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Baruch Spinoza (November 24, 1632 – February 21, 1677) in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death. Today, he is considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy. Spinoza is considered to be one of Western philosophy's most important philosophers.
Spinoza believed God exists only philosophically and that God was abstract and impersonal. Spinoza's system imparted order and unity to the tradition of radical thought, offering powerful weapons for prevailing against "received authority." As a youth he first subscribed to Descartes's dualistic belief that body and mind are two separate substances, but later changed his view and asserted that they were not separate, being a single identity. He contended that everything that exists in Nature (i.e., everything in the Universe) is one Reality (substance) and there is only one set of rules governing the whole of the reality which surrounds us and of which we are part. Spinoza viewed God and Nature as two names for the same reality, namely the single substance (meaning "that which stands beneath" rather than "matter") that is the basis of the universe and of which all lesser "entities" are actually modes or modifications, that all things are determined by Nature to exist and cause effects, and that the complex chain of cause and effect is only understood in part. His identification of God with nature was more fully explained in his posthumously published Ethics. That humans presume themselves to have free will, he argues, is a result of their awareness of appetites while being unable to understand the reasons why they want and act as they do. Spinoza has been described by one writer as an "Epicurean materialist." Spinoza contends that God or Nature is a being of infinitely many attributes, of which thought and extension are two. His account of the nature of reality, then, seems to treat the physical and mental worlds as one and the same. The universal substance consists of both body and mind, there being no difference between these aspects. This formulation is a historically significant solution to the mind-body problem known as neutral monism. The consequences of Spinoza's system also envisages a God that does not rule over the universe by providence, but a God which itself is the deterministic system of which everything in nature is a part. Thus, according to this understanding of Spinoza's system, God would be the natural world and have no personality. Some of Spinoza's philosophical positions are:
• The natural world is infinite.
• Good and evil are related to human pleasure and pain.
• Everything done by humans and other animals is excellent and divine.
• All rights are derived from the State.
• Animals can be used in any way by people for the benefit of the human race, according to a rational consideration of the benefit as well as the animal's status in nature.
Encapsulated at the start in his Treatise on the Improvement of the Understanding is the core of Spinoza's ethical philosophy, what he held to be the true and final good. Spinoza held good and evil to be relative concepts, claiming that nothing is intrinsically good or bad except relative to a particular individual. Things that had classically been seen as good or evil, Spinoza argued, were simply good or bad for humans. Spinoza believes in a deterministic universe in which "All things in nature proceed from certain [definite] necessity and with the utmost perfection." Nothing happens by chance in Spinoza's world, and nothing is contingent.
It is a widespread belief that Spinoza equated God with the material universe. For Spinoza, our universe is a mode under two attributes of Thought and Extension. God has infinitely many other attributes which are not present in our world. The attraction of Spinoza's philosophy to late eighteenth-century Europeans was that it provided an alternative to materialism, atheism, and deism. Spinoza was considered to be an atheist because he used the word "God" to signify a concept that was different from that of traditional Judeo–Christian monotheism. "Spinoza expressly denies personality and consciousness to God; he has neither intelligence, feeling, nor will; he does not act according to purpose, but everything follows necessarily from his nature, according to law...."
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