Published on Aug 11, 2016
We live in fearful times. All over the world renewed wars of religion are being fought. Politicians exploit our fears of one another in order to win power. 350 years ago, the philosopher Benedict Spinoza put his very, big brain to work on the problem of religion in politics. His theories led to the Enlightenment and its ideas of democracy and the separation of Church and State in the role of government. To do this he had to argue that God was not the God of the Bible. Spinoza’s reward: excommunication. But no threat could stop him imagining a new kind of liberty.
Michael Goldfarb tells the story of Spinoza with the help of philosophers and musicians in a programme that will make listeners think and reflect on the big questions of life, the universe and our place in it.
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The Life & Thought of Spinoza
In this short BBC episode of In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Dutch Jewish Philosopher Baruch Spinoza. For the radical thinkers of the Enlightenment, he was the first man to have lived and died as a true atheist. For others, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he provides perhaps the most profound conception of God to be found in Western philosophy. He was bold enough to defy the thinking of his time, yet too modest to accept the fame of public office and he died, along with Socrates and Seneca, one of the three great deaths in philosophy. Baruch Spinoza can claim influence on both the Enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century and great minds of the 19th, notably Hegel, and his ideas were so radical that they could only be fully published after his death. But what were the ideas that caused such controversy in Spinoza’s lifetime, how did they influence the generations after, and can Spinoza really be seen as the first philosopher of the rational Enlightenment? With Jonathan Rée, historian and philosopher and Visiting Professor at Roehampton University; Sarah Hutton, Professor of English at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth; John Cottingham, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading.