2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Spinoza, and the Secularisation of Judaism

Toby Balshaw, 2022, Stage 3

Baruch de Spinoza was an important and influential philosopher, born into a Jewish community in Amsterdam. He was issued a herem however early on in his life, as the elders deemed his ideas to be heretical. This work looks at Spinoza’s philosophy not as a heresy, but instead as reminiscent of a more modern, secular Judaism.
Within this work, I will examine how several influential Jewish figures interacted with Spinoza’s thought. I aim to show that one can track the increasing secularisation of Judaism through time, through the change in reactions these figures had. These figures include the German philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, and Polish/American author Isaac Bashevis Singer.
I will mainly employ both an interpretive and a historical methodology. In terms of interpretive methodology, I will be analysing the written work of Spinoza, as well as the Jewish figures of focus, and several Jewish religious texts. In terms of historical methodology, I will take into account the historical context behind each Jewish figure, and Spinoza himself.

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