The Netherlands-Israel Spinoza Seminar

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Spinoza is often viewed through two distinct lenses. There is a Jewish Spinoza, the heretical critic of the Torah, and an opponent to the rabbis. This Spinoza is seen as a thinker seeped in the writings of Crescas, Maimonides, and Gersonides, and often thought of as the father to both the Haskalah and to secular Judaism. There is also the Dutch Spinoza, a freethinking member of the Amsterdam circle. This Spinoza, is seen as learned in Descartes and Hobbes, and as a philosopher of the Dutch Golden Age. Surrounded by a milieu of Liberal Protestant Christians, scientists, and doctors this Spinoza is embraced in the Netherlands today as a symbol of toleration, democracy, and liberalism.

The two Spinoza’s are jarringly brought together at Spinoza’s “burial site.” Spinoza’s bones rest somewhere within the yard of the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) of The Hague, near a memorial (partially provided by the Haifa Spinozaem) inscribed with the Hebrew word “עמך” (your people).

Today, in both Israel and in the Netherlands, Spinoza is treated as a national heritage. In both countries the philosopher is honored with street names, stamps, and artworks. His name is invoked in the political discourse of both countries, and both in Israel and in the Netherlands, Spinoza is offered as an example of national genius.

The Netherlands-Israel Spinoza Seminar explores the Jewish and Dutch Spinoza together. The inaugural seminar shall take place this year at the University of Haifa, and focuses upon Spinoza’s TTP and its reception. Participants will have the opportunity to visit the University of Haifa’s “Klefman copy” of the Tractatus Theologico Politicus, which features five annotations written in Spinoza’s own hand and which constitute the core of the Adnotationes ad Tractatum theologico-politicum included in all modern editions of the TTP.