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The Principles of Descartes’ Philosophy


In The Principles of Descartes’ Philosophy, Spinoza claims to offer an interpretation and explanation of Descartes’ work for the sake of his student. He emphatically denies that the thought represented in the work is his own. As such, the work is an important commentary on the thought of Descartes. However, the work is also important for understanding the mind of Spinoza. The way that Spinoza goes about explaining Descartes says as much about Spinoza as it does about Descartes. This book was the only book published under his own name during his lifetime.

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  • Provides a thorough introduction to the work of Descartes
  • Discusses the philosophy of Descartes while illuminating the insights of Spinoza and Pantheism
  • Includes the history of the text providing additional context
  • Part I: The Principles of Descartes’ Philosophy
    • Prolegomenon
    • Definitions: Thought, Idea, Substance, Mind, Body, God, Etc.
    • Axioms
    • The Fundamental Principle of All Knowledge
    • Axioms Taken from Descartes
    • God’s Existence Demonstrated
    • The Attributes of God
    • Whatever Is Clearly Conceived Is True
    • Other Attributes of God
    • Extended Substance
  • Part II: Concerning the Physical World
    • Definitions
    • Axioms and Lemmata
    • The Essential Nature of Matter
    • Concerning Motion
    • God the Cause of Motion
    • Moving Bodies Tend to Move in Straight Lines
    • The Impact of Moving Bodies
  • Part III
    • Introduction
    • A Postulate
    • Definitions and Axioms
    • The First Division of Matter
  • Title: The Principles of Descartes’ Philosophy
  • Author: Baruch Spinoza
  • Translator: Halbert Hains Britan
  • Publisher: The Open Court Publishing Company
  • Publication Date: 1905
  • Pages: 177
  • Christian Group: Roman Catholic
  • Resource Type: Collected Works
  • Topic: Modern Philosophy

Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) was born in the Jodenbuurt in Amsterdam, Netherlands. His philosophy laid the foundation for the eighteenth century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism. Spinoza grew up in a Portuguese community of Sephardic Jews in Amsterdam. His father was a successful trader. He attended the Keter Torah Yeshiva until he was 17. Leaving the yeshiva early, Spinoza began studying with the freethinker, former Jesuit, and accused atheist Frances van den Enden. Spinoza adopted the Latin name Benedictus de Spinoza, moved in to van den Enden’s house, and began teaching at van den Enden’s school in Amsterdam. During this time, Spinoza associated with Mennonites and a group of anti-clerical Catholics, known as Remonstrants. Following his father’s death in 1654, Spinoza ran the family business with his brother Abraham, leaving after a few years to pursue philosophy. In 1656, Spinoza was expelled from the Jewish community for heresy. Following this expulsion, Spinoza focused on writing, studying and his work as a lens grinder. In 1676, Spinoza completed his primary philosophical work, Ethics. He died in 1677 of lung disease.