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Modernity and Its DiscontentsMaking and Unmaking the Bourgeois from Machiavelli to Bellow$
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Steven B. Smith

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300198393

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300198393.001.0001

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What Kind of Jew Was Spinoza?

What Kind of Jew Was Spinoza?

Chapter:
(p.88) Chapter 5 What Kind of Jew Was Spinoza?
Source:
Modernity and Its Discontents
Author(s):

Steven B. Smith

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300198393.003.0005

Modernity is inseparable from what has been called the “Jewish Question.” Baruch Spinoza was the first writer to make Judaism central to modern politics. Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise helped to launch the Enlightenment’s war on religion—what Voltaire would later describe as écrasez l’infâme—while at the same time hoping to place toleration at the core of his philosophy. He undermined the beliefs of traditional Judaism, especially the belief in the chosenness of the Jewish people, while advocating a state that was neutral to and therefore accepting of both Christians and Jews. He exemplifies the modern paradox of espousing a radical critique of traditional religion while teaching complete freedom of belief and opinion. Spinoza created a new type of Jew that is central to modernity: the liberal or secular Jew.

Keywords:   Amsterdam, Ben-Gurion, David, Cohen, Hermann, Jewish Question, Levinas, Emmanuel, Moses, Spinoza, Baruch, Superstition, Theocracy, Zionism

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