Spinoza was the child of Jewish immigrants who fled to
Amsterdam to escape the
Spanish Inquisition. Despite the generally liberal atmosphere in Holland,
Spinoza was excommunicated from his synagogue when he was 23, for daring to
question orthodox thought.
Spinoza and his friends were increasingly fascinated by the ideas of Descartes.
In 1660, Spinoza moved to Rijnsburg, near Leiden, to begin formulating his own
metaphysical system, correcting what he saw as the errors of Descartes.
Feared and reviled across Europe as a dangerous atheist, Spinoza led a reclusive and
spartan existence; most of what little work he was able to publish was written
He died at the Hague in 1677, aged only 44 with his work unfinished. Today he is
regarded as one of the greatest Western thinkers and certainly the most rigorous
of all the Rationalist philosophers.