The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza, vol. 2 includes Spinoza’s magnum opus, Ethics, and select letters. In the first part of Ethics, Spinoza discusses the relationship between God and the universe. He argues that everything in the universe, humans included, is a mode of God. In other words, everything is logically dependent upon God for existence. Everything flows from God in the same way that it flows from the nature of a triangle that the sum of the angles equals 180 degrees. The second part of Ethics discusses the relationship between the human mind and the body. In particular, Spinoza attacks the Cartesian view that the mind and body are two different substances. In the third part of Ethics, Spinoza argues that everything fights to continue being. This fight motivates human emotion. In the fourth part, Spinoza says that the emotions control all actions of human beings. In the fifth and final part of Ethics, Spinoza maintains that we can rid ourselves of negative/damaging emotions by thinking the right thoughts.
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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.