send the jewish authorities a comprehensive, mathematical, structured outline of all of his views. You know what they were and how they are, in his opinion, irrefutable because they are self evident as the mathematical truth that triangle has three angles at equal: a hundred and Greece. There were that irrefutable. He left them, but no choice in July of sixteen fifty six. They did this completely ridiculous. Or they blow the great horn. There also Flynn candles in a circle and they put the candles out one by one, and then they literally tried to curse. Him like they read this really cryptically, worded scary. Sounding passage that hereby banished Spinoza from his community in Amsterdam. Nobody is allowed to help him nobody's allowed to talk to him. He is, marked person who is just not part of their group anymore,. What followed for Spinoza was a life of mostly solitude. Some people
there were stretches where you wouldn't even see him for three months: people right about that. He himself tell stories about being in solitude. He said is to sit around and like collect, spiders and then pit. Against each other in the ring and haven't fight each other. He talks about collecting fly. And then putting one inside of a spider's web and just watching it, Struggle to struggle to get away and the spider, and he would just laugh manically, watching this fly, get devoured Spinoza live today you could just watch animal planet wouldn't have to be all weird about it, but it's interesting to think about how lonely it must have felt to be so intelligent, surrounded by people that mostly can't relate to you. What do you do with your time, but he tried is hard to see to it. Wasn't a complete close. He did write a lot of letters throughout his life, one of the most famous one of the most illuminating of Spinoza and the way that he thought about things is one with an old friend of his name, Albert Burke,
see before Spinoza was excommunicated. He was really good friends with this guy Albert, but eventually they want their separate ways. Spinoza to a life of solitude, and Albert became a Christian. Will eventually Albert gets word through the grapevine about oh god, listen! Terrible Spinoza views on existence were He picks it upon himself to send him a letter. He claims. To be doing the Lord's work and he's trying to get him to become a Christian trying to convince them. He spends a lot of the letter attacking Spinoza views. Giving the best argument can for why Christianity is the best choice. Spinoza should really abandoned. This rootless, selfish existence enjoying the church of Rome like he did Now I'm going to read an excerpt from the letter and just put your often Spinoza choose as he's reading this I mean just listen to the arrogance and this guy Imagine getting a letter from what used to be your best friend and now they're condemning you and making.
I feel as though you were inferior to them with every sentence right. Here's what Albert's letter closest wet quote. I have written this letter to you with intentions. Truly christian, first in order to show the love. I bear to you, though, you are by Heaven. Secondly, in order I beg you not to persist in converting others. I there or will thus conclude God. Is willing to snatch your soul from eternal damnation. If you allow him do not doubt that the master who has called you so often through others, is now called Are you for the last time through me who, having obtained, race from the ineffable mercy of God himself beg the site for you and my whole heart. Do not deny me for if you do I now give ear to God who calls you the rest of the Lord will be kindled against you in there. The danger of your being abandoned by his infinite mercy and becoming a wretched victim of divine justice, which consumes all things in wrath, such as
it may Almighty God avert for the greater glory of his name and for the salvation of your soul, also for a salutary example for the imitation of your most unfortunate and adulterous followers through our Lord and save your Jesus Christ, who, with the eternal Father, liveth and rain, the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for Ali. Kennedy, amen. End quote. So I said before We can all imagine how insulted Spinoza must have felt. Especially if we consider that he sees all of these religions is ultimately the same thing, and even one that was crammed into his head round. His youth may even that wasn't good enough for. Listening to this old friend tell him how lucky. He is that God is gracing him with one last chance to accept the narrative. Listening to him in the letter, like he's ending a Sunday mass or something you know, God for all eternity amen,
the maid Spinoza Crazy, really, but those are replies, backed Albert and he both categorically destroys all of the arguments that Albert lays out in his letter, there's a lot before that, where he argues for Christianity and he does it work. I'll mixing in sarcasm that still four hundred years later. This is first thing that he says back from this is the first part of his reply to Albert. He says quote that I could scarcely believe when told me by others. I learn at last from your own letter. Not only have you been made, a member of the romish church, but you ve become a very keen. The champion of the same and have already learned wantonly to insult and rail against your opponents. Yet seem to wish to employ reason and ask me how I know that my philosophy is the best among all that I've ever been taught in the world or are being taught or will ever be taught. Question! I have a greater right to ask you for it
not presume that I have found the best philosophy. I know that I understand the true philosophy if you ask what way I know it. I answer in the same way as you know that three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles: that this is sufficient be denied by no one whose brain is sound and who does not go dreaming of evil spirits inspiring us with false ideas, like the true for the truth? is the index of itself and what is false, but you presume that you have at last found the best religion, or rather the best men on whom you have pinned your credulity, Yoo hoo, Oh, that they are the best among all who have taught do now teach our children the future with other religions, have examined all religions, ancient well as modern taught hearing India and everywhere throughout the world, and if you do we examined them, How do you know that you have chosen the best you can give no reason for the fate that is in you, but you will say that
acquiesce in the inward testimony of the Spirit of God, while the rest of us mankind are ensnared and deceived by the prince of evil spirits. But, although outside of the pale of the church of Rome can with equal right proof, I am of their own creed. What you proclaim of yours end quote. Reading this letter from a guy that lived in sixteen hundreds- maybe it's just incredible- Spinoza was an unquestionable genius. I would highly recommend recommend. Reading these letters are not very long. You got a couple minutes, it's a good, read, I'll have them on the website this week, I'll post links to them on the episode page. But just so that we can get a little more insight into the human being. That was Baruch day Spinoza. Let's talk about one of the arguments that Albert gives him citing the legitimacy of Christianity over all the other religions he gives several. This is the one that Spinoza things has the most merit so operate.
It the reason why Christianity is better than all the other religions to him is that it spread far than any other religion, and it was spread at that rate by a bunch of uneducated Hebrews. Now the point that Albert is making is that Success of something like that can't just be sophistry or word play in the spread of Christian and can't can be summed up by some charismatic priest. That's a little! smarter than everybody standing up there and just outwitting them and using his charisma, spread their religion. Their money be some divine backing to this. One. That's Albert's point Spinoza responds to this. Here quote if, therefore, you had rightly judged. You would have seen that only your third point tells in favour of the Christians, namely that unlearned and common men should have been able to convert nearly the whole world to a belief in Christ. But this reason militate not only for the romish church for all those who profess in the name of Christ
but assume that all the reasons you bring forward tell in favour solely of the romish church. Do you think that you can thereby prove mathematically the authority of that church as the This is far otherwise Why do you wish me to believe that my demonstrations are inspired by the prince? of evil spirits, while you our own are inspired by God, especially as I see and as your letter clearly shows, that you have been led to become a devotee of this church, not by your love of God, but by your fear of hell. The single cause of superstition is your humility You trust nothing to yourself, but everything to others. Poor can do by many of their fellow men. Do you set it down, took pride, arrogance that I employee reason and acquiesce in this through word of God, which is in the mind and can never be depraved or corrupted.
Passed away. This deadly superstition acknowledge the reason which God has given you and follow that unless you will be numbered with the brutes end quote so for something we can take from this episode. Aside from diving into the intellect and person that was Spinoza, but we should take from this. Is that the World Spinoza was living in the world of the scientific revolution ve been talking about was both a welcoming place to new ideas and a truly very dangerous place for new ideas. The fact that just holding differently, Indians and somebody. Could have you ripped limb from limb or cut into peace? isn't sold around town and small chunks that dynamic is ultimately what forced Spinoza to never release his principal work called ethics. He died sixteen seventy seven lotta people it was a lung condition from inhaling all the glass from grinding lenses all those years and I
very same year and sixteen seventy seven, his brains, released the ethics after he was dead. Now you may be wondering why do I care about some random dude from the sixteen hundred his interpretation of what God is well. Let me leave you today with a question if a belief in the Christian or Which, God justifies a certain set of behaviors, one set of behaviors would Spinoza, God justify. If we as humans are not all you know, individual, unique snowflakes with a god that that knows our first name and cares about us. What are we, what does that make us and what does that mean about how we should act? on this mortal coil. Thank you for listening I'll talk to you next time. You can follow me on twitter at I am Stephen West, you can join in the discussion on Facebook, we fall
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Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.