Sunday, December 12, 2010

Connection #2 - Baruch Spinoza to Maimonides

Born at Amsterdam, 24 Nov., 1632; died at The Hague, 21 Feb., 1677. He belonged to a family of Jewish merchants of moderate means, and was originally called Baruch, a name that he later translated into its Latin equivalent Benedict. His father's name was Michael, his mother, Michael's second wife, was called Hana Debora. In 1641 Michael married a third wife who was named Hester de Espinosa. The family probably had some connexion with the little town of Espino in Spanish Galicia, and with the celebrated Marrano family there called Espinosa. (The Marranos were Spanish Jews compelled to conform outwardly to Christianity.) Baruch attracted attention in the school for Portuguese Jews at Amsterdam by his talents and application to study. He made rapid progress in Hebrew and the study of the Talmud, and his teachers, especially Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira, had the greatest hopes of his future. It was intended that he should become a rabbi. The subtle methods of the teachers of the Talmud undoubtedly trained his intellect and led it particularly to reasoning by analogy. The moral teaching of the Haggada had a great and permanent influence upon his code of living. However, the difficulties in regard to the Scriptures, which he deduced from what he read, made a stronger impression upon him than their solutions. Thus he was a troublesome and critical pupil, although at the same time a modest one. He read and despised the Cabalists; yet traces of their influence are recognizable in his philosophy; mention should here be particularly made of the book called "Zohar" and of Herrera's work "Porta cæli". He studied industriously the Jewish writers on the philosophy of religion, especially Maimonides, Gersonides, Chasdai Kreskas, and Ibn Esra, and later adopted much from them. The writings of the Arabian philosopher Al Farabi and of his commentator Ismail show striking similarities, even in the smallest details, with the later system of Spinoza. There are also clear evidences of connexion between the strange work of Ibn Tofail, the story of "Hai Ibn Joktan", and the conceptions of Spinoza.

The Catholic Encyclopedia
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