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Why Was Spinoza Excommunicated?

Thursday, December 22, 2022 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


In July 1656, Bento (Baruch) de Spinoza was given the harshest herem (ban or ostracism) ever issued by the Amsterdam Portuguese-Jewish community. The text of the ban is full of curses upon the young man, for his “abominable heresies and monstrous deeds”. Unlike other bans issued by the community in the period, it was never rescinded. But why was Spinoza excommunicated with such prejudice? He was only twenty-three years old, not yet the famous (and “scandalous”) philosopher he would later become. In this lecture, we will consider the circumstances of the ban and use them as a way of introducing some of the major themes of Spinoza’s philosophy.

Steven Nadler is the Vilas Research Professor and William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die (Princeton, 2020), A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age (Princeton, 2011), The Philosopher, the Priest and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes (Princeton, 2013), Spinoza: A Life (Cambridge, 1999; 2nd ed. 2018; winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award for Biography), and Rembrandt’s Jews (Chicago, 2003, which was named a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction). He also published, with his son Ben Nadler, the graphic book Heretics! The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy (Princeton, 2017). He has been a visiting professor at Stanford University, the University of Chicago, the University of Amsterdam, the Ecole des hautes études en science sociales (Paris), and the Ecole normal supérieure (Paris). He has also been a scholar-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome. His biography of Menasseh ben Israel was published in the “Jewish Lives” series (Yale University Press) in the fall of 2018. In 2020 he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

CSP Partners: Beth Israel (San Diego, CA), Brotherhood Synagogue (Gramercy Park, NYC), Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Elkins Park, PA), Congregation Beth Shalom (Seattle, WA), Congregation B’nai Tzedek (Fountain Valley, CA), Congregation B’nai Israel (Tustin, CA), Jewish Collaborative of Orange County, Shomrei Torah Synagogue (San Fernando Valley, CA), Temple Bat Yahm (Newport Beach, CA), Temple Beth David (Westminster, CA),Temple Beth El of South Orange County (Aliso Viejo, CA), Temple Beth Emet (Anaheim, CA), Temple Beth Ohr (La Mirada, CA), Temple Beth Tikvah (Fullerton, CA), Temple Beth Shalom (Needham, MA), Temple Beth Sholom (Santa Ana, CA), Temple Emanuel (Newton, MA), Temple Judea of Laguna Woods, CA, The Boston Synagogue (Boston, MA), Town & Village Synagogue (NYC, NY), University Synagogue (Irvine, CA), Valley Beth Shalom (Encino, CA) & Walnut Street Synagogue (Chelsea, MA)


Thursday, December 22, 2022
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
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ADL- San Diego
(858) 565-6896