June 24, 2021

Spinoza superstar | Babelia | THE COUNTRY

Any of Pieter de Hooch’s windows, those white-framed and rain-softened on the red brick, could be the one in Spinoza. He did not stay long in the same place. As Nietzsche did in search of a mild climate, he was seeking more tranquility. Not because of inclement neighbor, but because of the need to withdraw silently and think. Rijnsburg, Voorburg, The Hague always ends up in not very spacious rooms, one of them, the last one, separated into two rooms – the bedroom and the workshop – by a library of about 160 volumes, among which were several titles by Descartes , the Elementa philosophica de Cive de Hobbes, Flavio Josefo, Machiavelli, the Utopia of Moro, the Diccionarium rabbinicum Nathan ben Jechiel the Of lonely life from Petrarch, too The love dialogues of León Hebreo, in short, books of poems by Quevedo and Góngora, Exemplary novels de Cervantes and five bibles, among them the Hebraic Holy Bible in the Basel edition of 1618.

He writes at night, against the current of ideas that are making Europe a crossroads, that Europe that already outlined, without realizing it, the organization chart of despair: the stable and imperishable, the implicit duration of our companies and beliefs in which we affirm ourselves they are illusory. Its impossible fulfillment will mark a continent doomed to a systematic self-annihilation that is already an argumentative part of a historical evolution, that feeds on its apocalypse and the resentment that the unreached holds. God, unwavering until that 17th century, no longer remembers his past. In this amnesia is the nucleus of Modernity, it arises from that oblivion, from the crash of a huge crack that has opened in the ground of convictions. The perfect machines, the apotheosis of technique, the most amazing inventions, art, science, the audacity of judgment and the imagination were stripping their functions of a supreme Being who carried in each hand a bundle of destinies and distributed them . But after moving away from that God within and disappearing, we are, at last, the creators of reality, the producers of expiration. Because the stocks are, once again, in the nature of our Reason that perceives “things as possessing a kind of eternity”, as read in the Ethics.

reconstruction of the Spinoza library in his house in Rijnsburg (Netherlands).
reconstruction of the Spinoza library in his house in Rijnsburg (Netherlands).

Spinoza thinks to himself that the divisible, in essence, is imperfect; that freedom of conscience can only occur in a secular world. Frowns when speaking of the beyond. No, divine activity does not respond to a creation of chance, but to what he called “necessary and immanent causality.” He is convinced that what “is” could not exist other than as it exists, and that the essence does not imply existence. Despite the promises of rationalism, the human being is not, nor will it ever be, an autonomous world, quite the contrary: it is the fruit of contingency, pure belonging to an infinite order. Descartes is not right, but he recognizes that his has been a very subtle ingenuity, because, as others did before, says Spinoza, he has sought “something intermediate between being and nothing”, and this search is futile because it implies turning away from the truth.

He, who smokes a pipe like the characters who cough in the painting of Adriaen Brouwer, who hums while polishing the lenses with unusual perfection in his small studio, was seen as an outcast, that is, as a man without faith. Catholics hated him, Protestants decried him, and members of his Jewish community, which he left with boredom, hated him. A biographer named Kortholt, undoubtedly malicious, knowing that the philosopher had died placidly at the age of 44, wondered “if such a quality of death could correspond to an atheist”, to a “pantheist” who went to rest in a coffin It cost 18 guilders, also made by a Lutheran singer with good hands for carpentry.

Stamp that Spinoza used in his letters, with a rose and the word 'caute' (caution), in a pun on his last name and the thorns of the flower ('spinosa', in Latin) that would give rise to the motto
Stamp that Spinoza used in his letters, with a rose and the word ‘caute’ (caution), in a pun on his last name and the thorns of the flower (‘spinosa’, in Latin) that would give rise to the motto

Johannes Colerus says that the philosopher frequented in Amsterdam the classes that the indomitable and skeptical Frans van den Enden gave in a bookstore and art warehouse of his property. It was whispered that an atheistic air was breathed there. Since he reproached Spinoza that it was inappropriate for him to be uneasy about not being fluent in Latin, he suggested that his daughter, Clara María, become his teacher. So it was. That girl mastered both the Latin language and music, and that captivated him. It can be imagined as one of the proverbial figures in Dutch painting who listen to a young woman while looking at his discreetly. And that the author of the Ethics He was not too fond of music, least of all because of a growing trend at the time that emphasized, above all, the melody. The only thing that could attract him was quite different: the simultaneity of notes that make up a whole, the chords, their gear and harmonic progression. The narrative capacity of the melody against the occurrence of the plural; the explicit, but light speech, against the perfect framework of a geometrically demonstrated order of sounds. We have only used a metaphor, but it helps to understand a thought like Spinoza’s, which admits the existence of an infinity of infinite forms that, although attributable to God, are also the property of finite things. As well? Because the truth does not depend in any case on the duration.

It is understandable that Spinoza is the least bitter of the philosophers, the least aggrieved by his mortal condition, which is why he writes in the Ethics that he who feels free is because he does not think about death. It unmasks it as a strategy of coercion of the political and religious powers. That makes tolerant to that Jew of Spanish origin, indulgent with the deficiencies of the human condition. We are, hardly, what we are. Hence, for example, he disliked the pictorial representation of the vanitasBecause there is intransigence towards our weaknesses. And sadness, what to do with sadness. Is it not a disguise of fear, the anticipated victory of a system that makes it impossible for us? Even the hope and the need to live in safety are his servants. Nothing is as convenient as quenching melancholy, like thirst and hunger. And all this was formulated from the heart of a Europe that had begun to cement the simulacrum, to spread hypocrisy as a tactic, a hypocrisy sometimes called power; others, revolution; others abundance; others, equality. Living in this long pretense has ended by confirming that our situation is accessory, and that we work with a proven zeal in the great and resounding lie.


Ethical demonstrated according to the geometric order. Baruch Spinoza. Translation and editing by Pedro Lomba. Trotta, 2020. 448 pages. 30 euros.

Spinoza Biographies. Jelles, Bayle, Kortholt, Colerus, and Lucas. Atilano Domínguez (ed.). Guillermo Escolar, 2020. 312 pages. 22 euros.

Correspondence. Baruj Spinoza Translation by Atilano Domínguez. Guillermo Escolar, 2020. 400 pages. 19.90 euros.

Spinoza. A policy of the social body. Cristian Andrés Tejeda Gómez. Gedisa, 2020. 160 pages. 16.90 euros.

Spinoza’s miracle. Frédéric Lenoir. Translation by Ana Herrera. Ariel, 2019. 166 pages. 18.90 euros.

Against women. (In) justice in Spinoza. Cecilia Abdo Ferez. Antigone, 2020. 118 pages. 13 euros.


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