Skip to content

From the Enlightenment to Business Models. Season II. Episode 1. Spinoza´s truth, fallacies, and wrongs.

Before preparing this episode, for quite a while, one single question was ruminating in my mind: How did a middle son of a Portuguese Jewish Merchant living in Amsterdam challenge Dutch and European history? How could it be that a member of a minority group impacted the Age of Enlightenment so much? Spinoza was probably a very smart Jew, there is no doubt about it, but he was not raised as a secular atheist. He was a Jew, a practicing one, and he belonged to a ghetto of migrants that were doing their own in a convulsive Amsterdam that was an incipient republic, with an on-and-off war against the domination of the Habsburg´s Spain domains. I asked myself many times, what made Spinoza so famous. This young man was economically broken, and excommunicated from the Synagogue at the age of 24, he was discovering the power of his mind, learning Latin, and snooping about understanding the reality of the transition society under new German rulers of the House of Orange. A society, that was starting to flourish (the mercantilist Dutch Golden Age was occurring), in the middle of the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Spinoza became an apostate to the Jews. But at the same time, he lived a turmoil of a political emergence-establishment of a new Orange quasi-monarchy that wished the Spaniards Habsburgs to go away. He lived in a United Provinces land that was fighting against Spain (the Eighty Years’ War). Spinoza was left fatherless (his father died in 1654), leaving him with tons of debt to bear from his failed family business which was bankrupt. In summary, Spinoza was organically discriminated against by the Jews, in a religious warfare society, in a moment of a peak of true conflicts between the Protestants and Catholics, and he was writing about a new conception of God, Ethics, a new democratic-monarchic political economy, tolerance, freedom of thought and expression.

Given the latter context, I wonder why was Spinoza chosen as a scapegoat to stop the radical underground movement of the Enlightenment in the Netherlands?

Image source: Illustrative and non-commercial picture. Used for educational use. Utilized only informatively for the public good. Source: Public Domain

What others thought of Spinoza?
Assuming that Spinoza was living under seclusion, but he was well-known in between the circle of intellectuals who were tied to Leiden University and Van Den Enden mastership in Amsterdam, it is very interesting to read what others thought of him. When considering the value judgments of third parties about Spinoza, there is no in-between. Whether people liked his works, or not. Of course, his Collegiant friends were positively spreading his treatises, acting as the boom box for his philosophical effort; but at the same time, Spinoza had more detractors and foes who were hypocritically silent. Spinoza was aware of his public enemies, the majority belonged to the Catholic and Protestant leadership positions. These aggressors were transparent by attacking him as an atheist, heretic, satanic, skeptical spreader of Anti-Christ doctrines, etc. But Spinoza, was not cognizant of the “loups déguisés en brebis” (the wolves dressed in sheep clothing skins). Out of any prejudice, I have asked myself if Spinoza wasn´t a member of a master plan that was led by powerful potentates who were supporting De Witt´s civil government administration of The United Provinces. As a descendant of a Marrano-Portuguese/Spanish family, I am sure Spinoza was not certainly a pro-Orange Family stadtholder ally, but he knew that the religious toleration of the United Provinces was in better shape there than other neighboring countries. Lucky him, he wasn´t assassinated for his writings. Nevertheless, Spinoza could have been a special protégé, sheltered and guarded by a particular group of rulers, who admired his condition as a producer and broadcaster of a new consistent philosophy that demanded a transformation of the rules of the political economy and religious entities of that time.  On the other side, he could have been the prey that was required as a scapegoat image to stop the advancement of radical thoughts in society. J. I. Israel intuitively has remarked that Spinoza simply emerged as the supreme philosophical bogeyman of Early Enlightenment in Europe.

Who was Spinoza? And The essence of Spinoza´s philosophy.
Spinoza´s life and the essence of Spinoza´s philosophy are described in the following set of slides. As a corporate strategist the first 4 questions that came into my mind about Spinoza were:

  1. How could it be that Spinoza, an excommunicated Jewish, son of a Marrano Portuguese merchant entered the Age of the Enlightenment with so much relevance in the circle of the intellectuals of his time?
  2. What was the mission of Spinoza?  Why?
  3. What was the Spinoza Philosophy?
  4. Why was Spinoza employed by his followers, in a posthumous status, as an emblem for pushing the age of the Enlightenment to radicalness?

I have tried to answer each of these questions in the slides, and I invite you to think about this from your personal perspective. What reactions come to you after reading the slides? Please download them in PDF for better clarity.

Spinoza´s fallacies

Some of the fallacies that I have detected about Spinoza´s philosophy are:

  • There is a contradiction between Spinoza´s denial of miracles and his conception of Christ. Miracles have been conceived as the primary source of faith, authority, and tradition by Christian theology (catholic and protestant). Given that Spinoza was a former Jewish, for him, it was completely normal to deny Christ’s miracles, particularly eliminating incarnation, resurrection, or any miracle attributed to Christ. If you analyze it with a methodic sight, Spinoza was not saying anything new, that no other Jew could ever say at that time and today, in relation to Jesus Christ. Spinoza losses his consistency when he applies the same denial thought to his new definition of God, which is integrated into the same Jewish conception of God (but without miracles included in the Old Testament). When Spinoza denies the miracles of Genesis 9:13, Psalm 104:4, and Exodus 10:14-19; what he is doing is denying the Scriptures’ stories of miracles, to reveal the manipulation of the Scriptures as man-made, and its utilization by the priestcraft altogether with the ignorance of the population. Was the objective of trampling miracles written in the Bible an argument of scandal manipulation to get the attention and be recognized in Europe as the carrier to introduce a new idea about God?.    
  • Spinoza´s main objective was to weaken the spiritual glory of the “unjust” Church at the service of a Holy Roman Empire (Habsburg domain) which infected the land of the Low Countries with the Inquisition. Spinoza was a descendant of a persecuted immigrant Marrano family.  It is obvious that he was not only a fervent thoughtful offspring of the harassment, discrimination, and tyranny of the monarchy of Spain-Portugal.  Spinoza thought that the more educated a person is, the more learned are men to live according to the guidance of reason. The more reason advances, the more political stability, and less conflict in the society. His attacks on the church were not driven by a religious motif against the Catholic Church, but by showing off a new political-economic structure against the monarchy that was linked to the Church which was “excessively powerful and unjust”.  This new political system is what he defines as democratic or even a “crowned” republic, which in a certain way was starting in the free Orange Stadtholder-Holland. The contradiction occurs when Spinoza mixes the weakening of the Catholic Church, with the advancement of reason. Not all plus reasonable people will act honestly but pursue their own selfish motives. In practice, Spinoza knew that the world is filled with injustice, abuse, and violence; so it doesn´t matter the guidance of reason if there is no self-control of emotions and if the State doesn´t organize itself as a democratic or crowned republic.
  • Another contradiction occurs when Spinoza assumes that the highest good of those who seek virtue is common to all and can be enjoyed by all equally. Not all people are able to have gifted brains. Biologically, and it is now scientifically proven, the rate of the population worldwide with IQ Test from 130-145 is considered very intelligent human beings is only 2%. Even if all humans could attend the best schools for developing intelligence, not all will be able to develop the virtue of living harmoniously or be of assistance to one another by their own convictions. When and where virtue seekers do not endure, the only tool to maintain harmony in society is through the law, but by warnings, deterrents, and penalties. The contradiction then occurs when Spinoza utilizes the word equality. Even in democracies, there is no real equality.
  • Another contradiction in Spinoza´s philosophy rests in his approach to the human mind when distinguishing between truth and false.   Spinoza suggests that only reason provides us with adequate ideas, and demonstration based on reason is the one that uses mathematically verifiable measurements. Spinoza gave “math” the sole criterion of truth, but he also forgot the other side of the coin: the excessive utilization of math tools, without any balance. For example, algorithms are pushing humanity toward disaster. “An algorithm in math is a procedure, a description of a set of steps that can be used to solve a mathematical computation”. We currently live in an algorithm-powered knowledge society. Humans have gone to excessive utilization of math tools to imagine and create our own replacements in machines, robots, artificial intelligence, etc.
  • Spinoza explains there are three kinds of human knowledge: (1) Opinion-imagination, or knowledge from sense perception or random experience; (2) Reason, or knowledge in terms of logical deduction by inferring the properties of things; (3) Intuition: the intellectual love of God, which is eternal. He exposes that all people can cultivate his reason and escalate in knowledge. But nowadays, that is not the case anymore. Even the most advanced cultivated brains have left out intuition, and the majority are fluctuating between the first two kinds of human knowledge. Social media and the digital economy have come to show how little our societies care for intuition. Even educational institutions are forming mindsets with zero intuition, but only teaching methods of validation of scientific procedures and/or utilization of machine algorithms (the case of generative AI).  By following the philosophy of the math algorithm, that Spinoza clearly privileged, we are converting ourselves into automated individuals guided by profits, implementing business models for the sake of reason, forgetting that we have affections, emotions, and feelings that are as well valid as any intellectual reason. The intellectual love of God can´t be articulated without loving others, particularly those who are the most vulnerable, or who can´t do anything in return for us.
  • It is discernible that Spinoza didn´t believe in the duality or separation of the soul and body. But his premise of emotions can´t be understood without the presence of the human spirit.

Bento Spinoza was a former Jewish of the 17th century, who was trying to conceptualize a different philosophic framework of politics, religion, and philosophy in a despot context of religious warfare, lack of tolerance towards different religious perspectives, absence of individual freedom of thought and expression, and other motives of persecution. Spinoza was denouncing the system, through philosophy. But his condemnation of what he considered wrong in his society, only woke up more censure and persecution in return, from those who were afraid of his ideas.  No matter what if he was a victim, a scapegoat, or a “herald of the enlightenment”; it is clear to us, that his legacy required to be cleanly paired to his original message first (something that J.I. Israel has done with his books), from the unblemished source of his manuscripts. And second, it was crucial to filter and contemplate that Spinozism wasn´t Spinoza, but his network of collegiants, attackers, and counter-foes who created a boom-box to spread his content, that was manipulated and utilized by political activists to detonate not just the French Revolution, but also was used as later foundations of other materialism ideologies.  According to J.I. Israel, Spinoza assuredly, abhorred popular tumult and feared political revolutions. That is why he postponed the publication of his works until he passed away. His friends took his documents, and these were propagated, maybe through the wrong hands of history.

Illustrative and non-commercial picture. Used for educational use. Utilized only informatively for the public good. Source: Public Domain

Finally, I do not mean to defend Spinoza´s philosophy, at all. But my aim is to add value to demonstrate to you a multitude of new perspectives about his original work, and not the perceptions of what he wrote. Fallacies can be found in each of his propositions in light of our current century. Nevertheless, in 1670, Spinoza´s works were banned, as “vile and blasphemous as any that are known of, or that the world has ever seen”.

Next Friday we will continue with Kant´s philosophy. See you then. Thank you and blessings for reading to me.

Ocean Musical Section

Last Sunday Malizia, 11th Hour Racing, Biotherm, Holcim-PRB, Guyot Environment, and Eleonora Escalante Strategy started our voyage to the North. We are heading to different scenarios of sailing, in comparison to those situations that we have left behind in the Southern Ocean. Do you remember when I wrote that it is so important that we can understand how the Ocean works, probably because there are details in their whole system that can help us to solve the problem of climate change? Well today, we are disclosing an episode about Spinoza. In his book Ethics, he dedicated one chapter to showing us what he thinks about nature: “Nature happens to owe to any defect in it, for nature is always the same, and its virtue and power of acting are everywhere one and the same”. We refute this phrase to him. Nature has been altered by the existence of 8 billion people on the planet. The universal rules of Nature are not the same ones that occurred when Spinoza was alive. In addition, Spinoza states that the planet (as a thing) strives to persevere in its being. We are arriving at a state in the plane that is so critical, that our positioning in the planet is jeopardized by our own lack of consistency and respect towards Nature. As a believer in Christ, and far away from Spinoza´s philosophy, we continue praying for a respectful transformation in our manners toward our civilization. What is the bottom line with algorithms if these are being used erroneously for products and services that are not helping us to accomplish God´s mission on earth?

Today´s musical selection is from Brilliant Classics. Guitars! A compilation of guitar-interpreted pieces from the Baroque era. Music written or transcribed for guitar by composers such as J.S Bach, Handel, Couperin, De Visée, and Campion.

See you by the end of the week, with Episode 2.

Leg 4 will take us from Itajai to Newport. Photo Source:

Sources of reference are utilized today.

Israel, Jonathan. Radical Enlightenment. Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750. Chapters 8,11,12,13,14, 15,16,17. Year 2002.

 Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  All are used as Illustrative and non-commercial images. Utilized only informatively for the public good. Nevertheless, most of this blog’s pictures, images, or videos are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s