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Thanks, But No Thanks

Recently the Jewish Community of Amsterdam took up the question of repealing Spinoza’s excommunication. The banishment, effected in 1656, has never been formally challenged despite many promptings over the years from within the congregation of those whose ancestors ordered Spinoza’s expulsion.

The present congregation convened its own review board, as well as comissioned an advisory board of scholars and philosophers to consider the question. Several precedents related to revoking such a harsh sentence. (Indeed Spinoza was the only one of Amsterdam’s exiled Portuguese Jews to be so disgraced.) It was established the person in question need be alive, and show some measure of recognition, as well as contrition for their transgressions.

These conditions being absent, the group decided to affirm Spinoza’s outsider status. Thus perpetuating the notion that his views were heretical, however prescient they may in fact have been. After over a year of deliberation, it was decided by consensus that the decree would stand. Spinoza would not posthumously be returned to the fold.

One of the takeaways from the committee's review was the thought that since Spinoza showed no remorse- on the contrary he blatantly furthered his apostate view- he probably would not give a damn about redemption from posterity.

In thinking about this, I have come to disagree with the committee. They are engaging in an act of pride by absolving themselves of blame for the original congregation’s decision. Further, they are projecting on Spinoza continued judgment based on self-justification and wish-fulfillment. And last but not least, by avoiding the thorns they are continuing to take the low road. That's especially unfortunate in the light of a crossroad presenting itself.

By affirming Spinoza’s questioning and universal views, the Jews of Amsterdam could have hit a note harmonizing with an evolved soul, who by dint of heredity alone was, is, and will always be one of their own. And drawn from that note an overtone could have sounded which in itself establishes a positive example of mercy, restoration and reparation.

To annul the ban, ('the shuntment' to use local coinage) the modern, living adherents would have signaled that accepting diversity, as well as having the humility to revise one’s position, is consistent with our highest laws and ideals. They would have stepped-up and taken responsibility. It seems religion, or in any case the religious, have yet to learn the simplest of truths- one leads by following.


h/t- T.M.  More details from a recent NYT story


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Spinoza's courage

Unlike Descartes, who shied away from the logical end of his analysis in order to avoid getting hauled in by the Inquisition (understandable, really), Spinoza refused to turn away from the results of his reasoning. More fun to read, too.


Saving Face, About Face

Interesting parallels arise with other pariahs who also are objects of institutional scorn. For example, not that they are the same, but similarity can be seen in the case of Snowden, whose ideas and actions challenge the status quo.

Judaism teaches inquiry and encourages probing thought through works like the Midrash and Kabalah. Spinoza follows that prompt and ends up revealing contradictions, which gets him in trouble. Likewise, Snowden, adhering to the spirit of the constitution, uncovers dubious practice, and is condemned for it.

Equally ironic, in that Obama ran his campaign on government transparency and protections for whisteblowers, yet the prosecution of such acts is fierce and unyeilding.

Also worth noting is how institutions continue to vilify the individual, even after that person's ideas gain common acceptance. No wonder so many societal wrongs go unredressed. It’s as if the dinosaur is too big and clumsy to turn around, even in its own best interests.


The Irrelevance of the Jukrislims Belief System Then and Now

One day, if we survive the vagaries of the Jukrislims, they will be relegated to a few mostly forgotten mythological creatures who deliberately fostered their unnatural anti-life death culture on early human societies leading to the very door of self-destruction we’re facing now.

Even Baruch Spinoza believed that "All things in nature proceed from definite necessity and with the utmost perfection." He basically believed that nothing happened by chance. Whatever balance (or imbalance) he perceived from his philosophies, he certainly missed the obviousness of the entirely randomness in the origins of the Universe and all sentient material life and all insentient matter events contained within it.

Additionally, even the suggestion of the possibility of perfection indicates his philosophy stems from a belief system. There is no such thing as perfection.

What the Jews thought back then and what they think now is irrelevant.



I'm not a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim, so I have no dog in this fight.

That being said, I feel this remark to be at the least, insensitive; at the most, offensive.
It's wonderful that you're so enlightened, Vidda. Too bad you're not more tolerant.


I am a strident feminist

I'm not a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim either, but I am a strident feminist. Based on the intolerant, prolonged cruelty, unjust treatment and control of women stemming from Genesis until this very day, they do have a “dog” in this dispute.

Women suffer the greatest shame of all.

Baruch Spinoza, Galileo and lots of other men suffered under Jukrislim patriarchal histories, but nowhere near as much as women.

There is no reason to assume that being enlightened and tolerant are twin attributes.


Unlike the fate of women

Unlike the fate of women, Baruch Spinoza had the luxury of ignoring the Jews, suffered no real shame, and just went about his business…which, strangely, is something I’ve been advocating for a long time. If we ignore the Jukrislims, will they just go away?

I admire Baruch Spinoza and our very own spinoza on many points, but I’ve not had time to look into the former’s view of women, which I hope is as “enlightened” as much of his philosophy is.


To the Cornfield

I'm intrigued by the near universality of the shaming impulse. Does it derive solely from fear? And can we go so far as to say that our laws and morality are constructs of that fear? Is it exclusively a human impulse?

All cultures seem to show degrees of this reaction when threatened. From stoning people who violate ‘norms’, to incarceration and capital punishment..there are many forms of banishment. In family politics and company business, there's the persona non grata, or the familiar trope, “you’re dead to me”. Do our immune systems not isolate and attack that which threatens well being?

It’s clear we’re becoming increasingly isolated as people. We cherish private homes, private cars, personal networks, gated communities…We enact laws like 'stand your ground', allowing murder when threatened. Even the option of “blocking" in social media for “killing off people" who disagree with you shows the tendency to rub out the unwanted.

Can we ever achieve unity or integration as a race if the instinctive response is to exile an individual when they dare to be contrarian.


black sheep, runt of the litter

Throughout a substantial part of the Animal Kingdom, the rejection of one (and only one) of the same litter by the mother is familiar. On that basis, I would answer with a firm "No" to your third question--it's definitely not exclusive to humanity.

One example that comes to mind which depends on circumstance:
I've seen footage a pride of lions consisting of _the_ dominant male, his female mates ("harem" is probably the best analogy), and the mixed-gender pool of offspring. After a kill, one of the not-yet-grown male offspring oversteps his bounds (as defined by the king of the pride) and, in less than a second, the king mortally wounds the "transgressor" by ripping off most of the tail. Wounded, the transgressor moves away from, but still within sight of, the pride; none follow. Without human intervention, the transgressor dies within a week, never once visited by any member of his pride but within sight and observed by all of them.

So it's not limited to the time of birthing but also maturation and is a method that defines not only the king's dominance in the pride but also all the pride's members.

spinoza's "It's clear ... increasingly isolated..." sentiment certainly applies locally and nationally, but off the top of my head Norway is a firm counter-example, so a complex qualification of the statement seems in order. The BBC recently aired a three-part series, "Scandimania", and a segment is devoted to the particularly-Norwegian social code ("it's ok to be successful, but it's not ok to talk about it" as well as several other stridently anti-individualistic adages) as well as their handling of Brevik after his killing spree, and criminals in general. Their criminal justice system would and will never fly in the USA, but their recidivism rate is around 16%, equally unimaginable in the USA. Another forceful counter-example would be Japan where conformity is the paramount consideration in order to survive and function.

As for the final paragraph, the question is an excellent one, as the answer would provide an enormous amount of subtext regarding the respondent.

And that's my short response, which says a lot about my own faults. At any rate, interesting ground to grind, __spinoza__.


The Point

And once enough are banished, there is a new group formed - everyone who has been kicked out. Sometimes this is the group you want to be in. It's where the interesting people are doing intriguing things. Sometimes banishment is an honor. It depends on who did the banishing.

Perhaps we're all banished.

I recall, as a kid, circumstances where we would pile on and torment some friend. Whomever launched the attack had a clear banishing motive, but the rest of us often went along and contributed in an effort to seem agreeable to the attacker, and to distance ourselves from the one being banished. It was self-preservation to be cool like the bully.

And then there is Oblio, who is banished to the pointless forest, only to find that everything has a point. "And if everything has a point, then so must I," he learns.


I was in tune with your comment

until the last paragraph. Oblio is a cultural reference I've never heard of before.

Clarification, kindly?


The Point pointed to his point

The reference was to a concept album by Harry Nilsson.. There is also a very cool Seusian animation that was made.


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